IT’S with some trepidation that I step aboard the Fred Olsen Black Watch.
The closest I’ve come to a cruise before was a rather choppy crossing to Orkney from Aberdeen – and the less said about that trip the better!
However, my doubts are quickly dispelled.Departing from Rosyth is a luxury in itself, a short drive followed by stress-free car parking. A relaxed start to our journey to Germany.
Quickly our cases are whisked away and we can check out all the Black Watch has to offer.
Our en-suite, ocean-view room itself is surprisingly spacious with everything we could want, including tea and coffee facilities.
Unpacked, Wi-Fi connected, the ship leaves port to sail overnight. And with so much to discover and enjoy, we take a leisurely stroll around.
We opt for pre-dinner drinks in the Morning Light Pub, followed by a wonderful five-course meal served by friendly waiters. The next day, at breakfast, I’m more than happy with the buffet choice while my other half enjoys a hearty cooked selection. I couldn’t begin to list the items on offer on the huge buffet islands. You can also order kippers, eggs benedict, pancakes … Oh, the choice is neverending.
After filling up, a stroll outside on deck seven is in order. Five times around equates to one mile so there’s plenty of scope to stretch your legs.
Time to relax in the afternoon in the Bookmark Café with a good book from the well-stocked library and a few drinks from the all-inclusive package, which at £15 per person per day is great value.
Lunch in the self-service Brigadoon Restaurant is fantastic. We note it also opens for late-night snacks – not sure we’d ever need it though.
The Glentanar restaurant is the venue for dinner, and we are lucky enough to be invited to the captain’s table.
Mouthwatering options include Norwegian Salmon, Indian Spiced Butterfish, Braised Venison, Bavarian Strawberry Cream, and there’s always a sugar-free dessert on offer. It’s a lovely evening and the captain has some wonderful tales to tell.
On day three we arrive at Heligoland. Located 43 miles off the German mainland, on this tranquil, duty-free island we make the most of the allocated allowance (£6.50 for a litre bottle of Gordon’s gin!).
After overnight sailing we reach the busy harbour city of Hamburg on the Elbe River. Walk down the gangplank and there you are, right in the heart of the city. There’s a bit of construction and restoration work taking place, but the city’s medieval character is still evident.
The Beer, Bratwurst and Beatles Tour, mostly taking place in the famous Reeperbahn area, proves fun.
The next day, back on board, it’s time to relax and visit the Atlantis Spa. I opt for a gel nail and hand massage, while my husband chooses a neck and back massage.
In the evening we treat ourselves to a special dining experience in the Black Watch Room, an à la carte restaurant. I opt for steak, while my husband enjoys the seafood platter. Both are beautifully presented and delicious. Definitely no need to raid the midnight snack buffet!
Then it’s another relaxing day on board as we head for Bremen. No time to get bored, though, as there is a lively programme of activities including dancing, pilates, quizzes, quoits, table tennis, darts, bowls, crafts and bingo.
We spend the evening in the Neptune Lounge where The Black Watch Show Company provide outstanding entertainment, while there is karaoke, acoustic sets, sing-a-longs and dancing elsewhere on the ship.
After breakfast we take in all Bremen has to offer, beginning with a boat trip on the Weser River, docking in the town centre, followed by a walking tour.
Then we take the tram back to port and set sail in the evening, back to Rosyth.
I would love to repeat the experience of my first cruise.
As overheard by a fellow passenger discussing various cruise companies with a well-travelled group: “We’ll stick with Fred.”
I think we will too.
A nine-night German Waterways cruise (L1814) leaves Rosyth on May 31, 2018.
The Balmoral’s ports of call include Bremen, the Weser River, Kiel, Warnemünde, the Kiel Canal and Elbe River, visiting Hamburg before arriving back in Rosyth on June 9.
Prices start from £1099 per person, based on a twin-bedded room, and include all food and entertainment on board, and port taxes.
For further info, visit fredolsencruises.com or call reservations on 0800 0355 242
(Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, 10am-4pm).