31 Fred. Olsen Black Watch Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews

Location - we wanted to travel to Greenland and this cruise left from Liverpool which was reasonably convenient. The itinerary (Iceland and Greenland with a short stop at Belfast at the end) was the decider. Plus points - ... Read More
Location - we wanted to travel to Greenland and this cruise left from Liverpool which was reasonably convenient. The itinerary (Iceland and Greenland with a short stop at Belfast at the end) was the decider. Plus points - Pleasant cabin Very efficient cabin steward Good food suitable for older conservative eaters (eating their body weight in smoked salmon) Observatory lounge very comfortable Excursions were interesting although they were keen to make sure that their elderly and very frail passengers didn’t struggle with the trips. Chris Bielby’s talks on the natural history of our itinerary were an absolute highlight. He was available to help with whale and bird watching and never endingly patient. Minus points Entertainment was embarrassingly old fashioned. The “black & white minstrel show” version of the Jackson Five was toe curling. The cinema was freezing cold and they had the nerve to show Mrs Doubtfire (made in 1993). The entertainment was overall more like a trip back into a Sunday evening television programme from the early 1960s. I wouldn’t travel on Black Watch or any other Fred Olsen ship unless it was for the itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
Sailed with Fred Olsen several times..this was not what I expected after paying top rates for a luxury cruise. Not a sparkling ship, the windows were filthy, sticky chair arms and backs of chairs. Smears on tables, even the black pianos ... Read More
Sailed with Fred Olsen several times..this was not what I expected after paying top rates for a luxury cruise. Not a sparkling ship, the windows were filthy, sticky chair arms and backs of chairs. Smears on tables, even the black pianos were clearly unpolished. Double glazed windows had water inside and during the heavy seas the blinds could be heard rattling all over the lounge bars. The al la carte restaurant was excellent but highlighted how basic the rest of the food was. Due to be understaffed - according to a staff member - a two course evening meal could take between 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Paper? covering the safety rails on the stairways was pealing. Several drinking glasses had to be replaced, smelly and dirty. Inclusive canapes were dry bread and inedible. I have never had such a claustrophobic cabin. We had to sit on the toilet in order to close the door, it was so tiny. The noise from fixtures and fittings made sleep impossible during high seas. For the third time we booked this cruise to celebrate an anniversary, our 40th. On a last minute decision we booked a tour on the actual day. £216 to see the Glacier fjords and Hesteyri boat trip. The Glacier was a background view through a split in the mountains about 2 mile away, nearly missed because no one mentioned it. As for the scenery not what I would call spectacular. When it came to disembarking the boat was moored at sea, offshore, so it entailed climbing over the back rails and dropping 2 feet to a ladder and then sitting on the edge of a rubber inflatable. The first 10 to go had a 15 minutes wait on shore in the biting cold for the rest of the passengers. The highlight, a cemetery and deserted herring factory? Elderly people do not like to be seen as unable to do things but an awful lot were decidedly green around the gills. I refused to go because amongst other things I suffer from severe sciatica but in the UK health and safety would have been appalled. The entertainment was excellent, activities were rather short and sweet. When a deserted village or one with 2 shops and a small supermarket are included in the stops there is not a lot one can say. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We chose this ship because it was smaller than most circa 800 guests and around 300 crew. As it transpired we felt the decision was justified as the service was first class in both the housekeeping and hotel services on board. Food was of ... Read More
We chose this ship because it was smaller than most circa 800 guests and around 300 crew. As it transpired we felt the decision was justified as the service was first class in both the housekeeping and hotel services on board. Food was of an exceptional standard and plenty of it. Bar prices were very reasonable and the same in any of the bars and restaurants. Entertainment was very professional and would stand up to comparison with any live show on shore, this is inclusive of the singing and dancing, musicians and comedians. The various crew departments had a show night which although was an amateur night it was nonetheless extremely entertaining. All in all on board ambiance was terrific and the scenery in the Norwegian fjords was second only to Highland Scotland. There was an abundance of shore excursions should you wish to partake in or the ports visited were close enough to walk to the centres. I should add all furnishings re seating etc in the lounges were of a very high standard. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
The itinerary sounded interesting. Sadly, Norway was closed between Christmas and New Years! So nothing to see unless you bought a lot of tours. This was not mentioned when we signed up. The food and service were great. The ... Read More
The itinerary sounded interesting. Sadly, Norway was closed between Christmas and New Years! So nothing to see unless you bought a lot of tours. This was not mentioned when we signed up. The food and service were great. The entertainment was mediocre, usually provided by members of the ship's company. There was a very interesting lecturer from the air safety board but he was the only bright spot. The ship supposedly had recently had a major refit. However, many public areas were very cold and our suite was either too hot or too cold. There were very few public toilets (a distinct problem for the large number of older cruisers aboard). There was sometimes rusty water in the bathroom and the overhead lights flickered on and off. During a rainy spell many tables in the diningroom (including ours) had to be roped off for several days as the ceiling was leaking. We certainly were not expecting a Cunard experience, but given what we paid we were disappointed and will not be cruising Fred Olsen again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We wanted to get away over Christmas and New Year. This cruise was ideal but the only one we could find. We had extreme trouble in the port on the embarkation day. The Port Authority could not cope with the volume of passengers. We sat ... Read More
We wanted to get away over Christmas and New Year. This cruise was ideal but the only one we could find. We had extreme trouble in the port on the embarkation day. The Port Authority could not cope with the volume of passengers. We sat in a non moving queue watching the taxi meter go from £13 to £20 finally getting out and carrying our luggage 100 metres to baggage check in. The cruise itself was great although we were struck down with a "Virus" for the last 5 of the 15 days. We didn't leave the cabin. Luckily this virus was in the form of a hacking cough and not stomach related. Many passengers were affected. Everything on board was good, food, service, cabin and most of the entertainment although we did have a guy called Christopher Gee who had, quite frankly, seen better days, dreadful. We did have issues with a couple of the port tours. We were disappointed that the catamaran used to take us Whale Watching was so large ( about 200 passengers) BUT we did see Whales so all good really. The other disappointing tour was Reindeer Sledding. Got to do it when you go to Norway. We arrived at the Sami Village and had a drink and traditional cake along with a talk about Sami Life, all very interesting. We were then divided into groups to go down to the reindeer. Bear in mind it was dark. We were led outside and a guy on a snow mobile helped a disabled person to get down to the lower level. He shot off with her on the machine and left the rest of us floundering around not knowing where to go. The Path was unmarked and unlit. We finally made it. They were having trouble controlling the reindeer! We were in a line of about 6 sleds, we were 2nd to last with a young reindeer behind us, well, we thought it was going to get into the sled with us and it was only my hand pushing it away which stopped by wife being injured. She was petrified and the trip was totally spoilt. I did complain at the time to the handler he admitted the problem. I complained again when back on board. I was given a 33% refund as a "Good Will Gesture" but I'm not happy. When taking these shore tours it's important to feel safe and that someone from the ship is keeping a lookout for you. Well this certainly wasn't the case. Definitely no Health and Safety procedures here. Other shore tours were good if a little more expensive than usual. Brilliant Northern Lights experience and an Igloo Hotel. This is my 2nd time to Norway so not sure would go back again but the scenery is amazing. My wife absolutely loved it. Seeing snow at Christmas really made the experience truly great. We've been travelling with P & O for our last few cruises on their smaller ships and I don't think there is much to choose between them. Hope this is helpful. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We are booked on a longish cruise on Balmoral in 2019 and wanted to refresh our Fred Olsen experience and keep our loyalty level current. So a one-night repositioning cruise was not quite as silly as it sounds. Some 200 other people ... Read More
We are booked on a longish cruise on Balmoral in 2019 and wanted to refresh our Fred Olsen experience and keep our loyalty level current. So a one-night repositioning cruise was not quite as silly as it sounds. Some 200 other people obviously agreed with us although many were travel agent staff on what is euphemistically called a familiarisation trip. Ticketing was bit haphazard as the information was an adaption of that for a usual cruise. You could interpret it that we could expect both a Welcome Aboard and a Farewell cocktail party - presumably back to back! The terminal at Tilbury was dreadful. Admittedly it was not the main London Cruise Terminal of 'Empire Windrush' fame. But check-in was rapid and efficient, we showed our free bus passes, were quickly directed to our cabin by the ever-friendly Fred Olsen crew and there was a good selection of hot and cold food available in the Glentanar restaurant. The main thing that impressed us was the quality of the refit that had taken place in the last year. A lot of money had obviously been spent bringing Black Watch as close to modern standards as is possible in an elderly lady. The decor and facilities in our cabin were very good. We were getting angry that the usual lockable drawer for valuables had no key - and then found a lovely new safe! The bathroom was spotless and storage had been very much improved. It was the same throughout the ship and the new facilities that have been shoe-horned into the ship over the years have not detracted from the sense of space. The new balconies on 7 deck (the Promenade deck) still seem a bit odd but we didn't have one, nor did we use the Prom deck much on a very cold night. There was one sitting for dinner, at 7pm, and a creditable impressionist did his job keeping everyone awake afterwards. You can't expect too much for £80 plus optional £20 return coach fare! This wasn't a busy, noisy party cruise, nor anything like a 'normal' cruise, but for 24 hours we got all the essentials and the four of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Well done Fred Olsen - a great idea and a very nice updated ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Yet another superb cruise – our 7th so far. This was the second time with Fred and Black Watch for my wife and I and we chose this cruise for the ports of call and the fact it departed from a local port. The only slight drawback was that ... Read More
