UK based operator Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines which have been regular callers to Irish ports, has recently acquired a pair of secondhand mid-sized cruiseships due to the fallout of Covid19 which has severely impacted this trade sector globally, writes Jehan Ashmore
The new additions of Rotterdam (built 1998) and Amsterdam from 2000 (both of around 60,000 gross tonnage) are from Holland America Line.
(HAL) is one of several subsidiaries, among them the iconic name of Cunard Line and Princess Cruises of US giant, Carnival Corporation of Miami, Florida. In addition HAL have also disposed of older fleetmates Veendam built in 1996 and older Maasdam dating to 1993. Another fleetmate, Zaandam was centre-stage of a Covid-19 outbreak off Panama (also involving Rotterdam) before a port of call was permitted in the US to enable disembarking passengers among them Irish citizens.
As for the Fred Olsen destined pair Rotterdam and Amsterdam both built in Italy, they each just have a 1,400 passenger capacity. This will prove an ideal fit for the mid-sized cruiseship operator based in Ipswich, Suffolk bordering Essex where in Purfleet (operator CMV cruises this week collapsed). So it would appear based from industry sources that it was an opportune time for Fred Olsen to seize these secondhand vessels at an attractive price for such tonnage that remains relatively new.
The cruiseships also have relatively large cabins and suites and despite been built less than a quarter century ago, they have classic features such as teak decking and a fully encircling promenade deck, somewhat likewise of current long-serving sisters Black Watch and Boudicca. As for these former Royal Viking Line pair built in Germany and dating to the early 1970's, their future would seem even more in doubt given these more challenging times.
The announcement of the acquisition was made by Fred Olsen Jnr, chairman of the cruise line, whose Norwegian family shipping interests date five generations to 1848 but impressively expanded (incl. former owners of Harland & Wolff, Belfast). As for the current fleet, this comprises of five mid-sized cruiseships in addition a dedicated European continent based river cruising-vessel.
Returning to Rotterdam which when entering service in 1998 the newbuild became the 'flagship' of HAL in the year of the company's 125th anniversary, and having replaced the inherited namesake of the classic predecessor dating to 1959 which was withdrawn the previous year. This much smaller Rotterdam of some 38,000 gross tonnes however continued service as Rembrant for Premier Cruise Lines before taking up a static role as a floating musuem-hotel ship aptly in Rotterdam. So when the new Rotterdam was built with twin uptakes (funnels) this again retained a homage to the former classic trans-Atlantic ocean-going ship.
As for the Amsterdam and Rotterdam, they are to be renamed with typical Fred. Olsen fashion with the naming theme use of 'B' names, in these cases they are to be Bolette and Borealis. Along with new names, the pair will bring features including more balcony cabins and suites, an all-weather swimming pool with a retractable roof and a wide choice of restaurants, lounges and bars all designed with original artwork and premium décor. In addition a classic two-tiered theatre, enabling all to have great views of evening shows.
As at the moment, Fred. Olsen have paused cruises until the end of September, but given the situation is very changeable. The line among with other UK cruise operators including the industry's own body – CLIA, Public Health England and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are working to ensure safety and they all agree on the best protocols before they start sailing again and this work continues.
Fred Olsen also cited that their efforts is to ensure the operators policies are in line with the latest research and this has led to them developing a 'Safe Sailing Charter' to inform cruise customers on all the ways they are already keeping you safe on board our smaller ships.
In addition Pete Deer, Fred. Olsen Managing Director, emphasized to assure all guests who are due to sail with the line, that they will contact them at least 30 days before they are due to travel and have changed payment terms for this year to ensure guests know they do not need to pay their balance before they are sure they will be sailing.
In addition the line has introduced a 'Plain Sailing Guarantee' during these unusual times without clauses or caveats but this will only be applicable to guests on cruises departing in 2021.