Founded in 1848 in
Norway, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is a family-owned company which is now
based in England. Although not being a very famous brand in the overseas
markets, it is one of the major cruise lines targeted for the British
passengers. It specializes in operating cruises for senior adults with a
fleet of four small ships including Balmoral, Black Watch,
Boudicca and Braemar. Departures from various British ports are
Fred. Olsen features worldwide programmes which bring the four vessels
sailing all the world's oceans. Grand voyages, such as world cruises or
South American adventures, are planned every year from January to April.
Nevertheless, the full world cruise itineraries do not always include
Northeast Asia. The last time when a Fred. Olsen's ship came to Hong Kong
was Balmoral in March 2009. Three years later, we welcomed Black
Watch to our city.
Black Watch's 2012 World Cruise
lasted for 106 nights that sailed from and ended in Southampton. After
transiting the Suez Canal in January, she spent a whole month cruising in
Asia, which arrived in the overnight port Singapore on 11th February,
followed by Chan May and then Hong Kong. This would be my second time to see
Black Watch, after the first time in Southampton when I travelled to
England in 2010.
Being a great opportunity to know more
about the ship, I requested for an onboard visit three months ago. Thank
Rachael Jackson (Public Relations Manager) and Angela Arnold (Port
Operations Manager) for the arrangements.
The ship arrived in our city at 08:00
on 17th February and moored at the north berth of Ocean Terminal. The visit
was scheduled at 10:00. After obtaining a visitor pass at the gangway, I met
Olga Hliakava, the Guest Relations Manager who was also my guide today.
The tour began on the upper decks. We
first went to The Observatory lounge at Deck 9 forward, and walked towards
the aft end on Deck 10, passing through the Fitness Centre and Tennis Court.
The next destinations were the two aft swimming pools and the open decks.
When all the open-air areas were completed, it's time to explore the indoor
facilities. Starting from the Library, Card Room and Casino on Deck 7, we
then went downstairs to see an entire deck of public rooms on Deck 6,
followed by the passenger services desks on Deck 5, as well as the Beauty
Salon on Deck 4 and the Marina Theatre on Deck 3. Details about all the
amenities on Black Watch can be referred in the virtual ship tour in
the previous section.
My first impression of this ship was
that she boasts a Norwegian heritage of seamanship. The interior design also
reflects traditional features. A large amount of artworks and other
collections dedicated by the Olsen family can be found. Although the ship is
already 40 years old, it was once one of the best ships in the world (as
Royal Viking Star of Royal Viking line from 1972 to 1991) and had been
refitted regularly. Many facilities are still in good conditions. Also there
is a friendly and intimate shipboard ambience like a British country house,
offering a relaxing cruising experience.
Finally I was invited to have a cup of
tea in The Braemar Room on Deck 6 amidships. Thanks Olga once again for
introducing every parts on the ship to me. I disembarked Black Watch
at noon and strolled near the terminal to take some more exterior pictures
of the ship.
Black Watch stayed overnight in Hong Kong and departed at 14:00 the
next day. Then she would continue with her world cruise to Manila, Kota
Kinabalu and several ports in Australia.
The next Fred. Olsen ship coming to
Hong Kong should be Balmoral again, as the itinerary of her 2014
World Cruise has just been announced, with Hong Kong as one of the ports of