Yet another superb cruise – our 7th so far. This was the second time with Fred and Black Watch for my wife and I and we chose this cruise for the ports of call and the fact it departed from a local port. The only slight drawback was that this cruise seemed to attract much older clientele than previous cruises we’ve been on so there weren’t too many folk our age or younger (we’re early 50s). Sadly we didn’t make Mull (Tobermory) due to weather and anchoring issues but we disembarked at all the other ports and did a variety of walks under our own steam. The Fred Olsen excursions are a bit pricey and we instead used the Walkhighlands website to plan trips. Everything lived up to (or exceeded) expectations so it’s probably best to call out the highlights. 1. Food – everything was top quality and the service invariably good. We had requested a table for two but ended up sharing with a tee-total couple in their 80s. We feared this might not be a good match but ended up having a great laugh with them. 2. Lido Lounge – located aft on Deck 7 it’s the place to go if you want to party a bit on board. You need to seek it out as it’s hidden away. Lovely staff in here and great music too. A special mention for The Secret (Jane and Andrew) who are not only extremely talented musicians but also really nice people. They would take time to stop for a chat and a laugh if you met them on-board or in port. 3. Entertainment – the Show Team performed a number of times over the course of the week and each show just seemed to get better and better. The other evening entertainment (Gerry Graham/Leo Shavers) was decent too. 4. Ports of call – a friendly welcome in all ports and I personally loved them all. Lerwick possibly my favourite and a visit to the museum highly recommended. Loved being back on the (refurbished) Black Watch and we will certainly consider further cruises with Fred. Olsen in future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
We booked a Christmas markets cruise to Denmark and Germany 18 months ago and at no time did Fred Olsen let us know that this cruise would be the first following a 28 day re-fit. We only found out by chance that this was happening just a ... Read More
We booked a Christmas markets cruise to Denmark and Germany 18 months ago and at no time did Fred Olsen let us know that this cruise would be the first following a 28 day re-fit. We only found out by chance that this was happening just a few weeks before departure. There had been quite a lot of cosmetic changes to the interior décor and the Glentanar Restaurant is much improved but who on earth chose the quite dreadful plastic feature in the centre? As is to be expected after a re-fit there were still residual "snagging" works carrying on even as the ship sailed. What was surprising however, was that there were no announcements or even letters to the cabins letting us fare paying passengers know that these works were still in progress and that “we apologise for any inconvenience caused”. Absolutely “zilch” from anybody, including the Captain and the (mostly anonymous) Cruise Director. The worst area was the cabin TV system. This was inoperative for the whole week and nobody at Fred Olsen seemed to care let alone take responsibility for the issue. All anyone got from the Reception desk was “someone’s working on it”. Very poor customer service if I may say so but then after all Fred Olsen had got our money 10 weeks prior to sailing so why should they care!! On a positive note the new “Black Watch Room” will be very good once they finish hanging the paintings that were still in packaging and left leaning against the walls. There is a £20 per head surcharge to dine in this room and I think that that amount is a fair charge for a distinctly superior meal. It was a great shame that they spoilt it by serving the butter for the bread rolls in those canteen type plastic sachets! Hopefully our feedback to the Maître D on this point will improve matters for future passengers. The crew were as friendly as ever and the entertainment was rescued by that excellent comedian Christopher Gee. The Guest Lecturer – who talked about various aspects of Christmas – was sadly out of her depth and persisted in reading verbatim from her powerpoint slides. Oh, and beware the new coffee station. This has now been transferred from the old Braemar Lounge to just outside the entrance to the Neptune Lounge. There is hardly enough room to swing a cat let alone help yourself to a drink, especially if more than three of you are intent on the same mission at the same time! Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We chose this cruise as it was not too far a trip for my mother in law and it was also near Christmas. We were not impressed with the parking set up for our car, signs not clear etc. After we had checked I looked for a bar and somewhere ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was not too far a trip for my mother in law and it was also near Christmas. We were not impressed with the parking set up for our car, signs not clear etc. After we had checked I looked for a bar and somewhere to eat, only found a gazebo type structure with a very poor range of drinks and very little to eat. If this port wants to be taken seriously it needs to get a grip. This is certainly not an international port of departure in my book. Problems. On leaving port we found our cabin very warm, tried to turn it down, no good. Many passengers we spoke to had complaints ranging from no hot water, no cold water or the best one, no water at all. Tv's did not work properly at all even though we were told they would be fine by the time we got to Hamburg. No they were not. One of the exercise pools seemed to be permantly out of order. Lots of work being carried on outside cabins, sometimes starting quite early in the morning and also quite late at night. Inside the ship notice boards or direction/information boards were still being put up. In my view 28 days was not long enough and the ship should never have left dry dock. Plus points. Those areas that had been refurbished were very nice particularly the restaurants. Staff were excellent. Food as usual was really good. Entertainment was not to bad either. We found information from the captain was poor and sometimes could not be heard, we were on this ship four years ago and had a poor cruise, captain was the same guy. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We chose this ship as it was leaving from scotland and was not a big ship. Embarkation was good and the safety drill well done though i was disturbed that wee were not made to wear and demonstrate our life jackets on other cruises this ... Read More
We chose this ship as it was leaving from scotland and was not a big ship. Embarkation was good and the safety drill well done though i was disturbed that wee were not made to wear and demonstrate our life jackets on other cruises this has not been the case. W were well aware of the ship and were pleasantly surprised at the general state of her. Food good. entertainment really excellent with an exceptional classical pianist and a great show team, The speaker doing port talks was quite abysmal. the first speaker at any event i have ever heard. the speaker on the russian area nd jewellery was knowledgeable enough but a hustler and really was only there to sell as much on board of the good he brought but we did learn a fair bit from him, The crew were really lovely hard working learnt our preferences very quickly. we could not fault them. now for the rub. One does not pay over 4k for a holiday and expect it to be anything other than a luxury holiday. I did not expect to have th very strong smell of sewage or effluent in our corridor around our cabin we could next leave or enter the area with out it hitting us. this is cabin 5105 and i would strongly recommend anyone avoid it. We reported it an at first the smell of a lot of air freshener seemed to be on top of the nasty pong then after the canon next door complained and e did again. a pumper came ands took a panel of the corridor an ugly sight. The smell continued till finally vy the 8th day it was gone. Not a word of apology or offer of change or even on board spend. not everyone can afford cruise after cruise,i felt cheated a little by this. Having said that we did grow to really like the ship.We would consider going on her again but never on this deck. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
I chose this cruise because the departure port of Rosyth was close to home and I thought it would be better than flying to a departure port. I was on this cruise with my mother and between us we have cruised or twenty times with Thomson ... Read More
I chose this cruise because the departure port of Rosyth was close to home and I thought it would be better than flying to a departure port. I was on this cruise with my mother and between us we have cruised or twenty times with Thomson cruises. We thought we would give Fred Olsen a chance. What a mistake that was. First of all we couldn't get the dinner table for two we requested. There was only food available at meal times, no snacks in between. All inclusive drinks package was a waste of time and money. No entertainment on pool decks during the afternoon. You couldn't get a tea or coffee in between meal times unless you made it yourself. With Thomson there is food all day every day. All inclusive drinks package in includes mocktails and a cocktail of the day plus all kinds of tea and coffee. Always entertainment on decks plus better entertainment at night with Thomson. We did a tour in St.Petersburg which was a shambles from start to finish. I would recommend Thomson any time but not Fred Olsen. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
My mother - mid 70s - and I in my late forties sailed from Belfast, for the Scandanavian capitals cruise, including Talinn and St Petersburg. Cabin: Deck 3 outside, twin bed cabin. Totally satisfied with our cabin. Plenty of room, kept ... Read More
