Black Watch

Former name: Royal Viking Star

Black Watch last position

Black Watch last location was at Marmara Sea (coordinates 40.85959 N / 29.26304 E) cruising en route to TRTUZ. The AIS position was reported 8 months ago.

Current Position

Specifications of Black Watch

Year built1972  /  Age: 49
Flag state Bahamas
BuilderWartsila Hietalahti shipyard (Helsinki, Finland)
ClassRoyal Viking Star
Building costUSD 50 million
OwnerBlack Watch Cruise Ltd
OperatorFred Olsen Cruise Lines
Speed19 kn / 35 kph / 22 mph
Length (LOA)205 m / 673 ft
Beam (width)25 m / 82 ft
Gross Tonnage28613 gt
Passengers804 - 846
Crew330
Passengers-to-space ratio33
Decks10
Cabins423
Decks with cabins8
Last Refurbishment2019
Sister-shipsRoyal Viking Sky (Boudicca), Royal Viking Sea (Albatros)
Former namesRoyal Viking Star

Black Watch Review

Review of Black Watch

The 1972-built (as "Royal Viking Star") cruise ship MS Black Watch was the oldest of the Fred Olsen fleet, with fleetmates Boudicca, Balmoral and Braemar. The cruise ship cost to build was USD 50 million. The vessel was last refurbished in 2019 December and sold in 2020.

On August 21, 2020, Fred Olsen confirmed the retirement (scrapping?) of its cruise ships Boudicca (1973-built, 47-years-old) and Black Watch (1972-built, 48-years-old). All bookings on Boudicca and Black Watch were automatically transferred onto the new ships (acquired from Holland America Line in July 2020) MS Bolette (fka Amsterdam) and MS Borealis (fka Rotterdam). After joining the fleet in September 2020, Bolette and Borealis increased the company's passenger capacity by ~30%.

In late-September was announced that Boudicca and Black Watch are both sold (to a Turkish company) and not to be scrapped but to serve the new owner as hotel ships. On October 21, Black Watch left the UK (Port Rosyth, Edinburg Scotland) en-route to TRTUZ (Port Tuzla, Istanbul Turkey). The vessel was also listed under the name "Club Harmony" (MMSI 538004519, Marshall Islands-flagged).

For Fred Olsen, the vessel (IMO number 7108930) was Bahamas-flagged (MMSI 311166000) and registered in Nassau.

Royal Viking Star (Black Watch) had two sisterships - Royal Viking Sea (Albatros) and Royal Viking Sky (Boudicca).

History - construction and ownership

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Ltd is a Norwegian-owned and UK-based cruise shipping company, part of the Fred Olsen Group (Fred Olsen & Co / shipowner, headquartered in Oslo, Norway). The company is headquartered in Ipswich (Suffolk England) and is owned by Bonheur and Ganger Rolf. The company was founded in 1848 (in Hvitsten, Norway) by the three Olsen brothers (Petter, Andras, Fredrik Christian) who bought their first ships and established an international shipping company. Today Fred Olsen Group is into its 5th family generation and operates subsidiary companies specializing in cruise passenger shipping, trade, shipbuilding, aviation, offshore industries.

MS Black Watch cruise ship (Fred Olsen)

Fred Olsen Group wholly owns the companies Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Ltd, Fred Olsen Travel Ltd (worldwide tours and vacations via independent operators), Fred Olsen Marine Services AS (shipowner and vessel management), First Olsen Ltd (tanker ships), Dolphin Drilling Holdings Ltd (offshore drilling rigs), Fred Olsen Express (Canary Islands-based fast ferries / catamarans), Fred Olsen Freight Ltd (cargo shipping and air freight), Fred Olsen Windcarrier AS (transport and installation of offshore wind turbines), Fred Olsen Production AS (offshore petroleum production), Fred Olsen Renewables AS, SeaRoc Group Ltd (offshore and marine consultancy and contracting services), ZephIR Lidar UK (wind measurement devices), Ganger Rolf ASA (energy and shipping). Also part of Fred Olsen Group, the company Bonheur ASA manages several fully-owned companies, among which are NHST Media Group AS (newspapers and online media) and the real estate companies Stavenes Byggeselskap, Koksa Eiendom, Fred Olsens gate 2. Part of Fred Olsen Group is also Timex Group BV - parent of several watchmaking companies, including the subsidiaries in the USA, India and Philippines).

