Black Watch Review
Ian Warren – January 2016
My wife Ellena and I enjoyed 3 mini cruises on Black Watch, from Southampton in December 2004, 2005 and 2006, back in the days before I even thought of selling cruises for a living. We used to love these short breaks just before Christmas, and it was amazing how many people we would see for the second or third time. As I hadn’t been onboard since 2006, I jumped at the chance to spend a night onboard in the port of Liverpool, in December 2015, which I was offered by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. The fact it was filmed in December explains why there are Christmas trees and decorations around the ship. Watch my video, which is near the bottom of this page, then contact GoCruise with Ian on 08002922850 or 01455821770 to book your next cruise. If you click on the following link you can see an album of my photos of Black Watch on Facebook.
Ship Facts & Figures
Black Watch is 28,613 gross tonnes, and has 423 cabins which hold 804 passengers at standard capacity, and they are looked after by 330 members of crew. She originally entered service in 1972 as the Royal Viking Star, which was coincidentally the year I was working at sea as a 16 year old ‘Bell Boy’ on the Pendennis Castle. Her last dry-dock refit was in 2014, and she is regularly refreshed, and in fact a couple of the public areas were having new carpets laid while I was onboard.
There are 24 grades of accommodation to choose from, ranging from an 140 sq ft N grade single inside cabin, up to a PS 550 sq ft grade Premier Suite with balcony, with many different options in between. Fred Olsen ships have more single cabins than other cruise lines, and over 10% of the cabins on Black Watch are for single occupancy. However, single doesn’t mean small, as the majority are the same size as doubles. Single passengers can choose from inside, outside, terrace balcony, superior balcony and balcony suites.
All cabins are provided with a television, hair dryer and of course tea & coffee making facilities. They all benefit from an ensuite bathroom, with most having a walk-in shower, although some will have a bathtub and shower over it. The majority of cabins onboard have fixed twin beds, with just a small number having the option of double beds.
As you move into the suites there are more facilities, such as a lounge area, fridge and mini-bar. A number of the suite grades also qualify you for Suite Dreams benefits on most departures, and these include a welcome bottle of sparkling wine, fruit basket and flowers, bathrobe and slippers, binoculars and world atlas for use onboard, and umbrellas for use ashore, and more.
Four of the terrace balcony cabins are adapted for wheelchair users, and the ship can also cater for another 2 wheelchair users on the ship, making 6 in total. In addition to that, another 4 passengers can take a wheelchair for use when going ashore, but they are stored on ship and made available at the gangway.
I spent the night in a very comfortable BS grade balcony suite, with a seating area, and the bathroom had a bathtub and shower over it.
BS Balcony Suite TS Terrace Balcony Suite Terrace Balconies
B Superior Outside Cabin D Outside Cabin L Single Outside Cabin
Things to do Onboard
Entertainment – as well as the team of resident dancers and singers, there are usually visiting cabaret acts, such as comedians or singers, to keep you entertained.
Bars & Lounges – choose from the Neptune Lounge, Braemar Lounge, Marina Theatre, Marquee Bar, Lido Lounge, gaming tables, The Observatory and the Morning Light Pub.
Neptune Lounge Lido Lounge Morning Light Pub
Dancing – there are always opportunities to get on to the dance floor, and there are a couple of dance instructors onboard. If you are travelling alone, or perhaps your partner doesn’t like dancing, you don’t need to miss out. On all of the Fred Olsen ships there are usually 4 dance hosts, who are excellent dancers and they are more than happy to partner you on the floor. They also help to organise various get-togethers for single travellers.
Other Facilities – around the ship you will find plenty to keep you busy, including the fitness centre, Atlantis Spa, pool & Jacuzzis, golf nets, table tennis, deck games, internet centre, card room, library, boutiques and port shop, reception, photo gallery, shore tours office, future bookings desk and guest relations, medical centre and laundry room.
Fitness Centre Tennis Court Golf Nets
Children – there are generally not many children onboard, unless part of multi-generational families. However, during peak school holiday times there will be activities such as arts & crafts, discos, treasure hunts etc arranged for the age group 5 – 11. Please note though that numbers are limited, and they are not fully supervised, so parents would need to accompany their children at all times.
Breakfast – open seating will usually be available from about 07.15 – 10.00 in the main dining rooms, and with slightly longer hours in the buffet restaurant.
Lunch – open seating will usually be available from about 12.00 – 14.00 in the main dining rooms, and with slightly longer hours operating in the buffet restaurant
Dinner – The main dining room is the Glentanar Restaurant, which also has a smaller adjoining room called the Orchid Room. There are two sittings each evening, which are generally at 18.15 and 20.30, and you will have reserved places at the same table each night. You can also opt for open dining in the Braemar Garden, which offers a self-service buffet, generally from 18.30 – 21.00.
If you enjoy Al Fresco dining, and the weather is warm, The Grill offers a selection of dishes for breakfast and lunch. On warm evenings there is the option to dine here for a small supplement, where there will be a premium dinner menu, and reservations are needed.
