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10 Fred. Olsen Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

Only the second time on this ship. Checking in and embarkation very good. Muster was quick and efficient, sailed on time. Our cabin 7054 on bridge deck was adequate, although storage room was not the best we have had on other Fred Olsen ... Read More
Only the second time on this ship. Checking in and embarkation very good. Muster was quick and efficient, sailed on time. Our cabin 7054 on bridge deck was adequate, although storage room was not the best we have had on other Fred Olsen ships. Our cabin stewardess was superb, efficient without going over the top. Adaptors were already in our cabin for use of the tea/coffee facility. The public lounges were always clean and tidy as was the Grampian restaurant where we had our meals. All of the waiters were excellent and nothing was to much trouble. On our first night I filled in a wine request form at around 1800hrs and our chosen wine was waiting on our table when we arrived at 2030hrs. Food at all meals was very good with plenty of choice, quite a few dishes for vegetarians and we did not here any complaints from our fellow cruisers. Good selection of tours ashore, we did about four, all varied and enjoyed them all. What really made the cruise was the crew including the hosts and show company, we knew the deputy cruise director and cruise director from other ships so it was like catching up with old friends. I did read a previous review from Deck Cargo and the poor comments. In answer, the crew were great on our ship, he said the cruise was to the Baltic Sea, I think it was a Seine river cruise to Rouen. Lastly, in the brochure it states that a bottle of sparkling wine is provided in your balcony suite cabin not champagne, I cannot speak for the TV advert as I do not spend my cruise watching television, particularly when the cruise is so short. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We have cruised with Fred Olsen on several occasions on the Boudicca. Having had two cruises this year we only decided at last minute to cruise on the Black Watch because of the attractive 28 days Anchor Fare. We opted for a Superior ... Read More
We have cruised with Fred Olsen on several occasions on the Boudicca. Having had two cruises this year we only decided at last minute to cruise on the Black Watch because of the attractive 28 days Anchor Fare. We opted for a Superior Outside cabin and late dinner sitting. When our tickets arrived shortly before the departure we were placed in cabin 5112 - a Superior Outside which was marked "subject to some noise and vibration" and allocated an early dinner sitting. When we rang F. Olsen to change the dinner sitting we were told it would cost £2 per person per night to change. Very reluctantly we paid £112 as an early dinner is not to our liking. Our cabin was certainly a Superior Outside, spacious and well equipped BUT when manoeuvring in port, at certain sea states or engine revs. the cabin shook so that items fell off the dressing table and the noise was akin to having a pneumatic drill in the cabin. Having booked a late fare we were obviously given the crap cabin! Talking to other last minute Anchor Fare passengers it was obvious that Fred Olsen now have a deliberate policy of giving late bookers the opposite dinner sitting to the one they request and then try and extract a £2 per passenger per night levy to change. A cheap, unpleasant way of raising revenue and doing little for passenger relations. Because the ship was only 2/3rds full the dining room on both sittings had plenty of room. The irony was that, after we had booked, cruise web sites were offering balcony cabins for less than we had paid for an Anchor Fare Superior Outside. The cruise itself was excellent although with 3 days bad weather on leaving Dover and not F.Olsens fault. Food was good but by no means top class and the entertainment what you would expect on a small ship. Cost cutting was obvious judging by our previous F.Olsen cruises but still good value. However, if attracted by last minute deals be aware of the possible problems I have written about.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Having cruised before with several different cruise lines we had never sailed before with Fred Olsen and this was a last minute booking at a unbelievable price reduction which we couldn't refuse. I must admit though that we did ... Read More
Having cruised before with several different cruise lines we had never sailed before with Fred Olsen and this was a last minute booking at a unbelievable price reduction which we couldn't refuse. I must admit though that we did check the reviews on here before booking and found that the ship had some of the best. Fred Olsen seems to have a loyal following of British passengers much older than other ships we had been on and many were booking up for next years cruises while on board. We only found two other couples on board that had not sailed with Fred before, that must tell you something. We are in out late sixties but felt quite young compared to most of the passengers, my wife said there was enough walking sticks on board to build an ark. The passengers in general were the friendliest that we have sailed with, the crew too could not be faulted in any