My mother - mid 70s - and I in my late forties sailed from Belfast, for the Scandanavian capitals cruise, including Talinn and St Petersburg. Cabin: Deck 3 outside, twin bed cabin. Totally satisfied with our cabin. Plenty of room, kept beautifully clean by Vanessa our cabin steward; who also performed in the crew shows. And plenty of storage space for our clothes and bits and pieces. Dressing table, chair; table and tub chair - large shower; hair drier and tv. Hospitality tray, though we never used it once, so much food on offer, plus a permanent tea and coffee station outside the restaurant. Being low down in the accommodation we were little troubled by deck maintenance and sea movement. Beds very comfortable with beautifully laundered linen and great pillows. Having some experience of travelling on cargo ships over the years, the occasional ship smells of bunkering, and the inevitable hum and vibration of the engines disturbed us hardly at all, as we reckoned it was hardly possible to avoid these things altogether. We slept well, and loved our cabin and found Vanessa efficient and cheerful. One morning we noticed our tap was squirting a bit strangely and thought we'd have to report it at some time. When we returned to the cabin a few hours later it had been fixed without the need for us to mention it. Food: excellent. A real treat. I tried lots of things I wouldn't normally have had access to, and enjoyed virtually everything. Breakfast and lunch have both buffet and service options; and there are other options apart from the restaurant for dinner, as well as the supper club for late night snackers. These early meals are open sitting so waiter service for those not doing the buffet option is a little looser than at evening meals. And tea and coffee after lunch is provided at the drinks station outside the restaurant door rather than at the table. Can't say it was a problem though. My mother is a very plain-food and picky kind of eater, and after chatting with the Maitre D - Jefron - was accommodated perfectly. They couldn't have tried harder to please her. Superji and Apirat our waiters were friendly and attentive. Fabulous food. We had the all inclusive package so our drinks were 'free' for an extra £10 per day per person. So unless you're only interested in premium brands, we'd recommend this. Well worth it. Being able to say 'yes' to a gin or glass of wine or fruit juice as often or whenever we fancied was brilliant. Fellow passangers: most of the folk we spoke with seemed to really enjoy their cruise. Heard a few moans eg, wifi problems. There where a few wheelchair users, and many people using sticks and wheely-frames. They seemed to receive good assistance from ship's crew. So I would say - only from appearances, I hasten to add - that Fred Olsen is welcoming and good for passengers who are less mobile, or have particular mobility needs. Most folks were friendly and it was easy chatting with others. Facilities: pool and jacuzzis were used, even in Baltic waters. Lifts worked very well. There wasn't a full passenger capacity on board so maybe lift congestion was relieved a little that way. Activities were good; aimed mainly, I suppose, at the older cruiser. Bingo, quizzes, quoites, bowls, putting etc. The evening entertainment was great: the show company dancers and singers very good indeed. The musicians also very good either in the showband or around the ship in different places and at different times. The comedian was popular, as was the singer; and the featured artists - guitarist and harpist very good in their own way. Nice selection of movies, too. Speakers for the port talks and the enrichment lectures also quite excellent, and really did add to the experience of taking the tour excursions, which were brilliant. Great guides, great destinations - not at all harmed by the generally wonderful weather. I don't know what Fred Olsen could provide by way of children's provision, but there was only one tiny infant on our voyage, with its young family. It has to be said that a lot of otherwise doting grandparents who would normally worship their youngsters were very happy to be in a basically child-free holiday atmosphere of quiet peacefulness. Maybe this line isn't geared up for children's clubs, and disney-esque activities to keep large groups of children of all ages entertained while parents while away the hours doing other things - it's not a big ship - but there's obviously a place for older, slower folks wanting something a bit more gentle-paced without the fear of trampling down or being trampled by kids, much as they might be adored in other contexts and at home. Mileage will vary! There was provision for a late-night crowd however in the Lido deck after the evening entertainment; singing and dancing. This was an excellent cruise, overall. Worth noting: we did the Boudicca voyage from Belfast two (or three?) years ago and really enjoyed that. But the embarkation, disembarkation was much much better this time round. Big improvement. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Having read some of the reviews on this site about cruising on the Black Watch we were a little concerned about the holiday we had booked. Contributors commented about noisy cabins and about the quality of the food. This was our 4th ... Read More
Having read some of the reviews on this site about cruising on the Black Watch we were a little concerned about the holiday we had booked. Contributors commented about noisy cabins and about the quality of the food. This was our 4th cruise, one previously with Fred, one with Celebrity X and one with P and O. We enjoyed them all in different ways, but have returned from the Baltic completely satisfied both with the cruise company, the ship and the destinations. We chose a superior outside cabin and were allocated 5095 towards the aft of the ship and on the same deck as reception and the shops. It turned out to be perfectly placed with easy access to dining, entertainment and the heated outside swimming pool. The only improvement we could have wanted would have been a double bed but I understand these are less plentiful on the Black Watch, compared to the Boudicca. The cabin was spotless and Joanne, our housekeeper, was friendly and always smiling. The quality of the food was terrific and we felt fortunate to have been allocated a table in the Orchid dining room, with two other personable and interesting older couples. We particularly enjoyed the three formal evenings and noticed that the chef made a special effort on these evenings. For example, half a lobster as a starter choice, what's not to like? We are ballroom dancers and we're delighted by the beginners classes run by the three dance hosts, Alan John and Lynn whom we got to know quite well over the course of the holiday. I guess our only disappointment was the organisation of the Tea Dance when afternoon tea was not based in the Neptune Lounge. As a result, very few joined in the Tea Dance. The lectures on St Peterburg were informative and well presented and I liked the talk on Russian Miniatures. As for the entertainment, the young company of 'Black Watch' singers and dancers were outstanding with shows full of energy and colour, comparable with anything we had experienced on larger ships. The guest entertainers were likewise very good and catered for a variety of tastes. The crew show was uplifting and insprirational. The panel discussion with the Black Watch company, chaired by Antony, was very interesting. The artists answered questions about how they got into show business and what life was like onboard ship for months on end. The life of a performer is both precarious and maybe short lived. The destinations were outstanding. I guess St Peterburg and our visit to the Winter Palace was the highlight, and everyone agreed that we would have liked more time in Russia. Next time. However, all of the other destinations had something different to offer; the ABBA museum in Stockholm, a husky ride in Helsinki, the three Explorer museums in Oslo, were all quite special.The guided shore excursions were good value. On our previous cruise with Fred Olsen on the Boudica we were fortunate to be upgraded to a junior suite and, astonishingly, were invited to dine at the Captain's table. We never expected to beat that, but our cruise to the Baltic on the wonderful Black Watch was the best yet. As a postscript, a bus to Great Victoria and Central stations in Belfast might have relieved the long queue for taxis on disembarkation. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Background information: We have seen the Northern Lights on a previous cruise on the Marco Polo but that was in February. When we saw this trip advertised we thought it worth another go and we would try out a Christmas Cruise at the same ... Read More
Background information: We have seen the Northern Lights on a previous cruise on the Marco Polo but that was in February. When we saw this trip advertised we thought it worth another go and we would try out a Christmas Cruise at the same time. When we joined the roll call and saw people booking whale watching trips we wondered if they realized it would be dark all day. Ship information: The Black Watch is not one of the newest and in some ways shows her age. Being of the smaller size one should expect comfort and convenience rather than the lavish entertainment of the bigger 3000+ ships. We found this so, and the experience was comparable to other smaller sized ships we have sailed on. Things that we liked about the ship were; walk round promenades on decks 7 and 10, tea and coffee facilities in the cabin, plenty of seating in the public lounges, the cinema on deck 3, just like a real cinema (although projecting DVDs), and being in the center of the ship, well down, just the place to ride out a storm. Activities: There were plenty of activities scheduled to keep one amused, which were advertised the night before in the Daily Times (patter). We didn’t attend many of these so we are not able to review them. Port & shore excursions: These we thought were of a high standard and cheap compared with other cruises we have been on. There was one exception which was the Northern Lights excursion at Tromso. The excursion itself was well organized by the tour company but the ships photographer attended too, and ruined it for everyone else by setting up LED lighting on a tripod to take photographs of people against the northern lights despite the instructions from the organisers for people to turn off their flash units as they would not help and it would annoy everyone else. The ship’s photographer would have done better by taking these shots on board with a projected background and controlled lighting, as in the event her results were pretty poor. We saw the lights, but few good photographs were taken due to this thoughtless behavior. She did pack up in the end, but only after the best of the lights had faded. Not directly attributable to F.O. but they