Archive for the ‘Fred Olsen’ Category

Over recent years Fred. Olsen has made a strong point of their use of regional ports around the UK for passenger embarkation and departure. Their 2017/18 brochure has a page headed “Your local, global cruise line” with a map showing the 10 UK departure ports listed for cruises in that brochure – Southampton; Dover; Tilbury; Harwich; Newcastle; Rosyth; Greenock; Belfast; Liverpool; and Falmouth. Indeed, Fred. Olsen’s use of regional ports has almost become their USP (along with their use of smaller ships), and I’ve always applauded this. But in their recently announced 2018/19 schedule the set of UK departure ports has been reduced by half – there are no departures in that schedule from Tilbury, Harwich, Greenock, Belfast, or Falmouth. (It’s worth stressing at this point that there are no changes to departures prior to the new ones listed in the new schedule – the 2017/18 schedule is unchanged.)

This is a significant change by Fred. Olsen – or seems so – so I contacted them and asked for confirmation and reasons. I’ve received the following reply from their PR team: (more…)

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Oriana in the Elbe on a murky afternoon

Well, I was a few minutes too late to grab good webcam shots of Oriana leaving Hamburg – the one above is the best I could manage. But the important thing is that she is on her way back to Southampton where she’s expected just after midnight on the 15th so her two-night cruise starting on the 16th will be OK.

Black Watch left Hamburg yesterday for Tilbury. Currently she’s off the Texel so she, too, should be back in port in plenty of time for her next cruise, which departs on the 15th.

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screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-09-52-01Here’s a webcam image taken just now (nearly 10am, 28 November) of Oriana and Black Watch in dock in Hamburg – Oriana on the left and Black Watch on the right. Here are a couple of links to other posts I’ve done about the refits to these ships – Oriana’s here, and Black Watch’s here. Black Watch will be back in service for a cruise starting from Tilbury on 15 December, while Oriana’s next cruise will start the day after, 16 December.

Here’s a link to the webcam page. You may have to wait for an ad to run, I’m afraid.

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Black Watch berthed at Rouen

And after all too long a break…..

I’ve received an email from Fred. Olsen saying that Black Watch is going into Blohm+Voss for a refit. She’ll leave Tilbury on 18 November and work will start on 20 November.

The email is unusually informative on the changes that will be made. In addition to “the usual maritime inspections and maintenance work” there will also be major upgrades to various parts of the ship. First, the simple refurbishments:

  • all of the cabins will be refurbished. They’ll get a new inter-active TV system, bathrooms will be refurbished, and all cabins will have safes and mini-bars;
  • the main restaurant (The Glentanar) will be extensively refurnished, with a new layout and a new look featuring new furniture, carpets and curtains;
  • the Observatory Lounge on deck 9 will be refurbished, as will the Lido Lounge on deck 7. The latter will get new furniture, fabrics, carpets and a new “full-width sliding door to the aft”, while the changes to the Observatory lounge are described simply as a “refresh”.

Next, the changes:

  • The Braemar Courtyard on deck 6 will converted into a speciality dining area, “Brigadoon”. Up to 54 passengers will be able to use this and it will offer a “stylish, intimate dining experience”. No mention about menus, and my assumption is that this is an extra-cost facility;
  • The Braemar Courtyard, also on deck 6, will become another restaurant, “The Club”, which will seat 46. It will offer an a la carte dining experience including “expertly-prepared steaks cooked to order” (Update – a further email on 25 October says that this restaurant will actually be called “The Black Watch Room”);
  • The existing Grill restaurant, by the aft pool on deck 6, will be rebranded and redesigned “to offer a new Mediterranean-themed dining experience”;
  • The Morning Light pub will be moved, from where it is to a position more forward on the same deck. it will take the place of the Braemar lounge, and it will be more spacious than the existing pub. The old Morning Light will be converted into a new bar to be called the Neptune Bar;
  • the Marina cinema on deck 5 will be upgraded with the 3D technology…. sorry,, I may be being age-ist here but I really can’t see Fred. Olsen’s usual passengers being entranced by something like ‘Avengers Assemble (3D)’… I know I’m not!

The email says that over the coming years the other ships in the Fred. Olsen fleet will receive similar refurbishments and upgrades.

Black Watch will re-enter service on 15 December.

Comment: I’m quite struck by all of this, which is a lot of money to spend on a ship that’s already more than 40 years old. But if it keeps her fresh and entertaining, it’s all to the good. Fred. Olsen have a very loyal customer base, and perhaps they are also attracting customers from P&O, especially with the latter line’s focus on ever-larger ships. The departure of Adonia was a blow to many of the P&O faithful, I know.

One thing does strike me, however. I think that one overall result of the changes on deck 6 is that there might be a rather less lounge space – where there was once a lounge and a pub, now there will be a pub and bar, and the bar (which could be used as a lounge) is smaller than the old lounge. There’s also the conversion of the Braemar Courtyard – was that a lounge? – I can’t remember from our (short) cruise on her. But there’s clearly a push to generate more revenue from these spaces.

