On January 5, I boarded Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Black Watch in the port of Liverpool for a 3-night cruise to Southampton via Dublin. I arrived at Liverpool’s Cruise Terminal, along with our Travel Writer, Anthony, at 1:45 p.m. We quickly checked in and only had to wait 10 minutes until boarding commenced. Black Watch looked very impressive, especially with her newly painted grey hull and red stripe.
We were soon onboard and headed straight to our Inside Cabin (#4057). Our luggage was already waiting inside the cabin, which was very impressive. Although slightly dated, the cabin was a decent size and very comfortable, with the beds configured in an L-shape. The cabin features a spacious wardrobe, plenty of draw space, and a good-sized bathroom. Traditional keys are used to access cabins, rather than the key cards found on the majority of cruise ships.
After visiting the cabin, we began to explore the ship. We headed to the Lido Deck, which has a wonderful teak-decked promenade. 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.
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.
After exploring the rest of the ship, it was time for the muster drill, which was over and done with in no time. Shortly after it was sail away at 4:30 p.m. By this point the sun had begun to set and it was nice to see Liverpool lit up in the early-evening dusk. We had a quick drink in The Observatory, as we waited for Black Watch to slip her moorings. The nautical-themed lounge is one of my favourite venues onboard. I remember thinking the same about it on Boudicca and Balmoral, when I was onboard in 2013. I do prefer the layout of The Observatory on Boudicca though, as Black Watch’s seems considerably smaller due to a different layout. After watching us sail away, we sat in the Explorers Library. It’s a lovely place to relax with a coffee and sensational chocolates from the nearby Bookmark Café. I couldn’t resist trying a few of the different chocolates ‘for research purposes’ of course! There is also a good selection of books to read from the library.
Now we had set sail, the shops were open, so I headed straight in to buy one of the ship models. This has become a tradition of mine to buy one on each ship, ever since my cruise onboard Independence of the Seas in August 2010. I made the mistake of not visiting the shops on the first day onboard Splendour of the Seas, which resulted in them selling out of models. The shop assistant seemed surprised by how quickly I knew what I wanted to buy, especially because she had only just opened the shop.
It was soon time for evening meal in the Glentanar Restaurant. The restaurant was very quiet considering there was only one sitting at 7:30 p.m on this cruise. The restaurant is rather dated, but quite intimate. To start I had the House Salad with Caesar dressing. It was nice, but I would have preferred a proper Caesar Salad. I had an appetising Sirloin Steak topped with garlic and herb butter as my main, which came with roasted potato wedges, balsamic baked tomato, and green beans wrapped in bacon. For dessert, I chose the Opera Slice, with a serving of chocolate ice cream. The meal was delicious, but I came away still feeling like I could have eaten more.
After dinner, we headed to the Neptune Lounge for the evenings performance ‘Musicality’ by the singers and dancers. Compared to the show team on Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas and Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Azores, the show was fantastic. The rest of the evening was spent in the Lido Lounge listening to the talented singers.
The next morning we arrived in Dublin. It was a bitterly cold day, but thankful the skies were clear. We enjoyed a quick buffet-style breakfast in the Glentanar Restaurant at 9 a.m., before purchasing a shuttle ticket for the journey into the city centre. We spent a couple of hours walking along O’Connell Street and the famous Temple Bar area.
We arrived back on the ship for lunch time and decided to try out the room service selection. I had a Caesar Salad and a selection of cakes, while Anthony had a Club Sandwich. The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in the Braemar Room.
As evening approached, it was time for sail away. The weather had deteriorated and it started to rain. The Captain made an announcement shortly before departure saying that it would be a very rough night, with a Force 8. After leaving the shelter of the harbour, the wind quickly picked up.
It was time for dinner. The menu sounded fabulous, and it certainly tasted just a good. To start, I had Roast Beef Rolls, and a delicious hearty Lamb Broth, followed by a meaty Lasagna and a beautiful Chocolate Gateau. After dinner, a comedian performed in the Neptune Lounge. With antique jokes, corny singing, audience participation, and jokes about the ship sinking, he was far from entertaining. I was glad when it ended and that he didn’t do an encore. We spent the rest of the night, once again, listening to the live bands in the Lido Lounge. It was funny watching all those dancing on the dance floor trying to balance as the ship pitched and rolled. The seas were even rougher than earlier and the water in the pool was managing to splash up over onto the next deck above!
After a rough nights sailing, which resulted in a water bottle falling off the table and my rucksack sliding into my face as I slept, it was a leisurely day at sea as we cruised towards Southampton. The seas were calmer, but still choppy and the sun was shining. We woke up just after 11 a.m., so missed breakfast which finished at 10 a.m. Lunch was served from 12 noon, so we went straight up to the Glentanar Restaurant for a buffet lunch. The selection was good, but I found the food to be lukewarm.
After a quick bite to eat, we spent a couple of hours relaxing at the Bookmark Café. This is one of my favourite venues onboard and I love the wide windows that overlook the Promenade Deck. Later that day, we sat in the Garden Café for afternoon tea. There was a decent selection of sandwiches, scones, and pastries.
We braved the elements walking along the teak promenade deck and the upper outer decks, before retreating to the warm conditions of the cabin, where we stayed until dinner. To start, I had Nachos, served with a variety of dips, although I would have liked to have seen a few more nachos served instead of just three. I then had the Chicken Consomme, followed by Beef Choron, a very similar dish to what I had the first night. Nothing took my fancy on the desserts menu, so I opted for a chocolate ice cream.
After dinner, the singers and dancers performed ‘Musical Legends’ in the Neptune Lounge. The show featured songs from the biggest names in music. It was a high energy and dazzling show. After the show, we had a quick drink in the Lido Lounge, before trying out the supper snacks in the Garden Café. The beef and onion pies were amazing!
After a tasty supper, we sailed past Saga Pearl II, which had left Southampton earlier that night. Just after midnight, we were passing Portsmouth, and was alongside in Southampton shortly after 2 a.m. Breakfast the next morning was surprisingly quiet and disembarkation was a breeze.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Black Watch. The ship was very intimate and the crew were always friendly. Black Watch is a true classic cruise liner, with spacious open teak decks, and venues designed for enjoyment, rather than maximum profit making.