should consider replacing the ships photographer. Travel to embarkation Port: This was easy for us, we live in Essex half an hour from the port so just travelled in by car after lunch. We had a car park sticker placed in the windscreen and were directed to an unloading bay where a porter took our cases and my wife took her hand luggage and went to book in. I followed the directions to the long stay car park. The spaces between the notices were quite large and one was fearful that somehow the turning had been missed, but it was very straight forward, there is only the one road and the turn off was clearly marked. Within 10 minutes I was back at the terminal on the shuttle bus and we checked in. Within half an hour we were in our cabins and our cases were already there. Cabin: See my review of cabin 4055 in the deck plans section. It was a category D, two porthole, outside view cabin on deck 4, the Atlantic deck. Dining: This is one of the areas in which there could be some improvement. The main problem is that there are just the two dining rooms, the Glentanar restaurant and the Braemar Garden café. There is an extra grill but it is bookable, surcharged and not available in inclement weather, so can be discounted on an arctic cruise in the winter. There is nowhere, that we found, where you could obtain a light snack or a sandwich. If you missed breakfast then you had to wait until lunch. If you want to make up a packed lunch for a private excursion you cannot do so, unless you can find what you want at the breakfast buffet. We didn’t try the Braemar Garden Café but we understood it had a similar but simplified menu to the main restaurant, but was open seating. The main dining room was fixed seating in two sittings. The Breamar Garden Café also had specialist menus on some occasions such as Chinese or Indian and had a supper club between 11:00 p.m. and midnight. Food was of good quality with a few exceptions, (fish and chips, cruise ships just don’t seem to be able to match the UK chippys). Choice was not so good. Sometimes there was nothing that one really fancied, at other times there were many things, so that choice was difficult, but the quality was always fine. Service was not so good on the open seating days; no menus, no bread, no coffee. Waiters slow. This was particularly bad at lunch time which was supposed to be á la carte as well as buffet. It was hard to get a waiter's attention and they never offered bread or coffee, you had to ask for it. When we were with our normal fixed seating waiters service was ok. Entertainment: We did not attend any of the shows or entertainment but from reports at the dining table it was of the usual smaller ship standard, magicians, musicians and dancers. We didn’t go to the port lectures but watched them on the TV and found them useful and informative. We also attended some of the enrichment lectures on Astronomy but found these less satisfactory. His first lecture on the history of what we have learnt about the universe from light covered too much ground including the history of astronomy as well. We have studied at college level and are amateur astronomers but found it overwhelming. Another lecture, repeated through popular demand, on the Northern Lights was disjointed and confusing. I think he knew the subject but was not a natural communicator. Disembarkation: When we found it was an “all leave the cabins by eight” system we had trepidations, having experienced this on the Marco Polo. We planned well for it. I got up first and went to find a place in the Neptune Lounge. When my wife was ready and had checked the cabin thoroughly, she joined me and I went to breakfast. On return she went to breakfast. In the event it was a much more leisurely affair than last time, the key being that there are plenty of seats for everyone. We thought being on deck 4 we would be one of the last but they called deck 9, deck 7 orange, three organized groups (coach transfers to airports, Wales, etc) and then us on deck 4 odd numbers. We found whole gangs of people gathered around the stairs and lifts despite being told not to do this. Why are people so thoughtless? In the terminal the luggage was segregated by deck, but mixed up within each area, so it took some finding. We were luckily just in time to grab hold of the last two trolleys. My wife waited in the reception area while I took the shuttle to fetch the car. The shuttle driver asked why I hadn’t got any luggage. I said I was fetching the car for it. They don’t like that, still it’s up to you. I risked it and it was no problem at all. Still if we had known we could have gone straight to the shuttle, caught an earlier one and then gone straight home form the long stay car park. WiFi: No Wifi in cabins. Jigsaws take priority in the internet room! The only table of suitable height for lap top use is in the internet room with four places but is reserved for jigsaws! Other hot spots have no tables or coffee tables. Reception has one small table but they often commandeer this to put notices on. The passenger information lists the Braemar lounge as a hotspot, as does the Daily Times, but although there are two wifi services there, neither provides connection for passengers. The card room is an alternative to the Internet room, but not when card games or bridge lessons are in progress. The jigsaw table was moved in to the Internet room when casino tables were introduced to the library replacing the tables that were there. There are better solutions to this problem then they have come up with so far. They could put the jigsaw table against the back wall, as there is only room for two jigsaws anyway and get some ordinary small table for laptops. They could consider putting Wifi in a few selected, cabins and charging extra for it; this would be popular with many, it could be spun as free Wifi. They could remove the pamphlets from the big circular table in the library, put those on a stand, put in some chairs and use the table for laptops. The existing hotspots in the lounges with coffee tables will cater for those with smart phones. Compared with other cruise lines Wifi is cheap with F.O., £30 for 24 hours with smaller packages available (£20-180m, £10-60m, £5-30m available from reception). There are two terminals in the internet room in which you can swipe your cruise card and pay as you go. Summary: We enjoyed the itinerary, we enjoyed the cruise and we will cruise on the Black Watch again. Whether we will take an artic cruise in the middle of winter is not so sure. What has spoilt it for us is the few people who got on the boat with stinking colds and didn’t have the sense to stay in their cabins until they were well enough to mix. We knew we were in for trouble with the sneezing in the lifts on the first day. By day four nearly everyone on board had coughs or colds. Those people who blow their noses on their table napkins do not help either.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
My partner and I, both mid 60s decided to try Fred because we wanted to go to the Baltic, and this cruise left from Dover, 2miles from our home ! We had previously cruised with P&O, Thomson and Saga. We had read reviews and quite a few ... Read More
My partner and I, both mid 60s decided to try Fred because we wanted to go to the Baltic, and this cruise left from Dover, 2miles from our home ! We had previously cruised with P&O, Thomson and Saga. We had read reviews and quite a few were not too good. So with trepidation on the Monday we set off ! Embarkation was ok, so we went on board, walking through to find our cabin which was on deck 4. The ship and decor looked very nice as we walked along, all clean and tidy, the carpeting was very smart. So into our cabin, this was quite roomy, twin beds in an L shape, all nice and clean,two portholes with thick curtains to keep the light out. (this was good as it stayed light till 11.30pm !) Shower room ok, nice fluffy towels.Our stewardess appeared and introduced herself, a very pleasant young lady called Jintana, she kept the room lovely throughout the cruise, all with a smile. The cruise itinerary was to transit the Kiel canal, which was great; then Travemunde which was a small town with tours to Hamburg. A local German male voice choir played as we prepared to leave, this was very nice.Then off to Riga, a lovely long arrival up the river to moor right near the town centre, that was an interesting town. Departing from there we had a sail away party which was good, the weather was really warm. Off to St Petersburg, another interesting place. Then to Tallinn, this was a lovely old town. Next to Stockholm and a lovely sail for 4 hours up the approach to the town, this was really nice.Then off to Visby, but the Captain said it was to rough to use tenders there so would not be stopping. So we carried on to Oslo, passing through the narrow part of water by Copenhagen, which looked good at night.So at 1400 the next day we entered the Oslo fjord. there was a yachting regatta for the weekend and we passed hundreds of yachts coming towards us, this was a great sight. After 3 hours of this we reached Oslo where we would stay overnight. It was a hot evening so a lot of passengers went into town. The next day mid afternoon we left with another great sail away party to go back down the fjord and off to Dover. So on board, the food was very good, a very attractive main dining room, also the buffet dining room , the garden cafe was good. The entertainment was excellent, the show team did some great shows, and the guest entertainers were very good. We took part in 3 trivia quizzes a day which were amusing. All in all the staff were all very friendly, waiters in the bars and dining rooms all cheerful and smiley. So as I said we were pleasantly surprised and didn't want to leave the ship. It is a small older ship, we met some lovely people, drinks were reasonably priced, food better than P&O, entertainment far better than Saga, shows as good as Thomson Would we go back ......... Yes.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
For us this cruise was absolutely perfect - we feel like we have been on holiday with a few hundred friends both fellow passengers and crew who were, without exception, extremely friendly. Leaving from Newcastle was very easy with lots of ... Read More
