All good things must come to an end and sadly, my cruise of a lifetime is over. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful the trip was and how much I enjoyed being on Black Watch and spending time with my dear friend, Marian. I am so sad to have left it all behind. We met some amazing people, people that will remain friends for life, and we circumnavigated the globe. It was simply awesome! Black Watch is a lovely ship, not for everyone, but she suits me. She’s spacious, traditional, full of charm and she also has some of the best crew members that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting! She was my home-from-home and although she wasn’t always perfect, she took me on the trip of a lifetime and I’ll never forget it. This cruise was far more than just a simple trip, it was a life changing journey and it has taken my need to travel to an entirely new level. I told you it would only make things worse! 😉
I hadn’t sailed on Black Watch before the cruise, but I had sailed on Boudicca and they are identical, so it was nice to feel at home from day one. I knew where everything was and how to get there. That makes a big difference I think, especially when you’re going to be onboard for so long. I remember on day one, I walked out onto one of the decks and I had the instant visualisation of standing in that same spot on Boudicca, only this time I was going to far more exotic places than the British Isles. I can’t even describe the feeling to you. I was standing there but it all still felt like a dream.
I’m a huge fan of the Fred. Olsen experience. I like the big ships that are filled with just about everything you could ever imagine, but I’d always choose the more traditional cruise experience first – I like to be able to see the sea, I think that is quite important when you go on a ship-based holiday and that’s what I get from Fred. Olsen. The onboard atmosphere on all ships in the Fred. fleet is fairly relaxed, another reason why I enjoy it. Yes, there are formal nights, but you’re not shunned if you decide to opt for casual, and you usually find a nice mix of people. We certainly had an interesting bunch on this cruise and from all walks of life. There was never a dull moment, that’s for sure. We had a large number of solo travellers onboard for the world cruise, something I’m sure a few people will find surprising, but it just goes to show that people feel comfortable enough to do such long sailings with Fred. and on their own. I met at least 30 people, all of whom were travelling solo and I suspect the total number was probably treble that.
Of all the ships in the fleet, Balmoral is still my favourite, but Black Watch does now have a very special place in my heart. I liked the Brigadoon Cafe, I was surprised by its small size at first, but we never had a problem getting in. I know the ship wasn’t full, so it would be interesting to see if there is a difference on a standard cruise, but for this trip it worked perfectly. I also liked the Black Watch Room and although the decor was a little overwhelming at first, it did grow on me. For those of you that may not know, the Black Watch Room is the onboard speciality dining option serving steak and seafood. It’s not open every evening, but keep your eyes peeled for adverts and offers in your Daily Times paper. We had a few special offers available during the course of the cruise and they also now offer sommelier evenings.
I didn’t spend much time there, but Deck 9 was my favourite outside deck. It was quiet, full of comfy chairs, cooling misters and there was a pool and a bar. I prefered to sunbathe on other decks just because I prefer to sit in a simple chair – the cushions just make me even hotter – but I did really like Deck 9. I also liked spending time on Deck 6, that’s where the Poolside Grill is and that was my favourite place to eat (apart from at the Brigadoon for late night snacks). The below picture was eventually how Marian and I “styled” our own menu. We made a few little changes here and there, but it’s all available from the Poolside, which is open for breakfast and lunch when the weather is good.
Of course, my absolute favourite aspect of that ship was her crew. We were there for a long time, so of course crew would observe and take in the things that we did and didn’t like. Marian and I got into the habit of dining at the Poolside Grill every sea day (as mentioned above) and we would always order the same thing. The food we ordered was light and just enough when we were in some of the hotter areas. We didn’t even need to tell Aries what we wanted, he’d just give the thumbs up, meaning same order, we would do the same and off he would go. We miss you Aries!
Juntima at the Lido Bar would also be there for us in the morning with a tray of drinks when the weather outside was hot and humid. We didn’t even have to ask her, she knew the order: large pineapple juice, diet lemonade with grenadine and 2 pints of ice water. The service from all of the crew at the Lido Bar was outstanding. Thank you Juntima (Kik), Alvin, Putu, Gusti (Putu 2), Aaron, Rakesh, Cristian, Mary Faith, Pop, Dian and everyone else, even if we only spoke once. You guys rock and you made our overall experience so much more enjoyable!
Other people I’d like to thank include Manny (best Maitre D at sea), Alex, Ehsel, Captain Danielsen, Rico, Paul, Raoul, Gordon, Lorenzo, Joy, Anna, Honey, Beth, Duncan, Elliott, Siggi, Robbie, Mel and Harry – I just want to thank everyone. I know I have probably missed a dozen names off this list!
The entire experience was out of this world. Not everything was perfect all of the time, but I had a conversation with a lady one day and she was completely on my level – Smiler, that’s you if you’re reading this! She said aren’t we so privileged to be sitting here. We’ve been so lucky and we’ve had the chance to see some fantastic destinations. I loved her positive attitude. I always try and look for the best in every situation that is less than perfect. Sometimes it is hard because we’re used to things being a certain way, but if there is an issue with something, it’s not the end of the world. Having now been on this cruise and visited places such as India, Peru and Myanmar, I’m even more grounded and level headed than I was before. Yes, you could be on a cruise that you have paid a lot of money for and something might not be exactly as you’d like, but relax and remember that someone will be trying to fix that issue for you. At the same time, someone somewhere else in the world will never get the chance to leave the city in which they were born and at that moment could be out looking for something to sell in order to eat. It sounds harsh, I know, but it’s a fact of life. Count all of your blessings and luxuries in life and let everything else disappear.
On that note, I’m going to end this blog right here. I’ll be back soon with more about life onboard, some tips and a few other bits and pieces. I have some videos I’d love to share with you, so I’m also working on that! 😉 P.S. don’t forget to read Marian’s blog for all of her World Cruise posts – TravelShopGirl