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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Fred. Olsen vs. Marella Cruises
Fred Olsen vs. Marella Cruises

Fred. Olsen vs. Marella Cruises

Fred. Olsen vs. Marella Cruises
Fred Olsen vs. Marella Cruises
Adam Coulter
UK Managing Editor
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If you’re looking for a quintessentially British cruise experience, look no further than these two UK cruise lines.

Though one is Norwegian-owned (Fred. Olsen), and the other is ultimately German-owned (Marella, formerly Thomson, part of the travel giant TUI), both wear their British credentials with pride, with British beers on tap in the onboard pubs, British entertainment on offer in the theatres, British food served in the restaurants and an almost entirely British passenger base.

However, there are a number of areas where these lines differ, not least in terms of demographics. While Fred. Olsen attracts a predominantly older (the average age is 67) crowd of couples, solos and groups, Marella is firmly aimed at the family sector and come school holidays the Marella ships (bar one, Marella Explorer 2), will be full of families.

The entertainment on Marella is pitched at a slightly younger age group, too, and the all-inclusive nature of the ships makes a difference when it comes to budgeting.

Marella’s most recent ships are also younger than the classic vessels operated by Fred. Olsen and have more features onboard such as climbing walls, an outdoor movie screen and multiple dining venues.

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

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Offers a traditional and comfortable British cruise experience for 55+ adults

Marella Cruises

Offers a British cruise experience somewhere between upmarket and traditional, attracting families, first timers and couples in equal measure

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, aged 55+ the rest of the year

Marella Cruises Forums

Where are they based, and where do they go?

Liverpool (Photo:SilvanBachmann/Shutterstock)

Sadly, not very far this year (2021); both are restricted to round-Britain cruises at least for the summer.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • Borealis will call in at Liverpool (pictured above) on a three-night scenic maiden voyage and Bolette will depart Dover on August 16 on its three-night maiden voyage.
  • After that, both are showcasing the best of the British isles, some with port stops and others not, sailing along the Jurassic Coast and up to the Orkney and Shetland islands.

Marella Cruises

  • Marella Explorer will offer seven new UK itineraries during the summer season with a three-night itinerary from Southampton, visiting Dover and Portland, and a seven-night itinerary in August from Southampton, visiting Liverpool, Dublin and Cobh in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Marella Explorer 2 will depart Newcastle, with itineraries that include stops in Leith for Edinburgh, Greenock for Glasgow, Lerwick and Belfast to start with, with two international itineraries at the end of the summer -- one calling in at Le Havre and another to Iceland.

Editor's note: Scotland port calls are subject to government restrictions being lifted in that country.

What's the accommodation like?

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

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • Rooms have a "classic" feel, with dark woods and thick carpets.
  • Fred. Olsen’s ships have a handful of single cabins as by nature, the line attracts a lot of single travellers.

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


  • Bolette's main dining room is a grand two-tiered venue with a variety of seating options. There is also a relaxed buffet restaurant, included in the fare, and smaller speciality restaurants which can be booked for a supplement.
  • Borealis has 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.

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 fee and for free, including a pan-Asian restaurant -- Kora La; a surf and turf restaurant, the main dining room and a sushi bar.

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 program including such activities 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 has 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".
  • 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)

  • Theater 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 shows; as well as comedians, ventriloquists 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 can be interpreted as you wish.

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*
  • Note the line has not yet finalised its health protocols for 2021, so it is not clear whether children will be travelling onboard.*

Marella Cruises

Marella Cruises for Families (Photo: Marella Cruises)

  • M Club includes activities for children up to 11 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

  • Good value fares reflect the size, quality and age of the ships.
  • Daily tips are suggested at £5 per person, per day.
  • 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 four nighhts or longer.

Marella Cruises

Marella Explorer

  • 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.

Fred. Olsen vs. Marella Cruises: The Bottom Line

  • If you are of a certain age (55+), mainly British and enjoy classic cruising in "country house" style with imaginative, destination-focused itineraries, then Fred. Olsen is the cruise line for you.
  • If you are a family or a 40-something 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 June 11, 2021

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