For us this cruise was absolutely perfect - we feel like we have been on holiday with a few hundred friends both fellow passengers and crew who were, without exception, extremely friendly. Leaving from Newcastle was very easy with lots of help with baggage at Port of Tyne from cheery porters. Black Watch is an elderly ship but was lovely - high standards, very clean and comfortable with a very happy crew that is clearly well managed by the excellent Captain, Jozo Glavic, and his team. The food, activities, lectures and entertainment were all first class - we had no complaints at all. and felt that there was something for everyone on board whatever their likes/interests. The itinerary for this trip was wonderful and full credit to Fred Olsen for this. The Captain stayed close to land throughout Norway, pretty much following the Hurtigruten route which was an unexpected bonus. The ports of call were all interesting and the Captain also took us to the Svartisen Glacier, into the narrow Trollfjord and also to see North Cape from the sea. We thoroughly enjoyed our excursions, particularly to Grip Island and Strandafjellet Viewpoint - Nusfjord on Lofoten was good too but we would have like more time there. We have visited Tromso before and it was excellent to have a good amount of free time there - we used the local service bus to go to the cable car (public transport is easy in Norway with drivers speaking English which helps - you may have to purchase ticket from local shop before boarding, tourist information office will always advise and printout timetables for you). The absolute highlight of the trip was visiting Svalbard which was stunningly beautiful and we spent several hours in Magdalena Fjord before time in Ny Alesund and Longyearbyen - I will never forget my visit to this remote and wonderful location. Other highlights of the trip include whale watching - 11 species were seen during the trip - and bird watching - there were excellent wildlife lectures from Chris Bielby who was happy to answer questions on deck and point out anything of interest, as did the 'birders' on board. We were lucky to have fantastic weather too with only 1.5 days of fog but this was while we were at sea and temperatures as high as 29 degrees at other time. We would highly recommend Black Watch and can't wait to travel on her again - next trip is already booked!   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Once again Fred Olsen have pulled out all the stops here. We have been with other companies, but when we compare the standard, and in particular the food we find FO difficult to beat. We travelled the whole Norwegian coastline up to ... Read More
Once again Fred Olsen have pulled out all the stops here. We have been with other companies, but when we compare the standard, and in particular the food we find FO difficult to beat. We travelled the whole Norwegian coastline up to Honnigsvag, and then on to Spitzbergen.( June/July 2014). We were blessed on the whole with fine weather, which was a bonus ( no criuise company can control that though ! ). We had so many good experiences it is difficult to desribe them all, but the cruise was worth every penny and good value for money. One thing we find with Fred is they are consistent, and make an effort to leave ports all around the Uk which is a great boon to its British passengers. Now, some points which I wish to expand upon. FOOD..In all the venues was plentifull, of good variety and HOT when it needed to be !!. We have been with Celebrity and other USA groups who may be more flash, but they often do not provide the consitency apart from some of the speciality restaurants. Compared with a lot more expensive MSC Yacht Club experience earlier in the year Fred left them standing. Good variety, pleasant staff and they will try to accomodate all diets. I have NEVER had a bad meal on a FO cruise and this will be our 4th now. CABIN I did not expect 'flash' on the Black Watch, she is an older ship. We were on deck 3 (outside cabin), but no problems. The cabin was very clean and serviced well all cruise, and comfortable. Staff, as always were pleasant and could not do enough for us. Well done Fred. SHIP ACTIVITES Loads to do for all tastes. Some activies involved a nominal fee, but it was not expensive. I liked the Gym and had a fitness session or two with the Fitness instructor which was geat and very informative for my needs, as I am already a runner. Entertainment was good. People will always have differing tastes re performers, but the ships show band and dancers were first rate and gave excellent shows. They work very hard, and this was complimented by an efficent and friendly cruise director who kept us all well informed. Guest speakers were good and relevant to our destination, ie wildlife and geography etc. BAR SERVICE For those who like a tipple ( we do on occasion ), then this is where Fred excells. Drink prices are very reasonable on Freds ships ( we had a package which was good value ). No rip off prices as on many companies ships, nor the extra '15% service charge' imposed by many which makes us both very angry. I can always get my favoutrite tipple on board, and bar service is first class throughout the ship. Again, well done Fred. EXCURSIONS Plenty of them, but no points here. I know its Norway but they were incedibly expensive this year (2014). Not much help from the tour desk when we did complain about one we went on ( but so did others ). Fred needs to sort this out. Perhaps its just incredibly expensive Norway...Not good value. On the plus side Freds ships often dock early and leave late, and always provide maps and information on the ports so you can do your own thing. Overall staff were great. We find that Fred always tries to do that little bit extra. We were treated to breathtaking sites due to the skill of the captain and his navigation officers being able to access the smallest of Fijords; and importantly taking the time to do so. Spitzbergen is breathtakigly beautifull and they tried to show us as much as possible of this inhospitable region. truly a cruise to remember for all the right reasons.....we shall be booking with Fred again !   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Had the trip of a lifetime on Blackwatch to St. Petersburg, fantastic holiday. I am a great believer in a holiday is what you make of it and I am staggered to see some of the reviews which are so negative. Especially a reviewer who ... Read More
Had the trip of a lifetime on Blackwatch to St. Petersburg, fantastic holiday. I am a great believer in a holiday is what you make of it and I am staggered to see some of the reviews which are so negative. Especially a reviewer who mentions the price paid for their cruise, which is barely more than it would cost to feed yourself at home for 12 days, but they seemed to expect The Ritz Hotel, obviously looking to reclaim every penny of the fare by wishing to eat 24 hours a day. Embarkation at Dover - smooth, did not wait long at all. I found the ship to be spotlessly clean and the Blackwatch exactly the way I wanted it to be. It looked like a ship rather than a floating slice of Las Vegas. Lovely wood panelling and portholes -cant wait to book again for next year. Only minus point in the whole trip was I found the library roasting hot, despite wearing only a thin blouse. I found the food very good and the staff endlessly cheerful and good fun. My cabin was unobtrusively looked after and the information in the Daily Newspaper concise with the Captains Reports keeping us up to date with everything sea-wise. Found the guest speakers interesting, especially one gentleman who gave us a great talk on forensics. Cabaret is not really my thing, so I only went to one show. This was the one the crew gave and it was brilliant - all the better knowing this is not their day job so to speak. Fellow passengers - I am no spring chicken myself (51) and yes a lot of the passengers were elderly. However, I found them excellent company, most extensively travelled and very well educated, good fun and generally first off the boat when in port with a great spirit of adventure putting me to shame when it came to energy levels. Copenhagen was good and very pretty at this time of year - Estonia wonderful, St. Petersburg, staggeringly beautiful and empty as it was winter - a real plus point. Berlin was a slight disappointment but I think that was only because St. Petersburg knocked my socks off. Disembarkation - great once your floor called, off the ship in minutes with luggage all safely waiting. Because we had some rough weather Helsinki was missed, but it was Nov/Dec in the Baltics and we could hardly expect 80 degrees and smooth sailing. The weather delayed us considerably and I had to travel to the far north of Scotland, but I went on the internet in Hamburg and got the sleeper bus for £40.00 practically to my doorstep. Having the extra day and a half on the boat was great, I did not want this holiday to end. Superb!   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Black Watch Cruise to the Baltic November 2013 to December 2013 Initially I would like to say that I have never written or posted before, and I have cruised on six occasions previously with Cunard, Princess, and Carnival. I travelled ... Read More
Black Watch Cruise to the Baltic November 2013 to December 2013 Initially I would like to say that I have never written or posted before, and I have cruised on six occasions previously with Cunard, Princess, and Carnival. I travelled with my wife in an inside cabin (we reasoned it would be dark most of the time), and booked approximately three months before the time. On contacting Fred. Olsen direct to book we took advantage of a cut price £699 plus £10 per day each for an all inclusive drinks package. This sounded great value to us, and indeed on the face of it, for a Baltic cruise, it was. The problems started immediately, a few days after we booked, and paid in full, having been told that availability was very limited, the price was cut to £499 and then £449. At this point we were told we had the last deck 3 inside cabin. On speaking to other passengers this turns out not to be correct, as they had booked last minute deck 3 inside cabin for £449. This is £250 per passenger cheaper, and we still had to pay £48 to change dining which costs the company absolutely zero. These new improved prices continued until we set sail. The cruise was not full. I understand 'supply and demand' and did not expect any refund, but very reasonably asked if it was possible for an upgrade for the differential in prices, and we were told that we would be put on a waiting list - never to be mentioned again! OK I thought we have just been unfortunate, we booked at the wrong time, let's enjoy the cruise. Problem number one. We asked for late sitting, but were told it could not be guaranteed. No problem we thought, we can just change this with the Maître d. on board as is common on cruises. Yes you've guessed we were allocated early sitting. This is now the utterly scandalous part. We were charged £48 to change times, despite there being a queue of customers wanting to change both ways. I suggest if you are mistaken enough to sail with Fred. Olsen at any time in the future tell them you prefer the opposite sitting to the one you really want, as this is clearly company policy to fleece their clients. I actually saw an old lady in tears about this £48. We even found another couple who would happily swap with us, but to no avail, both couples would have to pay the £48! Sheer unadulterated robbery! As to the rest of the cruise, I am now comparing to other cruise lines The cabins are tired, but kept clean (no three pin plugs). The cabin temperature is totally uncontrollable, I can only thank goodness it was not the Caribbean as sometimes it was unbearably hot. The shower