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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Cruise Review

The Ship

Fred Olsen Black Watch, 700 passengers and with a few miles on the clock, so plenty of maintenance to do. For her age she is not in too bad a nick, but does feel a bit dated along side more modern cruise ships. That said, she has lots of loyal followers, so she must be doing something right.


We had an inside on deck 3 at the aft end of the ship. For an inside it was large enough, with plenty of wardrobe space, the bathroom has a shower only, and was not the biggest I have seen, but adequate for its purpose. When we arrived onboard, the sealant around the bottom of the shower had seen better days. But even without a complaint, it was noticed by staff and replaced without fuss.


All the ports were excellent, with the exception of the Faroe Island, as there did not seem much to do. The other ports, either on a tour or just a walk round gave a good varied selection.


The weather was as you would expect for this time of year, snow in Tromso and Alta where it snowed for nearly the whole time we spent there.

The cruise gods were exceptionally kind with the sea. When we were on Oriana this time last year, I remember 10 metre swells, but this year beside a few occasions where it got a little lumpy, it has been fine.


The Theatre Show company have been excellent, not only in their shows, but also with all the other activities they have performed around the ship.

Out of the speciality acts, I thought only Lee Caroll, the comedian, was worth watching 

Lots of quizzes during the day ( if you like that sort of thing ), but I have to say, our performance has been abysmal on this cruise.

The lectures on the northern light and solar eclipse were well attended and seemed to go down well withe the audience 


We ate breakfast and lunch mostly in the Garden Cafe, which is the buffet on Black Watch. This is however no bun fight, with white table cloths and lots of staff. Far better than anything P&O has to offer.
We also ate there one night when they had an Asian buffet.
All good quality food, but nothing outstanding.
Of an evening we ate in the MDR, 1st sitting on a table of 6. Our table companions, Chris and Gordon and Jean and George were great company. The food, as with the buffet was OK, but nothing special, but the Lobster was not too shabby 😜

The crew
Excellent and can not do enough for you is all I can say really, well done to all

Putting aside that  Black Watch is not my favourite Fred Ship, this has been an excellent cruise. I think the Captain at the farewell cocktail party last night summed it up by saying, " you have done more in this cruise, than some people do in a life time".

For me the high light was the Solar Eclipse. I have seen them before on land, but to be at sea was quite magical and difficult to describe, but it will remain with me until I say goodbye to this world

Thank you all for taking the time to read the blogs, and to Sue who makes sure I do not have too many spelling mistakes

And just to finish with, a final photo from our trip in Alesund

So until Azura

Bye bye

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Black Watch Solar a Eclipse Part XI

As with all cruises, we have sadly reached our last port, that of Alesund.

We were docked by 0800, with slightly overcast skies, but they did improve throughout the day.

Our tour was not until 1000, so we had a lazy breakfast before we left.

A short walk along the quay, and we boarded our Catamaran for our 3 hour cruise in Hjorundfjord, now this is not the cheapest tour we have ever taken at £85pp, however, it was one of the best.

I spent nearly all three hours on deck taking photo and video, it was breathtaking in parts.

On our return, it was a quick lunch, then as we docked extremely close, it was a walk into town.

I will leave you with just a few of the many photos I took today.

I will of course post a cruise review over the next couple of days, and will post links to the hundred of photos I have taken this cruise.

Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment on the blogs, and if I have not bored you too much, we are off again on P&O Azura in April.

So until then bye bye 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part X

Well so much for our lazy sea day yesterday (Wednesday) but as we passed some much amazing scenery that you just had to be on deck to enjoy it.

Later in the afternoon we also left the Arctic Circle and passed the monument marking this 

They also held a raffle and sweepstake in aid of the RNLI, who Fred have been supporting for many years now.
We won a Fred Olsen luggage label, only cost me £20 in tickets 😜😜 but well worth it.

After dinner we had a cabaret show by James, who used to be a production singer but on this cruise is working in admin, and very good he was too singing a selection from 50 years of musicals 

We then had the second show from Lee Caroll, the comedian, he is very funny with a silly non offensive act.

At the end of the show the CD announced that the Northern Lights had been seen from the aft deck, well it was quiz time, but after that I donned some warm clothing and went on deck which was quite busy.
And there in all their glory putting on a great show were the Northern lights

At the same time James Hadley from the current show team performed his cabaret in the lido lounge which was just by the aft deck.

So it was all very busy with passengers coming and going to see the lights. James show was full of energy and his vocals were excellent

So after all this excitement there was only one thing to do, have another drink, and boogie the night away.

