Fred. Olsen's "Black Watch" is now the oldest ship in their fleet but despite this it is a fine looking vessel. It has been well-maintained over the years.
The itinerary was Southampton, Almeria (Spain), Cagliari (Italy), Valetta (Malta), Piraeus (Crete, Greece), Nessebar (Bulgaria), Odessa / Sevastopol / Yalta (Ukraine), Istanbul / Cannakale (Turkey), Iraklian (Greece) Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Gibraltar and Southampton.
I had an outside, double cabin for single occupancy on Atlantic Deck (deck 4). It was reasonably spacious, clean, tidy and in good condition. It had a shower and bathtub which is always a bonus. There was more than adequate storage space for one person. As the cabin was in the aft section of the ship there was from time to time some vibration but otherwise it was very quiet.
The crew of the ship was European although, unlike in the past, not exclusively Scandinavian. The captain was Norwegian. The staff were multi-national and mostly from the Third World eg Philppines, Thailand, Indonesia and India. Both the restaurant staff and the cabin staff gave the traditional excellent service with a smile.
The entertainment staff was headed by the doyen of Fred. Olsen Cruise Directors, Ronnie Finch. They worked hard and produced a good all round "on board" programme.
Food was of a very high standard. There was a good choice and the menus were varied. I ate mainly in the Glentanner restaurant but occasionally in the more casual Garden Cafe or at the Poolside Cafe. Afternoon teas were particularly good. Bar prices were were very reasonable, much lower than on many ships.
On board daytime activities followed the normal pattern. The port talks and guest lecturers were very good indeed. The talks on the BBC and the history of the Royal Navy were particularly good. The latter talks were closely linked to several of our ports of call. Of course there were the usual quizzes, deck games and bingo. I found the swimming pool proved to be an absolute joy throughout the voyage. The evening cabarets were fairly run of the mill some good, some rather ordinary.
We were fortunate that we had calm seas for most of the cruise. The exception was during the night en route in the Mediterranean from Mallorca to Gibraltar we were hit by a freak wind which made the ship roll rather alarmingly.We had warm sunshine for much of the trip except in the Crimea where there were some wet days.
As far as I was concerned this was a very "destination intensive"cruise.I had visited most of the ports of call in Mediterranean so in these places I did my own thing. In the Ukraine I took ship-organised excursions which turned out to be excellent. The visits to the three Ukraine ports were fascinatiing and brought to life both the 19th century Crimean War (we even visited the site of the "Charge of the Light Brigade") the German occupation in WW2. Istanbul, despite the crowds mostly created by the fact that eight cruise ships were in port at the same time, was exotic and well worth the visit. In my opinion the call at Cannakale was the high point of the cruise. A full-day tour crossing the Dardanelles to Gallipoli brought the life the awful events which took place there in 1915 during WW1.
It was great cruise with a splendid combination of relaxation and education. I like this ship and I like Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines (this was my 28th cruise with them). I look forwars to my next cruise with great anticipation.