Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Black Watch is a sleek, stylish, and spacious ship. It’s been operated by Fred. Olsen for over 20 years, but was originally built by Royal Viking Line in 1972 – then named Royal Viking Star – as part of three sister vessels. One of the original sister ships (the former Royal Viking Sky) currently operates with Fred. Olsen as Boudicca. The remaining sister ship (Royal Viking Sea) sails for Phoenix Reisen as Albatros.
Black Watch has something to appeal to all. She has that ocean liner feel about her, with a large sleek bow, spacious teak deck spaces, and large interiors. Her 2016 refurbishment brought a new lease of life to the vessel, proving Fred. Olsen have no plans on retiring this beauty just yet.
Main Deck 5 is home to the Guest Services desk, Shore Tours office, the Port Shop, Boutiques Store, and the Photo Gallery. Lounge Deck 6 is home to the Tea & Coffee Station, where guests can come and make themselves a cup of tea or coffee throughout the day and night. It is situated on the portside entrance to the Neptune Lounge. Also on Deck 6 is a games room, hosting table-tennis and darts. Gaming tables can be found on Lido Deck 7 opposite the Bookmark Café and adjacent to the Lido Lounge. These are open late in the evening, though are rarely used by most passengers. There are no slot machines onboard. A card room is located near to the Explorers Library, where a selection of card and board games can be played. The Future Cruise Sales desk is situated in the corner of the Library.
All cabins on Black Watch received a welcome refurbishment during its winter 2016 dry dock. New carpets and fabrics were fitted, along with a completely new-look bathroom, smart flat screen televisions, a USB charging socket, a safe, and a refrigerator. Cabins vary in size, though all cabins offer adequate space to relax and feel comfortable. The wardrobe space could be a challenge on long voyages, but for the average seven-night cruise, it is manageable. There’s a desk area, with six draws, and room underneath the beds to store most suitcases. A typical cabin features two UK plugs, and two European sockets, along with a USB port. A hairdryer and shampoo/body gel are also supplied in all cabins. Review based on cabin 4019.
Glentanar Restaurant (Lounge Deck 6, fwd)
Compared to what the dining room looked like before, Black Watch’s 2016 refurbishment, the Glentanar Restaurant is almost unrecognisable. What was once a dated, and underwhelming restaurant, has now been transformed into a bright, spacious and modern setting to enjoy a fabulous meal. The Glentanar Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is mainly a self service operation, but with waiter service assisting guests with hot drink options, made-to-order eggs and omelettes, and any additional cooked breakfast options. The usual ‘Full English’ options are available, in addition to a wide selection of juices, pastries, cold meats and cheeses, and cereal. The lunch selection can sometimes be hit-and-miss, although there is always something to enjoy. Lunch is also served buffet-style and two food counters are situated at both entrances to the restaurant. Fish is a popular lunch option, along with pasta. The evening meal is waiter served, and the food is always fantastic. Dishes are perfectly sized to leave you feeling just-right at the end of the meal, rather than bloated. Example dishes include chicken noodle soup, sirloin beef, and treacle tart. The British Dish of the Day is always popular. Several options are available every night. This includes the fish of the day, chicken breast, omelettes, and tomato pasta. All dishes can be served with a vegetable selection, french fries, plus boiled or baked potatoes.
The Orchid Room (Lounge Deck 6, mid)
The Orchid Room is a small, private dining room, partially separated from the Glentanar Restaurant. In the day time it is used as an overflow for the small and chaotic Brigadoon buffet located next door, and is also used in the evenings for private dining or as an additional dining room on busy sailings.
Brigadoon (Lounge Deck 6, mid)
The Brigadoon self-serve buffet offers a selection of lunch time snacks, in addition to afternoon tea. It is also open in the evening as an alternative dining venue to the Glentanar Restaurant. Brigadoon is also open between 11 p.m. and midnight, for any late-night cravings.
The Black Watch Room [£] (Lounge Deck 6, mid)
This intimate dining experience is available for a small charge and replaces the Braemar Garden. Succulent prime cuts of steak, delicious seafood and mouthwatering desserts can be enjoyed in this signature dining venue. In the day time, it’s a pleasant lounge to enjoy a drink from the Morning Light Pub opposite.
