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HISTORIC CRUISING


is reflected in the friendly, unobtrusive service. Passengers soon become part of this family and it is little wonder the company has such a high level of repeat business. Two thirds of passengers had been


on Black Watch before. Towards the end of the cruise, the crew put on a wonderful show in the Neptune Lounge, a company tradition featuring not only traditional Philippines song and dance but also modern songs. Given that these are not profes- sional entertainers, the standard was extremely high. In fact, one of the receptionists, Elmer Castro Del Fierro, received a standing ovation after his performance of Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera. After his night of stardom, he was back at his desk the following day as if noth- ing had happened. During the day, the programme is filled with traditional shipboard activi- ties, from whist drives and ballroom dance to dolphin racing, bridge classes, quizzes and even a talent contest. The well-stocked Explorer’s Library


and Dalreoch Card Room have writ- ing desks and tables laid out with challenging jigsaw puzzles. This stylish area is also a designated quiet zone. Another perfect place to relax dur-


ing the day is The Observatory. The horse-shoe layout of this compact, forward-facing lounge just above the bridge has changed little since the Royal Viking days when it was


known as the Stella Polaris Room. It has wonderful ocean views, a bar and comfortable chairs. It is also a popular venue for pre-dinner drinks. The cabins are comfortably fitted out with plenty of hanging space and numerous drawers. There is a wide choice, from single inside cabins to 550sq ft Premier Suites, which have a bedroom, sitting room and private balcony. There are also relatively few (around 10%) inside cabins.


O


ur cabin, situated amidships on Main Deck, was a supe- rior outside with a picture


window. Although used to cabins with balconies, the lack of a balcony was not a problem as the open deck was only a few minutes away. American writer Henry James described the British addiction to tea in his famous novel The Portrait of a Lady in 1881 as follows: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” And, 131 years later, despite the


invasion of the café latte generation, tea drinking remains at the heart of the British psyche – and Fred. Olsen cruises. A soothing cuppa, that panacea for all ills, is close to hand at any time of the day, with tea-making facilities in each cabin and the com- fortable Braemar Lounge offering a self-service tea station from 7am to 11pm, with a wide array of Twin- 


A RIGHT ROYAL TRIO


With beautifully-raked clipper bows, the three Finnish-built Royal Viking Line sisters, Royal Viking Star, Royal Viking Sky and Royal Viking Sea, were designed for top-end world-wide cruising. Most cabins offered sea views and, aimed at wealthy American travellers, they were the finest ships of their day. With a passenger capacity of only 539, many voyages were wait-listed. As a result, the trio were “stretched” at the start of the 1980s. However, although this increased capacity to more than 700, it also meant a loss of the small-size exclusivity many regulars loved. Royal Viking Line was sold to Norwegian


Cruise Line in 1984 and operated as a separate entity until the early 1990s. In 1996, Royal Viking Star was bought by


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines as its first ‘large’ cruise ship, and transformed into Black Watch. Nine years later, she was joined by one of her sisters, Boudicca, the former Royal Viking Sky.


The third ship in the Royal Viking trio,


Royal Viking Sea, now operates for German company Phoenix Reisen as Albatros.


Winter 2011-12 I WORLD OF CRUISING


33


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