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My fascination with cruise ships started with the elegant sisters Royal Viking Star, Royal Viking Sky and Royal Viking Sea, built in the early seventies for Norwegian luxury operator Royal Viking Line. Sailing on itineraries that spanned the globe, these ships were considered the ultimate in luxury, comfort and style in their days.  By the early eighties, I was fanatically studying brochures and deck plans and I just couldn't get enough of the brilliant clean-cut Scandinavian design and stylish interior spaces. My dream to one day set sail on one of these vessels became reality in 1997 as I boarded the former Royal Viking Star - now sailing as Black Watch - in Dover for a 14-day winter cruise to the Canary Islands, Spain and Morocco. I felt right at home.

Even though the 32-year old ship has been rebuilt many times, present Norwegian owners Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines have managed to transform Black Watch into a contemporary cruise ship without losing that particular feeling of spaciousness and elegance that made such an impression on me more than two decades ago. In December of 1997 I was thrilled to venture to exotic places like Casablanca, Madeira and Lanzarote on this ship that I knew so well. Only three years later, I embarked once again; this time for a four-night cruise from Dover to Cobh (Ireland) and Guernsey (UK Channel Islands).

In the summer of 2003 I was able to briefly hop on board during a visit of the ship to the port of Amsterdam. While Black Watch definitely shows her age in some areas, Fred. Olsen are spending a lot of money on her upkeep and the ship remains as popular as ever. Which in itself is a good reason to take a renewed look at one of my favorite classic cruise liners afloat, the incomparable Black Watch. Please note I was not able to view any staterooms as the ship was fully booked at the time of my visit.

Cruise Line: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Year built: 1972
Rebuilt: 1994
Yard: Wärtsilä, Helsinki, Finland
Gross Tonnage: 28,668
Length: 674.1 ft / 205.5 m
Beam: 82.6 ft / 25.2 m
Passengers (norm.): 775
Passengers (max): 821
Crew: 415
Service speed: 19.5 knots
Flag: Bahamas


All photos and text: © 2003-2004 Bart de Boer -

First published on August 1st, 2004. All rights reserved.