department. Entertainment was pretty good and Ronnie the cruise director was better than any we have had on previous cruises. Our cabin was a standard inside, adequate, clean but nothing special, we never spend much time in there anyway apart from sleeping. The towels and bed linen were changed regularly but were not the high quality we were used to on some of the bigger ships. The food was excellent both in the main restaurant and in the buffet, I did hear one passenger say that it was repetitive but you cant please every one, in 28 days we had a completely different menu every day. The late night buffet and the Gala buffet seem to have had their day as you could count the number of people using them on one hand. The Gala midnight buffet was magnificent but I counted only 15 passengers actually sitting down eating anything. What a waste of so much food - what is the point? Itinerary was excellent and the tours we took to the Pyramids and Petra were superb although expensive. We would have liked to have spend more time in some of the ports, we departed from many in mid afternoon which Fred calls LATE PM for some unknown reason. Now we come to my main gripe with this ship, it has a serious soot problem on the back decks. Many times when we sat on the loungers or at the outside café our clothes were covered in soot stains. After washing numerous items I took two pair of white trousers to reception which they dry cleaned free of charge but even they could not get the marks out of one pair and I had to claim compensation for a new pair. The soot was also a serious problem in the swimming pool. I swam most days but on several occasions large pieces of soot the size of fifty pence pieces were falling from above into the pool and on getting out my bald head was covered in large black splodges. Inspite of this we still had a fabulous holiday. Would we cruise with Fred Olsen again? Yes but only if we could get a last minute bargain I don't think it is worth anywhere near the prices they are asking in the brochure. It is not a five star cruise ship so don't expect 5 star luxury but if you want one of the friendliest ships and you can get a good deal then you cant go far wrong with the Black Watch. I believe the ship is going in dry dock any time now for some upgrades, it was showing it's age a bit ( just like the majority of the passengers) but it is lovely old ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Our second cruise on the Boudicca the first being last Xmas/New Year when we sailed to the Canary Islands.We chose Greenock as an easier drive from the Wirral (Cheshire) than fighting the traffic down to a southern port.On embarkation we ... Read More
Our second cruise on the Boudicca the first being last Xmas/New Year when we sailed to the Canary Islands.We chose Greenock as an easier drive from the Wirral (Cheshire) than fighting the traffic down to a southern port.On embarkation we parked the car (£7 a night in Greenock) at the port; our luggage disappeared and was next seen in the cabin.Painless embarkation and we were soon in Cabin 7009 on the Lido (Promenade) Deck. Even larger than 7031 which we had occupied over Xmas.Cabin immaculate although we took the sensible precaution of using our own Dettol wipes to clean off the surfaces of door handles, remote control etc. Hygiene throughout the ship was first class with hand sprays at all entrances to restaurants and lounges. Sad how some people had to be reminded to use them!Tissues were even provided to open the public toilet doors on exiting and we were requested not to shake hands with the Captain and ship`s Officers at the receptions. The wiping and cleaning of toilets, handrails etc. was constant As far as I am aware no norovirus during the cruise.F.Olsen have obviously learned the lesson from past outbreaks.Food was generally good but by no means first class with all meals plated rather than silver service. The soups excellent but at least four main course dishes on our table of six foul. Steaks either cooked to rubber or oozing blood (medium had been requested), dry turkey and dreadful chicken. However there was plenty of other choices and,spread over sixteen nights, no great problems.The table waiters were efficient but seemed under pressure and I wonder if the overall number of waiters has been reduced to cut costs?The ship operates a two sitting lunch and dinner. 6.30pm. is too early for a cruise and 8.30pm slightly too late. We much prefer the one sitting cruise with dining any time between 7.00p.m. and 9.30pm.The "midnight" buffet actually opens at 11.15pm. and, as we had only recently risen from the dinner table we did not partake. It was however quite amusing to see the stampede of passengers who had perhaps not eaten for four hours and had at least seven hours to go before breakfast!The entertainment, which is a subjective opinion, was what one would expect on a small ship and went from mediocre to poor. The song and dance group were enthusiastic and that says it all. Two exceptions. The Rosario string trio who played in a lounge but gave a concert in the theatre. The only cruise I have been on where the entertainers received a "standing ovation" They were brilliant with a wonderful mixture of classical, music from the shows and popular music.Memo to Fred Olsen. "Whatever you pay them double it"Second the Crew Show. The traditional costumes, dances and singing of the Filipino and Indonesian crew members, male and female, put the "professionals" to shame.As we sailed from Greenock a large number of Scots on the ship. On formal nights the kilts, trews and ornate jackets of the men made a wonderful splash of colour. We were piped away by a pipe band and welcomed back by a lone piper.All in all a good cruise and we will certainly sail with Fred Olsen again but perhaps try another ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Walking into the top of the range Premier Suite on Fred Olsen's largest cruiser - The Balmoral - my wife Sue and I were delighted by the sheer opulence of its design, space and amenities. The large bed, dressing table and side tables ... Read More
