Posted by: travelrat | June 10, 2013

Small Ships are Best.

Black Watch 3

I didn’t get many really good photographs on the Christmas Markets cruise, because the daylight conditions weren’t too good. But, that’s only to be expected in the middle of Winter. The irony was that, as ‘Black Watch’ sailed into Southampton at the end of the cruise … for the first time, the sun came out!

However, when we cruised to Norway in ‘Discovery’ three months later, the weather conditions were almost perfect … by daylight; we didn’t get a very satisfactory sight of the Northern Lights, but you can’t have everything; there was plenty of other stuff to see and do.

What these cruises did convince me of was that smaller ships are the way to go. I can tolerate the medium-sized ones, such as the three Costa ships we’ve sailed on, but I’ve no time at all for the gigantic floating theme parks that some companies think are the way to go. Can you imagine one or two of these leviathans, with over 3000 passengers on board, pitching up at, say, Santorini?

As a rough guide, I call a ‘smaller ship’ one of around 30,000 tons, carrying less than a thousand passengers; a larger one would be about 120,000 tons, and carry over 3000 passengers, and a mid-size one in between these.

Both ‘Black Watch’ and ‘Discovery’ are old ships; ‘Black Watch’, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines ( )  began life as ‘Royal Viking Star’ in 1972, and ‘Discovery’ operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages, (  as ‘Island Venture’ in the same year. Both ships have, of course, undergone extensive refurbishment, and have had several name changes in their long careers. I’m reminded a little of the story of ‘Paddy’s pick’, which only had one new head and two new handles all the time he had it!

I wondered if possibly ‘smaller ship’ was equivalent to ‘old ship; maybe shipbuilders were concentrating on the ‘ocean giants’, because that’s where the money is? Then, I learnt that a new small ship is being built. The well-regarded Viking River Cruises have recently established an ocean cruising branch called, not surprisingly, Viking Oceans.–31rcCFYXMtAodvGEAYA . Their first ship, the brand-new ‘Viking Star’ (There’s a coincidence! See the original name of ‘Black Watch’ ) will make her first voyage in 2015.

I did say we’d probably take a break from cruising for a while … but I think we just might be ready for another one in 2015.

Discovery 3


  1. I recognise where the ship is in that last photo – Tromso! We were just there a few months back. Norway was incredibly beautiful, I wish I could go back!

    • I was on the cruise that left Bristol on the 15th March. You?

      • We were in Tromso Mar 11 to Mar 14! So just before you got there. We didn’t have a high aurora activity index, but it was still beautiful to watch. And the city itself is beautiful. Did you go dog sledding?

      • I did at Alta. The ‘Trip Diary’ hasn’t reached there yet, but if you want a foretaste, I posted a short video clip at

  2. Very good. In Finland, on our lakes, we have small ships making cruises.

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