Black Watch Review
- Pros: A friendly, elegant ship with excellent food, entertainment and service
- Cons: In need of its forthcoming refurb and some cabins are small
- Bottom Line: A traditional vessel with a country house ambience.
Black Watch Overview
Editor's note: Black Watch will undergo significant refurbishment in November 2016, which will include, upgraded in-cabin technology, new restaurants, new decor and new designs for the pubs and bars onboard.
Built in Finland, this ship started life in 1972 as the Viking Star, and at the time was regarded as one of the most luxurious cruise ships in the world. After two brief acquisitions by other cruise lines, it was bought by Fred. Olsen in 1996 and renamed Black Watch. In common with the rest of the Olsen fleet, Black Watch has a devoted following of regular cruisers; and the majority say they would never want to sail on any other line.
Black Watch really does hark back to the days when cruise ships were all about their sleek lines, stylish design and onboard ambience. Crew have been on this ship for years, and guests likewise -- with one of the highest repeat rates in cruising.
The ship is minute compared to the modern-day behemoths and Fred. makes a virtue of this, proudly declaring: "Focusing on providing a traditional cruise experience rather than gimmicks such as climbing walls and on board bumper cars, Black watch feels friendly and familiar."
And it's true -- it does. Staff are attentive and smiling, and you'll find after a day or two onboard (or if you've returned), will remember your favourite drink or where you like to sit in the main dining room.
There's no disguising the fact, however, that the ship is well into its middle age -- and it shows -- with many fixtures, fittings and upholstery needing a refurb. The good news is it's set to have one in November 2016, which will see a significant number of venues redesigned or moved.
In keeping with the rest of the Fred. fleet, Black Watch sails from a number of ports around the U.K.
Black Watch Fellow Passengers
The ship attracts mostly British passengers in the mature age group, although children are welcome on most sailings and a programme is provided for them. Ours was an adult-only cruise (18 years and over), but there were quite a few younger people travelling with relatives and all the age groups mixed well. Fred. Olsen passengers are mostly mature British couples. They are an extremely sociable and outgoing group, and passengers travelling alone soon make friends.
Black Watch Dress Code
There are usually three formal nights and one special night. Formal wear is defined as dinner jacket or dark suit and tie for the men, cocktail or evening dress for the ladies. There was due to be a British night -- when guests are asked to wear something red, white and blue -- or if they aren't British their own flag colours. We only had one formal night as the rest had to be cancelled due to the onboard fire, but several people still dressed up quite a bit in the evenings. On the formal night the majority of men were in dinner jackets and ladies in some sequined outfits, and some more subdued. Normal evening wear is defined as smart casual; open neck shirts with collars for gentlemen and casual separates or summer dresses for ladies. Many ladies choose to wear - something a little more elaborate. Daytime wear is usually trousers or shorts and T-shirts. Passengers are asked not to wear swimsuits in the restaurants.
Black Watch Gratuity
A gratuity of £4 per person, per day for passengers aged 12 and over is automatically added to the onboard account. This is divided between the cabin steward and restaurant waiter. Gratuities are discretionary, and can be adjusted or removed onboard the ship if passengers wish. They can also be pre-paid prior at the time of booking, with 15 percent charged as part of the deposit and the rest when the final balance is paid. The currency used on-board is pounds sterling.