Walking into the top of the range Premier Suite on Fred Olsen's largest cruiser - The Balmoral - my wife Sue and I were delighted by the sheer opulence of its design, space and amenities. The large bed, dressing table and side tables were in a room tastefully divided from the lounge, where we found a full sized dining table with seating for four people, a comfortable settee and two armchairs. En-route there was a large "walk-in" wardrobe with masses of space, and a bathroom complete with bath tub and shower. Another bonus was the large, very private balcony, with yet another full-sized table with chairs for four, and two comfortable sunloungers. Purchasing a Premier Suite for the 23 day cruise from Dover to Turkey, via Gibraltar, Greece and Rhodes takes some planning and saving, unless you are a lottery winner! With a brochure price of almost £14,000 for two and some rather expensive shore excursions, you have to be prepared to dig into cash reserves. Of course, like any cruise, there is plenty of wheeling and dealing to be done with Travel Agents, and probably everyone onboard had paid a different price, but were keeping quiet about it! If you do splash out on a suite on an Olsen ship there are some bonuses to be had. We got three decanters, filled with complimentary gin, whisky and cognac, which saved us around £70, a weekly discount of £10 on our laundry, complimentary shuttle passes, and use of bathrobes and binoculars. There is also a free pressing service for outfits worn on formal nights. Another nice touch is the daily replenishment of the fruit bowl. This was our tenth visit to Fred Olsen's fleet, but a first experience of the Balmoral. The ship is roomy, without being overpowering, and we found the lounges comfortable, and plenty of places to either join in the fun or spend some quiet time. Shows are staged in the Neptune Lounge, and resident musicians play in rooms throughout the ship. Staff are there to help, but not in your face like some of the American cruisers. Quite frankly Fred Olsen is not the place to be if you want life on the wild side! The Balmoral is more like a country house than a holiday camp - and that's why many people choose the company over and over again. The majority of passengers are return customers eager to share their experiences they have enjoyed on other Olsen ships. We left Dover at the end of October - my birthday - which resulted in a parade of waiters with a cake at dinner! They look at your passport for your birth date, and there is no escape from the very public serenade, which is enjoyed by fellow diners. The ship took three days to reach Gibraltar where there are duty free bargains to be had, and where smokers can still enjoy their nicotine fix in public bars and buildings. The cruise was themed as a voyage to the Ancients, and took in many of the buildings left by the invasion of the Romans.Unfortunately it was Saints Day in our next stop at Cagliari, Sardinia, and an Italian Public Holiday, so for those not on official tours from the ship, only a handful of cafes were open - a disappointment after days at sea! Kalamata was my first visit to Greece, followed by the huge port of Piraeus which serves the capital city of Athens. A freidnly taxi driver charged us 40 Euros to visit the Acropolis, 10 miles from the dock and passsing some of the Olympic stadiums. In Volos, Greece, we took a trip on a little train to a picturesque village - unfortunately the "steam" engine turned out to be diesel, but the scenery during the hour long journey through olive groves, was breath taking. Izmir, Bodrum and Antalaya in Turkey were the next three ports of call, with a chance to visit some spectacular Roman ruins, and for the religious passengers, a house claimed to have been the home of the Virgin Mary! Bodrum was particularly lovely, with quaint streets, welcoming bars and restaurants, and powerful local beer at around £7 a pint! Rhodes was my favourite stop - rows of shops and stalls within the ancient walls, courtyards containing small cafes under olive trees, friendly locals with a warm welcome for all, and brilliant November sunshine. Unfortunately things started going wrong when we set sail from the island towards Malta, where many passengers were looking forward to celebrating Remembrance Day on this George Cross island. A passenger became ill and the ship had to turn back towards Rhodes to meet a helicopter which winched the unfortunate person off the ship. The Captain then announced that one of the engines had broken down and we would be travelling at reduced speed. This