Well it was Sue that had the moves 😜

And so for us it was a late night as we made it back to the cabin at 0100.

We docked at Trondhim at 1000 today and just took the shuttle bus into town for a walk round.

Tomorrow sees us in our last port of Alesund, where we have finally managed to book a tour, a trip on a catamaran.

Then it's two sea days and we are back in Southampton.

So until next time

Bye bye

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part IX

So after our 2 days in the frozen north, we left Alta yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) to some clear skies as we make our way south

Today, we have awoke to bright sunshine and 99% of the snow on deck has gone.

We pass out of the Arctic circle today as we make our way to Trondheim, and another lazy day ahead beckons.

It was the second formal night last night, and the ship was awash with DJ's and dickey bows ( and that was just the ladies 😜😜)

Not sure if I have mentioned this before, but the show team are also very active around the vessel.
Besides performing their shows, plus their individual shows, they also run two quizzes a day, plus they host a " Can we help with your mobile, or tablet " sessions.
And run Tap Dance lessons 

They also act as a tour escorts, so all in all work very hard.

And to finish today, I will leave you with a couple more pictures from our departure from Alta 

So until next time

Bye bye 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part VIII

I managed to tweak some of my photos of the Northern Lights with another app I had on my IPad 

Bye bye 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part VII

It finally stopped snowing very late in the afternoon, but still with overcast skies. We had had a note in the cabin that the assembly time to meet for the tour had been brought foward by an hour ( for the talk by Glod ). Now I know that the Black Watch came this way at Christmas, so I would have assumed that the tours department would have known that there would be a talk before the tour ?

So we all gathered in the Neptune Lounge at our new alloted time. I think the talk is the same one we had on Oriana last year, but our prediction of seeing the lights was 3. Last year it was 2 and we had a good display. 
But of course the main thing was the weather, of the three sites they use, the one in the north showed the clouds clearing by 2300, with a temperature of -8C, so that was the one.

It was about an hours drive in the coach before we arrived. It was a residential road which led down to a lake.

So the question is, did we get to see them ?

Yes we did, a bit fleeting, but at one time we did get a bit of a "dance" from them.

My photos are not the best, and when I converted them to use in the blog, they were rendered useless, so you will have to wait until I get home and can process them.

We returned to the Black Watch just before mid night and the staff were waiting as we boarded with hot sausage rolls and hot chocolate, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finally, I will leave you with this thought. Glod come on board with their predictions and take you to the site where you will have the best chance of seeing the lights. Oriana also stayed overnight, and I assume that their passengers also had Glod tours. But there were no Oriana passengers at our site, so where did they go ???

Just a thought !!

Bye bye 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part VI

Well today we arrived in a very snowy Alta, we did not dock where I expected us to near the airport, but further over in the bay.

The airport berth was later filled by Oriana ( I think she is stalking me ) 

We left Tromso a little later than planned, a taxi arrived at 2300 with three passengers with arms in slings. I wonder if they had been on a dog sledge ?

We took the shuttle bus into town today, and after some retail therapy in a large shopping mall, visited the Alta Cathedral 

It's been very over cast today, with frequent snow showers, so the big question is, will it clear so we can see some lights on our tour tonight ?

I think that's enough of a cliff hanger until the next episode 😜😜


Bye bye

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fred Olsen Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part V

So after our two sea days, we have reached the port of Tromso, it's a pity the weather was not better as it is a magical sail in.

We arrived before our allotted time, and were not allowed to berth due to "security issues" so we circled for about an hour before making the berth.

We had booked an afternoon tour to the Planetarium, we arrived, and look who we saw 

As we left it had turned into a bit of a blizzard 

And of course there was a queue to get back on board 😜❄️❄️❄️❄️

We do not leave until 2300 tonight as there is a tour to the Arctic Cathedral for a concert this evening, before we make our way to Alta.

As we have not fancied the entertainment the last couple of nights, we went to the cinema suitated in deck 3 .

The first film we saw was " The Riot Club", not going to make much comment, other than it was not my type of film.

Last night we saw "Before I go to Sleep" with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Both myself and Sue have read the book, which we both thought was excellent, and the film lived up to the billing.

So now we  go in search of those elusive Northern Lights

So until then 

Bye bye

Friday, 20 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part IV

So here we are, the big day for the Solar Eclipse. We awoke to very angry sea, a large swell and very dark skies, it did not bode too well.

But at 0830 we donned our cold weather gear and ventured out to the starboard prom deck which was already filling with passengers clutching their eclipse specs in readiness.

