We were booked on Black Watch for her voyage to the Cape Verde islands on November 26th, and were told to get to the Ocean Terminal at a given time. We drove to Southampton where we were given free parking (hooray) for the duration of the cruise,great but on entering the terminal on time found it packed with people and nowhere left to sit! We were held there for nearly 2 hours before being allowed to board the ship,not a good start.
Also about 3 weeks before we were due to sail Olsen's demanded a fuel surcharge which was calculated as a percentage of the fare paid. in our case nearly £200.So their very unfair system means that the more you paid for your fare the more your surcharge would be irrespective of the fact that the cost in fuel to move a given person from A to B is the same whatever cabin they occupy! Talking to many people on the ship we were amazed to find that the majority had not heard of this surcharge let alone paid it! We booked over a year in advance and paid over £2000 a head,but a lot had booked in the last 2 or 3 weeks before sailing and paid as little we were told as £700 odd. This really leaves a sour taste in the mouth and obviously the moral is if you want to go on one of Fred Olsen's ships don't book early,leave it to the eleventh hour and get it a lot cheaper.
The Ship itself is in very reasonable condition although being an elderly lady,having been built in 1972,and you will find deck crew repairing and painting around the ship 7 days a week as we did.
There were a lot of sea days on this cruise so when we got to the 1st port,Portimao we were ready to stretch our legs. From there we sailed south to Tenerife and there did an excellent whale watching trip (ships tour)on a catamaran from the south of the Island. On again to Mindelo in Cape Verde where we hired a taxi for 2 and a half hours (for 4 of us) for 70 euros (far cheaper than the ships tour)and went right up into the mountains where the views would have been superb had it been clearer and not drizzling.
On next to Praia where we just walked around the town and interesting typical West African market.
We arrived at our last port in the Cape Verde to find that the shore landing facilities were woefully inadequate and as this was a tender port the Captain forbade a landing so we sailed away half a day early. So the Cape Verde islands are really a waste of time as a destination.
After having an ill passenger lifted off by helicopter from Las Palmas one evening we docked in Lanzarote in the evening, and sailed again for Lisbon the next afternoon in hot sunshine and to the sounds of Colin Bryant's Hot Rhythm Orchestra playing on the afterdeck. It was nice to see Lisbon again and we had a morning ashore here before sailing for Southampton in the afternoon.
Overall we saw a lot of sun,got a good tan and had a restful time, we liked the ship generally,it was clean and the food and service was good,but if you like to go on a ship with an extremely elderly,and in many cases infirm clientele (one man on two sticks boasted "I'm 101 you know") this would possibly suit you, but possibly not the way the Fred Olsen Company is out for the last penny, a £1 for a small bottle of water and no bottle of wine less than £15+ and £5 a head for use of a shuttle bus into town from the dock.