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6 Fred. Olsen Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

Saw this advertised on our first ever cruise last April, and we were not disappointed. The Panama canal was awesome, and the South Pacific a lifetime experience. The lectures especially Peter on port excursions was funny and to the ... Read More
Saw this advertised on our first ever cruise last April, and we were not disappointed. The Panama canal was awesome, and the South Pacific a lifetime experience. The lectures especially Peter on port excursions was funny and to the point. James Fraser and the photography lectures were excellent my husband and I learnt such a lot, now I know how to use my camera on the phone, tablet and hand held camera. Please can he join our next cruise in July. We enjoyed the trip dispite the noisy neighbours in the next cabin so much that we rejoined the ship in Dubai 3 weeks after leaving in Brisbane, Australia. So we travelled section 2 and 4 of the world cruise. The other guests were delightful especially on our dinner table for both segments. The stewardess for cabins, bar and restaurant were helpful and friendly. A huge Thank you to the chaplain rev Richard frost and Jill his wife, the morning service on cruise days were always thoughtful. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This was our third cruise on Black Watch and we were a little concerned that standards had deteriorated, following a few mediocre reviews - not so. The standards of service and quality of food were outstanding. It is an old ship and ... Read More
This was our third cruise on Black Watch and we were a little concerned that standards had deteriorated, following a few mediocre reviews - not so. The standards of service and quality of food were outstanding. It is an old ship and a number of minor issues arose during the cruise, which were dealt with rapidly and professionally by Guest Services. It is a relatively small ship and the charm of this is that we got to know, quite well, a fair number of like minded passengers. The itinerary was excellent, although trips arranged by Black Watch are quite expensive. If you are relatively active and a little adventurous, you can always find fellow passengers to share taxis etc. at considerably less cost. Optional activities on board such as bridge (Terry), choir singing (Margaret), historical talks ( John Waters ) dancing etc were first class. Very well done again, Black Watch. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
I'm a single lady who was on the last leg of this world cruise. Was given a very old fashioned cabin (6100) inside that had not been cleaned properly ie.sheets dirty,duvet stained,bin not emptied, even found a pill in my bed base that ... Read More
I'm a single lady who was on the last leg of this world cruise. Was given a very old fashioned cabin (6100) inside that had not been cleaned properly ie.sheets dirty,duvet stained,bin not emptied, even found a pill in my bed base that never was removed from previous guest, so that was my first impression of this very dated unclean ship. The pool was never cleaned although Fred Olsen will insist it's cleaned at night, but when you see the same rubbish on the bottom every day you know it hasn't. The sun loungers were also dated and dirty and never wiped down. Part of the floor in the Palms Cafe was fetched up and replaced over a period of days and the rubbish was wheeled through the kitchen and all this was going on whilst still serving food in there. The entertainment on board was ok if you are in your eighties and enjoyed bridge etc. There wasn't any deck entertainment like ice or fruit carvings, singers, music or dancing only a couple or so of Carribean sail away parties that lasted about half an hour. The Fred Olsen entertainment team only did a couple of shows a week. On top of all this I was attacked by a man on one of their tours who was also a passenger on the ship and inspite of making a full incident report to chief of security I was left in fear with no back up support from Fred Olsen what so ever. On return home I have sent a letter of complaint only to receive a letter back from them making excuses for everything and more or less calling me a lier and they really don't care that I will not sail with Fred Olsen again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We (my wife and I) flew out to Peru to catch the last leg of the world cruise back to Southampton, and almost literally pushed the boat out to take a Premier Suite (their top suite). We expected superb service, but that was in part a big ... Read More
We (my wife and I) flew out to Peru to catch the last leg of the world cruise back to Southampton, and almost literally pushed the boat out to take a Premier Suite (their top suite). We expected superb service, but that was in part a big let-down. I'm disabled, and asked for assistance at the airport and ship. The airport was great with this. Coming from oop north, we stayed at the Hilton (package included parking) the previous night, and it was probably a good job we did. The rumour mill on the ship said that some 16 passengers missed the flight (a charter by Fred Olsen) due to a car crash on the Gatwick approach road, though I believe they did catch up with the ship at a later port. The hotel was OK but no better, but they arranged wheelchair assistance for me from the hotel right through to boarding the aircraft. For reasons unknown, they don't actually advertise this, and we found out only by accident. But a superb