temperature also had a mind of its own with no rhyme nor reason to the controls. The ship is small, and seemed busy even although the cruise was not full. The staff tried their best, but were clearly not trained to the correct standard. The excursions are OK , but in common with others are over priced. The entertainment staff (although new) were excellent. The restaurant and cafeteria - do not be misled into thinking that food is available all the time. Nothing was available on embarkation, the cafe/ buffet is only open during restaurant hours, and when we are told that breakfast is 7.30 to 9.30 it actually means ALL the food is TAKEN AWAY at 9.25. Do not dare to arrive at 9.26! This is policy in the only two eating places on the ship. We were actually asked to move on one occasion to let staff clear away. Make no mistake this is not what is now expected on modern day cruise ships i.e. food / snacks available at any time, this is more like 1960s holiday camp behaviour. There is no snack bar, if you want fed you must be seated at least half an hour before the allotted closing time, which, for breakfast, is earlier than any hotel or cruise ship I have stayed in anywhere around the world. The cafe / buffet is often used for themed nights (Chinese / Indian buffet evenings etc.) which leaves no place to eat except the one restaurant. When this happens entrance to the cafe / buffet is only by pre booking a table. The food itself is average 3 star at best Our first night was spent at anchor in the middle of the English Channel with broken steering. We could not visit Helsinki as it was too windy! Unfortunately we were returning home when the worst storm in years visited the Baltic. In this case the Captain made a wise choice and sheltered in Hamburg until the worst had passed. This left us on board for two extra days, totally unavoidable. It mean't that we missed all our pre - booked connections to get from Dover to Scotland, which we then had to rearrange. Big hearted Fred. Olsen allowed us one free call connected by them and made in public, and 25 minutes free Wi-Fi which was actually much slower than my mobile 3G, anything else was chargeable. Just try arranging an insurance claim, taxis, overnight accommodation, and two separate rail journeys with one call, and 25 minutes of internet access which was slower than old fashioned dial up! There is no self- disembarkation, strictly not allowed. We were rescheduled to arrive in Dover at 5 pm, but had to give up our cases on retiring the previous evening. We were then ordered to vacate our cabins by midday, which meant that the passengers had to sit about the ship with coats, overnight clothes, hand luggage, and anything else they required for a minimum of five hours. You could not make it up. When our on board account was delivered to the cabin, it was, of course, incorrect. We had been charged for Internet use, and not credited with a returned electrical adaptor. As always the error was on the side of Fred. Olsen. On final afternoon, I attempted to get a soft drink at 15.31, but without any prior warning, was told that the bar had closed at 15.30 cheers Fred! Conclusion - a total rip off by a money grabbing company. This is the very opposite of modern day cruising. I asked customer services for a refund of my £48, but was told this was not possible. I consider that scenario, the eating arrangements, and the pure lack of assistance over our arrangements totally unacceptable. One star out of five (only the entertainment staff deserved any stars) Michael & Mary Grubb Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We booked the cruise in Sep 12 having been offered All Inclusive as an incentive. The cabin grade we were after was "Sold Out" and the cheapest we could get was a D Grade cabin on Deck 4 (We had already booked a Transatlantic for ... Read More
We booked the cruise in Sep 12 having been offered All Inclusive as an incentive. The cabin grade we were after was "Sold Out" and the cheapest we could get was a D Grade cabin on Deck 4 (We had already booked a Transatlantic for a few weeks earlier on another liner so this was a Bonus Cruise). At the time of booking there was only one price range offered. A few months later we noticed that FO had introduced 2 price ranges and ours was on offer for £400 less and the lower grade room we were told were sold out were being offered even cheaper. We tried a number of times both direct and via the Agent to rectify this to no avail. The day before the sailing we were informed that our embarkation had been delayed by a few hours due to decontamination of the ship from a Norovirus outbreak the cruise before. During the 7 days we witnessed several individuals being sick in public areas, unable to control their actions. The Captain had ordered all public facilities closed and passengers had to use there own cabin facilities. This had 2 effects - firstly people who use their own toilets are less likely to wash there hands after than those in a public toilet. Secondly, its no fun if you are trying to consume "All Inclusive" drinks on Deck 9 and the toilet is on Deck 4. It saved the company a fortune on Drinks! All Self Service facilities were withdrawn and the staff (Entertainers included) had to man the Serveries. This was a disaster as they cordoned off the facilities and the staff served from inside the cordon. Passengers could not see what was on offer and had to accept the crews portions. Also the staff would only serve "their Patch" so if you wanted a variety you could end up queuing 4 times for 1 meal. It saved the company a fortune on Food! The actions taken did not slow down the virus so how was it moving through so many passengers. Not being a medical person I could not make a professional comment but as a passenger I would point out that on more than one occasion I noticed that everyone who was drinking was signing for their drinks with the same pen!!! Luckily neither I nor my wife were taken ill, neither were we ever intoxicated! 3 Days after my cruise I weighed less than when I boarded. This has never happened before. As a bonus we could not sleep on the first night due to a loud buzzing noise. The pursers staff said it was normal. A senior engineer then said it was not normal and it was from the refrigeration unit. A junior engineer set to fix it couldn't and we spent the next 6 nights with earplugs which the shop just happened to have on sale. Other cabins in the same area did not have the noise ! I would add that the Ports were excellent and would recommend Norway Cruising to anyone   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Check-in Check-out. Check-in at Forth Ports was simple. Parted from baggage, passengers were then corralled with 700+ souls of a similar age (60 -90 years) before being taken in small numbers by bus to the pier where the Black Watch was ... Read More
Check-in Check-out. Check-in at Forth Ports was simple. Parted from baggage, passengers were then corralled with 700+ souls of a similar age (60 -90 years) before being taken in small numbers by bus to the pier where the Black Watch was berthed. Disembarkation is best likened to the discharge of a battle weary army with a simple order - pick up your kit and get out. Forth Ports have a lot to learn about simple courtesy and their capacity to do so might even be in doubt. Boat Stuff. Built in 1972 it was sumptuous for it's time but with three major refits increasing passenger numbers from 539 to 820, it is now a crowded old tub with old tub problems and only a few old tub graces. Having visited accommodation on decks 3,4,5,7 and 8 I hold the view that decks 2 and 3 fall far short of what I would recommend to people for whom I have only a cool regard and deck 5 could only be recommended as basic but probably value for money. I occupied a mini suite on deck 7 by default and at very little extra cost : a very large cabin, double windows, sofa, chairs, wardrobes and drawers aplenty, thick pile carpet, TV, fridge, comfortable queen size bed, spotless mattress, ensuite with bath, basin and shower with no tell-tale black fungus on the grout. Every thing was clean and kept clean. The lobby opened into a hallway corridor rather than passageways smelling of the last two cruises. Normally I would have taken a standard outside cabin at time of booking. The onboard public areas including the lounges and corridors were in good condition, well carpeted and decorated but all were characterized by low deckheads (ceilings). The theatre was barely adequate for the population and with no real elevation of the floor, dodging heads was a show-long exercise. The inescapable problem of overcrowding was most manifest in the dining room where tables were packed in with little room to move while meal service was underway.Unfortunately practically all tables were rectangular,2s, 4s and 8s which are asocial by design.I was fortunate being placed, as requested and at a cost of £28, at one of the round tables. These deficiencies, created by Olsens in the interest of profit, detracted greatly from an otherwise excellent restaurant with a superb menu served by overworked Filipino waiters who did all they could to please. There was a small flexible dining buffet area but the vast majority elected to have fixed dining with the social benefits of meeting familiar people at each evening dinner. Complementing these facilities are the Observatory lounge at the for'ard end above the navigation bridge where the sea-hardy could watch the bow dive into the swell and throw heavy sea against the for'ard windows of deck 7, the cinema in the bowels of deck 3 - a refuge for those suffering mal de mer, two bars, a gymnasium restricted due to noise transmission and a delightful library and card room which was rapidly colonised by lodgers who held and guarded their seats throughout the 14 day cruise. On the outside, weather permitting, there is a promenade deck too narrow for multiple activities. Ardent walkers, including those with mobility problems, must navigate past various obstructions, structural narrows and wind bafflles at the rear to prevent passengers being swept off the after-end or into the pool. Yes! there is a mini pool with waves suitable for wind surfing and jacuzzi in which to thaw. Entertainment. Olsen staff organised oodles of activities for all tastes and there were several good films as well as middle-of-the-road stage shows but the real bonus came from the guest lecturer and his pre-excursion talks. A stowaway Peer of the Realm also popped up to amuse for an hour or two and was probably not missed at Westminster for the duration. Strange choice. Itinerary. Cruise non-stop to Iceland, two nights in Reykjavik, circumnavigate calling at two important settlements with a wide choice of excursions. Fascinating. Must be seen but not by ship. Cruise non-stop to the Faroe Islands - gems in the Atlantic. Not to be missed. Cruise to Norway and two of its most picturesque fiords with a final day in Bergen. Excursions. Well done Olsens. Excellent extensive choice of well chosen and well organised tours with