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Black Watch Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
151 Reviews

Good cruise: rushed, expensive shore tours a disappointment. Service issues

Black Watch Cruise Review by Steviemk14a

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Aug 2016
  • Destination: Europe
  • Cabin Type: Balcony Suite

Taste of Iceland (and Faroes).

Third F.O cruise. We have gradually moved up decks each cruise and travelled paying near top-price for a suite this time.

Four negative experiences took the edge of an otherwise excellent cruise. They were:

1. F.O's paper map (and website) detailed the approach to the Rosyth port as via the town from the north. Like others including taxi drivers we found this was out of date - a barbed wire perimeter fence is erected across F.O's map! Actual port access is two miles to the east via a new flyover and roundabout (much closer to the M90/Forth bridge in fact). Should have trusted the car's GPS and ignored the cruise operator's information.

Admittedly the basic nature of Rosyth as a cruise terminal was described in advance but the bomb site-like nature of the long stay car park was not. We unloaded our luggage like all the others in the open and left it there with a promise it would be collected. We hoped so. A bus to the terminal and another bus to the ship worked reasonably well though. It would have been soaked if it had been raining on embarkation or disembarkation.

2. Two examples of really snappy and rude catering staff this time, unlike before. We pad the extra for the Afternoon Tea but were greeted by someone in charge who clearly was rattled by not being ready for us/tea. We sat in an overcrowded lounge with other non-tea taking passengers who not unreasonably wanted to enjoy the views of leaving the Faroes. They/he was just not ready to serve tea. The scones are a minuscule mouthful by the way, someone saving half a penny per passenger?

Second was a disbelieving steward in the Orchid Room restaurant (a rather pointless annex off the main dining room we thought) who demanded to see the paper proof we were entitled to eat in there in front of the guests and left us standing while he checked up on someone's error. We were right, settings had to then be provided. Did he say sorry? Fortunately our table partners were excellent company for the nine days.

3. Service in the Orchid Room came nowhere near the high standards we enjoyed on the previous two cruises: indifferent, error-prone, lacking any meaningful contact with the guests, what a difference. No extra tip this time.

4. Shore tours. In summary, these were rushed, time at advertised destinations minimal and in one case not as advertised. We booked for five, one at each port. The first one to the Skalanes Nature reserve (tour D), was advertised with a half page picture of running reindeer and a description including the 45 types of bird on the reserve. When we eventually got there after an unnecessary tour of the port town and a forced change of buses (to a fwd one), we saw ten domesticated ducks and a labrador dog. No host in sight, no wildlife, no information to hand - a case of riding the Icelandic tourism boom? Take the money and…The refreshments were pleasant but slight and it seemed somewhat comical having 35 people wandering around a domestic house and grounds looking for a toilet…Our local tour guide was otherwise very good though. (£88 each).

Second tours fault - rushed - we had a bare 45 minutes in the hot volcanic spring pools at two locations, spent hours getting there on the coach and could easily have set off earlier with proper planning. A mere 45 minutes in the Blue Lagoon after allowing for the rigorous changing room procedures out of a port stay of over nine hours just isn't good enough. (£72 each).

Similarly, a visit to an interesting botanical garden (not the oldest one as the F.O guide says, we discovered), was honed down to 20 minutes out of three hours, and eight of those minutes were taken up walking to/from the separate coach park. Pretty poor really.

One cruise highlight. The captain stopping (near enough) in the fjord leaving Akureyri to watch for whales, who duly obliged, one Ridgeback surfacing right alongside the ship just below us on the open boat deck. Fantastic. Saved £70 each on a whale-watching boat trip.

Of the elderly ship, all is spotless and one would be hard-pressed to find a single dent, scrape or paint blemish. Imagine having to mildly grumble about the smell of polish on the handrails. The ship's company show was again the best feature of the organised evening entertainment we thought. Unlike the previous two cruises, the photographer made noticeably less effort to be creative/take money off us! Not even one attempt to sell us some expensive picture frames! The coffee shop inserted into the library lounge on this and the other ships provided excellent coffees at not unreasonable prices with exquisite attention to detail from the staff.

Good while it lasts. This ship had suffered a fire and lost a cruise earlier this summer. One wishes the F.O formula will go on forever but maybe the supply of retired Brits will diminish as the four old or ageing ships reach withdrawal dates? We booked another cruise while on board. Make the most of it while it lasts.

Steviemk14a's Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Public Rooms
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Balcony Suite
Cabin BS 9909

Excellent suite, not large but beautifully finished and in first class condition throughout. Reasonable bathroom with a real bath and twin sinks. Maid was discrete but attentive. Good supply of fruit each day and quite reasonable, varied canapés.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Lots of coach travelling but little time at the pool. Site was neat and tidy but catering very expensive. One small self service coffee and one average size ham and salad roll - £9.50 +/-.

View All undefined undefined Reviews
Blue Lagoon

Expensive and rushed. In port all day but tour only timed for an afternoon departure only, hence barely 45 minutes in the water after going through the rigorous changing room procedures. Expensive catering, crowded environment.

View All 52 Blue Lagoon Reviews

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