service it is, and they should make more of it. The flight was with Pullmantur, and I'd never heard of them (a small, Spanish charter company). We were on a 747-400, and had upgraded seats. These seats were on the upper deck, and were full business class seats and service. Service (and comfort) was excellent, and a lot of passengers (including the standard class passengers) were congratulating the crew on providing such good service. I'd certainly fly with them again! Unfortunately, the ship did not do as well. It provided no help for me (a wheelchair was required) for embarkation (nor for disembarkation). Not an impressive start! However, check-in was pain-free, so the embarkation was not a real problem. Taken to our cabin, our cabin attendant (CA, named Beth) greeted us and vanished. She came back with some sparkling wine, but only ran through the facilities when we asked her to (there were several things that were not obvious). Unfortunately, that was the start of poor service that went on almost every day for the rest of the trip. She cleaned OK, but it was done at her convenience, not ours. If there was a separate category for the CA, it would have a zero rating. The cabin was huge (about 550 sq ft, or 50 sq mtrs), though quite a lot of that space was dead because of the design (essentially two long cabins with a partial partition between them). It was still a great deal more space that we were used to, and it was pleasant to be able to sit in there. There was also a decent balcony, which was very good when we were in South America and the Caribbean but of no use when crossing the Atlantic! We got this cabin because of the length of the cruise, and it was well worth it for us. However, the smaller suites were probably better value for money. That first night, we were too late for the first sitting at dinner (which is the sitting we'd asked for), so we ate in the buffet restaurant. That was a bit of a mistake, as the quality was rather poor, and we didn't eat there again in the cruise. Overall, then, we'd not had a good introduction to the cruise. We mainly ate in the main dining room, with waiter service. The waiters, on a couple of occasions, asked me to move once I'd sat down, though at considerable inconvenience to myself. Apparently, they'd have had to go slightly further to walk round me if I hadn't moved. Never met that before! There was lots available for breakfast, but the theme of the food for me was the lovely, fresh bread rolls -- I'm missing that now I'm home. Food generally in the main restaurant was good, though not excellent. My wife struggled, as things she liked were often paired with things she disliked. Not a problem with separates (like veg), but a real problem with sauces and the like. Still, she didn't starve. The meat chef must have been on holiday, though. Medium steak would come out rare, really well done would be medium rare, and rare came out sometimes rare and sometimes uncooked. There were quite a few comments about this. And portion sizes were so variable. Roast chicken was half a chicken as a main course; garlic mushrooms as a starter comprised 4 small (about 12mm, or half an inch, across) mushrooms -- thank goodness I didn't sneeze! Someone in the reviews has mentioned fine dining, but it was a long way from that. The only thing that reminded me of fine dining was the small size of some of the dishes! One thing I can recommend: the fish and chips from the Marquee Bar. The fish was really sweet, and turned out to be an Asian river fish (no, I can't remember the name). This dish was excellent, and very popular. The waiters, once you'd been there a couple of days, were excellent. Our regular (dinner) waiter kept an eye open for us at the other meals, and waved us over to a suitable table. He served us well, and anticipated many of our likes and dislikes as well as my mobility problems. But the best part was that he (and others) involved themselves in our foibles! I'm a Daffy Duck fan, and it was DD's "birthday" on 17th April (he was 75!). I arranged a party for him at dinner that night, and everyone entered into the spirit of it. Our waiter sat a Jester puppet of Daffy on a wine glass; we had the usual song of "Happy Birthday to Daffy" sung by 6 or so waiters and a couple of officers; and they shook Daffy's hand at the end! I've never enjoyed a birthday so much. And after that, I was called Mr Daffy (or just Daffy) by a number of the waiters. (And yes, Daffy enjoyed his party as well.) I'm not a great one for shows -- I'm particularly picky about singers -- but I went to watch a magician and comedian (Mandy Muden) and watched bits of a couple of shows on the inboard TV system. The one I went to was truly excellent, and I would willingly have paid to go to see her (that says a lot for me!). The singers I watched on TV, though, I didn't like at all, though my wife enjoyed them. What was strange was that only part of the shows were put on TV. Some were not shown at all, while some were broadcast missing the first few (up to 15) minutes. And no mention was made of this "feature". We did have a longish bout of what the Captain called "stomach flue" but what everyone thought was norovirus, and a stupid film kept being played over and over again about washing hands, and why it was important; and this took precedence over a lot of the televised shows. There were other oddities, such as the mobile network going down for 2 days or so and not announced, but incredibly tall tales being given when I queried this; and our ship position being given on screen as