Dublin, the Isles and Lochs of Scotland On-board Fred. Olsen's Black Watch - Part 1
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Green rolling hills, mountains, glens, castles,
clans, lochs and the swirl of bagpipes, Scotland, where else. This was a 10
night cruise, ‘Lochs and Isles of Scotland’ aboard Fred Olsen’s ship Black
Life onboard Black Watch
There is something magical, unforgettable
about boarding a beautiful cruise ship, excited passengers looking forward to
visiting areas new whilst for some it’s a return to those places they have
fallen in love with over the years whilst to others it’s all about being back
on their favourite cruise ship. For me it’s the former having only ever visited
one of the ports on the extensive itinerary. First stop however is the cabin on
deck 4, a spacious twin bed with large portholes giving good outer views. It
has to be said the shower was one of the largest I have experienced on a small
ship and was a delight to use. Lots of wardrobe and draw space together with
what many consider to be a necessity, tea making facilities. Cases already
arrived so the unpacking begins. It’s then I realise that whilst questioning my
wife on why she needed to pack so much I notice I may have overdone it myself
with enough shirts to last me a month, no wonder my case was the heaviest. This
chore completed time to head for the promenade on deck 7 to see us sail away.
The wind is blowing and the sea has many ‘white horses’ as with 3 long blasts
on the ships whistle we ease away from the quayside and head out into the
English Channel, we are on our way, heading east past the seaside towns of
Hastings and Eastbourne towards our first port of call Dublin.
Dinner as we are on the early sitting is
6.15pm and time to meet our waiter Ian for the first time. He is from the
Philippines, holds a qualification in hotel management and is certainly very
proficient, friendly, polite and very knowledgeable. Now for the menu which is
not only extensive but every evening contains a typical ‘English’ dish together
with many of my favourites so choice is difficult. Finally, I select the salmon
mousse followed by the ‘English’ fish pie, finishing with a selection of cheese
and biscuits all washed down with several glasses of chilled rosé wine.
Dinner finished time to visit the show
lounge where we meet our Cruise Director, Simon who introduces an excellent
show performed by the Black Watch Show Team, 8 very talented singers and
dancers who prove to be exceptional considering they have only been performing
together for less than 2 weeks. This was not pre-recorded music and songs but
live performances that were truly professional. Show over, it’s been a long day
so time to try out those beds.
Returning to the cabin our cabin steward
has already made up the cabin, turned down the duvet and placed a chocolate
with the following days agenda on the pillow. The beds are so very comfortable
and soon I am in the land of dreams.
On waking I turn on the flat screen TV and
check our position, we are off the coast of Plymouth. Today is a sea day as we
cruise east along the English Channel before heading north into the Atlantic
and finally the Irish Sea to Dublin. Black Watch at a little over 28,600 grt.
and carrying a maximum of 804 passengers is small in the modern world but a
size loved by the regular Fred Olsen passengers who return in droves year after
year giving Fred Olsen one of, if not the highest, repeat business percentages
in the industry. On this cruise, it is an amazing 52%.
Time to wander the ship. Deck 10, a deck
for the energetic, home to the Fitness Centre, golf nets and tennis court
together with a sun bathing area for relaxation after all that hard work.
Deck 9 houses the Observatory Lounge
affording outstanding views over the front and sides of the ship which, on sea
days is a favourite with passengers who just want peace and quiet, read their
books, watch the world go by or just enjoy a nap whilst at the rear is the
Marquee Bar, pool and jacuzzis.
The decks visited by most passengers will
be decks 6 and 5. 6, the deck where you gain weight, home to the Glentanar
Restaurant, Black Watch Room speciality restaurant, Brigadoon Buffet, together
with the Morning Light Pub and Neptune bar. Deck 5 houses Guest Services, Shore
Excursions, Photo Gallery, Boutique and the Shop. There are also laundry rooms
on decks 4 and 5.
One of my favourite areas is the Lido
Lounge on deck 7, sit out in a comfortable chair take in the wonderful view,
feel the rays of the summer sun and should you so wish, walk down to the deck
below for a cooling swim or just bubble away in one of the jacuzzis.
Personally, sitting in the sun, watching the coast line drift by and sipping a
chilled glass of rosé for me was transformational.
