Black Watch to the Baltic

This morning it seemed strange to be getting up and going to work, especially considering we were setting off on another cruise today!  We were joining Fred Olsen’s Black Watch later on but we were due to sail from the Tyne at 5.00pm, and as that is only about half an hour’s drive away from us in Durham, it allowed us to work half a shift before finishing at lunchtime and leaving the house around 1.20pm.

We drove to Howdon Sewage Treatment Works (!!!) near the Port of Tyne and parked the car there.  A strange place to be leaving from for a holiday but allow me to explain; Trevor works for Northumbrian Water and this is one of their treatment works, so we could leave the car there for a couple of weeks instead of paying the 12 quid a day that the port charges.  So we just got a taxi from the works to the cruise terminal, and we were there in only five minutes. As we stepped out of the taxi, a dockside porter was ready to whisk our cases away, and these would be delivered directly to our cabin.

We joined the queue and checked in then waited to be called to board.  The process was fairly quick and efficient and we made our way to our cabin, number 4085, on Deck 4.  Our cases were already there waiting for us, but our first priority, in the 28°C sunshine, was a freezing cold beer up on deck.  🙂

Joining the Black Watch means we will have sailed on all of the Fred Olsen fleet, the other ships being (in reverse order) Balmoral (2012), Braemar (2011) and Boudicca (2008).  We had also been on the Black Prince in 2008 but that ship has since been scrapped as it was an oldie, built in 1961.

We have always found Fred Olsen to be pretty generous with freebie drinks available here and there, such as the Captain’s cocktail reception, ‘champagne’ breakfasts and deck parties.  But on this cruise all of the drinks would be “on Fred” as we were sailing all-inclusive for the first time.  So the pint of Boddington’s we each enjoyed on the rear decks, in the sun, were free.   🙂

We marvelled at the Newcastle weather which was very hot and sunny, over 80 degrees in ‘old money’.  Last year (2012) was the coldest and wettest summer on record and so far this year the weather had left a lot to be desired, as we’d found our during our last cruise in May on board the Adonia around the British Isles.  But today we could have been setting off from the Mediterranean instead of Northern Britain, and we all hoped the weather would continue for our cruise into the Baltic Sea.

We only had time for the one pint before we had to go back to our cabin and get our lifejackets for Lifeboat Drill.  It was quite a thorough drill compared to some cruise ships, and it finished with us having to make a ‘crocodile queue’ and go to our lifeboat, which is number 5.   Then the time was our own, so Trevor took the lifejackets back to the cabin, while I hotfooted it along to the rear decks once again for another cold pint of Boddie’s.    🙂

On the pool deck below us, a live duo (male and female) struck up with the music; we thought they looked familiar and indeed they are called “Serendipity” and they featured on our January cruise on the Arcadia, where they used to play every night in the Rising Sun pub.  They provided a bit of background noise with some catchy tunes as we cast off, and soon the Black Watch glided away from the dockside, and set sail slowly along the Tyne for the North Sea, which was like a mill pond, with barely a ripple.

We had one more drink each then reluctantly left the sunshine to go back to our cabin, as we needed to wash and change for dinner as we were on first sitting at 6.15pm.  Our cabin is directly opposite the hairdressing salon and beauty parlour (how handy is that?!) and, as we approached, they asked if we’d like to take part in the free raffle and have a complimentary glass of ‘champagne’.  We agreed, and the first person I saw was Mark, the hairdresser who’d done my hair last year on the Balmoral.  He recognised me too, not least because I’d made him a kumihimo bracelet at the time, which he said he still has.

We have been allocated table #37 (how apt; our house number is 37) in the Glentanar Restaurant.  We usually ask for a table for six, as we enjoy the interaction with our fellow passengers, but this time we discovered we are sharing a table by the window with another very pleasant couple called Ted and Fiona.  During the conversation they told us that they had met on the Black Watch last year, when it was on its world cruise; they just got married on 30th June this year, so this Black Watch cruise was, in fact, their honeymoon!  What a nice story.

As is usual on Fred Olsen cruises, the food and the service were absolutely top-notch.  All my meal’s courses featured fish in some form; I started off with smoked salmon, then a small salad Niçoise with tuna and anchovy, then a main course which consisted of a Scandinavian herring platter and was delicious.  It contained rollmops, herring in some sort of mustard sauce, and herring in another sauce which was dark red in colour; I don’t know what it was (maybe red cabbage) but it tasted lovely.

We enjoyed a couple of glasses of (free!) rosé wine with our dinner, then finished off with coffee and amaretto.  A delicious meal in convivial company. 🙂

We then went along to the Neptune Lounge for tonight’s show.  On all Fred Olsen ships the cabaret lounge is always called the Neptune Lounge.  We’d also noticed a few other familiar things such as the turquoise-and-orange swirly carpet pattern (that they had on both the Braemar and Balmoral).  In addition, the ship’s orchestra always starts off with the same introductory tune; I don’t know what it’s called but we’ll forever associate it with Fred Olsen cruises.

The show tonight was called “21st Century Swing” and featured the Black Watch singers and dancers.  It was actually a very good show, a bit different from the usual type of stuff.  We really enjoyed it.

After the show we decided to go and take part in the quiz in the Braemar Room.  On our way, we saw John and Lynda Colbert.  In fact, I’ve known Lynda for over 30 years as we used to work at the same place, but I only found out a couple of weeks ago, when we were having a “lasses’ night out” that they’d booked the same cruise as us!  So on our first day on the Black Watch we’d already come across a few familiar faces.

We took part in the quiz and scored 14/20 which wasn’t enough to win. Then we had a nightcap (free!) before making our way back to cabin 4085 and settling down for our first night on the Black Watch.

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