Antigua right through to our arrival in Southampton. But generally the ship was a nice experience, though as others have said the passengers had a lot of infirm people amongst them (including me). As for trips, we didn't go on many, as we'd been to the Caribbean before. My wife was really impressed with Lima, and loved the city tour. She would like to go back there again. Manta (Ecuador) was interesting, and we went on a tour that took us to a market that sold, among other things, the panama hat. I had no idea that these came in multiple grades, basically from coarse to fine, with prices that ranged from $30 or so up to $300 or so. The other highlight was the Tagua (nut) factory, where they created sculptures out of these nuts (which are often called "vegetable ivory"). These were very nicely done, and we bought several of them. On a previous cruise, we had bought one at St Maarten, but they were much cheaper here. Next came the main feature for us: the transit of the Panama Canal. I'm not going to try to describe it, because I couldn't do it justice. While the first couple of miles of the canal itself looked like (and was, I think) a mining operation, perhaps partly because they are enlarging the lock gates to take bigger ships, the real scenery started in the Gatun Lake. It was worth the trip just to see this. Our next trip was a horse and carriage ride in Cartagena, Columbia. This was very interesting, though I was disappointed with the standard of English of our driver. The combination of the carriage and the street surfaces made it difficult to take photos, though. St Maarten was a bit of a let-down, as it was Sunday and a lot of places were closed. Even the shops at the terminal had a lot closed! Still, I managed to get a couple of bottles of rum, so the important souvenirs were obtained! Our last tour was at Ponta Delgada, which my wife did on her own. The place looks very nice, and my wife absolutely loved it. She now wants to go there for a week or two to look round properly. My one standard moan (for all cruise ships so far) is that the activities provided are boring, and I don't bother with them. This makes 23 nights on a ship about a week too long, and I'd think twice about going on another long cruise like this one. Having said that, we chatted to several people who'd been on the full 106 days of the world cruise, and no-one had cut their own throat. There must be a knack to surviving that length of time! Once we arrived in Southampton, we had the usual hassle of getting off the ship. I should have had wheelchair assistance, but that wasn't provided. And it was a very long walk from the ship to the point where we picked up a coach to Gatwick (to collect our car for the drive north). Fred Olsen really does need to sort itself out with regard to helping passengers who ask for wheelchair assistance. Overall, then, the cruise was interesting, though Beth's poor performance made it quite disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Travelled with my wife, this was our first experience with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, after having done the obligatory research initially. A well organised event - a Fred Olsen charter flight for some 370 cruisers aboard a Pullmantur ... Read More
Travelled with my wife, this was our first experience with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, after having done the obligatory research initially. A well organised event - a Fred Olsen charter flight for some 370 cruisers aboard a Pullmantur Air Jumbo 747 from Gatwick to Callao (Lima) was a pleasant experience, perhaps the most comfortable charter we've ever travelled on, with comfortable seats, plenty of legroom, seemingly continuously being fed & watered, toilets regularly cleaned by cabin crew during flight (something regular airline could learn). Upon arrival in Lima, clear directions through all formalities and onto the coaches taking all to the ship. The Black Watch itself is a tired old lady, but with a certain faded dignity - our cabin, rather optimistically called a "Superior Outside Double" was for us rather small and cramped, with no room for twin beds side by side, all be it with a small picture window as against portholes - one bed was along a cabin wall, the other against the outer bulkhead, set in "L" shaped configuration. Clear signs of wear & tear (scratch marks on dressing table, one draw not fitting properly, loose shower head, etc), but comfortable beds none the less. The in cabin TV was still was still one of the old box type, with sometimes a fuzzy picture - these days, we would have expected a slim flat screen set. The air conditioner struggled in the South American climate, even at the coolest setting, and sound insulation between cabins was an issue. Everything generally worked OK though, and unlike some cruise liners, tea/coffee making facilities were in situ. The Glentanur Restaurant was well fitted out, service quite attentive, with variation and quality of food generally very good indeed, as was the service. However, the finesse wasn't quite there, when compared to other cruises we've made on larger vessels - for example, all main dishes came with veg already on the plate, whether you wanted any or not (on the RCL and Celebrity boats, these were served separately by your table waiter, with more choice), and the waiting staff could have had a little more training (e.g. waiters often taking short cuts by leaning over and in front of you when serving other diners, rather than going round the table to serve them). We never used