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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines vs. Cruise & Maritime Voyages

On the surface, Fred. Olsen Cruises and Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) appear to have much in common. Both sail from a variety of British ports, both operate classic, mid-sized ships and both are designed to appeal primarily to a mature British audience.

There are, however, significant differences between the two that will affect your cruising choice. CMV is very much a budget product, offering superb value for anybody who doesn’t mind an older ship. Fred. Olsen is arguably posher -- and all of its ships have recently been through extensive refurbishments, offering more consistency across the fleet. Read on as we put the two head-to-head.

Updated June 25, 2019
Fred. Olsen vs. Cruise & Maritime Voyages

Compare by: Demographics | Itineraries | Cabins | Dining | Onboard Fun | Entertainment | Family Focus | Pricing

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Fred. Olsen Bar

Who are you going to meet?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • Elderly Brits, with an average age of 67
  • Some multigenerational groups in school holidays
  • Many repeaters, Fred. Olsen has a loyal following
  • Single travellers; the line encourages solos, with get-togethers and dance hosts for the evening ballroom sessions.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • Mature Brits, certainly mainly over 55
  • Some Americans, especially on the Sea of Cortez voyages. CMV has an office in Florida.
  • Solo travellers, attracted by the enticing fares
  • Bargain hunters; you could conceivably do a world cruise with four to an inside cabin at an incredibly cheap fare.
  • Curious first-timers; CMV is effective in marketing its mini-breaks and one-night taster cruises.
  • On Vasco da Gama, only Germans in summer and a lot of Australians on the winter cruises out of Adelaide and Fremantle.

Boudicca in the Bay of Kotor

Where are they based, and where do they go?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • The four-ship Fred. Olsen fleet is based out of five regional UK departure ports: Braemar in Southampton, Balmoral in Newcastle and Edinburgh (Rosyth), Black Watch in Liverpool, and Boudicca in Dover
  • The small- to medium-sized ships are able to dock in some of the world's smaller ports.

  • Itineraries are many and varied, with ships travelling to 277 destinations in 90 countries, covering 104 areas of scenic cruising, including up rivers (Amazon, Guadalquivir), to the Baltic, Canary Islands and the Caribbean, and even the occasional "Mystery Cruise".
  • The company operates a comprehensive fly-cruise programme, mainly on Boudicca, with a few departures for Braemar, visiting, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Caribbean.
  • There’s also a range of short-break cruises, and winter cruises to Norway in search of the Northern Lights.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • The line’s home port is Tilbury, on the Thames.
  • Ships also sail from Hull, Portsmouth, Newcastle, Bristol, Rosyth and other U.K. ports.
  • Columbus, Magellan and Marco Polo sail primarily out of U.K. ports.
  • Astoria will be based in Mexico in winter to sail the Sea of Cortez.
  • In winter, Columbus embarks on a world voyage while Marco Polo and Magellan explore Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Amazon on extended voyages from U.K. ports.
  • Newest acquisition Vasco da Gama sails for CMV’s German brand, Transocean Kreuzfahrten, in summer, and then out of Adelaide and Fremantle in winter.
  • There’s a wide range of short break cruises and taster overnight cruises.
  • Like Fred. Olsen, CMV offers winter cruises to see the Northern Lights.


Junior Suite on Magellan

What's the accommodation like?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • Ships average 40 years old, thus cabins tend to vary slightly in measurement and layout, as there was no pre-fabricated ship construction when they were originally constructed.
  • Rooms have a "classic" feel, with dark woods and thick carpets.
  • Limited higher-grade and balcony cabins, but the line has added an extra 27 Terrace Balcony Suites on Boudicca and Black Watch
  • Fred. Olsen’s ships have a handful of single cabins as by nature, the line attracts a lot of single travellers.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • There's little consistency across the fleet as all the ships have different origins. All of them are, however, elderly in shipping terms; Astoria, for example, was built in 1948, although it’s been extensively refurbished.
  • Decor is traditional, generally inoffensive but may feel dated.
  • All ships have multiple cabin grades, varying from compact inside accommodation for four to spacious suites.
  • Columbus has particularly impressive balcony cabins, with a great deal of space; the junior balcony suites are 372 sq ft.
  • All ships have dedicated single occupancy cabins

What are the dining options?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • Fixed-time dining in the evenings, but also the flexible option to dine in the Palms café (Brigadoon on Black Watch and the Secret Garden Café on Boudicca).
  • On Balmoral and Black Watch, an outdoor grill area is converted into an alfresco "pop-up" alternative restaurant, called Poolside
  • All four ships have a Grill for alternative, fee-based dining, featuring steaks and seafood.
  • Traditional afternoon tea is a feature, with an enhanced offering, Premium Afternoon Tea, available at £8.95 per person.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • Dining choices vary from ship to ship but expect fixed time dinner sittings on Columbus, Magellan and Marco Polo.
  • Vasco da Gama and Astoria have open seating dining.
  • All the ships have a casual buffet option.
  • Expect a mixture of international and traditional British fare, including afternoon tea, served at the buffet.
  • Some have speciality dining, for a fee; the Indian restaurants on Columbus, Magellan and Marco Polo are exceptional.
Pool Deck on Magellan

What's each line's idea of fun?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • 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 recently added "Rigid Inflatable Boats" to the fleet, allowing for soft adventure pursuits.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • Traditional deck games, such as shuffleboard and quoits
  • Card room for bridge and other card games
  • Craft classes on all cruises of five nights or more
  • Regular guest speaker programme called "An audience with"
  • All ships have a spa, with competitive pricing, as well as at least one pool
Live show at the Astor Lounge on a CMV cruis

What's the nighttime entertainment like?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • Daily entertainment in the theatre from the ship’s singers and dancers, mainly of the traditional 'sequins and feathers' variety
  • Stand-up on selected cruises, billed ‘A laugh on the ocean waves’
  • Pub quizzes and karaoke are regular features
  • Dress code is either casual, informal or formal; on formal nights, a couple of times per week, black tie or a dark suit are encouraged for men and cocktail dresses for women.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • 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
mature cruisers in a hot tub on Balmoral

How well are families catered for?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • 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 in recent years targeted multi-generational families and it is common to find larger families of various ages onboard, or grandparents sailing with grandchildren.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • Columbus, Magellan, Marco Polo and Astoria are adults-only, apart from a few multigenerational cruises in the school holidays on which family activities are organised.
  • Children can sail on Vasco da Gama but there are no dedicated facilities.

How does pricing compare?

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

  • 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 nights or longer.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

  • Some exceptional offers; look out for buy-one-get-one-free fares on the winter long haul voyages.
  • Gratuities are added automatically, at £7 per person per day
  • There are four ‘CMV Additions’ packages, with the top tier, VIP, including most drinks, bottled water, gratuities, priority dinner seating and discounts on speciality dining, for £29 per person per day.
  • Otherwise, bar prices are comparable to those of British pubs.

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