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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Ambassador Cruise Line
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Ambassador Cruise Line
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Marella Cruises: Which Cruise Line Would Suit You?
Fred Olsen vs. Marella Cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Marella Cruises: Which Cruise Line Would Suit You?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Marella Cruises: Which Cruise Line Would Suit You?
Fred Olsen vs. Marella Cruises
Adam Coulter
U.K. Executive Editor
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Fred. Olsen Cruises Lines and Marella Cruises offer two quintessentially British cruise experiences, from the beers served on tap to the food in restaurants and the thoroughly British styles of entertainment. 

While similar in some ways -- including offering great value for money and attracting an all-Brit crowd -- these two cruise lines also differ quite significantly.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines attracts a predominantly older (the average age is 67) crowd of couples, solos and groups, Marella Cruises is firmly aimed at the family sector (except for one ship) and come school holidays the Marella ships tend to be full of families. Couples, too, are drawn to Marella with new spaces such as a "press for Champagne" themed bar on the adults-only ship, Marella Explorer 2.

Marella Cruises has done an excellent job of phasing out its older ships in favour of newer, refurbished ships with more restaurants, more balcony cabins and features such as climbing walls on Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2 and an outdoor movie screen.

Fred. Olsen has also been busy introducing newer ships: Borealis and Bolette (former Holland America vessels), now the most modern in the line's fleet, but that has not changed the passenger demographic.

If you are struggling to decide between the two, read our comparison of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Marella Cruises and hopefully we can help you make the right choice!

What are the COVID-19 Health Protocols?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

All passengers are required to be fully vaccinated, including a booster dose at least seven days before travelling. If you are due to have your second vaccine less than three months before your departure date, you are not required to have had your booster dose, though you must have your second dose at least 14 days before travelling. Proof of vaccination status is required at check in. 

All passengers will be tested upon arrival at the cruise port, before check in. 

Buffet service is open on all ships. Dishes are served by the crew.

All passengers are asked to wear a face mask when moving around inside the ships, i.e. not seated for food, drinks or entertainment, with the exception of those passengers exempt on medical grounds. 

Marella Cruises

Passengers over 12 are required to have had all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before sailing. Passengers under 12 are exempt; though there are some nuances to this policy depending on the country of entry’s protocols, for example Barbados, where even children must be vaccinated to enter.

All passengers will undergo pre-board testing to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 result before being permitted to board, regardless of age.

Passengers will be required to wear face coverings in all public spaces onboard, with the exception of cabins, in the pool, when using the gym or spa facilities, having a spa treatment and when seated in a bar or restaurant.

Marella requires passengers to organise valid travel insurance (passengers won't be permitted to board without it). Marella offers insurance through AXA or it can be purchased separately. It's recommended to organise European cover for sailings with calls in Ireland.

Related: Unvaccinated Cruise Passengers Could Pay More. And Here's How Much

Passengers are allowed to go ashore as part of Marella’s own shore excursions and, in some ports, independently, including a range of Caribbean ports and some European. Check the cruise line’s website for an official list (which is subject to change) of ports that are allowing independent tours.

Who are you going to meet?

Friends Enjoying Drinks in the Neptune Lounge (Photo: Fred Olsen)

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Elderly Brits, with an average age of 67

Some multi-generational groups in school holidays

Fred. Olsen Cruise Line Forums

Marella Cruises

Marella Explorer (Photo: Marella Cruises)

Mainly families during school holidays (except on Marella Explorer 2, which is adults-only)

Couples, typically aged 55+ the rest of the year

Marella Cruises Forums

Where are they based, and where do they go?

Godafoss, One of the Most Famous Waterfalls in Iceland (Photo: Puripat Lertpunyaroj/Shutterstock)

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

A variety of Fred. Olsen cruises are available from Southampton, Liverpool, Dover, Newcastle, Portsmouth, London Tilbury and Rosyth (Edinburgh), Scotland, in 2022, with the line continuing its focus on no-fly cruises.

These include Fred. Olsen's next world cruise, "Around the World in 80 Days", departing from Southampton in February 2023 onboard Borealis.

Fred. Olsen cruises from Liverpool include an extraordinary itinerary that takes in Iceland and the Azores on Bolette; the Faroe Islands, and the Azores and Madeira both on Borealis.

Fred. Olsen cruises from Newcastle include Arctic and Norwegian fjords; Baltic Sea and the Canary Islands on Balmoral.

Fred. Olsen cruises from Rosyth include the Baltic Sea, Norwegian fjords and Iceland.

Fred. Olsen's Braemar is offering both short cruises to France and longer voyages, including a Greece and the Corinth Canal, from Southampton in 2022.

Marella Cruises


The ships are primarily based in the Mediterranean and Adriatic in summer and the Caribbean and Canary Islands in winter.

Marella's cruises are all typically fly-cruises, with departures from 28 UK airports, a big selling point for anybody not based in the southeast.

Despite a successful UK season in 2021, you won't find any Marella cruises from Newcastle or Southampton in 2022 -- all sailings are fly cruises.

What's the accommodation like?

Superior Suite (Grade SS) on Board Braemar (Photo: Fred Olsen Cruises)

Cabins on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Rooms have a "classic" feel, with dark woods and thick carpets in a range of categories from singles to suites. 

A big plus for solo travellers, Bolette and Borealis each have more than 50 single cabins, with grades ranging from Inside to Balcony Suite, plus wheelchair accessible accommodation and staterooms with bathtubs.

Cabins on Marella Cruises

Marella Discovery's Deluxe Balcony (Photo: Marella Cruises)

The line has done a great job transforming the newer ships, and their addition has seen a large number of balcony cabins added to the fleet.

A wide variety of cabins, including suites and interconnecting rooms for families or groups of friends.

Marella offers a few single cabins and also embarks on tactical promotions from time to time, with zero or reduced single supplements.

What are the dining options?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines


Borealis and Bolette each have six restaurants and 11 bars and lounges. The main restaurant spans two decks and is a classic and elegant venue with a choice of table sizes and seating options.

There is also a relaxed buffet restaurant, included in the fare, and smaller speciality restaurants, including an Asian fusion venue, which can be booked for a supplement.

Marella Cruises

Hot Stone Dining on Marella Discovery 2 (Photo: Marella Cruises)

Varies by ship: Some offer open seating in a main dining room, others fixed-time dining only with a casual buffet option.

The line has significantly improved its dining quality and options, both for a fee and for free, including a pan-Asian restaurant -- Kora La; a surf and turf restaurant, the main dining room with an Italian restaurant inside it and a sushi bar.

Marella Explorer and Marella Explorer 2 also have The Dining Club, a more fine-dining experience with a wine-pairing option, though Surf & Turf is the stand out in terms of quality and ambience. Service at all of Marella's restaurants is generally very good.

What's each line's idea of fun?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Fred Olsen Cruises Main Pool (Photo: Fred Olsen Cruises)

Onboard pastimes include Bridge, shuffleboard and quoits.

Onboard enrichment programme includes activities such as participating in a radio broadcast, gardening, wine appreciation, history classes, wildlife watching, painting classes and expert lecturers

All ships have two pools and spa facilities.

The line has also added "Rigid Inflatable Boats" to the fleet, allowing for soft adventure pursuits

Marella Cruises

Marella Explorer’s Main Pool (Photo: Marella Cruises)

Onboard sports options include paddle tennis, five-a-side football and basketball. All ships have outdoor pools and spa facilities, and the newer ships even feature climbing walls and outdoor cinema screens.

Marella Explorer and Marella Explorer 2 each have an extensive spa run by Champneys, the first seagoing venture for the Company.

Lido Deck fun includes impromptu sessions of "Mr & Mrs" and "Family Feud" and indoor fun includes bingo and quizzes.

What's the nighttime entertainment like?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Glitz and Glam on Fred Olsen (Photo: Fred Olsen Cruises)

Theatre entertainment includes revue shows from the onboard performers, comedians and magicians.

Lightly attended after-hours discos

Daily ballroom dancing sessions with dance hosts on every cruise.

One or two formal nights per week, on which men are expected to wear a jacket and tie and black tie is encouraged.

Marella Cruises

Marella Celebration Theater (Photo: Marella)

Theatre entertainment on the newer ships includes outstanding variety and quality of West End-style shows; as well as comedians and magicians.

Nightly entertainment, including live music, quizzes and karaoke, is centred on pubs and lounges.

No strict formal nights, just the occasional "dress to impress" evening, which usually involves glam dresses and shirts and trousers for men.

How well are families catered for?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Friends Enjoying the Scenery on Board Cruise (Photo: Fred Olsen Cruises)

No activities or kids venues except during holiday time when the ships offer the Little Skippers children's club during peak school holidays, with a range of activities, from pizza-making in the Galley to treasure hunts around the ships

Fred. Olsen has targeted multi-generational family cruising, and it is common to find larger families of various ages onboard during school holidays. Due to Fred. Olsen’s current vaccination policy, under 12s cannot currently travel.

Marella Cruises

Marella Cruises for Families (Photo: Marella Cruises)

M Club includes activities for children up to 11-years-old and for teenagers

Marella Explorer offers ‘babytainment’ for under-threes accompanied by an adult.

Daytime kids activities include arts and crafts, superhero theme parties, treasure hunts and behind-the-scenes tours that even pay visits to the bridge.

Evening kids fun includes talent shows, mini-discos and pyjama parties.

Probably the better choice for families with teenagers as there’s more to do, and better nightlife.

How does pricing compare?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Black Watch

A 13-night, no-fly Canary Islands cruise on Balmoral costs from *£1,699pp based on two sharing, departing 2022.

Good value fares reflect the size, quality and age of the ships.

Daily tips are suggested at £5 per person, per day.

Speciality restaurants are just £5 per person.

Bar prices are the same as or less than you'd pay on land. A drinks package includes a variety of soft and alcoholic beverages for £19 per person, per day on cruises of five nights or longer and £35 per person, per day, for shorter cruises.

Marella Cruises

Marella Explorer

A 14-night, back-to-back Canary Islands fly cruise on Marella Explorer costs from *£1,168pp based on two sharing, departing 2022.

Prices tend to be lower than those from the bigger US-based cruise lines with airfare included as Marella is part of the giant TUI holiday company which has its own airline.

All ships are all-inclusive for drinks and tips.

(*Fares correct at the time of writing.)

Fred. Olsen vs. Marella Cruises: The Bottom Line

If you are of a certain age (55+) and enjoy classic cruising with imaginative, destination-focused itineraries, then Fred. Olsen is the cruise line for you.

If you are a family or a couple ready to give cruising a try and looking for a bright, contemporary, lively ship, go for Marella Cruises.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Reviews

Marella Cruise Reviews

Updated January 08, 2020

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