Black Watch Cruise Review by C. W. Miller: South Pacific
C. W. Miller
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This was my 22nd cruise with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines and was a sector of the "Black Watch" 2008 world cruise. I flew from London (Gatwick) on an exclusive charter operated by ThomsonFly. I was in the economy section but, despite this, there was adequate room even for a 13-hour flight to Lima with a refueling stop in Barbados.The catering and cabin service was good. Clearance through immigration and customs at Lima Airport was swift and trouble-free.
We were quickly transported to the ship at Callao and boarding procedures were efficient and friendly. Unfortunately, my cabin was not ready but I could use the ship's facilities including the dining rooms and bars until all was prepared.
The ship is getting on in years but still looked relatively smart. The refit carried out in 2006 had certainly made the interior more attractive. I still have regrets, however, that the library which was previously on the Marquee deck is now on the Lido deck with much reduced views. As I More had been wait-listed for a single cabin and this was allocated at a fairly late date I was given an inside cabin for the first time. It was adequate, no more.
The catering was excellent. I think this improves over the years. On most evenings I dined in the Glentanner restaurant. The menu is not extensive but I enjoyed every meal. I normally had breakfast in the same location but occasionally tried the poolside. The latter didn't impress me as much of the food was often cold. I lunched in the main restaurant on most days but occasionally enjoyed the excellent fish and chips in the Marquee cafe.The theme nights with Indian , Thai and Chinese meals were first rate but you had to be up early to book as they were usually over-subscribed. As ever, the service in the restaurants was very good. The Thai and Filipino waiters were attentive and always cheerful. The same could be said of the bar staff in the Lido and Observatory.
I was a trifle disappointed in the cabin stewardess who on most days didn't manage to service my cabin before the afternoon. I suspect that she had to look after too many cabins. The reception staff were efficient but less passenger-friendly that the rest of the staff. The entertainment on board the ship was probably the weakest point of the cruise. The cabaret acts were mostly pretty poor, notably the so-called comedians. The resident dancers and singers were good but underutilized. It was very disappointing that there wasn't the normal classical group to give afternoon concerts. The exceptions were the lecturers who were both interesting and informative. Sandy Gall was very good as was the port lecturer.
The itinerary was interesting but, as on any cruise, there were highs and lows. It was disappointing not to be able to land on the first two islands, Easter and Pitcairn because of sea conditions. There was marginal compensation at the latter as some of the residents came on board. The French Polynesian islands were attractive with Fakarava Atoll the pick. Raratonga in the Cook Islands was lovely and, in my mind, the perfect South Sea Island. The visit to Tonga was a shambles as it coincided with the call of the QE2 on its final world cruise. Although we berthed alongside and the QE2 anchored off there was an undignified squabble over the limited availability of buses. New Zealand, as ever, was the star attraction with calls at four ports on both islands and a day's cruising in the fjords. The cruise ended with a roughish ride from Milford Sound to Sydney. There we had just over a day in the city before the seemingly endless flight on Qantas back to Heathrow via Singapore. Luckily this was problem-free and the flight landed on time. One thing I should add is commendation for the Master of the "Black Watch" on this cruise. He was very high profile and was seen around the ship in a daily basis. His "star-gazing" sessions in the South Pacific were high points in the entertainment. In all it was a good cruise. Less
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