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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Fred Olsen Cruises

MS Black Prince

Your Rating:Three Stars
Reviewed by: Pam Massey
# previous cruises: 9
Date of Trip: December 16, 2001
Itinerary: Europe

Black Prince was built for Fred. Olsen in 1966 and is the second passenger ship in the company's history of that name. Originally designed for a dual purpose role as a joint passenger and cargo vessel to the Canary Islands in the winter and in the summer as a passenger and vehicle ferry between England and Norway. She was converted to total passenger service in 1986 when part of the existing cargo hold was used for a Marina Park - which is taken out of the stern of the ship and floated on the ocean's surface and used as a base for water sports. Additional space was created inside the stern and transformed into an indoor fitness centre with a heated pool, a large area for table tennis, badminton court and a children's room.

This was a pre-Christmas Mini-Cruise to Antwerp and Le Havre from Southampton; she was full. At just 11209 grt, with 241 cabins, carrying 412 passengers (max. 451), Black Prince is a small ship with a rather 'odd' outside appearance. However, her public rooms are lovely, tastefully decorated, well laid out and functional. The Christmas decorations were up, making it all look extra special. Overall the ship seemed well maintained and 'cared for', no obvious areas of neglect anywhere, apart from the cabin decor which does need some attention.

Public Areas
Black Prince is 'cosy' and lends herself well to provide an endearing and relaxing atmosphere. All the crew were friendly and smiling, as were the passengers Public Areas : There is no wraparound Prom, and one can't even walk completely around her outside on Sun Deck. Being a 'cold' trip, the outside areas were little used, except when entering and leaving port, so whether she ever gets crowded on deck, I don't know, but probably not. The lounges were not crowded even with everyone inside. Some 'interesting' Scandinavian Artwork in various places.

The Card Room seemed to be well utilised. The Library was small and I never really got around to seeing exactly what books it had, but looked nice anyway. One entrance led straight onto the deck, so people did just use it as a walk through room. No internet access. The Reception area is smart, with friendly staff, and a stairwell adorned with large portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

There is a lovely model of Black Prince outside the Fleur De Lys, much admired. The Photo Gallery caused a bit of a blockage in the walkway, as did the Boutique, but this was because with so few hours actually 'at sea' they were only open for short periods in the morning and evening, so everyone made a beeline for them at the same time. Only one Boutique, but well stocked.

Only one nightly show in the Neptune Lounge around 10pm, but plenty of seating for all. It doesn't contain a stage as such, but a dance floor with the orchestra behind and staircases on either side curving up to the Lido Lounge 'Gallery'. There are some pillars obstructing the view, but they are thin and didn't cause a problem. The dance floor is open to the Lido Lounge so you can also view from there around the edge. The Show, or whatever is going on, is filmed and shown in the cabins as well on two large screens on either side of the Lido Lounge. Port Talks, Early Cabaret and Comedy took place prior to the show. Always something going on; line dancing or just the orchestra playing.

I didn't use the Beauty Salon, Fitness Centre [which looked well equipped], the Solarium or the Sauna in the Indoor Leisure Centre, but this whole area is really something for a small ship and would be great on a longer cruise. The indoor swimming pool is a good size and was well used. There are loungers on the carpet surround and a table tennis table on one side.

The Outdoor Marina has a speedboat for water skiing, sailing dinghies, inflatables, sailboards and 'Sunfish' type sailing boats, all of which are used from two pontoons from the stern and port side. Snorkeling too. There's also a badminton court which doubles for playing darts and golf putting.

There is an outdoor pool with 2 jacuzzis on Lido deck; I wasn't going to try them. A bit too cold, even for a Brit:)

Food and Service
All meals were ` la carte for dinner. You are allocated a specific table for dinner, but open seating in either restaurant for breakfast and lunch when you could have the buffet, eat off the menu, or a mixture of both. No queuing at the buffets. There was plenty of choice on the menu, appetizers, soups, salads, main courses [about 5 and a couple of vegetarian], tasty desserts, fruit, cheese and biscuits, and an extensive reasonably priced wine list. Many bottles to choose from around the #10 - #15 mark [some less], and it seemed every table had one each night. Lots of fish dishes, always something for those with a spicy inclination [Indian, Thai], and something for the British palate. Items suitable for diabetics were marked. One could not fault the food, in variety, taste or presentation. Only light snacks are available through cabin service, soup, sandwiches, salads and omelettes, but we didn't use this service, nor for breakfast.

The waiters were attentive and cheerful. The wine waiter always seems to be a somewhat difficult 'catch', so fill out the order form in advance, then he's there:) Only 3 nights, one of each Informal, Formal and Casual. However the Casual night was really more Informal as most people dressed up.

The Balblom Restaurant is conservatory style and used for eating Al Fresco in warmer climes. A bit too chilly in The Channel I'm afraid. It was however the venue for a nightly quiz. There was a Late Night Buffet each evening in the Royal Garter, but never got there.

Biscuits mid-morning and cakes mid-afternoon are served with tea and coffee in the Lido Lounge, with after dinner coffee in the Neptune Lounge for those at first seating.

The decor of the cabins is in my opinion awful. 1970's teak veneer, outdated lamp shades, generally 'drab' and dull, and they really need upgrading. Most of the other cabins I peered in were extremely small. The outsides tended to be smaller than the insides and a fair number had 2 berths [bunks] instead of beds. There are quite a few singles, which didn't look any smaller than the 2 berths. I didn't get a look in one of the suites, but through the door on the last morning one looked as though it may have had a refit and quite smart/spacious.

The shows were good. A singer, couple of comedians [one very good],Dij` Vu & Company, singers/dancers, along with the Black Prince Orchestra. A Pianist and DJ. Port lectures were by Elsbeth Buchanan. The Cruise Director was John Marvin, who seemed OK, but too short a trip to really tell.

We didn't go on any tours preferring to wander about on our own; but those who did, enjoyed them, even if they felt they were a bit pricey. Always something going on; quizzes seemed popular. There was Bingo/Line Dancing/Dolphin Racing/Carpet Bowls/Putting/Darts going on, but never found the time to do any of them.

Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world, has many museums and other building and places of interest to visit. It is a lovely city just to wander around; if only it wasn't so cold, misty and drizzling. The weather did dampen things down a bit.

Le Havre at the mouth of the River Seine in Normandy is the biggest ocean port in France. 80% of the city was destroyed in WWII and it took nearly 20 years to rebuild, hence the town centre is pretty unexciting, lots of concrete apartment blocks. Good for shopping at nearby hypermarkets and the surrounding villages such as Harfleur and Honfleur are very pretty.

Who Goes
There were a handful of children aboard, but apart from mealtimes one didn't see a lot of them. There is a children's room, Little Prince, but I didn't investigate. Quite a number of older teenagers too. Nearly all the passengers were British; mainly in the 40 - 60 age range, but many younger and a 'younger' retired set, no 'Ancients'. Probably as this was a short trip, although some were staying aboard for the following 16 night Christmas Cruise to the Canaries. It wasn't long enough to forge any real relationships and being the time of year, everyone was in a cheerful friendly mood

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