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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:

Fred. Olsen has analysed the financial performance of each of its 10 current UK departure ports, and also where its guests are originating from for each one. We have identified that, with our new port deployment from 2018/19 – offering departures from Southampton, Dover, Liverpool, Newcastle and Edinburgh (Rosyth) – there will only be a small reduction in the overall coverage of guests being within 90 minutes of a Fred. Olsen departure port.

Reducing the number of departure ports, thereby reducing the repositioning costs, improves the guest experience (complaints on cruises with late embarkations are nearly 70% higher than those without), allowing us to work with a smaller number of ports to improve the embarkation experience for our guests and enabling us to market these ports more effectively, due to more cruising being available from each one. 

We will also be offering our most extensive fly-cruise programme ever in 2018/19, as we know that our guests want to experience unique, new holidays reaching the most spellbinding and exotic places on Earth, but would prefer to take a shorter holiday in which to enjoy them. Fred. Olsen guests can choose from a wide range of tempting destinations, including the Indian Ocean, India and Arabia, Mexico and Cuba, New Zealand, the Mediterranean, Costa Rica, the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and the Amazon – all achievable within a shorter fly-cruise holiday.

Although at first sight this looks like a reduction in the use of regional ports, in fact I don’t think it is. Looking at the 2018/19 schedule there doesn’t appear to be any more use of Southampton (the country’s principal cruise port) than in previous years, so there are still as many cruises departing from other ports – just not from as many ports. As for their reasons for doing so, I accept the arguments they present above. It might also be the case that Fred. Olsen are beginning to be more selective in which regional ports they use. I’ve read (here, for example) that the use of Falmouth was less than ideal – that port’s main focus is on ship repair not passenger handling. It’s also the case that it has no great market in its hinterland, so cruises from there may well have had many passengers from outside what you might think of as the West Cornwall catchment area. This is in contrast with Liverpool, for example – millions of people live within 90 minutes’ travel time of the Pier Head.

Indeed, Fred. Olsen’s decision to deliver the same number of cruises from a smaller number of ports will hopefully make investment decisions at those ports easier to make – they can hope for more cruises from operators such as Fred. Olsen and may in time be able to attract other lines. Hopefully we are beginning to move to a position where there will be several regional ports (i.e. “not Southampton”) that will have the facilities to handle ships of significant size and passengers, etc, in significant numbers. The continued progress towards a new turnaround terminal at Liverpool capable of handling 3,600 passengers is one example of this, and I would love to see similar steps being taken in other ports.

Here’s a link to a page on the Fred. Olsen Cruises site giving details of all the 2018/19 schedule, including the fly cruises.


2 Responses to “Fred. Olsen to reduce the number of regional ports from 2018/19”

  1. Another cruise line leaves Harwich.
    Is the any reason for his decline?

    • Tom Burke says:

      Thanks for the comment (and apologies for the delay in dealing with it).

      I don’t know why Harwich is declining (if it is) – I’ve never been there so I don’t know anything about the facilities, what it can do or not do, etc. I know where it is, and I might wonder how good the communications from there to the rest of the country are, but I don’t really know anything. My guess is that the lines that are leaving have simply found it harder to fill cruises departing from Harwich compared with similar cruises from, say, Dover. But as I say, I don’t actually know.

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