Afternoon Tea – while complimentary afternoon tea is served each day, for a supplementary charge (currently £7.95) you can opt for a special experience with a premium afternoon tea served in The Observatory.
Café Venus – if you fancy indulging yourself at very reasonable prices, then this venue is surely worth a visit. Drinks include Americano for £1.85, Cappuccino or Latte for £2.10 and teas for £1.85, and there is a great selection of amazing individual chocolates to choose from, ranging in price from £0.55 – £0.85.
Glentanar Restaurant The Orchid Room Cafe Venus
Drinks prices onboard are not overly expensive, and are in line with many UK pub prices. As an example, a glass of house white wine would be £3.95, a pint of lager £3.25 and a gin & tonic around £3.75.
You can choose to add an All Inclusive drinks package to your booking. This package includes selected house wine by the glass, selected beers and selected house spirits, and soft drinks. Currently the price is £10 per person per night for most cruises, which offers exceptional value, although it is more expensive on Festive Sailings and Mini Cruises, and isn’t available on cruises over 35 nights. Click on the following link for more details about the Fred Olsen All Inclusive Drinks package.
During the day, everything is very casual, including shorts and t-shirts, but swimwear is not allowed in the restaurants. Most of the evenings onboard are smart casual, with gents wearing trousers, chinos or smart dark jeans, with shirt or polo shirt, and ladies perhaps opting for a trouser suit, dress or skirt and top.
On formal nights, gents might opt for a dark suit and tie, or even a dinner suit, with ladies choosing perhaps a smart cocktail dress or ball gown. For those who really don’t want to dress formally, there is the option to dine in the buffet restaurant on those evenings.
Currency – the onboard is sterling, so no worries about currency exchange rates when you get your bill. You would register your payment card when embarking, so that your purchases onboard can be charged to you at the end of the cruise. Please note that there is no charge for using a Visa debit card, but there is a 2% charge for credit cards.
Gratuities – a charge of £4 per night, for all passengers aged 12 or over, will be added to your onboard account, to cover tips to your cabin and dining room stewards. You can have the amount amended at reception onboard, or they can be removed if you prefer to tip directly to the crew.
Celebrate Onboard – there is a good selection of anniversary and birthday packages which can be pre-booked, which can include cakes, flowers, bubbly, special photographs etc. It is worth noting that if you are celebrating an 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 90th or even 100th birthday while onboard ship, you would qualify for a complimentary treat, so let me know when booking. If you are celebrating a Silver, Pearl, Ruby, Golden, Emerald or Diamond Wedding Anniversary within 3 months either side of the cruise, then you will qualify for a complimentary anniversary package during the cruise. You would need to advise me when booking, and also provide a photocopy of your wedding certificate.
Smoking Policy – smoking onboard is restricted to designated outdoor deck areas, and on cabin balconies (excluding terrace balconies), and is strictly prohibited anywhere inside the ship. Electronic cigarettes which do not emit a vapour can be smoked in cabins, but are otherwise restricted the same as normal cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes which do give off a vapour, even a water vapour, are restricted to the same as normal cigarettes.
Fred’s Enjoyment Promise – so sure are they that you will enjoy a cruise with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines (FOCL), they make you a promise. Providing that you have never cruised with them before, and book at least 12 weeks in advance for a cruise of 5 nights or longer, they will refund your money if you don’t like the experience. You must advise Guest Relations onboard within a maximum of 48 hours of sailing, that you wish to invoke the Enjoyment Promise, and they will then arrange and pay for a flight and/or transport back to the UK. They will also refund the cruise cost, but not any other associated costs. This applies to cruises contracted with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines (including bookings made with travel agents), but not if the booking is with a package tour operator which happens to use a Fred Olsen Cruise Lines ship. For full terms and conditions ask GoCruise with Ian.
As with the other shops in the fleet, Black Watch offers traditional small ship cruising, in comfortable surroundings. She won’t suit all passengers, but then no ship will suit everyone, as we all like different things. I do believe that there is a ship for everyone, and I do my best to match my customers with the right ship. We are now looking forward to our holiday in September 2016, when we take an 8 night cruise on Black Watch’s sister ship Boudicca, from Liverpool to the Lochs of Scotland.
The rest of the Fleet
Balmoral – the largest ship in the fleet, at 45,357 gross tons, she carries 1,350 passengers at normal capacity, with 510 crew members
Braemar – at 24,344 gross tons she carries 930 passengers at normal capacity, and has 371 crew members
Boudicca – she carries 880 passengers at normal capacity, looked after by 325 crew members, and is 28,388 gross tons
Departure Ports – Fred Olsen Cruise Lines offers a number of departures from a great selection of UK ports across their fleet of 4 ships, including Glasgow (Greenock), Edinburgh (Rosyth), Belfast, Newcastle, Liverpool, Southampton, Harwich, London Tilbury, Falmouth, Dover and Southampton. In addition, Barbados and Jamaica are used in the Caribbean.
Please note that all prices mentioned are based on December 2015, and are of course subject to change at any time. For an up-to-date quotation or other information, contact GoCruise with Ian.