local guides included. Many tours were influenced by the poor weather but should certainly not to be missed. They were reasonably priced which is unusual for cruises.The geophysical opportunities in Iceland are boundless. Weather. This is a significant factor when considering a cruise on this little ship at any time in the north Atlantic. It may have been built forty years ago with this maritime geography in mind but at 200m by 25m it is not suitable for the bulk of the population who chose to hitch a ride, with or without stabilisers. One hour west of the Pentland Firth the Captain announced that we were heading for a depression with a changing sea state reaching storm force 8 to 9. The Captain will be remembered for his honesty. For the next 30 hours Black Watch pitched, heaved and corkscrewed it's way north only finding relief in the darkness as we approached Iceland. Only the most infertile imagination could fail to picture how 700+ pensioners coped with these challenges and there was more in store enroute to the Faroes, from there to Norway and on the final dash from Bergen to Rosyth. A great many people were inconvenienced, many were nauseated and sick, the dining facilities became surprisingly spaceous while the stair-wells and public rooms were decorated with garlands of free vomit bags. Despite these conditions I was not aware of any concern on the part of fellow passengers with regard to the Ship's safety or the capabilities of the crew. Fellow Travellers. Olsens alone have the statistics but I believe there were in excess of 670 passengers over 60 years of age with most being in their 70s. A small number were probably well preserved in their 80s, many were frail elderly powered by determination, others were assisted by sticks and tripods, a few had wheeled assistance while others talked of various spare parts embedded somewhere in their anatomy. To complete the picture four courageous children appeared from time to time while a similar number of teen-aged youths suffered in silence. From conversations in which I participated or overheard and pill-taking witnessed at various breakfast and dinner tables, I would estimate that 50% of passegers were travelling with significant illness managed successfully by medication including anticoagulants, antihypertensives, arrhythmia mitigators , beta blockers, diuretics, steroids, minor psycotropics, and prescription-only-analgesics. While these issues are normal in any civil population they may constitute another dimension for concern if that same population is threatened by additional illness such as prolonged vomiting as in motion sickness or Norovirus or both with disturbance of fluid intake. This was the first time we had travelled as qualified members of a geriatric group and it was probably the most important mass social experience since our student years. 43,000 cumulative years of life experience to share, no illusions about immortality, pretentions and ambitions abandoned, greed muted in recognition of simple need and a sound belief that the hourglass is inverted. The company could hardly have been better and our dinner table group was excellent. But why? Why had so many elderly people gravitated to this old ship? The excellent food and table service are available elsewhere and better shipboard facilities and hotel services likewise. The itinerary can certainly be enjoyed by other means, earlier in the season, or on a larger ship and from my own observations few, if any, could not afford a greater outlay. Perhaps it is because word has spread that the Black Watch and other Olsen ships are very friendly, that lots of people say the same (although evidence is not made available), that there are no lager louts, no badly behaved children, no social mountaineers, no Louis Chopard watches on over-exposed wrists, Garrard trinkets dripping from ears and no Donatella Versace labels flaunted. Yet this social milieu is not the invention of Olsens , though they are quick to exploit it commercially, it is the by-product of this type of passenger population, their expectations, their attitudes, their challenges and their shared predicaments, sticks, wheels and all. What a pity they are not rewarded with a better ship. Norovirus - The self limiting minor communicable illness from which all but the frail and immuno-compromised are expected to recover. What an understatement. The first authors of these words should have a bout and reflect on the likely experience of the population described in these notes and in the environment also described. As Black Watch ploughed it's way to the Faroes the Captain announced that the virus had joined ship and passengers started to look around for missing faces. Slowly people began to disappear as cabin quarantine took it's toll and public life on board changed character - catering staff donned blue gloves, passengers were isolated from all buffet contact, storm troopers attacked with sani-sprays, butter portions and tea bags were moved by tongs and finally the Captain announced that he and his officers would not shake hands with passengers at the gala dinner. We had become dirty, dirty fare-paying people. Semantics aside if one did a pencil audit of Olsen's management of the outbreak in relation to the controls, set out by the US Maritime & Coastguard Agency and the UK Health Protection Agency, faults were not in abundance. The sad fact is, the outbreak continued and the two follow-on cruises suffered also. Perhaps of greater importance is the potential impact such events can have on a captive population of elderly people, many of whom have significant pre-existing medical problems, many affected by motion sickness, all of whom are located in storm bound waters with limited onboard medical facilities, one doctor and two nurses. Conclusions. The Icelandic tour has a high probability of bad weather which may make the ship experience unpleasant and in some personal circumstances pose a threat to the impaired health of certain passengers. In 2013 the ship demonstrated an inability to free itself from norovirus.between cruises. The Black Watch, in my opinion, has long since sailed past its sell by date as regards the physical provisions for contemporary hospitality and elderly people particularly, deserve better. There are some charming features about the ship and the actual domestic and catering services were of a high quality. In many other matters too Fred Olsen demonstrated qualities worthy of praise but I view this particular cruise from the perspective of a reasonably fit senior citizen who has sailed with others less fortunate in this respect and find it difficult to recommend the cruise on that basis for this section of the touring public.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We have just returned from an excellent cruise to the Baltic on Fred Olsen's Black Watch. We are veteran cruisers and had been to the Baltic once before (in 2002) but what attracted us to this cruise was that (a) It was out of the ... Read More
We have just returned from an excellent cruise to the Baltic on Fred Olsen's Black Watch. We are veteran cruisers and had been to the Baltic once before (in 2002) but what attracted us to this cruise was that (a) It was out of the Tyne, which is only half an hour's drive from us, and (b) Some of the ports of call (Aalborg, Saaremaa Island) were off the 'beaten track' a little bit and allowed us to explore some lesser-known gems. We like Fred Olsen because the ships and smaller and traditional, and actually LOOK like ships instead of floating blocks of flats. Also, because the Black Watch carries around 820 passengers it meant that we got to make a lot of new friends in the 13 nights we were on board. Our cabin was a standard outside one on Deck 4 and had a couple of portholes. The cabin was quite spacious and had lots of wardrobe and drawer space, as well as tea and coffee making facilities. Two single beds were placed in an 'L' configuration, and the bathroom featured a large shower cubicle. There was also a dressing table with chair, and a small table and chair as well as flat-screen TV. The cabin was kept clean and tidy by our cabin stewardess, although she often didn't make an appearance until mid-morning. Cabin 4085 is right opposite the Hair and Beauty Salon which opens at 8.00am each day, so if you're a late riser there will be a fair bit of noise from that time onwards, usually the staff chatting and laughing. I found it very handy on formal nights just to nip across to get my hair put up - in fact I would highly recommend Mark, the hairdresser; he did fantastic up-dos for me for only 20 quid which is less than I pay back at home. Lots of people complimented my hair on the formal nights (three in all). We dined in the Glentanar restaurant and the food and service were exceptional. The menus gave an excellent choice and it was difficult to decide what to have! Service was very quick and the staff were polite and friendly and soon learnt everyone's name. :-) Lunchtime we tended to use either the Garden Cafe self-service buffet (again, superb food) or the Marquee Deck buffet right at the top of the ship, which allowed us to have snacks and drinks al fresco by the pool. We were using the new Fred Olsen 'all-inclusive' drinks package for the first time and this turned out to be excellent value for money; we'd certainly choose this option again as we saved a substantial amount off our onboard account. I must say that the evening entertainment on the Black Watch was excellent. The Show Company put on several productions which were refreshingly different and original, instead of the well-worn musical theatre excerpts a lot of ships seem to put on these days. The guest performers included jazz singer Suzi Woods, a really funny Geordie comedian called Dave Kristian, one-man-band and comic Bruce Thompson, and a couple of shows by the Black Watch Crew, as well as the orchestra's tribute to the Big Band era. There wasn't a duff show among any of them and we enjoyed their performances very much. Resident entertainers who performed in various venues around the ship included classical strings "The Rosario Trio", Irish folk singer Pat Shannon, and male-female singers/musicians duo "Serendipity" which all created pleasant background sounds. Our ports of call included (in order) Aalborg (Denmark), Warnemunde (Germany), Saaremaa Island (Estonia), Tallinn (Estonia), St Petersburg (Russia) and Copenhagen (Denmark.) We had an overnight stay in St. Petersburg and should also have been visiting Karlskrona in Sweden, but technical problems with one of the tenders meant that we had to miss this port, so we had an extra day (and overnight stop) in Copenhagen instead. Much as I love Copenhagen, we've been several times before so we'd have preferred to go to Karlskrona (where we haven't been), but sometimes changes in cruise itineraries are unavoidable. The ports of call were all excellent; while we did book some of the organised excursions in some ports there were other places, such as Aalborg and Copenhagen, which made it very convenient for doing your own exploring. During the day there was a full programme of indoor and outdoor activities, but a lot of the time we just spent on the pleasant open decks (there are lovely cascading decks at the stern of the ship) whiling away the time chatting with our fellow passengers and making the most of the all-inclusive drinks ;-) There were three black-tie nights and three 'themed' nights (Nautical, Rock 'n' Roll and British red/white/blue) and most of the passengers did dress up and get into the spirit of the thing. We had a brilliant time on a ship full of character with a friendly bunch of passengers, great food and excellent entertainment. This was our fifth cruise with Fred Olsen and we already have another two booked for next year. :-) Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