The 807-passenger cruise ship Black Watch was acquired by Fred Olsen in 1996. The cruise ship was renamed "Black Watch" after a Scottish Regiment and nowadays is best known for its innovative worldwide voyages, outstanding service, and affordable rates. Since Black Watch cruise ship carries mainly British travellers the UK influence is apparent in everything from onboard amenities and lectures to cuisine and currency (all charges are assessed in British pounds). The cruise vessel inspires extreme loyalty between past cruisers as on a typical cruise upwards of 50 % may be repeaters.

In 1981, the vessel (under the Royal Viking Line's ownership) was stretched by adding a 91 ft / 28 m long prefabricated middle-section. The refit resulted in an increased gross tonnage (from 28,220 to 28,610 GT tons) and passenger capacity (from 758 to 820). During the ship's stretching (done in Germany, at the Seebeckwerft AG's shipyard in Bremerhaven) were built new cabins (including 9 balcony suites - the industry's first), 2 lounges, the dining room's size was doubled.

The list of other stretched (elongated) cruise ships includes the fleet mates Balmoral, Boudicca, and Braemar, also the MSC Cruises ships Armonia, Lirica, Opera, the Phoenix Reisen's Albatros and the Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of The Seas.

During the 2018 drydock at Blohm+Voss (Hamburg), to the ship were added two fibreglass-bottomed boats, each with capacity 12 passengers.

Decks and Cabins

MS Black Watch staterooms (423 total, in 21 grades) include 79 Suites, 37 Balcony, 225 Oceanview and 48 Inside cabins. Most cabins are sized 160-200-ft2 (15-19 m2). The ship has 4 wheelchair-accessible cabins. The largest is the Premier Suite (550 ft2 / 51 m2 including theterrace).

The boat has 10 decks, of which 8 passenger-accessible and 6 with cabins.

Shipboard dining options - Food and Drinks

Breakfast and lunch in the MDR of the Glentanar Restaurant, as well as in a smaller annex, are generally open seating. Dinner is served in 2 assigned seatings. The nice Orchid Room features an Asian theme and serves as an alternative formal dining area. Braemar Garden is the casual buffet option onboard for meals and late-night snacks. Snacking options are also offered near the pools. Room service light meals are complimentary during limited hours.

MS Black Watch cruise ship (Fred Olsen)

Follows the complete list of Black Watch restaurants and food bars.

  • Glentanar Restaurant (main dining room; hosts the formal Gala Dinner; with 2 fixed dinner seatings at 6:15 pm and 8:30 pm, open-seating buffet-style Breakfast 8:00 - 10:00 am and Lunch 12:00 - 2:30 pm)
  • Orchid Room (annex to the MDR)
  • Garden Cafe (alternative buffet-style restaurant, open-seating; offers Breakfast 7:00 - 9:30 am, Brunch 10:30 - 11:30 am, Lunch 12:30 - 2:30 pm, Afternoon Tea 3:30 - 4:30 pm, Dinner 6:30 - 9 pm and Supper Club 11:30 pm - 12:30 am; also features a 24-hour open tea-coffee station)
  • The Grill restaurant (former Poolside Cafe, an alternative, buffet-style venue for breakfast and lunch; offers al-fresco dining)
  • Marquee Bar (casual restaurant for lunch; al-fresco dining, with large, floor-ceiling panoramic windows; serves the pool area with alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks).

Shipboard entertainment options - Fun and Sport

The continuing renovation project on Black Watch cruise ship means she is an attractive cruise liner and an appealing option, particularly for the older set looking for a relaxing and authentic cruising experience.

MS Black Watch cruise ship (Fred Olsen)

Follows the complete list of Black Watch lounges, clubs and other entertainment venues for kids, teens, and adults.

