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Fred Olsen vs. Marella Cruises

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

Fred Olsen vs. Marella Cruises
U.K. Executive Editor
Adam Coulter

Sep 21, 2023

Read time
6 min read

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!

Who Are You Going to Meet?

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

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines tends to draw older Brits, with an average age of 67, plus some multi-generational groups in school holidays.

Marella Cruises draws mainly families during school holidays (except on Marella Explorer 2, which is adults-only), and couples, typically aged 55+ the rest of the year.

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 Sails Exciting Itineraries from the UK, with an Annual World Cruise

A variety of Fred. Olsen cruises are available from Southampton and Liverpool. Dover, Newcastle, Portsmouth, London Tilbury and Rosyth (Edinburgh), Scotland, often feature as departure ports on Fred. Olsen's programme, too, with voyages to the Norwegian fjords, Iceland, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean, Canary Islands and northern Europe typical. Short cruises France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

In 2024, the line will also offer a 103-night world cruise from Liverpool to Southampton.

Marella Cruises Offers Only Fly Cruises with a Focus on the Med, Canary Islands and Caribbean


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

How Does Accommodation Compare on Marella Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines?

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

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Has Plenty of Solo Cabins

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.

Marella Cruises Newer Ships Offer More Balcony Cabins

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

Marella Cruises' has done a great job transforming their "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 on Marella Cruises and Fred. Olsen?


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Steers Towards Classic British Tastes

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 Is Offering More Dining Choices with Each New Ship, Including Mexican, Italian and Indian

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

It 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 Voyager has the most dining options, including a food court-style restaurant in place of the regular buffet, called The Kitchens. There’s also a new-to-the-line Mexican restaurant, Abuela’s.

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 Cruises Main Pool (Photo: Fred Olsen Cruises)

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Offers a Traditional Cruising Programme

Onboard pastimes include Bridge, shuffleboard and quoits. The line's 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 Appeals to Families and Couples Who Enjoy Laidback Fun

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, while the other ships have Oceans Spa.

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

What's Evening Entertainment Like?

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

Ballroom Dancing and Revue Shows Are Commonplace on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Theatre entertainment includes revue shows from the onboard performers, comedians and magicians, and there's a lightly attended after-hours discos

There are 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 Celebration Theater (Photo: Marella)

Marella Cruises Has Excellent Theatre Entertainment

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?

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

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is More Geared to Couples and Solo Travellers, Less to Families

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 for Families (Photo: Marella Cruises)

Marella Cruises Has an Excellent Kids Programme

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 Between the Two Lines?

Black Watch

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Offers Great Value

A nine-night Norwegian fjords voyage departing from the UK in August 2024, costs £1,349*.

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 Has Plenty of Inclusions

Marella Explorer (Photo: Marella Cruises)

A seven-night Adriatic cruise, also departing in August 2024, with flights and drinks included, costs £1,591* per person.

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 publishing

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.

Updated September 21, 2023
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