Group Travel Today speaks to Ellie Fulcher, Group Sales Manager from Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. She has worked there in various sales roles for seven years.
‘A lifetime of travel’ Jonathan Mountford
Previous to that she worked for various other cruise operators over the last 17 years including Seabourn Line, Cunard Line and Costa Cruises in London, and P&O Cruises & Princess Cruises in Sydney (Australia). Ellie studied Travel & Tourism at Suffolk College and has also worked for Monarch Airlines.
Where was your first holiday?
My first holiday was a family camping holiday to Mont Saint Michel in between Brittany and Normandy in Northern France, when I was four. It was the only time I ever went camping as a child and I loved it! As an adult I am very interested in returning to this area, especially as it is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. It would be a fabulous starting point to take my two young children on their first camping experience.
If money wasn’t an issue, where would you go and what would you do there?
I feel very privileged to have travelled extensively in my life to many exciting destinations all over the world; particular favourites have been backpacking around the world for 18 months, taking in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Fortunately my work has also enabled me to travel to special places that I may not have reached otherwise, such as cruises to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska and New Caledonia & Vanuatu in the South Pacific Islands.
I will always have a strong passion for travel and there will always be a 'Place I Must See' list! Top of this list has to be a luxury safari holiday in Kenya or Tanzania, followed by a relaxing beach break in neighbouring Zanzibar!
What is your favourite coach tour destination?
I must admit I have not experienced many coach holidays, especially since having children, as the length of time travelling on coaches with young children is very limited! One particular coach trip that brings fond memories is a student ski-ing trip to Austria when I was at school. It was very exciting to travel such a long distance by road and to experience such wonderful scenery, without having to endure the hassle of any airports!
On the subject of coaches, in my current role I deal with many group travel organisers who have operated coach trips for their groups, and are surprised when they book their first cruise group with us how much better value a cruise holiday is compared to a coach holiday. So those GTOs who haven't yet 'dipped their toe' in to the world of ocean cruising, do give us a call and we would be happy to talk to you about what amazing value a cruise offers in comparison to a coach holiday.
Which has been your worst holiday?
I haven't really had any holidays that I would class as 'bad'. I have been lucky and enjoyed all of my holidays.
If there was any I could criticize, it would be the first holiday I experienced as a brand new parent with a six-month-old baby. We took our daughter Ruby to Lanzarote in winter to a self-catering apartment with night flights! How naive could we have been, after experiencing cold weather and cold swimming pools, no baby food and an upset baby on the aeroplane. We now travel with our children in summer, in
fully-inclusive resorts or on cruises and only travel by day! You learn from your experiences though, which means better and more enjoyable holidays for everyone in the future!
And what has been your best holiday?
My two top favourite holidays are firstly a cruise on the QE2 sailing from Southampton to New York with my husband in the millennium, it was a unique experience to sail to America by sea and made extra special by the fact that my husband proposed to me out on deck under the moonlight! I had no idea he was going to do this and was so shocked I seriously thought it was a joke (poor Allen)!
Secondly, was a cruise on 'Pacific Princess' to the South Pacific Islands in Christmas 2005; I was lucky enough to visit a tiny island called 'Wala', which had never been visited by a cruise ship before. The locals were so excited and I will never forget the island children singing us a Christmas carol on the beach, waiting for us with Frangipani flowers in their hands, before taking us on a guided tour of their rain forest island.
What travel tips would you pass on to other travellers?
A top tip if travelling far afield is always to check whether you are approaching a wet or a dry season; many British people I speak to are caught out on travelling in the wrong season, as the weather patterns are so changeable to European climates. Always ensure you have up-to-date travel insurance, deet mosquito repellant, and if travelling in Europe ensure that you have the new EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) from the post office, which covers you for health treatment in Europe.
Travelling a lot with my job and being a very light sleeper, I never leave home without my ear plugs, and Blackberry alarm clock!
Do you feel it’s more enjoyable to travel or to arrive?
For me, my holiday starts from the minute I leave my home; that’s why it’s more enjoyable if you can travel in comfort. It helps to be organised to reduce stress by booking as much as you can in advance and not booking car parks, train tickets etc on the day of travel. One of the benefits of travelling on a cruise is that you can sail from the UK without having to endure the stress of airports. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will be operating 84 cruises departing from a range of ten regional departure ports around the UK in 2014 to over 246 destinations in 85 countries; our philosophy is to bring the world closer to you from the comfort of your doorstep.
If you can afford to travel in style, for example limousine transfers, first class rail and first class flights, then of course it is even more enjoyable and exciting! And certainly puts the icing on the cake!
If you haven't cruised before, I would personally recommend paying the little bit extra to upgrade to a balcony cabin, particularly for warm cruises and scenic cruises- it's definitely worth the money.
What was your best meal abroad?
It's hard to pinpoint particular meals as I have been lucky enough to eat lots of amazing food in many different countries. However my absolute favourite food is Thai and after travelling around Asia for six months I have to say this was probably my favourite culinary adventure. The best food was eating on the night markets in the street, where it was cooked fresh to order on a wok over a gas bottle by little old ladies and cost the equivalent of around 50p per meal!
If I had to highlight one particular restaurant experience, it would be a romantic dinner at Café Sydney, on Sydney Harbour in Australia. My husband and I had a table for two at night time, it was a warm night and the roof was completely open to reveal the night sky, and anyone who has been to the Southern hemisphere will know just how amazing the starry night skies ‘down under’ can be!
Where do you intend to travel next?
My next holiday is a cruise on board ‘Balmoral’ with my family; we are very excited about travelling on this ship again for the second time. This August we will be cruising on Balmoral to Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar for 12 nights from Southampton. My children Ruby and George cannot wait to get back on 'Mummy’s boat'.
Other cruises on my ‘must do travel list’ are heading North with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines to the Norwegian Fjords and also the stunning Baltic Capitals’. As many of our Captains and Officers are Norwegian, they know this region like the back of their hands. As our ships are small, it means I will be able to experience lots of scenic cruising to smaller and more remote ports which the larger cruise ships cannot access.
I would also like to travel to Venice for a weekend break some time over the next year as well, as I have a big birthday coming up.
Who would be your ideal travel companion?
My perfect travelling companion has to be my husband Allen. We have been travelling the world together for the last 15 years and I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather travel with than him; although saying that he does not want to go to India and, as that’s on 'my list' too, I have my sister pencilled in for that one as
she's been there before and loved it.
Have you a ‘secret gem’ of a destination?
My own secret gems have to be 'Wala' in Vanuatu (South Pacific), Kefalonia (Greek Islands), and Mayru (a private Island in the Caribbean).
A new 'hidden gem' for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in 2014 is 'Hvar'. 'It's' a brand new port for us, which should not be missed; known as the ‘St. Tropez of the Adriatic’, this idyllic island – just off the Dalmatian coast – offers fragrant pine forests, olive groves, fruit orchards and fields of lavender, thanks to its exceptionally warm and sunny climate. Look out for this port on our ‘Undiscovered Adriatic’ cruise departing on17th May 2014.
Thank you Ellie
If you would like any more information about cruising with your group on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines please contact Group Sales Department – Tel :
01473 746169 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org