Set sail to the spectacular Norwegian Fjords with Fred Olsen. Credit: Fred. Olsen

Sail from the south on a sophisticated cruise with Fred. Olsen

Author: Kaye Holland

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Skip the airport queues with a sailing that lets you travel to stunning beaches, explore ancient cities, and see the Northern Lights without setting foot on a plane

After a holiday to remember but put off by the (potential) chaos of the airport? Whether you want to explore the Mediterranean, with its ancient ruins, colourful cities, clear waters and sunny weather; savour the fjords off Norway; or experience the volcanic wonders of the Azorean Islands, a no-fly cruise from a south-coast city such as Dover, Southampton or Portsmouth could be just the thing for you.

There’s no airport chaos – no lengthy check-in queues, overcrowded departure lounges, flight delays, disappearing luggage, or the fear that you won’t be able to fit everything you actually want to pack into the airline’s strict baggage limit – to contend with.

Instead you can step straight out of a car or off a coach or train and onto one of Fred. Olsen’s three ships. The flagship is Bolette. Named after Fred Olsen’s great grandmother, the 1,338 passenger ship features six restaurants, an auditorium for movie nights and cookery demonstrations, a dedicated art studio, and e two-tier theatre-style Neptune Lounge, as well as retractable roof over one of its two swimming pools.

Then there’s Borealis, a near-identical sister ship to Bolette, and Balmoral. The latter is the oldest ship in Fred. Olsen’s fleet but also the smallest – meaning it can navigate slim European waterways such as the Seine River.

But if, like us, you still haven’t booked a holiday, here’s our pick of three of the best cruises from the south of England with Fred. Olsen – the family-run line that has been introducing passengers to new places and cultures for more than 175 years.

The Atlantic Islands from Dover
Departing from Dover onboard Borealis, you’ll visit mainland Portugal and its remote Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Azores. The Azores are home to diverse landscapes, from the Sete Cidades crater lakes to scenes of blue hydrangeas. What’s more, our friends at Fred.Olsen ha've even timed your visit for when the national flower is in bloom. Elsewhere the archipelago's waters are home to marine life such as sperm whales, which you can spot from Borealis with the help of conservationists from wildlife charity, ORCA.

Meanwhile in Madeira, explore the botanical gardens with a local orchid expert, or visit the 580-metre high skywalk at Cabo Girao for a unique perspective over the cities of Câmara de Lobos and Funchal.

While in Funchal don’t pass up the chance to sample Madeiran wine and in Lisbon – Portugal’s charismatic capital – a Pastéis de Nata (crisp, flaky layers of pastry filled with a delicious, creamy egg-custard and topped with a dusting of cinnamon).
This 14-night cruise onboard Borealis departs from Dover (where, throughout 2024, Fred.Olsen passengers can enjoy complimentary parking) on July 31, 2024. From £1,149 per person.

The flower-filled island of Madeira rewards a visit. Credit: Shutterstock

Norwegian Fjords from Southampton
This September sailing onboard Borealis coincides with the renowned fruit harvest in the Hardanger region, often referred to as ‘The Orchard of Norway, as you see orchards lining the edges of the fjords, bursting with ripe apples, pears, and cherries, and sample locally produced apple juice, cider and freshly picked fruits.

Elsewhere witness the remarkable scenery of Briksdal Glacier, from the picturesque town of Olden and the waterfalls of Langfoss and the Seven Sisters. In Ulvik, you are perfectly placed to embrace the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv by enjoying activities such as hiking through the fjordland or kayaking on tranquil fjord waters.

Borealis will make a special diversion along Lysefjord which is only accessible to smaller ships, home to the renowned Pulpit Rock (Preikstolen).
A nine-night Norwegian Fjords cruise from Southampton departs on September 11, 2024. Fares from £1,299 per person.

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Island hopping in the Caribbean from Portsmouth
After some winter sun? This 28-night cruise is the perfect cocktail of Vitamin D, fascinating culture, and quintessential Caribbean experiences.

Explore the sunny islands of Barbados and Antigua, renowned for their palm-tree-lined white-sand beaches and crystal-clear warm seas and delve into the rainforests of St. Lucia.

From here, Borealis will sail past the island’s towering volcanic Pitons at sunset, offering you the perfect view from on deck in the warm dusk air. You can discover the region’s exotic produce, from sugarcane in St. Kitts to cocoa beans and nutmeg in Grenada, and immerse yourself in the Caribbean way of life by sampling traditional Caribbean cuisine such as pepperpot stew or saltfish.

There’s also the opportunity to encounter whales and dolphins in Dominica. Wherever you go, just remember to relax: You’re on island time.
A 28-night ‘Island-hopping in the Caribbean’ cruise departs from Portsmouth on January 4, 2025. From £3,699 per person.

To find out more, call 01473 742 424; visit; or contact your travel agent

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About Kaye Holland

Kaye is a London-based wordsmith who has written for a range of publications including The Times, The Independent, The I, Culture Trip, The Sun, and ABTA among others. In June 2022, Kaye joined the Real Response Media where she looks – together with Lucy Abbott – after the World of Cruising website. Want to get in touch? Kaye can be reached at: [email protected]