The Poolside [£] (Lounge Deck 6, aft)
Weather permitting, The Poolside is open for lunch and an a la carte alfresco evening meal. In the day, the Poolside serves complimentary cooked-to-order burgers and poolside snacks. In the evening, guests can enjoy a romantic meal under the stars. On the menu are several regional dishes from Britain and the ports of call the ship is visiting. A dining charge applies in the evening.
Bookmark Café [£] (Lido Deck 7, mid)
Calling all chocoholics! Head to the Bookmark Café for delectable chocolates, truffles, and speciality teas and coffees by Taylors of Harrogate. Chocolates range from 55p to 85p. The £2.10 hot chocolate is an absolute must try!
The Observatory (Marquee Deck 9, fwd)
The Observatory is a fleet-wide favourite lounge. Offering spectacular views over the front of the ship, the nautical- themed Observatory lounge is a popular place to spend a day at sea. In the evening, the Observatory hosts quizzes, and a live pianist until the late hours.
Morning Light Pub (Lounge Deck 6, mid)
In Black Watch’s recent refurbishment, the Morning Light Pub was moved from the entrance to the Neptune Lounge, to its current position opposite The Black Watch Room. Its proximity to both The Black Watch Room, and the Glentanar Restaurant makes this venue a popular meeting point for a pre-dinner drink. Musicians play here at various times throughout the day.
Lido Lounge (Lido Deck 7, aft)
The Lido Lounge is one of the most popular venues on the ship. In the day, it’s a leisurely place to enjoy a drink with views overlooking the aft terrace area. It’s the evening when this venue becomes its liveliest, hosting the late night disco. On warm nights, or sunny days, the floor-to-ceiling glass walls can be opened to create an open-air dance floor.
Oriental Room (Lounge Deck 6, aft)
A welcome addition to Black Watch is the calming Oriental Room. This bright, stylish, cozy lounge offers a selection of speciality teas.
Explorers Library (Lido Deck 7, mid)
Explorers Library is a leisurely place to relax with a book, and a drink from the Bookmark Café. There’s a range of books on offer here, and is a popular place on a sea day.
Marquee Bar (Marquee Deck 9, aft)
Situated at the aft of the ship, the Marquee Bar is Black Watch’s only outdoor bar. Cozy, sociable seating fill the deck space. In the day, the bar serves a selection of cocktails and speciality wines, and in the evening the bar turns into the Gin Bar, with an impressive selection of gins available.
Neptune Lounge (Lounge Deck 6, aft)
The Neptune Lounge is the main show lounge onboard Black Watch. This is where The Black Watch Show Company perform their production shows. The small raised stage area is used to accommodate the resident live band, which mean the singers and dancers perform on the dance floor. The venue is filled with various seating styles, from large bench seating for groups, to individual rotatable chairs for smaller parties. The Neptune Lounge also hosts visiting performers, such as comedians, singers, and magicians. The Crew Show is a must-see. Usually performed towards the end of the cruise, it’s a chance for guests to experience the amazing talents of the crew who have been serving them during the cruise. Traditional, local dance routines and songs are performed, and is an enjoyable evening for both the guests and crew.
Marina Theatre (Marina Deck 3, fwd)
The Marina Theatre is an impressive cinema, and even more impressive considering the size of the ship. Like a multiplex cinema, the huge Marina Theatre has comfortable elevated seating, a projection room and a large screen, perfect for watching the daily movies shown here.
There’s something magical about a walk along the Promenade Deck on a cruise ship, and Black Watch is no exception. In fact, the outdoor deck space is fantastic and very spacious. On the top deck is a full-sized tennis court and a golf net. Black Watch has two pools, three hot tubs, and two exercise pools, which is very impressive for a ship her size. Also located on the top deck of the ship is the Fitness Centre. The gym is very spacious and features a range of exercise equipment as well as a sauna and treatment room.
Black Watch is a true classic cruise liner, with spacious open teak decks, and venues designed for enjoyment, rather than maximum profit making. Black Watch is perfect for those wanting to relax and meet new people. Black Watch feels comfortable, just like being at home, and its the incredibly friendly crew that shine through, which is what makes cruising on Black Watch truly unforgettable.