Fred. Olsen History

The Olsen family business can be traced back to 1848.  Here, a young shipmaster called Fredrik Christian Olsen (known as the First Fred. Olsen) entered shipowning on his own account.  His earliest vessels were wooden schooners of little more than 50 gross tons.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines History

1848A dramatic period, the start of the second Industrial Revolution, repeal of the Navigation Act and the Crimean War. The first Olsen family ship-owner, Fredrik Christian Olsen, starts operating two small Brigatine sailing ships in Hvitsten, a small village on the Oslofjord in Norway. These very quickly grow to a fleet of three-masted Barks (a type of sailing vessel), transporting timber and ice mainly to Britain.


Fredrik Christian’s brothers, both also captains, become ship-owners – Petter in 1852, then Andreas in 1860 – adding more vessels to their combined fleet. After Fredrik Christian dies in 1875 Petter continues the operation of his vessels.

Olsen Brothers

1880Petter’s son, Thomas Fredrik Olsen (Fred.), takes command of one of his father’s vessels at the age of 23, becoming a ship-owner in 1884.
1892Fred. Olsen purchases his largest sailing ship, the four masted full rigger, Morning Light (later lending its name to the Morning Light Pub on board each of the current four ships).
1896Fred. Olsen places an order on behalf of a newly-established company, A/S Bonheur, for the first steamship in his fleet, Bayard – named after one of the vessels that started his ship-owning career. The purchase starts a family custom that most of the Fred. Olsen ships should bear names beginning with the letter ‘B’. This period can be seen as the start of the third Industrial Revolution.
1901Fred. Olsen acquires the Færder Steamship Company, a first decisive venture into the passenger business. First passenger links with Grangemouth in Scotland.
1906First passenger links with Newcastle established.
1914-191823 of the fleet of 44 ships are lost during the events of World War I.
1926With the diesel engine powered Brabant, a new generation of passenger vessels commences operation. Fred. Olsen & Co were among the very first to use diesel engines, starting in 1914.
1933Fred. Olsen dies and his sons Rudolf and Thomas Fredrik (Thomas) take over the running of the business, the latter from the USA during World War II.
1936Thomas introduces figureheads to modern ships.
1938The Olsens introduce the Black Prince and the Black Watch, named in honour of England and Scotland respectively.
1939-1945Black Prince and Black Watch are lost in the turmoil of World War II, along with 26 other vessels.
1948The start of the greatest and last Industrial Revolution; advances in every field of human endeavour.
1951 & 1953Blenheim, named in honour of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim Palace, the Churchill family seat, is introduced to the fleet, followed two years later by Braemar, named in tribute to Scotland and the British Royal Family. The new ships are among the most eye-catching liners of the period.
1955The third Thomas Fredrik – and current Fred. – takes over the running of the companies at the age of 26 after his father, Thomas, falls ill.
1966A new Black Watch sails to the Canary Islands on her maiden voyage from the Fred. Olsen terminal, Canary Wharf, West Indian Docks, London. Sister ship Black Prince embarks on the same route the following month.


A ‘reborn’ Black Prince begins her career as a ‘sunshine cruiser’, sailing to Cádiz, Casablanca, the Canary Islands, Madeira and Gibraltar from Southampton (all destinations still visited by Fred. Olsen ships). The officers and crew on board are noted for being very friendly and well-liked by their guests – a trait that has continued to this day as one of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ most endearing characteristics.

Black Prince at sea

1996Beginning of the first brain revolution: marking the end of manufacturing as we have known it, with software replacing machines as the driver for innovation. Black Watch joins the Fred. Olsen fleet after extensive refurbishment.
2001Braemar is sent to the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg to undergo a major refurbishment, ready for her new role as the second member of the fleet.
2005Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines purchases a new, elegant ship which, following a complete refurbishment, is renamed Boudicca after the great British warrior queen.
2006Boudicca visits the Canary Islands on her maiden Fred. Olsen voyage.
2007A yet-to-be-renamed ship arrives at Hamburg’s Elbe 17 Dry-Dock to undergo an ambitious refit and redesign programme, involving the fitting of a new 30-metre extension to give the ‘stretched’ ship extra rooms and improvements to guest facilities.
2008The ‘stretched’ ship is renamed Balmoral on entering service.


All four Fred. Olsen ships converge in the same place, on the same day, for the first time ever. The event in Bergen, Norway on 28th July celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fredrik Christian Olsen.

4ShipsInBergen Page

2018The ‘Captains in Cádiz’ celebrations on 10th September will see the four ships meet again in southern Spain to celebrate 170 years since Fredrik Christian began his shipping operations.

Today Fred.’s daughter, Anette, is CEO of A/S Bonheur and partner in Fred. Olsen & Co. Fred. Olsen remains chairman of A/S Bonheur, the central owning company. His son, the fourth Thomas Fredrik (Fredrik Jnr.), is the chairman of the daughter company Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. 

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