Fred Olsen chief appeals to government to support cruise lines

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines also known as 'Fred. Olsen', 'Fred. Olsen ...

The boss of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has called on the government to provide more support for the cruise industry.

With cruise operations suspended until May 23 during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK-based cruise line has been forced to dock its four ships.

Peter Deer, Fred Olsen’s managing director, praised the government for the schemes it had introduced to ease cash flow constraints on companies across the country but appealed for further help to be extended to the cruise sector.

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government was prepared to enter negotiations with individual airlines to discuss “bespoke support as a last resort” last week.

Speaking to Travel Weekly, Deer said: “As a cruise line you hear quite a lot about the airline industry receiving funding from the government. We’re quite a passive bunch. I suspect our margins are better but lining up ships is not a cheap thing to do.

“The government needs to recognise that cruise is a big part of travel in the UK and find ways to support it.”

He called for lobbying from “every angle”, adding: “This is a hairy time for every cruise line, particularly the ones that have brought in new tonnage. It makes your life a bit tougher.”

In Fred Olsen’s 2021-22 brochure, the line offers departures from five UK ports – Southampton, Newcastle, Dover, Liverpool and Edinburgh.

Fred Olsen Cruises Ocean cruises cruise line review - Which?

Deer outlined how food, fuel and other services are bought by Fred Olsen from UK businesses.

Deer added: “We are worth a huge amount to the UK market. When we talk about a holiday environment, money is spent on that destination but with a cruise line that money is spent on a ship.

“It would be great to see some positive spin from the government.”

Asked if Fred Olsen was preparing for a “bounce back” in terms of consumer demand later this year, Deer said: “I think at some point we will see it, but it is all about consumer confidence. People do not have the will to think about their holiday in the short-term.

“They do not know when this event is going to subside. Everyone wants to go on holiday but they need some confidence that the virus is going to disappear.”

Deer said that it was “too early” for targeted marketing but added that the business was still trying to remain at the forefront of customers’ minds.

“We are just talking about our company and what we are doing,” he said. “It is a broader approach.

“People will see if cruises go-ahead before they commit their money.

“People may not do long-haul fly-cruises. They may look to the Mediterranean or the Canaries. I think people just do not know.”

Funchal Set To Be Towed to Liverpool

Funchal

According to industry sources, the classic 1961-built Funchal will soon be towed to Liverpool as new owners Signature Living have made the final payment on the vessel.

“Their plans have changed again and they will not be locating her in Ibiza as previously reported,” said a source familiar with the situation.

Thus, Signature Living plan to tow the ship to Liverpool, refurbish her, and then find a permanent spot for the vessel in the UK as a hotel vessel.

Last December, the vessel was sold at auction for 3.9 million euro to Signature Living, a UK hotel operator.

Cruise Traffic Surges in Liverpool

Celebrity ship calls in Liverpool

Cruise traffic is up 40 percent in Liverpool this year, and looks to be up at least 20 percent again in 2020, according to Peter Murney, head of cruise and marine operations.

2019 will see 86 calls, according to the port’s schedule. Visiting vessels can look forward to berthing in the heart of the city, steps from Liverpool’s notable UNESCO World Heritage waterfront.

“We strive to exceed passenger expectations at every stage of their journey. We change perceptions by ensuring guests experience Liverpool as the modern, thriving, dynamic, cosmopolitan destination we know it to be,” Murney said.

“One of our challenges is that the berth is on a floating pontoon with a 10 meter tidal range so at times pedestrian access bridges can be very steep,” Murney explained. “We overcome this by providing mobility buses that transport guests direct from gangway to passenger lounge and back.”

Berth bookings open two years out, he added.

Among the goals is to build the port’s turnaround business, as a new cruise terminal will be open and operational for the 2022 season.