It was a bit of a cruise ship fest, as there was a Carnival ship close by, and another further out. We were also joined by Braemar 

It still did not look very promising, although there was just the slightest glimmer in the dark clouds.

Then slowly, very slowly the cracks in the cloud get more and more as we moved towards totality 

And slowly it got darker and darker, which was quite magical and eerie at he same time.

It was then that the cruise gods smiled upon us, the clouds parted, and there was the totality in all its glory 

With many "Oh's" and "Ahs" from the passengers.

Was it worth coming all this way to see it ?

You bet !!!!

I have to apologise for the quality of the above photos, but it's the conversion from RAW files to JPEG on my IPad.
I will of course post links to all my photos once I get home, which will be of much better quality.

So now we are on our way to our next port of Tromso, but not before we have a quick RV with Braemar and Boudicca 

So until then

Bye bye 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part III

Well our two sea days have passed and we now find ourselves in Runavik in the Faroe Islands.

The gods of cruising have smiled upon us so far, as we have had calm seas. The weather however has been a bit hit and miss. Day 1 was foggy all day, but it improved yesterday and we did see a bit of warm sun. 

The entertainment last night was a magician, now you will know that I do like a bit of magic. But this guy left me cold, now I don't know if it was just his style, but IMHO he was just a bad children's entertainer, but Sue  enjoyed his show, so not all tastes are the same.

I've not mentioned quizzes so far, but that because we have been rubbish,  I think we have missed Pat and Michael from our last cruise.

Just a note about our cabin.
If you remember from our last cruise on Black Watch, we were deck 4 mid ships, right next to the opening for the gangway, and that became a tad noisy.

We are now on deck 3 aft, now if you think P&O's Oriana has a few vibration issues, it's nothing to what our cabin can do 😝😝 you could churn butter in there some times.

This morning I was up on deck at 0640, and yes I was still wearing my shorts, but it was a bit chilly

The Pilot boat

We left the ship for a stroll around town at about 1000. The weather by this time, was dark grey clouds and that drizzle that soaks through your clothes. If you have not been here before, the town centre is very small, and in this weather, it was not a pleasant walk.

So all in all, not the best port we have ever visited, and if we did  pass this way again, we would do a tour.

So we were back on board by 1100.

You can see how low the cloud was

And finally the old girl herself

And so tomorrow, we have one of the main events of the cruise, " The Solar Eclipse ". The weather does need to improve though, else the spectacle will be a bit of a damp squid.

After that, we are on to Tromso, and Nothern Lights territory.

So let's all hope for some clear skies for the next few days, and you may even get a picture of the total eclipse, then some green skies

So until then

Bye bye 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part II

So here we are on our first sea day, calm seas and sunshine as we sail up the east coast of England onwards to our first port of call of the Faroe Islands. The sail away was slightly delayed as there was a "code alpha" call just as we were leaving the muster drill.

The crew had been unloading large sheets of MDF and other assorted items from the aft deck, and it seems one sustained an injury, so the Captain waited to see if he required to be off loaded. I assume it turned out to be not serious as no one left the ship.

Our meal ( first sitting ) along with our table companions was a pleasant affair.

As we were onboard last November for the mystery cruise, there are lots of familiar faces amongst the crew, plus some who had just started, and did seem to struggle with my order for a large Bells with ice. But I'm sure they will get the hang of things soon.

We have a couple of speakers on board to talk about the eclipse and the northern lights, so I'm sure we shall pop along to some of their talks.

Today has been a first for me in that I have purchased an on board Internet package. Now I normally wait until we dock and purchase a " bolt on" package for my iPhone.

But at £30 for 24 hours of access ( 2p per minute) I thought that was very good value.

As I said at the beginning, it's a lazy sea day today, and you can tell that a fair amount of the passengers are new to the Black Watch, as they walk up and down trying to find their bearings. Not sure how they would manage on Britannia.

We had been on a wait list for a tour on a train in Alesund, but have now given up with that, so we are going to book a cruise on the Hjoundfjord on a catamaran instead.

So until next time

Bye bye

Monday, 16 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part I

So it's 0630 on Monday 16th March and I'm laying in bed in the Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton. Yes it's time for one of those "big white floaty thing" journeys.

Today we sail with Fred on Black Watch to go back up to the Arctic for the solar eclipse and hopefully some Northern Lights. For you regular readers, you may remember we did this last year on P&O's Oriana, so we know what to expect weather wise.

So I hope you will join Sue and myself on our cruise, and just to get you in the mood I thought I would start by including a total eclipse picture.

Bye bye