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Visit to Black Watch

A week or so ago we did a ship visit to Fred Olsen’s ‘Black Watch’, in Southampton. She’s a very different type of ship from those we’ve been on recently. For example here’s a comparison between Ventura and Black Watch:

Ventura: gross tonnage – 113653, passengers – 3092, year of introduction – 2008;

Black Watch: gross tonnage – 28662, passengers – 775, year of introduction – 1972.

So why were we looking at her? Well, we’ve done a short cruise with Fred Olsen once before, in 2006 – four days from Newcastle to Southampton on Braemar (another very small ship). There were a number of things we liked about that cruise. Chief among them was the intimacy on board- if you bumped into someone and got chatting, you knew there was a good chance that you’d seem them again, whereas on Ventura the chances of bumping into someone a second time by chance are slim. The other thing we enjoyed about Braemar was that the atmosphere on board was very relaxed, and relaxing. Given that there isn’t that much to do, we didn’t feel as if we had to make an effort to do anything; it’s OK to just sit and relax. Which we did… That said, when activities were available they were taken up with gusto. I particularly remember a late-night quiz in one of Braemar’s lounges with several hundred people participating that was both funny and entertaining.

On the other hand, we have enjoyed our up-to-the-minute balcony cabins on both Ventura and Solstice, and we were wondering if we could possibly go back to a cabin without a balcony – there are very few such on Black Watch, and in most cases the balcony is very small. Hence the reason for the visit. So what did we think?

Well, in the event we decided that the cabins were pretty good. The policy of splitting the beds (they can’t be combined into a double) works to some advantage – the bed under the window (or portholes, on the lowest decks) is made up as a settee during the daytime, so in some respects the cabin has more facilities than the standard modern balcony cabins. All Val needs is long pole to poke me with when I snore and she says she’ll be OK.  And the absence of a balcony is made up for by the presence of a classic wrap-round promenade deck, which is much used to sit out on.

There was a reasonable number of bars: we saw several, the Pipers Bar, the Observation Lounge bar and there was one aft by the open deck. There may have been others that we missed. The only areas that weren’t so good was the absence of a proper theatre: the show-lounge looked as if, when it’s full, you’d have some difficulty seeing the stage. We also thought that the dining room look rather cramped.

Will we cruise in her? Well, we’re reassured that we’d be happy in the cabin. We’re booked for this year (Ventura in late May to the western Med) and we’re almost booked for 2011 – Ventura (again) to Venice. After that? – we don’t know. But if we see an itinerary on Black Watch that attracts us, or her sister ship Boudicca, we’ll look closely at it.

Here’s a link to the pictures I took.

One Response to “Visit to Black Watch”

  1. Malcolm Oliver says:

    Hi Tom, I had a great cruise on Black watch some yaers ago. I enjoy the contrast between big new ships and small old ones. Boudicca is almost identical to BW but becuse she had a compete refit more recently her decor across the board is more modern and new, but with some Olsen tarten of course!

    Balmoral is probably the best of the fleet – yet still small-ish.

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