Quintessentially British - Boudicca, Fred Olsen / by Byron Clayton

With the upcoming retirement of CMV's Astoria (née Stockholm) from 1946, Boudicca and her 2 sisters, Black Watch and Albatross, will be promoted into the rare and ever shrinking club, 'oldest ocean going passenger ships still in service'.

 Boudicca berthed in Liverpool.

Boudicca berthed in Liverpool.

Boudicca was born for the upper class. She and her 2 sisters officially launched the modern luxury cruising movement when they were sequentially introduced in the early 70s.

The grande pedigree of Boudicca originated with Royal Viking Line and is still apparent in her updated Fred Olsen furnishings. When admiring her various works of art, they are almost exclusively Scandinavian with the conclusion being that some of them might be originals from her time with Royal Viking Line.

What is impressive about Boudicca, is how she and her sisters have retained their value and desirable employability over 4 decades. Other modern ships, built after her sisters, have already been sent to the breakers but these 3 ships have continued to live glamorous, productive lives albeit via varying circuitous routes. There must be a connection to the quality craftsmanship in their design and furnishings that has given this trio long life beyond randomness and luck. Perhaps there will be a hypothesis for this connection in the conclusion.

 Boudicca's younger sister, Albatros.

Boudicca's younger sister, Albatros.

Boudicca was the second sister built in Helsinki, Finland for Royal Viking Line. She was constructed by Wartsila shipyard as the Royal Viking Sky and launched in 1973. The targeted clientele were affluent, experienced world travelers looking to see the world in high luxury. This was not mass market cruising for the Caribbean but explorers akin to those who would have sailed 20 years before on Cunard's green goddess, Caronia. The Royal Viking ships were designed to sail the world in a time when jet travel had still not opened up every corner of the world.

 Builders plate from Wartsila found on deck 7 underneath the bridge windows.

Builders plate from Wartsila found on deck 7 underneath the bridge windows.

There is something special about Boudicca. She has changed hands nine times since being built. That is 10 name changes over a career that has already surpassed 40 years. In that time, she has been lengthened, re-engined, and received several reconstructions to add additional deck space, cabins and public rooms. Normally with such a chequered history, a ship could be expected to be little more than a junker, like a used car from a dingy, two-bit backwater town. Boudicca is graceful, poised and carries herself with a confident, quiet elegance that has continuity through time. In the same way she gains the loyal following of past passengers, she inspires what can only be described as loving care from her crew and owners.

For ship aficionados, Boudicca offers many treasures in her layout. There are a multitude of hidden alcoves and small places to explore like stairs behind the fitness center on deck 10 that lead to an additional mini-deck or tiny passages that cut from one side of the ship to the other like those found on the aft of deck 9 and 8. The design of her decks and public rooms gives the feeling that she is a much larger ship as long as you are not berthed next to a modern day Leviathan like 'fill in the blank' of the Seas.

As originally built, Boudicca was 28 meters shorter than her current configuration and carried 400 fewer passengers. She was conceived with dining as a single seating in her main restaurant. This says a lot about her spaciousness when conceived and perhaps another reason why her life has been so long. Having such a generous use of space in her original configuration has allowed Boudicca to remain competitive through the years by increasing her passenger capacity and converting to a conventional two schedule dining without sacrificing too much comfort for her passengers. 

This capacity utilization, along with many modern upgrades provided by her various owners throughout the years and continued by Fred Olsen, has allowed Boudicca to stay relevant and profitable. When Boudicca was first introduced in 1973, she did not have a single balcony cabin. After her lengthening at AG Weser in 1982, she gained her first 9 balconies as part of new suites introduced on deck 9. In 2004 after being acquired by Iberojet, she gained a further 10 suites which were equipped with balconies on deck 9 forward. In 2005, after Fred Olsen acquired the ship, she went to Blohm & Voss shipyard where she received an additional 45 balcony cabins on deck 8 with the clever repositioning and resizing of her life boats. And finally in 2015, a further 28 lanai balconies facing the Lido promenade on deck 7 were added to existing cabins by Lloyd Werft, bringing her total balcony capacity to 92. 

 Lanai balconies added to Lido deck 7 and facing the open promenade.

Lanai balconies added to Lido deck 7 and facing the open promenade.

As part of her extensive refit at Blohm & Voss in 2005, Boudicca also received new diesel engines which have no doubt greatly extended her life. This is also common for both of her sisters. Recently Fred Olsen updated the hull paint scheme their vessels. They now have dark silver, grey hulls from the waterline to their freeboard accented with a thin bright red stripe above, running the length of the ship. The design could be considered retro in style as it mimics the style Fred's ships had back in the 1930s but the new approach definitely makes the ships look distinguished and adds to their air of affluence.

Standard cabin sizes for ships built before the 1990s are generally smaller around 140 to 150 square feet or approximately 14 square meters. That's about 10% smaller than your average inside cabin on a modern ship however, the impact of the smaller room feels more profound. That is because over the last 40 years, cabin designs have improved significantly in terms of layout and usable storage. Boudicca's rooms are comfortable but not state of the art.

Boudicca's public rooms are tastefully decorated in warm, rich colors. There is plentiful space for lounges and bars with live music easily found throughout the day. She has a well equipped library, coffee and gourmet chocolate counter and the obligatory English pub themed bar. It should be said that Boudicca caters for a mature clientele. There are no dedicated children's facilities onboard so if cruising with little ones, it would be best to look elsewhere.

 The Observatory Lounge beneath Boudicca's name.

The Observatory Lounge beneath Boudicca's name.

After 40 years, the ship has moved down market from her original 5-star luxury but she still provides a cruising experience that is distant from the mass market likes of P&O or the low-cost focus of CMV. Fred Olsen has found a niche that matches affordability with elegance, attentive service and quality cuisine. 

Service onboard Boudicca is provided by what could be described as a tight knit family of Filipinos. The crew are very happy, playful and well connected. They look like and act as if they truly love their jobs. The best way to experience this is by having afternoon tea at The Secret Garden cafe on Lounge deck, mid ships. Should your cup of tea be less than half full, without lifting a finger, you will no doubt be swarmed by smiling faces offering to serve you more.

Fellow passengers are almost exclusively from the United Kingdom. They are experienced cruisers who enjoy the small ship feel and longer cruises. There seems to be a strong appeal for the no-fly cruises that attracts these seasoned travelers from ports all over the UK. They are well dressed but in a humble Sunday church kind of way and of a mature age that means you are surrounded by polite and gracious people who are relaxed. Fellow passengers often become new friends after a few days and the feeling onboard is akin to being fellow members of a local country club. 

 Over 40 years of adventure on the high seas.

Over 40 years of adventure on the high seas.

What is the secret sauce that keeps Boudicca going? Our theory is Love. She is loved by her crew, she is loved by her owners and most importantly, she is dearly loved by her guests. Boudicca is no longer a young ship and while she is extremely well kept for her years, the clock will keep on ticking and sooner or later, she will take one final sojourn across the sea. Luckily there is still time to enjoy this magnificent ship and her sisters so make the most of her, while time is still patient. 

All content and photographs are copyright of honestcruiser.com