Bolette, Borealis and Balmoral sailed into Funchal harbour carrying more than 3,000 passengers who were met with live music and a quayside decked out with bunting, entertainment and a plethora of carnival stalls.
The ‘Fleet in Funchal’ event on November 9 was Fred. Olsen’s third fleet reunion. A fleet reunion in Funchal planned for April 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.
175th anniversary celebration
Peter Deer, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' MD who is due to take over the role of CFO, explained, ‘This year marks the 175th anniversary of Fred. Olsen’s start as a shipping company and we are thrilled that we have been able to bring our current fleet together for the first time – although it is the third time we have held fleet events with Bergen in 2015 and Cadiz in 2018.
‘A huge thank you needs to go to the Ports of Madeira and our partners in the city for their incredibly warm welcome and for the phenomenal fireworks display as the three ships sailed away in the evening.’
Fred. Olsen worked with the Ports of Madeira and Madeira Tourism Board to create the entertainment programme. ‘For Madeira, it was an honour and a privilege to have had the opportunity to host the celebration of the first post-pandemic reunion of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ fleet in the port of Funchal,’ stated Paula Cabaço, Madeira Port’s CEO.
‘For the port of Funchal, it was an unprecedented and beautiful event, during which everything went smoothly and will certainly remain in our memory.’
She said that the initiative promoted a ‘unique synergy’ between the port and the city, offering the chance for passengers and crew to interact and celebrate with the locals and experience their regional habits and customs.
‘We believe this was a turning point and shows that the cruise industry is vigorous and working for the good of all,’ Cabaço added.
Fireworks and fundraising
During the festivities, passengers could take part in a treasure hunt through the city before returning quayside to enjoy live music, dance performances from the ships’ theatre companies, try local culinary treats, sample Madeira wine and cheer on the crew in an inter-ship tug of war contest.
The entertainment continued with a ‘Battle of the Bartenders;’ cocktail making and bottle juggling were judged by a panel of celebrities from well-known UK television shows, including Loose Women’s Linda Robson, Coronation Street’s Sue Cleaver, Keith Brymer Jones from The Great Pottery Throw Down and Radhe Sivyer from Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker.
Throughout the day, passengers were invited to donate £1 towards the activities, resulting in £15,000 being raised for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
Capt. Rommel Pineda, master of Borealis, who has been with Fred. Olsen for more than 25 years, described his experiences during the festivities, ‘At every point, whether it was along the quayside or on board the ships, there were smiling faces enjoying the festival-style celebrations… Guests also had the rare opportunity to visit all three Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ships throughout the day, with many taking advantage of the chance to meet up with friends or their favourite crew members, and experience the entire fleet for themselves.’
The event ended with all three ships departing from Funchal amid a tugboat celebratorily shooting water into the air, a sail away party on the deck of each ship, and a firework display from the port.