We had two changes to our itinerary prior to embarkation. Firstly, instead of Warnemunde we went to Rostock; secondly (and very shortly before the holiday began) we were advised that the second port in Denmark was cancelled and we would anchor at Kristiansaand in Norway instead. We also visited the port of Turku. We parked at Relyon in Dover and found them very friendly and efficient. Would definitely use them again if sailing from Dover. We also used Forex for our different currencies and had them delivered to the ship. Again, a very friendly and efficient experience.
We did not do any of the ship's excursions mainly because we were doing a private tour of St Petersburg and having researched - primarily on your web site - the other ports, it seemed quite practical to do them independently. All the ports we visited were interesting and absolutely able to be done without the expense of ship's tours. Our private tour of St Petersburg was excellent and definitely worth the expense. We saw far more than we would have done doing the ship's tours. We did this on the recommendation of friends and we were not disappointed.
With regard to the Black Watch itself, we were happy overall with the experience. If we could change one thing, it would have been to have had a flexible dining time in the evening. We had second sitting reservations but we felt this was a bit too late at 8.30 with the first sitting being rather early at 6.30, especially for people who had been on ship's tours and we did hear some grumbles about this. The staff were all excellent and we enjoyed the entertainment provided. We particularly enjoyed the trio in the Garden Cafe. The food was good with plenty of choice and the wines were priced at an acceptable level. We did think at Â£5 pp the shuttle buses wherever available were a bit pricey! Both embarkation and disembarkation were carried out efficiently.
Did we like a smaller ship? Yes but not at the expense of mid-size or larger ships. We feel we have now tried three different sizes of ships and each has its own good points. Would we sail on Black Watch again? No reason why not but maybe we will try yet another line next year! What we will not do is book too far in advance as we met some 'last minute bookers' who had had a much better deal.