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' ... Read More
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 price was right. The date and length of cruise just right, so why not. The Black Watch is a small ship with a big heart. Obviously, her age dictates that she looks a bit tired in places but she is obviously a battler and she is a pleasure to be a passenger on. You could always find a quiet area to read and reflect, or company in one of her many lounge areas. You were not aware of the Black Watch being small as there always seemed to be plenty of space and room. Her personnel are second to none. The service we had throughout the cruise from the dining room staff and room attendants was second to none. They always had a smile, were always cheerful and nothing was too much trouble for them. The food was an absolute delight with something for everyone. Just couldn't be faulted. The evening shows were a pleasure, and the Black Watch Company are to be congratulated. No bad language from the comedian just pure fun and laughter. The singers and dancers plus musician's throughout the ship were a delight. There are two shops on board. Small but full of goodies. In fact I bought a lot a goodies with no regrets. Ladies, do not bother to take clothes with you, they carry a beautiful range of clothes and swimwear. My husband also purchased some items of clothing. Very pleased at the fact he wouldn't find them on the High Street. You won't find a rock climbing wall or a water ski facility on board this ship, but who really needs it. Not I. If you are seeking warmth, comfort, good food and company, interesting speakers (we had several), the opportunity to go on excursions that give you a taste of the various countries and lots of different activities during the day (including how to play bridge and learn to dance), then the Black Watch is for you. Try it and see. Note(s) Would prefer to sail from and to Southampton as it is much easier from the Midlands. Thought the booking in at Dover an absolute farce. Upon arrival we were allocated a number, told to sit and wait for it to be called out so that we could then book in. It was never called out. After an hour of waiting in vain, we made enquiries to find that the system had disintegrated and basically we were to queue alongside others who had just arrived. Totally inadequate number of seats available within the hall. Why allocate a time for people to book in, if that instruction is then totally disregarded. Surely it would be easier on every-one, if once booked in you could then proceed to the ship. Disembarkation An absolute mess. Instead of arriving at Dover, whereupon a taxi would take us to the Ramada Hotel where we would collect the car and arrive home at a reasonable time, we docked at Southampton at approximately 9.30 with a three hour coach journey to Dover. Granted it wasn't the fault of the shipping line that the weather was horrendous, but why use Dover if it is renowned for problems when the weather is bad. When we arrived at Dover, it was noted that the P & O Ferries were still running backwards and forwards and that a large ship had docked that same morning. Mmm! There was no help at Dover from Porters as they were busy? with luggage for the return trip. In fact the physical help at Dover was absolutely non-existent. In the pouring rain, I had to gather up my luggage (4 x items), find a trolley (like gold) then stack it myself onto a heavy cumbersome trolley and push it to the reception area. There were no taxis to be seen anywhere, and we had to ask Dover Reception to help out with contacting a taxi company, which she did. All in all, a very wet, bedraggled and fed up person. Agreed it was not the fault of Fred Olsen that the weather was bad, but the extreme lack of help and attitude at Dover was naughty, and when I choose my next cruise I will steer clear of Dover. Missing Port - Turku, Finland. Complimentary Port Shuttle Bus was available, however we went on a trip - Panoramic Turku. A pleasant trip out ending up in Naantall, a pretty town alongside the archipelago. A much appreciated comfort stop and a coffee and cake in a beautiful timber restaurant followed by 'free time' to explore the area. Ideal trip for those with a limited mobility problem. Missing Port - Kristiansand, Norway. Arrived on a Sunday. Elected not to go on a trip. Big mistake. Used the 'Noddy Train' (10 Euros per person - big rip off) from the port to the centre of the town. The 'noddy train' would only stop at the one place) Everywhere closed up for the day except the Church and a few bars. Very disappointed. Would suggest 'find an alternative port of some interest or at least with some life'. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We had two changes to our itinerary prior to embarkation. Firstly, instead of Warnemunde we went to Rostock; secondly (and very shortly before the holiday began) we were advised that the second port in Denmark was cancelled and we would ... Read More
We had two changes to our itinerary prior to embarkation. Firstly, instead of Warnemunde we went to Rostock; secondly (and very shortly before the holiday began) we were advised that the second port in Denmark was cancelled and we would anchor at Kristiansaand in Norway instead. We also visited the port of Turku. We parked at Relyon in Dover and found them very friendly and efficient. Would definitely use them again if sailing from Dover. We also used Forex for our different currencies and had them delivered to the ship. Again, a very friendly and efficient experience. We did not do any of the ship's excursions mainly because we were doing a private tour of St Petersburg and having researched - primarily on your web site - the other ports, it seemed quite practical to do them independently. All the ports we visited were interesting and absolutely able to be done without the expense of ship's tours. Our private tour of St Petersburg was excellent and definitely worth the expense. We saw far more than we would have done doing the ship's tours. We did this on the recommendation of friends and we were not disappointed. With regard to the Black Watch itself, we were happy overall with the experience. If we could change one thing, it would have been to have had a flexible dining time in the evening. We had second sitting reservations but we felt this was a bit too late at 8.30 with the first sitting being rather early at 6.30, especially for people who had been on ship's tours and we did hear some grumbles about this. The staff were all excellent and we enjoyed the entertainment provided. We particularly enjoyed the trio in the Garden Cafe. The food was good with plenty of choice and the wines were priced at an acceptable level. We did think at £5 pp the shuttle buses wherever available were a bit pricey! Both embarkation and disembarkation were carried out efficiently. Did we like a smaller ship? Yes but not at the expense of mid-size or larger ships. We feel we have now tried three different sizes of ships and each has its own good points. Would we sail on Black Watch again? No reason why not but maybe we will try yet another line next year! What we will not do is book too far in advance as we met some 'last minute bookers' who had had a much better deal. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We chose Black Watch's Baltics, with Norway, cruise firstly because the ship was small enough to cruise through the Kiel Canal and secondly because of the interesting itinerary and Vista Guest Speaker programme. We hadn't ... Read More
We chose Black Watch's Baltics, with Norway, cruise firstly because the ship was small enough to cruise through the Kiel Canal and secondly because of the interesting itinerary and Vista Guest Speaker programme. We hadn't cruised with Fred.Olsen before, but felt immediately "at home" and that it was going to be a good fit for us. Why? Hard to pick one thing, but a mixture of the culture, service level, staff, and the passenger mix. Cabin - We had a guarantee superior outside cabin on the 5th deck, with parallel single beds and a lounge chair and a small table next to the big window. There were two big wardrobes, with enough hanging space and drawers for us to put all our clothes in, as well as our large suitcases standing up. In addition, there were four drawers either side of the large mirror, with sit down dressing table, with chair. Reasonable size bathroom, with ample shelf space in the bathroom for our toiletries. The shower was big enough that the shower curtain did not "lick" you. We loved their Cole and Lewis Handwash and Bodywash - London. Our favourite thing was the tea and coffee and electric jug in our cabin, as well as availability of self service tea and coffee 24 hours, in the cafe area.We loved the food on this ship, which was very good to excellent, as was the service level. We ate mainly in the Glentanar dining room, except for specialty restaurant nights (Chinese and Indian), which were in the beautiful Garden Cafe. In no particular order, these are additional things which enhanced the cruise - Vistas Guest Speaker Programme, which was both educational and entertaining. Good value, with reasonable costs for gratuities 2 pounds pppn stewardess and waiter, with ability to change gratuities; 2 pounds per bingo sheet. No charge for specialty restaurant nights. News - "Britain Today" newssheet; TV BBC News and Sky News Entertainment - Separate Cinema for showing of films (1 matinee and 3 per night), as well as for smaller presentations. Free movies shown in cabin (5 per day) Visitors Street Guide for each port of call. Library - range of books and jigsaw puzzles left out for anyone to complete. Smoking Policy, with designated outside areas. Large dance floor, with hosts to dance with single ladies. Overall, Black Watch, ship and staff, surpassed my expectations. I'd like to cruise with Black Watch or another Fred.Olsen ship again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Black Watch Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.7
Dining 5.0 4.2
Entertainment 5.0 3.7
Public Rooms 5.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.4
Family 2.0 3.4
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 4.0 4.4

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click