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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: Black Watch

Black Watch Review

Black Watch has received accolades in the United Kingdom for both its entertainment program and impressive personal service. The colorful cabaret at the Neptune Lounge and panoramic ocean views in the Observatory keep passengers more than satisfied. The inventive cuisine

of the Glentanar Restaurant and the ship's casual eateries, which even serve up authentic fish-and-chips, please the palates. Christened Black Watch after a Scottish regiment, the ship caters to an older crowd, offering numerous onboard activities, and is best known for innovative worldwide itineraries embarking from numerous UK ports.

Launched in 1972, the former Royal Viking Star was built for the luxurious, long-distance cruises for which the now-defunct Royal Viking Line was known. Today's Black Watch retains much of her inherent grace. Passengers have plenty of space, both on deck and inside, including two freshwater swimming pools and a large fitness center and spa—unusual for a ship of this vintage. Piper's Bar and Lido Lounge are popular spots for a leisurely drink and conversation, while the Observatory, a spacious lounge high atop the ship, has the best views.

Black Watch last underwent a major refurbishment and redecorating of the public areas in December 2009, including a new casual dining area, the Braemar Garden, which replaced the former Garden Café. New soft furnishings were added to the Neptune Lounge, Piper's Bar, Glentanar Restaurant, and Observatory Lounge. Today, the ship retains its cozy charm, with neutral and bright tones; however, some areas have lost their “wow” factor with lackluster decor and ambience.

With its Norwegian heritage of seamanship spanning over 150 years, family-owned Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has built a solid reputation of reliability and comfort for its UK-based fleet of smaller ships. Major refitting and refurbishment of old and recently acquired ships since 2008 have earned the company high industry accolades. Two sister ships from the defunct luxury Royal Viking Line, Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky, have reunited under the Fred. Olsen house flag and now sail as Black Watch and Boudicca. The Balmoral and Braemar complete the four-vessel fleet.

Shipboard ambience is friendly, relaxed, and unabashedly British. As Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines expands, the line takes pride in maintaining the consistency their passengers prefer and expect, both on board—in the self-described "British country house" atmosphere—and ashore. Activities and entertainment are traditional cruise-ship fare with a laid-back tempo, albeit on a much smaller scale compared to a typical American megaship. Lectures and the Arts Club special-interest program are popular, with classes in subjects ranging from gardening to painting, history to wine appreciation, and even bird- and wildlife-spotting.

Ballroom dancers outnumber the late-night disco set, and evening entertainment is more cabaret than Vegas. Particular favorites with most passengers are theme nights and the crew show. Cruises range from four-night "mini-breaks" to lengthier 7- to 78-night sailings. British pounds are used for all transactions on board. Although the line is destination-focused—itineraries are seldom repeated within any cruise season—itinerary planning is versatile.

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What You Should Know

Pros

  • Reliable friendly service feels personal and warm
  • Atlantis spa treatments can be pre-booked online or by phone up to 12 months in advance
  • The ship is family-friendly, with a children’s room and arcade

Cons

  • Lifeboats and life rafts may obscure views from all cabin balconies on decks 8 and 9
  • Sole occupancy of a cabin with two or more beds is subject to availability at time of booking
  • British passengers will find they need plug adapters—voltage on Black Watch is 110 volts (U
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 350
  • Entered Service 1972
  • Gross Tons 28,338
  • Length 674 feet
  • Number of Cabins 421
  • Passenger Capacity 807
  • Width 83 feet

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