The day passes quickly and tonight is
formal night. As if by magic passengers turn from casually dressed tourists
into an elegant parade of gentlemen in dinner suits accompanied by ladies in
their finery as they queue to meet the captain and have their photo taken with
him. Its then into the Neptune Lounge for a selection of drinks supplied by
Fred Olsen at what is known as the Captain’s Welcome on Board Party. Introduced
by the Cruise Director Captain Age welcomes all aboard and introduces his second
in command who presents the rest of the senior officers including one
considered by many to be the most important, the Executive Chef. Time for the
Gala Dinner which for me is prawns and Scottish smoked salmon, cream of pea and
leak soup, roast duck with a cheese board to finish. Dinner finished, it’s show
time with another great performance by the Black Watch Show Team and bed as
tomorrow starts the ports of call and tours.
Waking on day 3 and checking our location
sees us making our way past ferries, container ships, warehouses and cranes to
a berth in Dublin Harbour. Today we are on one of the ships tours so it’s time
for that shower, healthy breakfast of fresh fruit and make our way to the
waiting coach. Our guide, Stephen, a very knowledgeable young man with a great
sense of humour is about to make this a tour to remember for all the right
reasons. Leaving the harbour, we make our way along the banks of the River
Liffey passing the famous Ha’penny, James Joyce and O’Connell Bridges, the
amazing white Samuel Beckett Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava with its
spar and cables representing a harp, the national symbol of Ireland since the 13th
century. We pass buildings both new and old, the new National Conference Centre
appearing as a glass drum, the Custom House, so big that it’s almost impossible
to get it into one photo, the restored Four Courts and of course the famous
Guinness Distillery. Moving away from the river we arrive at the magnificent
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, national cathedral of the Church of Ireland built in
1191. The spire, 141ft high, enter and wonder at the beautiful Choir Area, the
Lady Chapel, State Pew for the President of Ireland and much more, this is a
must visit for anyone coming to Dublin. Travelling on we pass along famous O’Connell
Street, Merrion and Fitzwilliam Squares with their beautiful Georgian houses
and garden squares exclusively for the residents use before making our way to
Phoenix Park. Phoenix Park, an area over 1750 acres and large enough to
accommodate the London Parks and have room to spare. Established in 1662 and
housing Aras an Uachtarain, the official residence of Irelands President, The
Wellington Monument, 203ft high commemorating the victories of the Duke of
Wellington, yes he was Irish, Phoenix Monument erected by the Earl of
Chesterfield in 1747, Papal Cross erected to commemorate the visit of Pope John
Paul II in 1979, Deerfield Residence the official residence of the United
States of America Ambassador to Ireland, The Victorian Walled Kitchen garden
and my personal favourite Ashtown Castle dating back to the 1430s and now
lovingly restored. After a quick glass of something cool and a visit to the
gardens its back on the coach and return to the river where we board Spirit of
Docklands for a leisurely trip along the ‘Liffey’. This time it’s an
opportunity to appreciate buildings from the river and in many cases, get a
better view of them together with other river craft like the Jeanie Johnston, a
replica of the original Jeanie Johnston which made 16 emigrant journeys,
carrying over 2,500 people across the Atlantic to the ‘New World’ of North
America between 1847 and 1855 without any loss of life.
Finally, after passing under James Joyce
Bridge we turn and head back to our start point where our coach is waiting to
return us to Black Watch in time for afternoon tea.
That night show time is by one of my
favourite comedians, ‘Barnaby’. An act I first saw in 2004 and although the
multi coloured long jacket has gone and been replaced by 3 piece suits and his
gags have changed his act is just as funny. ‘Something Old, Something New,
Something Borrowed but Never Blue’ is his motto and it is true. During his 45
minute show there were no swear words, no rude innuendoes or blue jokes yet at
times all that could be heard were the sounds of uncontrollable laughter from
an audience that loved him. Just goes to show what a true professional Barnaby
is and you don’t have to be mucky to be funny. A quick nightcap in the Morning
Light Pub and bed ready for the next port, Tarbert 168 miles north east.
A taste of life onboard Black Watch:
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
- Dublin, the Isles and Lochs of Scotland onboard Fred. Olsen's Black Watch - Part 2
- Dublin, the Isles and Lochs of Scotland onboard Fred. Olsen's Black Watch - Part 3
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