Fred.\ Holidays is a new one to me but the eagle-eyed amongst you will by now have put two and two together, realising it is in fact a subsidiary of Fred Olsen Cruises, that enduring famous purveyor of well, cruises.
Their Summer 2014 brochure contains professional and knowledgeable content, not to mention expensive prices. This though isn’t your archetypal Lakes & Mountains brochure nor is it a travel company for those journeying on a budget, a small budget. Whilst much of their programme is not for me, it does carry some merit, especially with the amount of German cities and resorts it showcases, an area surprisingly overlooked by many tour-operators. Berchtesgaden, the Black Forest, Bavaria and Ruhpolding are known to many alpine enthusiasts and all are covered under one roof here, although the Harz Mountains and Mittenwald are sadly overlooked. Garmisch, as the gateway to the Zugspitze figures prominently but as a town, Garmisch(and Partenkirchen) are less than the sum of the parts of their immediate surroundings and subsequently, look far better under a blanket of snow.
Fred’s approach to this genre of holidaying seems to be that they show you an array of resorts and the hotels they use in those holiday destinations; then you tell them when you want to go and for how long. To view the glass as being half full it is refreshing to see a brochure with a flexible approach to the lengths of stay their customers can go for; however, it is perhaps a little off-putting when you cannot see in the brochure what your holiday will cost, apart from the ubiquitous ‘prices from…’ appellation which of course can only tell you half the story.
Austria, in a Lakes & Mountains sense, doesn’t significantly figure in Fred’s brochure although Bregenz is a pleasing alternative to what is offered by the more established operators. Innsbruck, St. Anton and Zell am See complete the Austrian choice offered so not exactly a veritable panoply of options, although it is stated that “we can also offer holidays to many resorts in Austria – please call us for a quote”. All well and good, but this particular traveller likes to see the full range in front of him, be it on a website or in hard-copy. When you consider a 2 night break in St. Anton STARTS from 419 GBP your feelings of this company being the preserve of the money-no-object brigade are reinforced. Maybe Fred are dipping their toes into this particular market or perhaps they’re established in it. Having never previously come across their land-based holidays I really couldn’t say. Whilst there is undoubtedly a place for – merely because of the demand – holidays that asking the price of means you cannot afford them, this does though place a large onus upon the travel-operator to provide a service from tee to green that is unparalleled in the marketplace. If this fails to materialise the overriding emotion will be of having been shamelessly ripped off.
I like the flexibility that Fred.\ Holidays offer and a commitment to the German market which betrays a certain confidence in their own knowledge and expertise. If they want to run with the Lakes & Mountains pack I suggest a greater depth to their Austrian programme, preferably with a raft of resorts not found in the usual suspects’ brochures. I also hope, considering the prices they charge that they can walk the walk equally as well as they talk it.