(By the way, the principal reason for the paucity of posts has been a holiday – we had a week and a half in the US, in Washington DC and Virginia. You can read about it in my other blog, Tom’s Travel Blog.)

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Back in January 2015 Fred Olsen’s Boudicca experienced a fire in her engine room. Thankfully no-one, either passengers or crew, was injured or hurt, and the fire was quickly brought under control. However Boudicca suffered some fire and water damage to an engine room, the cruise she was on was cancelled and passengers flown home. I did some posts at the time (you’ll need to scroll down past this new post to read the older ones). I also promised to post a link to the investigation report when it became available. The report was in fact published today.

I’ve had the chance to read through the report at least briefly. There’s a narrative of events in Section 3 that’s detailed and very interesting. Broadly, a fire occurred in an an engine space when a fuel line (actually, a ‘fuel oil pressure gauge supply line’) from a generator to a pressure gauge fractured. The pressure in the line would have been approximately 5 bar, so when it fractured inflammable vapour/liquid quickly filled the space around the generator – the report says “the pressurised fuel occupied the atmosphere surrounding the engine”. This vapour/liquid came in contact with a nearby piece of hot machinery (a turbo charger) which was hot enough to ignite it, and the fire resulted.

The report says that the alarm sounded quickly, and the engineering crew responded quickly and professionally. Appropriate actions were taken from the very first knowledge of the fire. Firefighting crews were assembled, and the fire was extinguished in just over an hour. The report makes it clear that at all times it was confined to the engine room space in which it had started; it never spread to any other spaces or areas.

The report investigates reasons why the supply line  fractured, but is unable to state any obvious or conclusive cause. It concludes that the steel fuel oil pressure gauge supply line (the line that fractured) “may have suffered from fatigue failure through engine-generated vibrations causing the steel pipe to work-harden resulting in the supply line becoming brittle and therefore more susceptible to fracture…”. My (non-technical) interpretation is that they’re saying “probably, after a lot of use it just broke”.

Of particular interest at the time was that the Captain did not summon passengers to emergency stations. There were early public announcements of a “Code Bravo” nature, and subsequently the Captain addressed the passengers and crew members directly once he had assessed the situation. The report quotes him as saying (to the investigation, I presume) “the affected area was completely isolated and I evaluated the situation again, I found it to be in a secured and safe state and I decided thatthere was no need for escalating the emergency“. Then the report continues ‘he announced to the guests and crew members “we have a situation in the engine room and all is under control, so you can all relax and I will keep you updated as we progress this incident” ‘. As far as I can see the report makes no comment on these remarks, nor on the Captain’s decision to not bring the ship’s passengers and company to muster stations.

Finally the report says (paragraph 5.4) “The initial reaction by the crew in establishing a timely emergency response should be commended. The instinct and professionalism exhibited by the crew was instrumental to the successful outcome and proved effective in containing the spread and extinguishing the fire without casualties.”

The report is an interesting read. You can find it, and download it, here.

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we have not yet made the full announcement, and we do not have a time scale for doing so at the current time

Just over a month ago I posted about an email I’d received from Fred. Olsen’s marketing department. It read:-

Hi All,

We just wanted to share with you the exciting news that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is making a significant investment across its fleet and moving in a different direction…

More details to follow on Monday 13th June 2016, so save a space!

Then on 13 June (which was supposed to be the big day) I received another email:

Thanks for all your interest in our ‘new investment’ e-mail last Friday.

Unfortunately, we are just finalising some last-minute details and will have to keep you in suspense a little while longer…

Apologies for the delay and any inconvenience caused, but rest assured that you will be the first to hear when we are in a position to make the full announcement.

Today I decided to follow this up and asked them if an announcement had ever been made, and pretty much immediately I received this reply:

No, we have not yet made the full announcement, and we do not have a time scale for doing so at the current time.

So it looks to me as if something major has gone wrong somewhere. Here’s a link to my original post on this topic. What’s also interesting is that I can’t find any rumours as to what the announcement might have been about. The Fred Olsen forum on Cruise Critic is completely silent about it, for example, and I can’t see anything on Facebook. That said, someone (Malcolm Oliver?) pointed out that their latest long-term brochure contains details of future itineraries for Black Watch, Braemar and Balmoral but not for Boudicca. Could the announcement have been about a replacement?

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This has been a day for receiving interesting emails from cruise lines. In addition to the incorrect credit card pre-authorisation email from P&O I also received this email from Fred. Olsen:

Hi All,

We just wanted to share with you the exciting news that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is making a significant investment across its fleet and moving in a different direction…

More details to follow on Monday 13th June 2016, so save a space!

I’m quite intrigued by this. Obviously Fred. Olsen are faced with the fact that two of their ships, Black Watch and Boudicca, are now very old – 40 years+ in each case. I know they’re very well maintained, but they are old and show it in their on-board arrangements. Perhaps Fred Olsen are going to announce a new build? – although the comment “… making a significant investment across its fleet” does seem to the talking about the current fleet. Then there’s the comment “… and moving in a different direction…” at the end; the possibilities for that are endless.

We must wait until Monday to learn more.

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