Fred Olsen has made a big move towards all-inclusive drinks packages - there was one attached to our booking and most people we me seemed to have one. So, we’re going to begin, a quick primer on why I think these packages are, in general, a bad idea before we discuss why Fred Olsen’s approach to them is particularly vulgar…
Fundamentally, drinks packaged are designed to be given away. The headline daily prices are a fiction, inflated so that cruise lines can claim to be giving you “thousands of dollars in free extras” when they are, inevitably, offered as an early/late/Easter/Christmas/Summer/full moon/royal wedding booking bonus.
Because they are designed to be free, most of the drinks included within them are awful - terrible wines and mixed drinks which are mainly sugar. On some lines, the “free” allowance acts as a baseline, and a few dollars more lets you drink a decent wine or a top-shelf mixed drink. Fred Olsen is not one of these lines.
Firstly, even for those of us willing to pay, half of the wine list is no longer available. A waiter told us that since the push on all-inclusive started, other wines were not being restocked. Exasperated staff did find us a few really great bin ends, but the all-inclusive wine is bad. Properly bad.
Secondly, Fred Olsen’s approach to minimising the cost of this scheme appears to involve using the staff to throttle distribution - service is very slow.
The spirits selection onboard is also pretty limited. We like to use a Grey Goose martini as a benchmark drink for these reviews, but that wasn’t available - the only premium vodka option is Chase. The Chase vodka martini was poor - watery and weak.
In keeping with current trends, there was a separate “Craft G&T” menu, in partnership with Fever Tree mixers. However, by mid-cruise, they had sold out of Fever Tree mixers so were just substituting it with Britvic tonic, which we find unpalatable.
Still, if you want to spend your day nursing pints of lager or buckets of cheap wine, good news, we’ve found the ideal cruise line for you.