meant we would miss Malta and the next port Cadiz, and spend six days limping to Lisbon where a new part would be fitted. Passengers were given £80 each as compensation, but mutiny was only just avoided - people were not happy! Extra time in Lisbon - and for us a meal at our favourite restaurant - and complimentary wine at dinner calmed things down, and Balmoral eventually arrived back in Dover under full steam - albeit, slightly later than expected. Overall I found the cruise good value for money, the ship very comfortable and the staff excellent. Food was exceptionally good, and plenty of it! Drinks prices were lower than on many rival cruisers, although shore excursions were as many seasoned cruisers would expect - rather on the pricey side. Alternatives are available and many people chose to do their own thing. My criticism would be the lack of sheltered places on the open decks and balconies - any type of weather might prove a problem, ranging from getting a soaking in the rain or burnt in the sun. There was also a distinct lack of information when things started going wrong. Tha captain eventually made extra announcements after being confronted by angry and worried passengers. Fred Olsen is stilly my favourite cruise line, but we look forward to getting back to the Braemar in March. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Balmoral! Where do I begin,!? My husband and I had never done a cruise till this one.We had booked another one due to sail with another company in August,but had to cancel due to Trev my husband having suffered a heart attack.Once we got ... Read More
Balmoral! Where do I begin,!? My husband and I had never done a cruise till this one.We had booked another one due to sail with another company in August,but had to cancel due to Trev my husband having suffered a heart attack.Once we got the all clear for Trev we booked Balmoral,we were not dissapointed. I had always wanted to cruise but nerves always got in the way,now we were to taste the water (so to speak )! When the day arrived I stood at the gangway as Trev said to me look at Balmoral she will be your home for the next 22 days,I was shocked at her size,speechless and motionless for quite a few moments until I caught my breath ,Nervous very,Amazed Totally but once I embarked Balmoral I knew she would keep me safe.She was warm inviting and very very elegant.She gave Trev and I a joyous time sailing and when our cruise was over we were elated with the complete experience. The Crew were second to none our cabin was kept spotless every day,the food was excellent ,the entertainment fantastic ,and the other cruisers who were all more experienced than us were truly nice people.We did have a fellow cruiser who had to airlifted off Balmoral due to the fact this chap was ill,we also lost an engine which to be quite honest didnt make a lot of difference to us as we had everything on Balmoral that you could want,ok we did miss 2 ports of call but at the end of the day it is not the end of the world.We are saving as fast as we can to get booking our second cruise on Balmoral.ROLL ON . Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Fred. Olsen's "Black Watch" is now the oldest ship in their fleet but despite this it is a fine looking vessel. It has been well-maintained over the years. The itinerary was Southampton, Almeria (Spain), Cagliari (Italy), ... Read More
Fred. Olsen's "Black Watch" is now the oldest ship in their fleet but despite this it is a fine looking vessel. It has been well-maintained over the years. The itinerary was Southampton, Almeria (Spain), Cagliari (Italy), Valetta (Malta), Piraeus (Crete, Greece), Nessebar (Bulgaria), Odessa / Sevastopol / Yalta (Ukraine), Istanbul / Cannakale (Turkey), Iraklian (Greece) Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Gibraltar and Southampton. I had an outside, double cabin for single occupancy on Atlantic Deck (deck 4). It was reasonably spacious, clean, tidy and in good condition. It had a shower and bathtub which is always a bonus. There was more than adequate storage space for one person. As the cabin was in the aft section of the ship there was from time to time some vibration but otherwise it was very quiet. The crew of the ship was European although, unlike in the past, not exclusively Scandinavian. The captain was Norwegian. The staff were multi-national and mostly from the Third World eg Philppines, Thailand, Indonesia and India. Both the restaurant staff and the cabin staff gave the traditional excellent service with a smile. The entertainment staff was headed by the doyen of Fred. Olsen Cruise Directors, Ronnie Finch. They worked hard and produced a good all round "on board" programme. Food was of a very high standard. There was a good choice and the menus were varied. I ate mainly in the Glentanner restaurant but occasionally in the more casual Garden Cafe or at the Poolside Cafe. Afternoon teas were particularly good. Bar prices were were very reasonable, much lower than on many ships. On board daytime activities followed the normal pattern. The port talks and guest lecturers were very good indeed. The talks on the BBC and the history of the Royal Navy were particularly good. The latter talks were closely linked to several of our ports of call. Of course there were the usual quizzes, deck games and bingo. I found the