First of all you will love a cruise on the Black Watch, it's lovely ship. Ships tours are quite pricey but are usually very good. It will certainly be cheaper, and more satisfying, to do your own thing. Formal evenings are pretty formal. Most men will wear a DJ although a dark suit is acceptable. Women tend to wear a wide range of smart clothes. There are normally two formal nights each week and the rest are a mixture of informal (men wear ti.jacket) or casual (no tie but definately no shorts!). In addition, there are usually some theme nights eg tropical, red/white/blue/ western. The cruise line send you the dress suggentions with your tickets.
At both Dover and Southampton there are excellent parking facilities which have to be pre-booked. Your luggage will be collected from the car and taken to your cabin. You have only a short walk to the ship. For a 1700 sailing boarding normally starts around 1400 and you must check-in one hour before sailing - at the very latest.Get there early and enjoy exploring the ship.
There is a mass on information in the Fred. Olsen brochure and the excellent A to Z guide to cruising you will be sent. In addition, the Fred. Olsen web site (fredolsencruises.com.uk) is a feast of cruise information.
I have sailed on this ship more than a dozen times and heve loved it.
Hope this helps.
Most of the questions that you ask will all be answered by reading the Fred Olsen cruise brochure available from your local travel agent or through the post! They will also be answered by reference to the Fred Olsen website as well. You will be posted personal details of formal nights and parking arrangements a while before your cruise leaves. When you ask about organising parking and transport from "there" to the ship, what exactly are you talking about? If you have booked through the right channels you should have been offered free car parking at Southampton. You just drive your car up to the terminal, get out, unload your cases, and the next time you see your car is when you arrive back from the cruise! If you have not been to any of the places the ship calls at on your cruise, then most places provide enough of interest within walking distance of where the ship docks. You will need to catch a shuttle bus from where the ship docks for La Rochelle (this should be provided free of charge). Once in the town though, it is very pretty and interesting, and there is more than enough to keep you busy for the day. You can even get a boat trip to visit where "Fort Boyard" was filmed, if that sort of thing interests you? There is also a very nice beach right in the town. In Guernsey you will have to go ashore by tender, which is a real pain! It means queuing to catch the tender to shore, and then queuing again to get back. If you go on an organised tour, you will be ushered in a group to the tenders as a priority. If you travel independently you will just have to take your turn in the queue. The Fort in St Peter Port is worth looking round, but the town itself is not really up to much. Maybe a bit of a coach tour around the Island might be a good idea. I cannot help you concerning the other ports of call since I have not been to them myself. Happy cruising.