Black Watch - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Black Watch

★★★ +

Berlitz’s Ratings

Ship: 324 out of 500

Accommodation: 130 out of 200

Food: 252 out of 400

Service: 254 out of 400

Entertainment: 62 out of 100

Cruise: 259 out of 400

Overall Score: 1281 out of 2000

Black Watch Statistics

Size: Mid-size Ship

Tonnage: 28,613

Lifestyle: Standard

Cruise Line: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Former Names: Star Odyssey, Westward, Royal Viking Star

IMO Number: 7108930

Builder: Wartsila (Finland)

Original Cost: $22.5 million

Entered Service: Jun 1972/Nov 1996

Registry: The Bahamas

Length (ft/m): 674.1/205.4

Beam (ft/m): 82.6/25.2

Draft (ft/m): 24.7/7.5

Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (13,400kW)/2

Passenger Decks: 8

Total Crew: 350

Passengers (lower beds): 804

Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 35.5

Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.2

Cabins (total): 421

Size Range (sq ft/m): 135.6-819.1/12.6-76.1

Cabins (for one person): 38

Cabins (with private balcony): 43

Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 4

Wheelchair accessibility: Fair

Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts

Elevators: 4

Casino (gaming tables): Yes

Slot Machines: No

Swimming Pools: 2

Hot Tubs (on deck): 3

Self-Service Launderette: Yes

Dedicated Cinema/Seats: Yes/156

Library: Yes

Onboard currency: UK£


This ship provides good value for mature-age cruisers

Overview. Black Watch is a comfortable but not luxurious ship best suited to the older traveler seeking a British cruise environment, wearing relatively formal attire. Cruises are well organized, with interesting itineraries and free shuttle buses in many ports of call.

The Ship. The ship’s name is taken from the famous Scottish Black Watch regiment. There is a good amount of open deck and sunbathing space, and a decent health and fitness area high atop the ship, as well as a wide walk-around teakwood promenade deck with wind-breaker on the aft part of the deck.

The interior decor is quiet and restful, with wide stairways and foyers, soft lighting and no glitz anywhere, though many passengers find the artwork a little drab. In general, good materials, fabrics (including the use of the Black Watch tartan), and soft furnishings give a pleasant ambience and comfortable feeling to the public rooms. Most of these are quite spacious, with high ceilings, and located on one deck in a user-friendly horizontal layout.

An observation lounge, The Observatory, displays nautical memorabilia and has commanding views. Draft beers are available in all bars. The whole ship indoors is a smoke-free zone.

There is a good cinema (few ships today have a dedicated cinema) with a steeply tiered floor.

A popular meeting place is the Braemar Room, a large lounge close to the restaurant; it has a self-help beverage corner for coffees and teas (open 24 hours a day, although it becomes overly busy during afternoon tea time), comfortable chairs, and large ocean-view windows along one side. The Library and Card Room is a very pleasant facility with an adjacent room containing two computer terminals for Internet access. There is a self-serve launderette, useful on the longer cruises, with washing machines, dryers, and irons.

Although it is being well maintained, do remember that this ship is now 40 years old, which means that little problems such as gurgling plumbing, creaking joints, and other idiosyncrasies can occur, and air conditioning may not be all that it should be in some cabins. But the ship still looks good, and is very comfortable. The company suggests gratuities of £4 per passenger per day.

Black Watch offers a moderate standard of service from a friendly, mostly Filipino staff that provides decent, though not faultless, service. There is ample space per passenger, even when the ship is full. Port taxes are included for UK passengers.

The National Express bus operator works in conjunction with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines to provide a dedicated Cruiselink service via London’s Victoria Coach Station to the UK departure ports of Dover or Southampton.

Passenger niggles include: noticeable cutbacks in food variety and quality; packets of butter, margarine, and preserves; very poor coffee; long lines at the cramped buffet; poor wine service; and too few staff for the increased passenger numbers following the addition of more cabins.

Accommodation. There are many cabin price categories (plus one for the Owner’s Suite, whose price is not listed in the brochure). These include four grades of cabin, spread around most of the decks, for solo travelers. The wide range of cabins provides something for everyone, from spacious suites with separate bedrooms, to small, no-view cabins. While most cabins are for two, some can sleep up to five people.

In all grades, duvets are provided, and the decently sized bathroom towels are 100 percent cotton. A hairdryer is provided. And soap and shampoo are available from a wall-mounted dispenser. Suite-grade occupants also get a cotton bathrobe and cold canapés each evening, plus priority seating in the dining rooms.

