The high price of oil following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a below-target level of demand post-COVID have combined to force Fred Olsen Cruise Line to cancel some cruises aboard Bolette.
Fred Olsen’s cancellations mark the first time a major cruise operator has referenced the price of marine fuel as a factor in altering cruise itineraries.
It may indicate more challenges to come for the industry as it weathers a range of crises from the post-pandemic recovery to supply chain delays and the economic disruption caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The next four scheduled cruises for Bolette have been cancelled, with the ship now due to resume service on December 21st, 2022 for her planned Christmas cruise to Norway.
The announcement of the cancellations come just days after the resignation of Chairman Fred. Olsen Jnr., who made the decision to step down after spending 35 years in the cruise industry, but the cruise line has stressed that the two events are unrelated.
“We got through the pandemic which was the most difficult time for the travel industry, and cruise lines in particular,” the cruise line said in a statement.
“During this time, we invested in our business by buying two beautiful new ships. Like every travel company, trying to get back to normal, we are still having to navigate some choppy seas along the way,” said Peter Deer, Managing Director.
“Our job during this is to look after our guests and crew and ensure we provide a wonderful experience. I sincerely apologies to all guests who are affected on cruises this winter. I hope you will give us the chance to put this right for you,” he added.
The statement went on to explain that the second half of the year leading up to Christmas is always a quieter period and that, due to the high oil price and corresponding high price of marine fuel, it is not economically feasible to operate the cruises as planned.
“With most of our crew remaining onboard (and the remainder taking their planned leave), we will use this time to bring forward some routine technical work which we had planned to do in 2023 – it will also leave us with one of our ships in the north of the country and one in the south for most of the winter,” Deer added.
When Bolette returns in December she will also relocate from Tilbury to Dover and Southampton for her full winter season.
Separately, Fred Olsen has also been forced to cancel Balmoral’s upcoming Monday cruise from Rosyth due to a propeller fault.
“These things happen of course, but the timing really couldn’t be worse,” the statement said. “As a result, she will need to go into a very short drydock in Newcastle which means we have been left with no alternative but to cancel her next cruise.”
Balmoral will return to service from Southampton on September 11th, and the rest of her schedule will remain unchanged. The 1988-built cruise ship is a veteran of the Fred Olsen fleet, having sailed with the line since 2008, while Bolette is the former Amsterdam of Holland America Line.
Amsterdam and Rotterdam were both purchased by Fred Olsen during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been fully refurbished and refitted and re-launched as Bolette and Borealis.