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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Review

The Cruise
A14 night mystery cruise onboard Black Watch, sailing from Tilbury, London

The Ports
Vigo
Gibraltar 
Malaga
Cadiz (overnight)
Lisbon 
Leixioes 
Lorient

I think Fred played "safe" with their choice of ports, and we did hear one or two complaints of "I have been here before", but when you go on a mystery cruise, you can't mind where you go.
Having said that, Fred's USP, is smaller ships that can get into ports that the big ships can't. So why with the exception of Lorient, why did they pick major ports ? As I said, playing safe IMHO

The ship
Black Watch had just left Hamburg from a refit, where beside planned maintenance, added extra cabins on the Prom deck. Now I mentioned this in my blog, and IMHO a bit of a daft idea.
This is only our third Fred cruise, the first for 3 nights on this ship last year, then 12 nights on Braemar earlier this year, and I have to say out of the two ships Braemar is my favourite as the flow of passengers, and the space  works much better, and feels a better ship. Having said that we are back on the Black Watch in March for the Solar eclipse cruise. But I don't think we will cruise on Black Watch again after that.


Shore excursions 
This was a subject I blogged about before we left. Fred sent us a shore ex brochure, and it was very difficult to choose a tour, not knowing where you will be. 
Having said that, if you had the time, you could compare the description in the brochure to that on Fred's website and work out where you were going. I think Fred could take a leaf out of Saga's book who have been running mystery cruises for some time ( and yes our first mystery cruise was with Saga) and include a shore ex within the price.
As always some shore ex were better then others, with the winery and flamenco dancers the best.

Entertainment 
When we saw the first show by the theatre company I did think they were quite poor. They have however gone from strength to strength and are well worth watching
The Magician Peter Wardell was excellent, but I do love magic
The Singers, we did not go to see as they do not appeal so can't comment

The talks during the day, on all things Mystical given by Mei Trow and Prof Terry Keefe were well worth attending, both factually and entertainment wise.

A note of course has to be made for the "Crew Show" with some very talented people. 

As always, quizzes featured a lot, and the evening quiz saw us team up with Pat and Michael from our table, and Val and Brian. We saw a lot of second places, but did manage to win a name that tune one night, by a sterling effort by my good lady Sue. The chilled bottle of Cava the following night ( our prize) tasted even better for all the effort.


Murder Mystery Evenings
Run by Brad and Tamara from Black Watch Entertainment, they also ran  some acting workshops as well. Due to the intimate surroundings required for a murder mystery, they were held in the garden cafe, which limited the number of people who could attend. The original plan was just to run two evenings with two different murders. This caused some disquiet amongst passengers, so they soon had to double up on the evenings. Now I'm not bragging, but after solving a murder mystery at our local before we came away. We were also in the winning team on both evenings on board.

The food
We were 1st sitting in the MDR on a table for 6, and it's fair to say we had some interesting evenings ๐Ÿ˜œ I will say no more.
There has been nothing that has stood out food wise. It's been hot and adequate, but I have not said " I really enjoyed that" after a meal.
Breakfast we mainly took in the buffet in The Garden Cafe, and lunch in the MDR, but they did have a buffet there, and the Sunday Roast Beef for lunch was the highlight.


The crew
Excellent as always and a credit to Fred

Conclusion
It's been an OK cruise, but I think Fred could have made it a lot more exciting and interesting. I know it's wrong to compare, but as I said above, we have cruised with Saga on a mystery cruise, and left saying it was one of our best cruises. Sadly I will not be saying that this time. 
Fred, you need to improve.

And finally

I would not normally add this to a cruise review, but felt I did have to mention it. On our last sea day (Friday) in the afternoon, we were in the Lido lounge taking part in a music quiz. The Lido lounge is on deck 6 and overlooks the aft deck. Mid way through the quiz, the CD announces that there is a medical evacuation about to take place by helicopter. 
Now when you see this on TV etc., it does look spectacular, but watching in real life, it was amazing. I hope the person who was evacuated makes a full recovery. But this is just a vote of thanks to the men and women who risk their own lives  to help people who are ill.

Also next time you pass someone shaking a tin for these brave people, please put your hand in your pocket and be generous . 

And finally, 

Disembarkation was fine, but 200/300 passengers with luggage waiting for the coach to take them back to the long stay car park was utter chaos. Not enough coaches, took us 1.5 hours ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Until next time, bye