The suites and cabins on decks 7, 8, and 9 are quiet units. A number of cabins in the aft section of decks 3, 4, and 5 can be uncomfortable, with noise from throbbing engines and generator units a major distraction, particularly in the cabins adjacent to the engine casing. The room service menu is quite limited and could be improved.

Outside-view and interior cabins. Spread across decks 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8, all cabins are quite well equipped, and there is plenty of good (illuminated) closet, drawer, and storage space. Some bathrooms have awkward access, and insulation between some of the lower grade cabins could be better. The bathrooms are of a decent size. Some cabins have a small bathtub; others have only a shower.

Deluxe/Bridge/Junior Suites. These suites, on decks 7 and 8, have a large sleeping area and lounge area with ocean-view picture windows and refrigerator, plenty of hooks for hanging bathrobes, outerwear, and luggage; and a bathroom with tub and shower (cabin 8019 is the exception, with a shower only).

Marquee Suites. These suites have a large sleeping area and lounge area with bigger ocean-view picture windows and a refrigerator, more hooks for hanging bathrobes, outerwear, and luggage; and a bathroom with tub and shower.

Premier Suites. Each of these nine suites is named after a place: Amalfi (9006), Lindos (9002), Nice (9004), each measuring 547.7 sq ft/50.8 sq m; Seville (9001), Singapore (9003), Carmel (9005), Bergen (9007), Waterford (9009), each measuring 341.7 sq ft/31.7 sq m; and Windsor (9008), measuring 574.8 sq ft/53.4 sq m. They each have a separate bedroom with ample closet and other storage space, a lounge with large windows (with large television and video player, refrigerator, and minibar), and bathroom with full-size tub and shower, and separate toilet.

Owner’s Suite. Measuring 819.1 sq ft/76.1 sq m, it includes a large balcony, and consists of a foyer leading into a lounge, with sofa, table and chairs, audio center (TV/audio system), refrigerator and minibar. A separate bedroom has a double bed, and ample closet and drawer space. A second bedroom has two bunk beds - good for families with children. The bathroom is large and has a full-size tub, separate shower, toilet, and two washbasins. The balcony has space enough for a table and six chairs, plus a couple of sunloungers. It is located just aft of the navigation bridge on the starboard side of the ship.

Dining. The Glentanar Dining Room has a high ceiling, a white sail-like focal point at its center, and ample space at each table. The chairs have armrests, and are quite comfortable. The Orchid Room is a smaller offshoot of the dining room, which can be reserved for more intimate, quieter dining. While breakfast and lunch are typically in an open-seating arrangement, there are two seatings for dinner. Passengers help themselves from two cold food display counters during breakfast and lunch.

The Garden Café is a small, more casual dining spot with a light, breezy decor. It sometimes has themed dinners, such as French, Indian, or Thai. There is a self-help salad bar and hot food display. This is also the place for late-night snacks.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has above-average cuisine that is attractively presented, with a good range of fish, seafood, meat, and chicken dishes, and has a good selection of cheeses as well as vegetarian options. There is a decent range of wines, at really moderate prices, but few of the stewards have much knowledge of wines. Coffee and tea are always available in the Braemar Room, next to the Glentanar Restaurant.

Entertainment. The Neptune Lounge, the ship’s showlounge, seats about 400, although some sight lines are obstructed by pillars. The entertainment mainly consists of small-scale production shows presented by a small team of resident singers/dancers, and cabaret acts. Standards are quite poor though, to be fair, passengers who cruise aboard this ship are not especially looking for first-rate entertainment, but rather something to fill the time after dinner. There is plenty of live music in several lounges, and there are good British singalongs.

Spa/Fitness. The spa/fitness facilities are located at the top and front of the ship - inaccessible for wheelchair users. There is a combined gymnasium/aerobics room, while a door provides access to steam rooms, saunas, and changing rooms. Sample treatment prices: Elemis Aromapure facial: £29; Well-being massage (50 minutes): £35; Personal Training Session (60 minutes): £20. Steiner’s staff will try to sell their own-brand Elemis beauty products. Some fitness classes are free, while some, such as yoga and kick-boxing, cost extra. It’s prudent to make appointments as early as possible. Sports facilities include a large paddle tennis court, golf practice nets, shuffleboard, and ringtoss.