swimming pool proved to be an absolute joy throughout the voyage. The evening cabarets were fairly run of the mill some good, some rather ordinary. We were fortunate that we had calm seas for most of the cruise. The exception was during the night en route in the Mediterranean from Mallorca to Gibraltar we were hit by a freak wind which made the ship roll rather alarmingly.We had warm sunshine for much of the trip except in the Crimea where there were some wet days. As far as I was concerned this was a very "destination intensive"cruise.I had visited most of the ports of call in Mediterranean so in these places I did my own thing. In the Ukraine I took ship-organised excursions which turned out to be excellent. The visits to the three Ukraine ports were fascinatiing and brought to life both the 19th century Crimean War (we even visited the site of the "Charge of the Light Brigade") the German occupation in WW2. Istanbul, despite the crowds mostly created by the fact that eight cruise ships were in port at the same time, was exotic and well worth the visit. In my opinion the call at Cannakale was the high point of the cruise. A full-day tour crossing the Dardanelles to Gallipoli brought the life the awful events which took place there in 1915 during WW1. It was great cruise with a splendid combination of relaxation and education. I like this ship and I like Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines (this was my 28th cruise with them). I look forwars to my next cruise with great anticipation. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Our first cruise was almost four weeks long and covered ten ports in the Mediterranean. Our cabin was clean, roomy and comfortable with ample storage space in both wardrobes and drawers. The bathroom was spotless and toiletries were all ... Read More
Our first cruise was almost four weeks long and covered ten ports in the Mediterranean. Our cabin was clean, roomy and comfortable with ample storage space in both wardrobes and drawers. The bathroom was spotless and toiletries were all supplied. We didn't actually book any of the ship's tours on shore as this was an Ancient Wonders of the World cruise and being in our sixties we see enough ancient wonders every day when we look at each other. However, we did go ashore and do our own thing in every port, walking for miles and finding plenty of interest locally. These ports included Almeria, Spain; Villefrance, France; Katekolon and Pireaus in Greece; La Goulette and Sfax in Tunisia; Limassol, Cyprus, Cittiavechia, Italy and Lisbon, Portugal. The only place we stayed on deck was in Alexandria, because by the time we had sunbathed for a while and done a bit of reading, coffee drinking and cake eating, earlier passengers were already returning to the ship saying "Don't Do It". They were apparently all being accosted at the port gates not only by sellers of Egyptian "antiquities" (mostly stuffed camels) but the taxi drivers were severely harassing passengers and one elderly lady was lifted off her feet and placed inside a taxi, having to be rescued by other British guests. The ships officers had to call the police to remove the offenders from the port gates. The entertainment on board surpassed our expectations. The Show Company were brilliant, putting on excellent shows which we really enjoyed. We also had a comedian, Don Reid, who is a very funny man with clean humour, and in addition a Magician. We very much enjoyed going up to the Crow's Nest at the end of every day where Jackie, a lovely pianist with a beautiful voice played soft jazz songs and ended our day on a very pleasant note. There was also a jazz band on board who performed in their own shows, but often joined Jackie in the Crow's Nest and played some impromptu numbers accompanying her singing. The whole of the top deck of the Balmoral is devoted to swimming pool, spa pools and sunbeds, so there is plenty of room for everybody to get a suntan and there was an additional pool and large sunbathing area at the back of the ship on Deck 9. The cuisine on board was probably not what I would call 4* and was a little repetitive, for example after the Tropical Night, when we had coconut deserts etc, we then had several days where coconut appeared at every meal in some disguise, even once appearing as pink coconut soup! The meals could definitely be improved, but we certainly didn't go hungry and there was plenty of choice. The buffet restaurant, Palms Cafe, was excellent, serving delicious breakfasts, wonderful lunches and themed evening meals (eg. curries, or chinese). Virtually all the staff on board were Philippino and were wonderful. Cheerful, charming, funny, helpful, hardworking and tireless. There isn't a huge shopping area on the Balmoral, but then we weren't looking for Regent Street. Our Captain was Norwegian and he was a real treat of the day. He often walked around the ship, mixing with the guests, he ate his lunch in the Palms Cafe, he was approachable and entertaining. Each morning at 9.00 am and each evening at 6.00 pm, he would address the passengers over the tannoy and his little speeches were a delight. Everyone went quiet in order to listen to him and he was a very well respected man. We would recommend the Balmoral to anyone looking for a pleasant, relaxing cruise and would certainly cruise with Fred Olsen again when the opportunity arises. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
