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There have been a couple of interesting announcements recently. First, Carnival Corporation announced yesterday (15 July) that it had sold four of Holland America Line’s (HAL) smaller ships, all dating from the mid-90s to (very) early 00s, and all of about 55,000 to 62,000 tons. Then early today, Fred. Olsen announced that they had bought two of them, the former Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The ships will undergo quick rebranding and will then join the rest of the Fred. Olsen fleet at Rosyth.

The two ships that Fred. Olsen have bought are very similar (if not identical). They are two of the four-strong ‘R’ class that was built for HAL between 1997 and 2000, with Rotterdam being the lead ship and Amsterdam the final one. They’re both around 62,000 tons, and have about 716 cabins – so a standard occupancy of just over 1400 passengers. They’re quite traditional ships – three accommodation decks low-down in the hull containing both ocean-view and inside cabins, then two entertainment decks including a two-floor theatre at the bow, a two-floor main dining room at the stern, plus of course the usual bars, shops, and (I think ) a speciality restaurant or two. Then above them are another two decks of cabins, this time with balconies, and these decks include a number of larger cabins, including suites. Finally there’s the lido deck with the usual pools and buffet restaurant, a sun deck above that, and what looks like a special Oasis area on a truncated deck at the very top. The middle of these upper decks (the one I’ve called a Sun deck) has a Crow’s Nest forward and a ‘club’ aft. Finally, both ships have a wrap-round promenade deck. All in all, a very traditional ship which seems on the face of it to match Fred. Olsen’s style perfectly.

I think this is a brave and confident move by Fred. Olsen. Over recent years I’ve been hearing many complaints from P&O’s traditional passengers that P&O was not giving them what they wanted – that they kept getting rid of the smaller ships (Artemis and the smaller Adonia come to mind), that their traditional cruise style was going (for example, the end of silver service in the main dining room), and there was an endless drive towards ever-bigger and ever-glitzier ships – which those passengers didn’t want. The departure of Oriana a couple of years ago was especially lamented, as is the departure now of Oceana. Once cruising restarts I think that all of those customers will be able to find a new home with Fred. Olsen as I’m convinced that these two ships can provide a very strong, traditional cruise experience, and Fred. Olsen have the experience to deliver just that.

There is one area of uncertainty, of course. Will the arrival of these new ships result in the departure of any of Fred. Olsen’s current fleet? Well, there’s no hint at the moment, and in any case there is so much uncertainty about cruising that it’s hard to make any forecasts at all. If Fred. Olsen can grab enough of the traditional cruise market from other lines then they might be able to keep all six ships; but if not, then something will have to go. I’ve heard a suggestion that they would get rid of Black Watch and/or Boudicca, but those ships have become so strongly associated with Fred. Olsen that I can’t see it. In any case, this is all speculation. The one thing that is certain is that Fred. Olsen have seized the opportunity to buy a couple of excellent ships. It’s only about a month or six weeks since Carnival Corporation announced that they were going to get rid of 14 older ships, so Fred. Olsen have moved quickly to seize this opportunity. Well done Fred. Olsen!

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