Occupation:Retired Medical Doctor
Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Fred Olsen Cruises
Ship: Black Watch
Sailing Date: September 26th, 2005
Itinerary: Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea
We were attracted to this line and cruise, purely because of the Itinerary. It avoided Italy, where we had been many times and visited ports we had never been to before. Its theme was Ancient Civilizations.
As expected on a 28day cruise, there were no children aboard. Of the 800+ passengers there were 4 Americans (including us and 2 others) and 3 Canadians. The rest were virtually all Brits, with an average age of 80. Nonetheless, we felt welcomed and enjoyed a very well traveled clientel. We made several good friends.
The Black Watch was built in 1972 and was last refurbished the spring of 2005. As a smaller, older ship, it was not as grand as other ships we had been on (Holland America and Norwegian) but it was very comfortable with plenty of public space and amenities. It was gyro-stabilized. Because of its smaller size, we only tendered into port twice.
Our junior suite was 240sq ft. and worth the extra cost over the basic rooms. It was well appointed, with plenty of storage and a small refrigerator. Maid service was good although our room was rarely made up before 1PM. It was annoying that bottled water was not provided gratis and cost as much as beer.
The food was plentiful and varied but only just OK. The fish was almost always overdone. Many obviously frozen, single portion items appeared. There was always an English entree and plenty of vegetarian selections. Despite a German head chef, desserts were disappointing. On the other hand, service was prompt, cheerful, and the wait staff was well instructed about proper etiquette. Great attention was paid to health. Hand sanitization was practiced by all passengers and crew on each embarkation and before every meal. We became friendly with the ship's doctor and it was apparent that this not only decreased the risk of gastroenteritis but also colds and flu.
The wine list include 40 whites and 30 reds from all over the world, priced from about 16USD to 24USD. Unused wines were readly stored and returned for the next meal. Drinks at bars were also reasonably priced. Liquor was sold in the ship's store. A liter of Candian Club was about 17USD.
Port lectures were totally free of commercial bias and blended with excellent presentations on History, Art and Architecture. We took the ships tours in every port. Most were above average but with cruisers of this age, you had to be patient with mobility issues. We reserved all tours in advance. If we take another tour, we would scrutinize only those tours that had limited numbers and wait until on board to choose others. If four persons are traveling together, it would probably be better to research and make your own tour arrangements.
I used the Gym regularly. It had dumbells as the only free weighs. There was a fair selection of weight training and aerobic machines. The gym was usually empty and I personally did not miss having a climbing wall or "hyper" sports activities.
We're not dancers or club goers so I can't comment on the entertainment. We enjoyed the piano bar frequently. As expected, much of the humor at shows was British based and lost on us. Classical music presentations and even Opera were a plus.
In summary, this Black Watch cruise was an excellent overall experience of exotic ports in a less hectic manner. The minor disappointments were the food and the expense of the organized tours. We will definitely watch for another cruise in a year or two.