Built in Finland, this ship started life in 1972 as the Viking Star, and at the time was regarded as one of the most luxurious cruise ships in the world. After two brief acquisitions by other cruise lines, it was bought by Fred. Olsen in 1996 and renamed Black Watch. In common with the rest of the Olsen fleet, Black Watch has a devoted following of regular cruisers; and the majority say they would never want to sail on any other line.
Our view of the ship is unique, because we were passengers on the sailing from the Azores to Madeira in July 2016, when a fire broke out in the engine room. The almost exclusively British passengers remained calm and co-operative, and we were able to gauge the reaction of the crew and staff in an emergency, which was absolutely superb. The crew extinguished the fire, but the ship was left with limited lighting and water supplies. This demonstrated the incredible loyalty and ingenuity of the Black Watch team, who managed to provide meals and a degree of entertainment as the ship made its way to Madeira, where the cruise had to be terminated and the passengers flown home. Nobody would want to be on a ship in that situation, but the way it was handled is a great tribute to Fred. Olsen's staff.
The first five days of the cruise were normal, and we were able to assess the qualities of the ship's facilities.
The sailaway (a party on the pool deck as the ship leaves port) when leaving the Azores were some of the best we have - seen on any ship, with passengers joining in improvised dance routines with the theatre company while the Black Watch orchestra played. Everyone was clearly having fun.
There's always a good attendance for the evening entertainment with much hilarious audience participation. Late nighters are catered for in the Lido Lounge, but passengers are mainly off to bed before the early hours.