It’s dinner time on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Black Watch and I’ve just ordered a rib-eye steak in the ship’s speciality restaurant. Yes you read that correctly. A speciality restaurant on Black Watch. It was added during a refit late last year that has given this much-loved grand dame of the high seas a whole new lease of life.
Those familiar with the ship will remember the large Braemar Lounge bar had a ‘courtyard’ off to one side. Well the bar has been renamed the Morning Light Pub and the courtyard has gone, replaced with The Black Watch Room, a self-contained surf-and-turf restaurant with its own galley.
I have sailed on Black Watch a couple of times over the past few years and found the lack of dining choice to be a downside so it’s a great addition, and much needed if Fred. Olsen is to attract a new generation of cruisers who, like myself, have grown up sailing on ships where there is more than just the buffet as an alternative to eating in the main dining room each night.
My steak was so good, tasty and cooked just as I like it, that I would happily have eaten there each evening (chicken, lamb and seafood are also on the menu but no vegetarian dish, which is a bit of an oversight these days – even in a steakhouse). It costs an extra £20 per person to eat there, which I noticed put a few people off – a shame as it’s good value and I’m sure if they had tried it they would not have been disappointed.
On chilly days the restaurant is used as a lunchtime alternative to the poolside grill and then the food is free. The menu is small but varied – burgers, chicken kebabs and even a ploughman’s, which was, but with no hunks of bread or pickled onions it lacked a little authenticity!
Most other changes were cosmetic but have dragged Black Watch into the modern world. Out go the old-fashioned dowdy furnishings and in come light bright colour schemes. Glentanar, the main dining room, looks a picture in its new light blue and yellow livery, likewise the show lounge, which has a smart blue-and-beige colour scheme.
The redecorated cabins have new interactive TV’s with a huge range of free-to-watch built-in movies and music. In the Lido Lounge, the entire aft-facing glass wall now opens up to bring the outside in. On a sunny day – and there were a couple of them on my cruise along the Kiel Canal and Elbe and Weser Rivers in Germany – it was a glorious place to sit and enjoy the views.
Finally, remember the plastic ‘garden’ at one end of the Garden Café self-service? It had a bizarre frog that I think was supposed to be croaking. Well I’m pleased to say it and the garden have gone and in celebration the room has been refurbished and renamed Brigadoon. It looks nice but is let down by the ancient and very cramped semi-circular servery in the centre of the room. Something to consider for the next refurb I think.