Having cruised before with several different cruise lines we had never sailed before with Fred Olsen and this was a last minute booking at a unbelievable price reduction which we couldn't refuse. I must admit though that we did check the reviews on here before booking and found that the ship had some of the best. Fred Olsen seems to have a loyal following of British passengers much older than other ships we had been on and many were booking up for next years cruises while on board. We only found two other couples on board that had not sailed with Fred before, that must tell you something. We are in out late sixties but felt quite young compared to most of the passengers, my wife said there was enough walking sticks on board to build an ark. The passengers in general were the friendliest that we have sailed with, the crew too could not be faulted in any department. Entertainment was pretty good and Ronnie the cruise director was better than any we have had on previous cruises.
Our cabin was a standard inside, adequate, clean but nothing special, we never spend much time in there anyway apart from sleeping. The towels and bed linen were changed regularly but were not the high quality we were used to on some of the bigger ships.
The food was excellent both in the main restaurant and in the buffet, I did hear one passenger say that it was repetitive but you cant please every one, in 28 days we had a completely different menu every day. The late night buffet and the Gala buffet seem to have had their day as you could count the number of people using them on one hand. The Gala midnight buffet was magnificent but I counted only 15 passengers actually sitting down eating anything. What a waste of so much food - what is the point?
Itinerary was excellent and the tours we took to the Pyramids and Petra were superb although expensive. We would have liked to have spend more time in some of the ports, we departed from many in mid afternoon which Fred calls LATE PM for some unknown reason.
Now we come to my main gripe with this ship, it has a serious soot problem on the back decks. Many times when we sat on the loungers or at the outside cafÃ© our clothes were covered in soot stains. After washing numerous items I took two pair of white trousers to reception which they dry cleaned free of charge but even they could not get the marks out of one pair and I had to claim compensation for a new pair. The soot was also a serious problem in the swimming pool. I swam most days but on several occasions large pieces of soot the size of fifty pence pieces were falling from above into the pool and on getting out my bald head was covered in large black splodges.
Inspite of this we still had a fabulous holiday. Would we cruise with Fred Olsen again? Yes but only if we could get a last minute bargain I don't think it is worth anywhere near the prices they are asking in the brochure. It is not a five star cruise ship so don't expect 5 star luxury but if you want one of the friendliest ships and you can get a good deal then you cant go far wrong with the Black Watch.
I believe the ship is going in dry dock any time now for some upgrades, it was showing it's age a bit ( just like the majority of the passengers) but it is lovely old ship.