My wife and I booked this cruise more than a year ago, whilst on a cruise with Olsen's ship the 'Braemar'. We had a good experience with the Olsen 'brand' then, although we found the Braemar, with its flat bottom, ... Read More
My wife and I booked this cruise more than a year ago, whilst on a cruise with Olsen's ship the 'Braemar'. We had a good experience with the Olsen 'brand' then, although we found the Braemar, with its flat bottom, rather unstable in anything more than a Force 4 so thought this larger addition to the fleet would be worth a try. Our cruise was the first of the Mediterranean cruises undertaken by the Balmoral, a fly-cruise out of Rome. Balmoral was only on its 8th voyage, having been extended earlier in the year with an extra section midships, and partially refitted in other areas. We are both 60+ retirees,and veterans of seven or eight cruises with various cruise lines over the last six years, and we mostly prefer mid-size ships rather than the newer leviathans. We travelled from Bristol with a Titan charter flight - a premier charter company who also - on their smartest planes - fly pop stars, the UK Prime Minister and such like! Champagne served whilst waiting in line at the check-in. The plane was most comfortable, more legroom than most charters and exemplary service. Really nice cold meal. We had to collect our luggage from the baggage belt at the airport and identify it, but then porters took it away and loaded it onto lorries for transfer to the ship whilst we took an hour's coach ride to the port. That was fine. Check in was done in a few minutes and we were on board and shown to our cabin, a Junior Suite. We had originally ordered a Balcony cabin, but Olsen gave us a complimentary upgrade some 4 weeks prior to departure (without our asking). We did appreciate this, as the prices advertised for this cruise only weeks before our departure were significantly lower than we had actually paid (even with the early discount we had) and Olsen were clearly discounting trying to fill the ship. So the upgrade made up for the fact that we had paid something more than other passengers! In the event there were about 200 unoccupied berths on the ship. Our cabin was on the Bridge deck, quite spacious, loads of storage room. All soft furnishings had been renewed, the beds were comfortable and the balcony big enough to accommodate the two chairs AND one sun lounger which were provided. There was a new door to the balcony. But the furniture and the bathroom fittings had not been updated, although perfectly clean. Our cabin stewardess was delightful and helpful. We had been told in advance that our cabin was to be a fixed double but it turned out to be a fixed twin, which could not be converted. We were OK with this, and didn't complain, but clearly Olsen head office don't yet seem to have the right info about which cabins are twins and which are doubles (other reviewers have said similar things). We pointed this out to reception, hoping that they will get their database sorted out. Other reviewers have also mentioned the illogical layout of the ship, and we would concur to some extent. One of the interior staircases, in midships, was always difficult to find! There are not enough lifts, certainly. We thought the sun deck was fine, but on the few really hot days we had, there was not enough space on the sun deck. Also practically no shade. It isn't really practical to sunbathe on the top deck at the rear on sea days as soot particles are blown there from the funnel. The two pools and hot tubs are fine, and heated appropriately. The rear sunbathing area is the more 'lively' with music and events during the day, especially on sea days. On the plus side, this ship is impressively stable in rough waters. A couple of times during the cruise we were in a Force 6 and you could hardly feel the ship moving at all. Its added length has added to its stability - and its speed. There are four restaurants. The Palms is buffet style, no booking. We ate breakfast and lunch there most days. The choice at breakfast was good, but lunch offered a slightly restricted choice we felt, especially for cold food, which is what we ate mostly at lunchtime. For example, apart from green and vegetable salads, there was usually only one choice of either cold meat or fish. There seemed a better choice of hot food at the buffet. Evening meals were served in two sittings. The main restaurant (Ballindaloch) is quite comfortable but noisy when full, tables a bit close together. There are two other restaurants on the 10th deck, much more spacious, open and very comfortable. Those with cabins on the 9th and 10th decks are allocated there (mostly) it seems, plus a few other favored passengers! (e.g. returnees, Olsen veterans). We ate in the Avon restaurant which was great, excellent service. The food in the evening is the same in all three main restaurants and I would rate the food as good enough, but not outstanding. Sometimes it looked like it had been kept warm for too long. But generally OK. The bars were all comfortable, good service, and drinks reasonably priced. Also good range of wines on the restaurant wine list, including some excellent New Zealand wines from Napier, really good value. Entertainment