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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
While on our first short cruise to the Norwegian fjords on Fred.Olsen's Balmoral in May 2016 we booked this year's longer cruise to the fjords north of Bergen and Bergen itself. As the cruise started in Belfast this saved ... Read More
While on our first short cruise to the Norwegian fjords on Fred.Olsen's Balmoral in May 2016 we booked this year's longer cruise to the fjords north of Bergen and Bergen itself. As the cruise started in Belfast this saved connecting flights and the itinerary included a short visit to Kirkwall on the Orkney Island. The coach connection provided (at a cost) by a local travel agent and embarkation went to plan but there was then a long wait till departure. The following days were enjoyable, blessed with wonderful weather, good food, excellent entertainment and plenty of companionship among our fellow travellers. We enjoyed the extra perks of a balcony suite, though 8010 on the port side seemed to miss out on a lot of the sunshine! Towards the end of the 8-night cruise we learnt that some of our fellow passengers had been laid low with what may have been an upper respiratory infection and that some of the crew were also unwell, but still working. Unfortunately, soon after our return we both succumbed to a particularly debilitating virus and almost 2 weeks' later we are still "under the weather". This has not just been the usual headcold but a full-on viral infection with fever, coughing and overall malaise. Could it be that we picked up a foreign strain which has knocked us both out and curtailed our normal very active lives? The promised feedback form has not yet been received from Fred.Olsen despite having received emails from them prior to our departure. Our subsequent illness has left a rather negative feeling about cruising overall and perhaps the Fred.Olsen line, with whom I first travelled in 1962! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Having been on a Fred Olsen cruise before and seeing this one departing from my home port of Belfast. Being a regular cruiser I was aware the check in system is normally the worst experience. This was much better and when we arrived ... Read More
Having been on a Fred Olsen cruise before and seeing this one departing from my home port of Belfast. Being a regular cruiser I was aware the check in system is normally the worst experience. This was much better and when we arrived there was no one else in the queue. The short journey to the ship was done on a local bus. The only negative point was when we arrived on board only a small snack was supplied. this was at 2pm and as we were not having our evening meal to 8.30 this was a bit too long. The room was clean and as described. The ship overall was a bit dated but presentable. The staff like any other ship were helpful. The normal shows and actives were available. The all inclusive was described as any thing available however I found that for selected teas and drinks for example cocktails and specialty tea was priced at half price. Barcadi would be my drink of choice however again this was half price a local white rum was choice. ad to see that from the information we were given no more cruises will start from Belfast after the two planned for next year. Hope to be able to go on the ship again next year. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
Went with our active retired group.It was my first cruise and I had a BALL.Cabin very comfy. Food to suit all tastes. Staff very attentive and courteous.Activities to suit all.The highlight for me was the dancing .The hosts were fantastic ... Read More
Went with our active retired group.It was my first cruise and I had a BALL.Cabin very comfy. Food to suit all tastes. Staff very attentive and courteous.Activities to suit all.The highlight for me was the dancing .The hosts were fantastic and gave us the confidence to try new dances.I feel they are not given enough credit for how they care about the older ladies who like to dance.All in all a wonderful holiday.The shows were great and brought out the wonderful and varied talents of the crew.The photo gallery was a great idea as it saved having to carry a camera around all the time and you only buy the ones you like.the shops were good and well stocked but the boutique could do with having some underwear and tights in stock.I loved the touch of pampering with the square of chocolate on my pillow every night.I would definitely do another cruise especially for the dancing. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
On board the Black Watch is like stepping back in time. The decor and fittings are very 1970s although clean, there is no WOW factor anywhere on the ship. This was our first cruise and based our poor experience it could be our last. ... Read More
On board the Black Watch is like stepping back in time. The decor and fittings are very 1970s although clean, there is no WOW factor anywhere on the ship. This was our first cruise and based our poor experience it could be our last. The boarding process at the port was one of the worst travel experiences I have had. Hundreds of passengers crammed into a hangar waiting their numbers to be called and we waited for 1hr 50 minutes and were the last to board even though we arrived exactly at the time we were instructed to on our boarding instructions. There was no explanation given just occasional apologies. So we arrived at our cabin fighting disappointment at our introductory experience with Fred Olsen. The next blow was that we learned that we would not be stopping at our first port of call, la Coruna, due to some mechanical problem. This port and the onshore trip to Santiago was the reason I booked the trip. The food was good. The alcohol reasonably priced and the service of a high standard with one or two surly exceptions. The shows were unoriginal. There was a very good comedian. The onboard activities were ok. The highlight of the trip was the Observatory Lounge where we enjoyed lovely cocktails while listening to an excellent trio. We met people who we will keep in touch with. Overall we both feel we spent a lot of money on a poor holiday and that same sum could have got us a luxury hotel for longer. Read Less
