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A panoramic view of the Amalfi Coast

A Q&A with Martin Lister, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Head of Itinerary Planning

As Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Head of Itinerary Planning, Martin is the perfect person to offer an insider perspective on what makes an itinerary shine

Published on 19 Apr 2024


Hi Martin! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Could you tell us about your role at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, please? 

The purpose of my role at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is to lead the Destination Team in creating and executing a product strategy to enhance our cruise values. We are continually driving forward the design, planning, innovation and development of our hand-crafted itinerary products. This includes the itineraries themselves, the tours offered at ports of call and our onboard signature experiences, all while being aligned with our guest’s needs and the requirements of the business. 

A lot of strategy must go into the planning of itineraries - could you tell us about the process?

Yes, and rightly so. First, we have to establish the business requirements as well as the needs and interests of our target market, the ‘enthusiast.’ From there, we pull together a calendar of cruises offering variety from each of our departure ports, taking into consideration the best time to go to certain destinations. 

Each of our cruises is designed with purpose with itineraries crafted by selecting the right destination to fit the narrative for the cruise. Ultimately, we want our cruises to deliver an experience that is eye-catching and immersive into local life and wildlife and with itineraries that our travel enthusiast guests will find interesting. 

The cruises are then fully checked to ensure that they can be navigated and operated before the ports of call are booked. We then collaborate with teams across the business to set up, launch and market the cruises. 

What factors do you consider when picking a new destination?

The destinations should always fit the narrative for the particular cruise. Does it offer eye-catching appeal? Does it contribute aspects of the local way of life to enable guests to experience the quintessential culture? It is essential that we consider these to deliver the best possible experience for our guests. 

How many of the destinations that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines sail to have team members personally visited?

As a global cruise line, our wider team have a huge amount of experience with worldwide destinations. We collaborate with colleagues around the wider business, both on the ships and shoreside, to share our experiences.

‘The Joy of the Journey’ is an important part of the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ethos, how does it impact guests’ onboard experience? 

Our brand is about hand-crafting signature experiences, both for tours and destination-related activities onboard. Our goal is to individually craft each cruise and design it specifically for the audience it is intended for. This provides our guests with the confidence that their holiday has been designed to suit their interests with an itinerary that is eye-catching and enticing, interesting, immersive and feels good, and that the shoreside and onboard experiences provide an insightful and engaging experience. 

Do you have a favourite itinerary? And why?

The Amalfi Coast was a cruise that has been influential in the way we design and communicate our cruises. The cruise grabs attention: it offers guests an immersive local experience with the feel-good factor and the famous landmarks of the region provide an interesting insight into the history to learn more. 

What is the best part of your role?

It’s being able to design itinerary experiences that create life-long holiday memories for our guests. That’s the ultimate goal! 

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