Style with class
DNV GL and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines combine centuries of experience to ensure a bright future for some of the most elegant cruise ships on the water.
Fred. Olsen is a family-owned business with strong maritime traditions. “Most of the family was baptized in salt water,” jokes Fred. Olsen Jr., Chairman of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. His great-great-grandfather founded Fred. Olsen in 1848 in the tiny coastal town of Hvitsten, just down the fjord from Oslo.
“My family has always had a strong connection to DNV,” Olsen Jr. says, “but we were very happy when the merger with Germanischer Lloyd was announced. We felt that the joining of two leading class societies with such long traditions gave the new company an even broader base.”
If not for that reason alone, Fred. Olsen recently moved the last remaining two of their ships to DNV GL, completing the ﬂeet portfolio. “We were very happy to be able to transfer the Balmoral and the Braemar to DNV GL. For us, running our business is a way of life, and DNV GL has proven that they will go the extra mile when we need them,” Olsen conﬁrms.
A tradition of innovation
Dedication to tradition is a Fred. Olsen trademark, but passion for innovation is what has driven the company forward since the beginning. “My grandfather was one of the ﬁrst to use diesel engines, back in 1914,” Olsen tells. “We have always been innovative and inventive, and we have tried many things, not all of them successful. But we always try to learn as much from our mistakes as our successes.”
That willingness to adapt will come in handy in the coming years, as running a cruise business will require some nimble manoeuvring: “Like everyone, we are going to have to adjust to changes in emission regulations, and we are already looking for new fuel alternatives, such as LNG or hydrogen. We have to be willing to change with the times and the technologies.”
In such times, it’s good to have a trusted partner with a broad knowledge base to help explore new waters and plot a safe course. This is where Fred. Olsen Jr. has clear expectations of DNV GL.
“We need to have a good dialogue with our classiﬁcation partner. We have to be able to solve problems and take on challenges together.” Olsen’s conﬁdence in DNV GL is based on their deep technical knowledge and long experience, but just as much on their business savvy. “Our goals have to be ambitious enough, but not too ambitious. We want to use DNV GL as a sparring partner to help us zero-in on the right targets.”
Above all, trust is critical to a solid partnership: “DNV GL has become even more solution-oriented in recent years. We can bring anything to the table and trust them to be professional and progressive,” Olsen emphasizes. In all, the fourth Fred. Olsen seems comfortable with his company’s commitment to DNV GL: “We have good and close cooperation now, and I expect more of the same in the future.”
“B” for British
“Our brand has always been classic, and we have always had a connection to the UK market,” Olsen relates. That relationship started with a liner service between Norway and Newcastle in 1906. “British passengers have a clear idea of what they want. They need to feel at home.” Fred Olsen Jr. learned that lesson from tours aboard the Black Watch, perhaps the most classic of all their venerable cruise vessels. “A lot of the secret lies in attention to detail,” he conﬁdes. “Every little thing matters.” That devotion to classic cruising, in the company and among their loyal passengers, demands a different approach from most cruise companies. Notably, they have historically favoured the more elegant design of older ships, purchasing used vessels and refurbishing them to the high standard that Fred. Olsen cruises are famous for. “We looked into commissioning a newbuild in 2006, but decided instead to lengthen two of our vessels. We were able to add capacity for 700 passengers, and still maintain our tradition of classic ships.” By the same token, they have chosen to focus on more traditional offerings: “With us, the cruise itself is the attraction. We don’t have gocart tracks or climbing walls. The point is to enjoy life on the ship.”
Nor is he sure that the newest trend, Arctic cruising, is for them – or their passengers. “For one thing, our guests tend to like warmer weather,” he smiles. That’s not to say they don’t intend to become more adventurous, just in more hospitable climates.
Class never goes out of style
For their particular version of excursion cruising, Fred. Olsen is once again looking at newbuilding, this time a top-tier ship for around 600 passengers, with a focus on service and ﬂexibility. While the new acquisition will certainly not go the theme park route, more activities will be offered from the ship, like RIB excursions. Fred. Olsen also offers what they call “mystery cruises”,where not all destinations and activities are disclosed, and guests get to nominate their calls of choice. “It has proven to be very popular, but it only works with our more intimate format,” Olsen says. “We couldn’t be that ﬂexible if we were sending 4,000 passengers ashore.” While the typical Fred. Olsen cruise devotee may be getting on in years, Fred Jr. assures that new generations of classic cruise fans keep the order books full. “We were recently voted one of the top three most popular brands in the UK,” he says. “The customized itineraries we offer appeal to anyone looking for a more personal experience.”
And new offerings are always in the pipeline: “We are looking at river cruises, working from our strong customer base,” he says. “We already use Braemar for combination ocean-river cruises, and we have hired a river cruise boat for two years to test the market.”
Whatever future plans they have will include the same fastidious attention to detail, and tradition. “No matter where we sail, we will continue to offer the English experience, and we will keep our strong Norwegian reference intact.”