Exclusive: Interview with Fred Olsen’s product and customer services chief

Cruise Waves speaks with Claire Ward, Director of Product and Customer Services at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and asks her questions about Fred Olsen’s plans for 2020 and how Brexit may impact the business.

Why is cruising on a smaller ship better than voyaging on a mega ship?   

At Fred. Olsen, we understand what makes a cruise holiday so special. It is sailing to incredible destinations far and wide, in pure style and comfort; enjoying fabulous food as you glide across the ocean, discovering out-of-this-world experiences; and forging friendships with like-minded travellers, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

‘Closer’cruising is at the fore of the Fred. Olsen experience and allows us to achieve this on a much smaller, ‘human’ scale than many of the other cruise lines. By making the most of our intimately-sized ocean and river cruise ships, we can sail right into the heart of the destination, where many larger vessels cannot reach.

With shallower drafts, our ships can dock much closer to the heart of the towns and cities that we visit. For example, Seville is a key place where we can take guests closer, by sailing up the tidally-restricted Guadalquivir River right into the heart of the city. 

Notably, shallow-drafted Braemar will also be repeating its best-selling transit of Greece’s Corinth Canal – which spans less than 25 metres at its narrowest, lowest point – on its unforgettable 25-night ‘Corinth Canal & Greek Islands’ itinerary from Southampton in April 2021.

What’s new for the 2020 season?

In 2020/21, Fred. Olsen’s fleet – Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch, plus river cruise addition,Brabant – will be visiting no fewer than 277 destinations in 90 countries, across six continents, covering 104 areas of scenic cruising, on 170 different itineraries. Complementing the UK departure ports of Southampton, Dover, Liverpool, Newcastle and Edinburgh (Rosyth), Fred. Olsen will also be offering an expanded programme of exotic fly-cruises in 2020/21.

What is your top destination/ region?    

Norway – Fred. Olsen’s historic homeland – continues to excel, as our signature product. Whether it is exploring the fascinating fjordlands of this diverse country, visiting stunning towns and cities, such as Ålesund and Bergen, or witnessing the magical ‘Northern Lights’ on an atmospheric ‘Norway Winter’ sailing, there is something for everyone.

Is the UK’s planned EU Exit (Brexit) impacting on your business? 

While Brexit is presenting an unprecedented set of challenges to travel businesses all across the UK, Fred. Olsen is underpinned by over 170 years of sailing history and heritage.

We have seen many changes and economic uncertainties over the years, but what has never waivered is our focus on giving guests the best possible experience, wherever and whenever they sail with us.

In fact, we are so committed to helping guests to enjoy the perfect getaway from the moment that they book, without having to worry about the uncertainties of Brexit, that we have launched our new ‘Brexit Promise’, believed to be the first of its kind within the industry.

This means that, if a cruise is cancelled due to the UK leaving the European Union, we guarantee to give guests a full refund on that sailing, PLUS a free cruise.

With our new ‘Brexit Promise’, guests can book your next Fred. Olsen holiday with real confidence, safe in the knowledge that whatever happens, you won’t lose out!

What is your favourite cruise destination?

The Norwegian fjords, our signature product, is my absolute favourite. But, as an individual destination, it has to be Bordeaux. I love my wine, and the vineyards and chateaux in this area are stunning. 

What’s the first thing you do when you step on-board a cruise ship?

Walk the deck…I love being outside. The views sailing out of our five departure ports in the UK are an experience in themselves. In Liverpool, the view in port of the iconic Liver Building – and in Dover the Castle and White Cliffs – means that you are scenic cruising before you even leave port!

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