Five-Ring Circus: Fred. Olsen Cancels Cruises in Favour of Olympic Charter

February 24, 2012

(Noon EST) -- Thousands of would-be cruise passengers are probably regretting that the Olympics are coming to London in July: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has cancelled three sailings and rescheduled four others this summer after signing a deal to charter the 929-passenger, 23,000-ton Braemar to LOCOG, the organiser of the 2012 Summer Games.

Braemar will be docked at either Royal Albert or King George V docks in East London, the hub of the Olympic events, for 24 days from July 12 to August 15, during which time it will accommodate 900 workers associated with the Olympics. The line stresses that the ship will be used for accommodation and dining only; the workers will not be enjoying the pools, bars and hot tubs.

Fred. Olsen would not disclose to Cruise Critic the total number of passengers affected or the price paid by LOCOG for the charter. A line spokeswoman said in a statement: “It is always a very difficult decision to rearrange guests' cruises when we have taken bookings; however, we have deliberated very carefully before making this decision.”

Guests who were booked on affected cruises are being offered an alternative cruise and an unspecified "goodwill gesture" for the inconvenience caused, or a full refund. Indeed, the company is within its legal right to cancel scheduled cruises and replace them with private charters if a refund is offered; it's standard practice in the cruise industry and is written into passengers' contracts. Fred. certainly isn't the first line to charter its ships for use during a major sporting event. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, some 10 cruise ships, including a pair from Holland America, were contracted as floating hotels.

Several commenters on the Cruise Critic boards have expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision, including wilson2579, who notes: "This is a terrible way to treat passengers. People have been looking forward to their holiday for quite some time."

Cruises that have been affected are:

M1215, an eight-night Norwegian fjords cruise which was set to depart June 28, is cancelled and has now been replaced with M1216A to Spitsbergen, departing June 27.

M1216, a 15-night Spitsbergen cruise that was due to depart Dover July 5 has also been replaced with M1216A to Spitsbergen, departing June 27.

M1217, a 15-night Western Mediterranean cruise due to depart July 20 and now cancelled.

M1218, a 14-night Baltic and St. Petersburg cruise, originally scheduled to depart August 4, now renamed M1218A and departing August 15.

M1219, a three-night Holland/Belgium mini cruise, scheduled for August 18 and now cancelled.

M1220, a nine-night Norwegian fjords cruise, scheduled to depart August 21 and now sailing August 29.

M1221, an eight-night Portugal and Spain cruise, originally scheduled for August 30 and now cancelled.

Tip of the topper to Captain Greybeard for breaking the news.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor