Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Black Watch

Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Cruise StyleMainstream
Ship SizeMidsize

Black Watch has received accolades in the United Kingdom for both its entertainment program and impressive personal service. The colorful cabaret at the Neptune Lounge and panoramic ocean views in the Observatory keep passengers more than satisfied. The inventive cuisine of the Glentanar Restaurant and the ship’s casual eateries, which even serve up authentic fish-and-chips, please the palates. Christened Black Watch after a Scottish regiment, the ship caters to an older crowd, offering numerous onboard activities, and is best known for innovative worldwide itineraries embarking from numerous UK ports.Read More

Launched in 1972, the former Royal Viking Star was built for the luxurious, long-distance cruises for which the now-defunct Royal Viking Line was known. Today’s Black Watch retains much of her inherent grace. Passengers have plenty of space, both on deck and inside, including two freshwater swimming pools and a large fitness center and spa—unusual for a ship of this vintage. Piper’s Bar and Lido Lounge are popular spots for a leisurely drink and conversation, while the Observatory, a spacious lounge high atop the ship, has the best views.

Black Watch last underwent a major refurbishment and redecorating of the public areas in December 2009, including a new casual dining area, the Braemar Garden, which replaced the former Garden Café. New soft furnishings were added to the Neptune Lounge, Piper’s Bar, Glentanar Restaurant, and Observatory Lounge. Today, the ship retains its cozy charm, with neutral and bright tones; however, some areas have lost their “wow” factor with lackluster decor and ambience.

With its Norwegian heritage of seamanship spanning over 150 years, family-owned Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has built a solid reputation of reliability and comfort for its UK-based fleet of smaller ships. Major refitting and refurbishment of old and recently acquired ships since 2008 have earned the company high industry accolades. Two sister ships from the defunct luxury Royal Viking Line, Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky, have reunited under the Fred. Olsen house flag and now sail as Black Watch and Boudicca. The Balmoral and Braemar complete the four-vessel fleet.

Shipboard ambience is friendly, relaxed, and unabashedly British. As Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines expands, the line takes pride in maintaining the consistency their passengers prefer and expect, both on board—in the self-described “British country house” atmosphere—and ashore. Activities and entertainment are traditional cruise-ship fare with a laid-back tempo, albeit on a much smaller scale compared to a typical American megaship. Lectures and the Arts Club special-interest program are popular, with classes in subjects ranging from gardening to painting, history to wine appreciation, and even bird- and wildlife-spotting.

Ballroom dancers outnumber the late-night disco set, and evening entertainment is more cabaret than Vegas. Particular favorites with most passengers are theme nights and the crew show. Cruises range from four-night “mini-breaks” to lengthier 7- to 78-night sailings. British pounds are used for all transactions on board. Although the line is destination-focused—itineraries are seldom repeated within any cruise season—itinerary planning is versatile.

  • 8 passenger decks
  • 2 dining rooms
  • buffet
  • Refrigerator (some)
  • DVD (some)
  • 2 pools
  • Fitness classes
  • gym
  • hot tubs
  • sauna
  • spa
  • steam room
  • 6 bars
  • casino
  • dance club
  • library
  • show room
  • Dry-cleaning
  • laundry facilities
  • laundry service
  • Internet terminal
  • Wi-Fi
  • No-smoking cabins

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Pros
Cons
Reliable friendly service feels personal and warm
Atlantis spa treatments can be pre-booked online or by phone up to 12 months in advance
The ship is family-friendly, with a children’s room and arcade
Lifeboats and life rafts may obscure views from all cabin balconies on decks 8 and 9
Sole occupancy of a cabin with two or more beds is subject to availability at time of booking
British passengers will find they need plug adapters—voltage on Black Watch is 110 volts (U

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Cabins
Layout
Accessibility

Black Watch has spacious air-conditioned cabins and suites. Designed for long-distance voyages, all are equipped with an interactive TV, telephone, lockable drawer, and hair dryer; many have a bathtub–shower combination. Suites have balconies, seating areas, and refrigerators. The top two suite categories have DVD players, welcome-aboard champagne, flowers, fruit basket, and bathrobes for use during the cruise. Numerous cabins are outfitted for single occupancy.

Like many ships of its vintage, Black Watch doesn’t have a large number of balconies, and because cabins aren’t all the same, decor, bed configuration, and furniture layout in the 20 categories vary widely.

Six wheelchairs are permitted on board during any given cruise, and four cabins are modified for wheelchair users.

Food & Drink

Food

Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room of the Glentanar Restaurant—and in a smaller annex off to the side—are generally open seating, although dinner is served in two assigned seatings. The beautiful Orchid Room with its Asian theme is an alternative formal dining area. The Braemar Garden is a casual buffet option for meals and late-night snacks. Casual snacking options are offered near the pools. Light meals from room service are complimentary during limited hours. Don’t miss the formal gala dinner. The theme nights are also passenger favorites.

Entertainment

The nautically themed Lido Bar and Lounge is the perfect spot for drinks. Socialize in the Scottish Piper’s Bar or Braemar Lounge. Mingle in the atmospheric Observatory lounge and piano bar with an inspiring panoramic view. The evening comes alive during cabaret performances in the Neptune Lounge, where passengers sometimes dance to the wee hours. You can also try your luck in a small casino.

Spa & Fitness

The warm volcanic basalt stones of the Sea and Senses treatment gives a moment of sheer bliss at the Atlantis Spa, where trained therapists offer restorative massages, body wraps, and facials. The facility has individual treatment rooms, beauty studio, fitness center, steam room, and sauna. The line recommends early booking (pre-cruise if possible) due to high demand.

QUICK FACTS

SHIP STATS
Entered Service
1972
Number of Cabins
421
Passenger Capacity
807
Crew Members
350
Passengers to Crew Ratio
2.31
Gross Tons
28338
Width
83 feet
Length
674 feet
CRUISE LINE INFO
01/473/742–424

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