was a mixed bag. The main shows, done by the resident Olsen team were OK, but most used pre-recorded backing tracks, and in some instances pre-recorded voice, with miming from the team. This led to a lack of spontaneity and warmth and we felt that the musical standards are slipping. There were a couple of comedians, a jazz pianist (so-so) and great musical double act, instrumentalists and singers, called Melody Lane, these two were the highlight of the programme, we didn't get enough of them. The last night Crew Show was great. There was also a 'port lecturer' who was informative enough, nothing special. Excursions (we took one booked from the ship in each port of call) were mostly OK, reasonable value for money. But on a couple of occasions we found we were wasting time in 'shopping traps'. Sometimes these stops had been notified in the itineraries, so we couldn't complain too much about that. However, on one occasion, on a tour run by a local agent in Turkey, we found ourselves at an unscheduled stop for 30 mins in a leather factory showroom, being subjected to hard sell by aggressive staff in a room with no exit sign! We almost felt we had been kidnapped, until we managed to find our way out into the sunshine. When we pointed out to the tour guide that this stop was not on our itinerary, she said that it was included in the description as 'free time in X for shopping'. That was not our idea of free time. The highlight of the tours was a day long tour of Ephesus, really excellent tour, and a stunning archeological site, which we had not visited before. Disembarkation went smoothly, and another excellent flight home with Titan. In all, we were happy, but felt that there are a few issues that Olsen yet have to put right on this ship. We got the feeling, talking to some people who had been on some earlier cruises on the Balmoral, that the early cruises did indeed leave something to be desired, but Olsen have been getting the ship organized since and it is much better. There had been an auxiliary engine failure on an earlier cruise, but they had installed a massive emergency generator system in a huge container on the forward deck, at the bow, just in case the ship's auxiliary engine went down again, so they are taking these issues seriously!! (They had not had to use it so far). Yes, we would take a cruise on this ship again, assuming the destination and price is right Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
The "Black Watch"(28492 tons)is owned by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and is an older ship but one constructed for long-distance cruising. It is spacious and comfortable. When full it carries around 750 passengers. There is a large ... Read More
The "Black Watch"(28492 tons)is owned by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and is an older ship but one constructed for long-distance cruising. It is spacious and comfortable. When full it carries around 750 passengers. There is a large amount of open deck for sun worshippers and a classic wrap-around promenade deck. The public rooms are also impressive with those on the Marquee Deck (library, card room, observatory lounge) especially comfortable. There are two sittings for lunch and dinner (except in port)and open sitting for breakfast in the Grentanar restaurant. There is an alternative dining option in the Garden Cafe. The food is excellent but very much slanted to British and European tastes. The entertainment on board is quite extensive with cabaret, classical concerts and (in the dedicated theatre)films. There are specialist celebrities who give daytime talks on a wide range of subjects. There are also first-class port lecturers who give detailed descriptions of the ports (they avoid the sales lines for shopping found on other lines!). Shore excursions are well-organised if somewhat expensive. On this cruise they were normally half-day trips. On some of the longer cruises they can extend to 2/3 days. The navigation officers are mostly Norwegian, the entertainment staff British and cabin/dining room staff Filipino/Thai/Eastern European. They give a warm welcome and are most courteous and helpful which adds much to the quality and enjoyment of the cruise. This ship's home ports are Dover and Southampton in the UK. However, on this cruise and many others there are fly-cruise sectors available. The majority of passengers are British but there is a always a significant number of other Europeans and a few Americans and Japanese. Dress on this ship tends to be more formal than on many cruise ships. Daywear is very casual but there are at least two formal evenings (tuxedo) each week. On other evenings men are expected to wear jacket and tie. On this cruise we sailed from Dover and called at Lisbon (Portugal),Cartagena (Spain), Kefalonia (Greece), Dubrovnik and Split (Croatia), Venice Italy where it remained overnight, Malta, Gibraltar and La Coruna (Spain) before returning to Dover. They were all interesting ports of call and worth visiting. As is the custom with this cruise line there were ten days at sea to enjoy the full facilities of the ship. This is a ship to be recommended. I have sailed on it several times and all cruises have proved to be memorable experiences. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
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