by Lynn Houghton, Cruise Critic contributor
This sleek, Finnish built mid-sized ship designed for long distance cruising started life as the Royal Viking Star, entering service on June 26 1972. She was built by Wärtsilä in Helsinki as a six star vessel and owned by Royal Viking Line, as were her sisters, Royal Viking Sky and Royal Viking Sea, which followed in 1973. These elegant ships were considered to be amongst the most luxurious cruise ships in the world at the time.
In 1992 it was acquired by Norwegian Cruise Line and renamed the Westward, and in 1994 became the Star Odyssey and spent two years as a member of the now-defunct Royal Cruise Line.
Acquired in 1996 by Norway-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, it was renamed the Black Watch after a Scottish Regiment and nowadays is best known for its innovative worldwide itineraries, outstanding service and affordable rates. Since Black Watch carries primarily British passengers the U.K. influence is evident in everything from onboard activities and lectures to cuisine and currency (all charges are assessed in pounds). The ship inspires extreme loyalty among past passengers as on a typical cruise upwards of 50 percent may be repeaters.
The continuing refurbishment programme on Black Watch means she is an attractive vessel and an appealing option, especially for the older set looking for a relaxing and authentic cruising experience.
Black Watch Fellow Passengers
Fred. Olsen passengers are English, by and large, with the majority being from the Midlands and the North. There is a sprinkling of other nationalities but they speak English. The livelier passengers will end up in the Lido Lounge after the evening's entertainment but most turn in early. On ship days, passengers will often be found in the library or one of the lounges with a good book to keep them company. Fred. Olsen's Baltic and World itineraries attract an older age group, probably averaging 70, while on the Norwegian fjords or any other adventure cruises, the median age goes down.
Black Watch Dress Code
The dress code for Black Watch can be somewhat confusing so it is good to familiarise yourself with it in advance of cruising. Always err on the side of more formal, rather than less, and you should be successful.
Formal: Formal attire is dark suit or tuxedo for men with most preferring tuxedo and cocktail or evening attire for women. Leave the ball gowns at home because cocktail dresses with shimmery shawls or glittery jackets/cardigans are the preference.
Informal: Don't be caught out on the description ‘Informal' as it is certainly not casual but only a notch below formal. This is either a suit for men or a jacket or a tie with slacks and, by and large, quite nice dresses for the ladies. Usually with smart accessories.
Smart Casual: Stylish leisure wear with open neck collars for men. Casual separates or summer dresses for women.
Casual: In theory pretty much anything (not that you would ever see a Fred. Olsen guest in jeans or T-shirt); note flip flops, vests, torn jeans, shorts or swimwear are never allowed in the dining room.
Black Watch Gratuity
Fred. Olsen have decided to follow other cruise lines and automatically add a £2 per passenger/per day gratuity for Restaurant Waiters and a £2 per passenger/per day for Cabin Stewards in accordance with the Berlitz guide. However, there is the option to vary the amount or even to pay staff in cash. This can be done with a gratuity variance form but must be done 48 hours before the end of the cruise.
There are no automatic gratuities on drinks or spa services (which is Fred. Olsen's in-house service).
Currency used on board is pounds sterling.
This was an 8-night cruise visiting four ports, two each in Portugal and Spain, which afforded the opportunity to fulfil a long-standing ambition of visiting Santiago de Compostela. Sailing from Southampton, the itinerary ...continue
We sailed from Southampton in early January and headed South. This ship is the oldest in the Fred. Olsen cruise fleet but, despite this, is well maintained, comfortable and stable in rough seas.
I had an outside double cabin on a single occupancy ...continue
October 2012 Vivacious Van
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It was by pure chance that we booked the cruise. I was scanning the advertisements for a cruise around the British Isles when I spotted the Fred Olsen advert for St Petersburg and the Baltic Capitals. It was on my 'must do' list for 2013. The ...continue