I’m currently in the last stages of packing for the next voyage in this year’s series of adventures. In this case, it’s a short, five night cruise from Scotland to Norway and back aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s fabled Black Watch.
This year, the company introduced a range of these short, five night cruises for the first time, sailing from northern ports such as Newcastle’s Port of Tyne and Rosyth, the cruise port for Edinburgh. It is from this latter port that I’ll be embarking on the former Royal Viking Line veteran to three of the loveliest fjords on the cusp of western Norway.
Bracketed by a brace of sea days sailing to and from Norway, the Black Watch will make calls at Flam, Olden and Geiranger, showcasing some of Norway’s platinum chip scenery against the backdrop of the last days of summer. An itinerary that combines the timeless pleasure of life aboard one of the true aristocrats of the cruise industry with one of the most amazing scenic smorgasbords on the planet, at a time sensitive pace, and a at a price that won’t break the bank, either.
En route, I’ll be checking out Fred. Olsen’s legendary cuisine, including the new outdoor dining concept at The Grill, an extra tariff establishment that has been getting rave revues. I’ll also be sampling the extra price, premium afternoon tea, a white gloved extravaganza served up in the lofty heights of the Observation Lounge each afternoon.
Both represent something different and more upmarket for what has always been this most traditional of ships. With her profile resembling a miniature version of the QE2, Black Watch embodies all that is best and timeless about old style cruising, without simply becoming some kind of Victorian theme park afloat.
For example, there is no shortage of spacious suites and cabins with private balconies, many installed in a very comprehensive refit a couple of years ago. And, while the jury is still out on the ‘new’ dove grey paint scheme, Black Watch has all the contemporary creature comforts that a 21st century cruise passenger could want.
It will be interesting to see if the ship has managed to maintain the air of special, personalised intimacy and superb service that I remember her for. Though I visited her recently, I have not actually sailed on Black Watch since 2004.
Hence, I’m looking forward to boarding this very special, highly styled ship. Departure alone should be stunning and dramatic, swinging out and under the fabled Forth Bridge. It will hopefully prove to be a grand appetiser to a wonderful adventure, come rain or shine.
Look out for the blogs and photos to come, as Black Watch and I renew our old acquaintance.