43 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
The worse cruising experience I have ever had. From beginning to end. My wife and I have cruised with Fred Olsen cruises on three occasions this was to be our fourth, we booked a cruise for my mother and father in law, my sister and ... Read More
The worse cruising experience I have ever had. From beginning to end. My wife and I have cruised with Fred Olsen cruises on three occasions this was to be our fourth, we booked a cruise for my mother and father in law, my sister and brother inlaw and my wife and I. The cruise was on the "Black Watch" an eight night cruise sailing from Belfast October 2015. The cruise started on the 16th October 2015 we were told to check in at their facility at Belfast docks at 2pm, my brother Inlaw was given a 2.30pm checkin, why? After registration all 700+ passengers were herded into what I can only describe as a small warehouse with very basic facilities, like myself most passengers would have been retired with a large number of disabled people. We waited almost 2.50 hours in crowded cold conditions to be bused to the ship which was located at another dock beside an animal feed warehouse, the stench was almost overwhelming. The checkin warehouse had a hole in the wall canteen offering hot and cold drinks which we had to pay for, yet we had checked in, and all of our party had an all inclusive card, Both my wife's parents are in their 80's and sat shivering like others waiting on the inadequate number of coaches to take us to the ship. When we eventually arrived onboard we went immediately to our Cabin (Superior Outside cabin) which I can only describe as tired and past its sell by date, both single beds mattresses had bowed in the middle and looked like something you would get in some third world hostel. The usual ships newsletter was placed on the table it listed various events, restaurant times etc, enclosed with it was a special notice informing us that due to repairs to the ship auxiliary engine we would be missing our first port of call "La Coruna." The ship would be going to the second port of call "Bilbao" for repairs so we would spend almost three days there. We were offered £50 each as compensation which had to be spent on the ship. At this stage the ship had not left the dockside in Belfast. If Fred Olsen cruises had notified us prior to getting on the ship I would have cancelled, as one of the main reasons for booking was the opportunity of going to La Coruna and taking my wife's parents to Santiago de Compostela an opportunity which because of their age and cost will sadly not be possible again. Having sailed on Fred Olsen cruises three other ships I had no hesitation booking the Black Watch as the previous cruising experience on these ships was faultless, unfortunately the Black Watch fell way below their sister ships standards, the main restaurant was one of the worst I have seen, was more like a ferry canteen than an elegant cruise ship restaurant, It was to bright and lacked any atmosphere. The staff lacked personality and just seemed totally bored, unenthusiastic, we listened to a couple of the waiters complain about the salary they got from The cruise company and how it was topped up with the gratuities which we had all prepaid. In comparison with its sister ships the menus were boring, breakfast and lunch was a buffet but you could order off the menu if you could get eye contact with a waiter I gave up trying and opted for buffet. Trying to get a glass of wine on our all inclusive card on occasions took ages getting eye contact with a waiter got worse as each day went by, on the final night my father in law finally got a glass after he had finished his main course, in any case the house wine was practically undrinkable. The reception staff, shop staff were totally unpleasant, getting a smile was a rarity, the one area that I enjoyed on the ship was the observatory bar the staff were pleasant and efficient, the trio who played there every evening were excellent. One of my pet hates on any cruise is the constant manufactured occasions that their photographers use to get a happy holiday shot, captains dinner, captains farewell dinner etc, the photographs cost a fortune to purchase, on the Black Watch I seen one of the worse photographs I have ever seen, a couple getting photographed with the captain, his wife stood beside the captain, her husband was in a wheel chair, the photographer took this shot and put the picture on the usual display. The head of the person in the wheelchair was all that you could see of him sticking up at the bottom of the photo. All my comments like this are just a snapshot of a very bad experience on the Black Watch never to be repeated. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
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
10 Helpful Votes
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 2013
We had a wonderful cruise to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The Ship is small by our standards, and the décor is a bit tired, but the staff and the food was wonderful. The entertainment was very good, probably the best of any of the nine ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The Ship is small by our standards, and the décor is a bit tired, but the staff and the food was wonderful. The entertainment was very good, probably the best of any of the nine cruises we have been on. Pity about the Nova-virus that affected quite a number of guests and crew. ( we escaped thanks) The Ship's crew never made any announcements. (all we had was Chinese whispers) There was however some BAD points, First the ship was late! Embarkation was an embarrassment, sitting in a Big Tent for TWO hours, Coffee from the back of a truck, Porta-loos. Information from a lady standing on a chair shouting instructions.( no loud speaker) Arrival back in Belfast to very heavy rain and being stuck in the large tent again, the same shouting lady and one senior police man and other people in yellow coats,not knowing what they were doing, directing passengers into lines going nowhere. (organized confusion) No transport was laid on, any other Port always has Buses, and/or Taxi-cabs. (some body missed a trick here).   Read Less
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