the Garden Cafe, or the Marquee Grill, so cannot comment. The entertainment provided in the evenings in the Braemar Lounge was excellent, and frankly exceeded expectations. The Black Watch Show Company provided quality floor shows, clearly well rehearsed on every occasion, and the quality of "imported" acts also in the same bracket. Upon arrival in St Johns (Antigua), there was to have been a changeover of entertainers & lecturers, but due to a flight cancellation at Gatwick, the replacements never arrived. The Cruise Director, Ashley Bolton-Burrows and his team pulled out all the stops, and provided alternative entertainment every day & evening, by organising crew talent (and it's surprising what can arise from below deck..!) into performing for passengers, and persuading some passengers to give talks on some of their experiences. Full marks must go to him and his staff. All (other) lounges and bars were pleasant, as were the staff servicing them, and drinks were about UK pub prices, with minimum price for a bottle of wine about £15 - £16 (for the dining room as well). The library had a large selection of all types of reading matter, so there was never any shortage. The Wifi was available, but only at certain "hot spots", and VERY costly (£25 purchased 146 mins of online time, about 18p per minute - and the connection is SLOW..!) During the voyage, a minor epidemic of "stomach flu", or some such tummy bug made a threatening appearance, with about 40 of the 721 passengers affected but the stringent hygiene practices and restrictions put in place kept matters from getting out of hand, and all credit due to the Doctors and their staff. Previous research seemed to put the average age of the predominantly British passengers as +/-60, but it certainly appeared to be MUCH more than that - my wife and I are in our mid-70s, and we felt (and looked) like young striplings by comparison to some. Taking the voyage as a whole, we THOROUGHLY enjoyed the complete experience, and the "friendly" atmosphere the ship and her crew generated - one can understand why Fred Olsen have such a loyal following. Would we rate the Black Watch 4 or 5 star..? No, 3 - 4 star is about right. Would we cruise on the "Black Watch" again..? Probably not, simply because we prefer cabins with balconies so that we can sleep with fresh air and not canned air, which we think caused our coughs & colds.. (there are balcony cabins on the Black Watch, but one of those costs an arm & several legs..). Would we use Fred Olsen again..? Yes, probably, as we like Fred Olsen as a cruise line, but only when they get hold of some more modern ships. Meanwhile, we'll stick to balcony cabins on other vessels... Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Having booked this cruise over a year ago at what we were told was a very advantageous price and then having been hit by a fuel surcharge we were not amused to see the cruise being heavily discounted to less than two thirds of what we ... Read More
Having booked this cruise over a year ago at what we were told was a very advantageous price and then having been hit by a fuel surcharge we were not amused to see the cruise being heavily discounted to less than two thirds of what we paid. When we complained they reluctantly gave us a free upgrade from an inside to an outside cabin with a porthole, others who didn't complain did not get any upgrade! It was very annoying to see other people getting superior cabins to us for far less than we had paid. The Thomson flights were good and it was great that the luggage was delivered straight to the cabin from the boat. However, the embarcation at Barbados was dreadful. We waited over two hours to get on the boat. Our cabin was very small, it could only really be described as just about adequate. Other cabins we saw were no larger. It was great to have a teatray in the cabin especially as both the tea and coffee on the boat were terrible - you couldn't really tell the difference between them. The waiting staff obviously couldn't either as on one occasion when I asked for a refill they poured coffee on top of my tea! Our cabin stewardess was excellent and very unobtrusive. Our room had always been done by the time we came back and it was kept very clean. I have to say that the standard of cleanliness and hygiene on the boat left something to be desired. There was no one to ensure that you sanitised your hands before going into the restaurant or getting back on the ship. The staff didn't manage the buffet either. On numerous occasions I saw guests picking up the food with their fingers and not using the tongs provided. I also didn't really see anyone cleaning the railings on the ship and on several occasions I noticed that the toilets were not clean and/or the automatic flushing system didn't work. The quantity and quality of food on offer was good and there was a good variety to choose from. The main dining room was however very noisy. Both the restaurant and bar service were a bit hit and miss, sometimes you were served well and sometimes you weren't. I have never experienced this on any other cruise line. Fred Olsen are obviously having difficulty in filling their ships and are having to cut prices to do so. It would then appear that they are cutting corners on service, cleaning etc. They appear to have a loyal following but in my opinion the service we received on this cruise was not up to the standard we have experienced on other lines. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
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