  • Marina Theatre (150-seat cinema room)
  • Port Shop (duty-paid, sells essentials, hats, swimwear, toiletries, beachwear, sweets, books, snacks)
  • Photo Gallery & Shop (offers digital images printing/transferring; personal video making; sells photo and video equipment at duty-free prices)
  • Neptune Lounge (ship's theater lounge/main entertainment venue for grand-style show productions in the evenings at 8:45 pm and 10:45 pm; during the day serves the Fred Olsen enrichment program, with various lectures and seminars, multimedia presentations, dance classes, workshops, bridge lectures, cards playing tournaments)
  • Boutique Shops (duty-free luxury gifts, perfumes, cosmetics, fashion clothing, watches, fine jewelry, Fred Olsen logo merchandise)
  • Explorers' Library; Internet Room; Dalreoch Card Room (bridge-playing club lounge)
  • Bookmark Cafe (a la carte priced patisserie; offers luxury chocolates, specialty coffees, hand-made chocolates); Cafe Venus
  • The Braemar Garden (adjoins the Glentanar Restaurant); Braemar Lounge (relaxation place; offers live music performances; served by the Braemar Garden's Bar; also serves Afternoon Tea); Casino
  • Morning Light Pub (features stand-up comedy acts, live music performances)
  • Lido Lounge & Bar (live piano performances; transforms into a disco in the late hours)
  • Pool Deck area (swimming pool, whirlpool, 2 exercise pools, sunbathing area)
  • Fitness Centre (Wellness complex; there is no Spa, but the ship offers Sauna Rooms and Treatment Rooms for massages)
  • The Gymnasium (gym room, with floor-ceiling windows, modern equipment; hosts various exercise and dance classes)
  • Beauty Salon (part of the Wellness Centre; offers hairdresser/barber services, facial/body treatments, manicure/pedicure, massages)
  • Observatory Lounge (indoor observation lounge with piano, glass dancefloor, panoramic windows for 270-degree views; serves Afternoon Tea)
  • Golf Nets; Tennis Court; Deck Games area (shuffleboard, quoits, darts, tennis tables, board games, jigsaw puzzles); Walking Track.

Itineraries

Fred Olsen Black Watch itinerary program was exclusively based on roundtrip UK departures from Bristol, Greenock-Glasgow, Southampton, Liverpool. Destinations included Transatlantic crossings (UK to South America and the Caribbean), Mediterranean, Canary Islands, British Isles.

Black Watch also offered World Voyages visiting ports in Australia-New Zealand, South Pacific Islands, Asia.

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On May 12, 1971, the cruise ship was launched (floated out from drydock) as "Royal Viking Star", and on June 26, 1972, entered service for the Royal Viking Line (1972-founded, 1998-defunct). The vessel has also sailed as "MS Westward" for NCL-Norwegian and as "Star Odyssey" for Royal Cruise Line. On November 15, 1996, the ship entered service for Fred Olsen under the name "MS Black Watch".

Since Black Watch caters primarily to British travellers (from the UK), influence is evident in all the onboard activities, enrichment programming, cuisine, even currency (charges are valued in GBP /pounds). All Fred Olsen ships inspire extreme loyalty among past guests. On a typical Black Watch cruise, over 50% are repeaters.

Fred Olsen also offers an all-inclusive cruise package upgrade (additional fixed price PP per day) and the UK fly-cruise deals to Canary Islands (year-round discounted airfare from Southampton, England).

Black Watch ship's last drydock 2019 (December 11-20, at Blohm+Voss Hamburg) was mainly for general maintenance and engineering works, interior renovations (public areas) and stateroom refurbishments (including bathroom upgrades).

Royal Viking Star became Royal Viking Line’s first cruise ship, having originally GT tonnage 21847 tons and max passenger capacity 539. In 1981, the vessel was drydock enlarged (lengthened by 28 m / 92 ft). The refit included adding new public venues and spaces, as well as new cabins with 200 more berths (beds).

In 1984, Royal Viking Line was acquired by Kloster Group but continued operations as a separated brand. In 1988, the vessel became under Kloster Cruise's management and was reflagged from Norway (Oslo) to Bahamas (Nassau). In 1990, the Royal Viking Star was transferred to the Kloster-owned Norwegian Cruise Line and renamed "MS Westward". In May 1993, Westward started short Bahamas cruises out of homeport Miami (Florida USA).

In 1994, the boat underwent a USD 30 million drydock refurbishment, renamed to "Star Odyssey", transferred to Royal Cruise Line (Royal Caribbean Cruises) and scheduled for cruises in Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, Canada-New England.

In 1996, Star Odyssey was purchased by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines (USD 55 million), renamed to "MS Black Watch" and started service in November. In 2001, vessel's flag-state was changed from Norway to Bahamas. The drydock 2005 (at Blohm und Voss Hamburg) resulted in major technical upgrades, including new engines. During drydock 2016 (26-day project), Black Watch received new restaurants, upgraded cabins, Fred Olsen’s new livery (gray hull-white superstructure). In 2020, the 48-years-old liner was retired. Black Watch's 2021 schedule was taken by MS Borealis (fka Rotterdam).

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