Hebridean Islands Cruises
Hebridean Spirit was launched at Leith in July 2001 by the Princess Royal. Spirit cruises all the year round, from the Norwegian fjords to Scandinavia and the Baltic, briefly from the UK, and on to the Western Mediterranean and the Adriatic, and in the winter months the Eastern Mediterranean, the Red and Arabian Seas, the Indian Ocean and in 2004, the Bay of Bengal.
From The Scotsman, Wednesday 4th July, 2001"The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, found herself alongside the Royal Yacht Britannia yesterday at her new berth at the Port of Leith. She was at the port in Edinburgh to launch a new luxury cruise liner, the MV Hebridean Spirit, at the start of a two-day visit to Scotland. Dressed in a lemon suit and white hat, the Princess Royal chatted to Edinburgh's Lord Provost Eric Milligan and mingled with the 200 invited guests in the warm sunshine.Following the success of the Hebridean Princess over the past fourteen years on her many journeys around Scotland's west coast, the Western Isles and the Hebrides, building up a loyal and enthusiastic guest list on the way, Hebridean Island Cruises decided to expand and launch a second ship, the Hebridean Spirit which has also been awarded a five star rating by the Berlitz guide to cruising.
The Princess allowed herself a wry smile when she launched a bottle of champagne against the hull of the 4,200 ton vessel only to watch it bounce back intact. The bottle smashed on the second attempt."
David Rodger, Managing Director, reflected on the success which has followed her launch."Spirit has given our guests the perfect opportunity to combine the comfort and bonhomie which has made Princess famous, with some rare glimpses of far-flung corners of the world. We believe there will always be strong demand for the high level of service we offer, and we are very pleased to see that, even though Spirit is a new fish in a very big pond, from our guests' point of view she is still one of the two finest little cruise ships afloat."
If guests are wanting adventure, then the Hebridean Spirit is certainly going to offer a fabulous list of world wide destinations and ports of call. A wide choice of journeys can take you to Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The Voyage to the Midnight Sun, Spirit's cruise from Trondheim to Tromsų, promises a captivating journey from the wilderness of little-known Scandinavian islands to the Arctic Circle and the vivid sight of the midnight sun. There is a profusion of bird and sea life here in an expanse of natural wonders - the puffin colony at Lovund, occasional whale sightings, plunging cliffs, the celestial artistry of the fjords, and the Svartisen glacier among them.
By contrast, Exotic Islands of the Indian Ocean, a new cruise departing in January 2004, evokes swaying palms and turquoise seas. From Madras, guests are transported via Sri Lanka through the paradise islands of the Maldives and the Seychelles. Rameswaram, sacred island between India's south coast and Sri Lanka, is home to the pillared Temple of Ramalingeshwara, a place of Hindu pilgrimage. Two private islands are included in this itinerary - Etheremadivaru and Denis, and Hebridean have included the bonus of a seaplane flight, affording a birds' eye view of the surrounding coral atolls.
Scottish Hospitality and Style
The Hebridean Spirit may be travelling far from its "homeland" but she is taking the true spirit of the elegance and hospitality of a Scottish country house party wherever she may sail. Guests appreciate the quality of traditional homely comforts; there is a magnificent stone fireplace in the Skye Lounge, a spacious and charming room in which to relax in one of the colourful upholstered sofas and armchairs. Here too is the cosy Skye Bar, which is sure to become the hub of life aboard the Spirit - no doubt well stocked with a few well selected Scotch whiskies.
The Argyll restaurant has wood panelled walls, subtle lighting and of course the very best dinner service and shining crystal glasses - the ideal setting for the popular black-tie formal dinners taking place two or three times a week. There are seven chefs preparing haute cuisine meals, with the emphasis on fresh locally sourced ingredients, and a truly masterful address to the haggis. The Mizzen Deck Brasserie serves breakfast, lunch, tea and coffee.
The concept behind the Hebridean Island Cruises seems very much to be about a taste of timeless luxury and style on the high seas - but on an intimate and small scale. The Hebridean Spirit is slightly larger than her sister ship and offers accommodation for up to 80 guests, who are looked after by around 70 crew members. That is what I call service with a smile!
There are 50 bedrooms, each individually designed and furnished and named after Scottish islands - such as the Isle of Eriska, Gigha and Taransay; Castles - Brodick and Dunvegan; Clans - Douglas, Gordon, Cameron and Bruce, and Glens - Coe, Fyne and Tarbert. The quality of furnishings and fittings is quite superb, featuring polished Italian maple wood. Each bedroom has an individual colour scheme and design, and luxurious soft fabrics have been selected for the bedspreads and curtains. While there is a choice of both the standard and size of room, with suites, doubles, twins and single rooms, there is ample room to sit in your private lounge area. The walls are papered and hung with delightful pictures and contemporary paintings. All rooms have hair dryers, ironing board, and trouser press, with good wardrobe space. There are large picture windows, or series of portholes while eight rooms have their own private balcony for that little extra taste of luxury.
What I was most impressed by were the beautiful marble bathrooms, with full size bathtubs, some fitted with a jacuzzi, heated towel rails, piled high with soft fluffy towels, bathrobes and the personal touch of quality Molton Brown soaps and toiletries. There is certainly a five star plus lifestyle on board what seems like a private yacht.
The aim is to provide a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere on board, with a sense of "just like home, only better". Each room has not only a television, but a DVD, and a mini bar/fridge is replenished daily with fresh milk and mineral water so that you can make your own tea and coffee in the privacy of your room.
The success of Hebridean Island Cruises is very much down to the fact that these cruises are unlike the typical cruise lines - both in terms of number of passengers, itineraries and the policy of no nightly cabaret, disco or casino. Entertainment and leisure facilities are low key and discreet. There is a well stocked library, a choice of board games, and a video library.
The Hebridean Spirit does have a plunge pool on the Mizzen sun deck - not quite so necessary for the Princess cruises around the Western isles of Scotland - but certainly a useful addition for cruises to hotter climes. As this is a small ship, there is a swimming platform at the stern which when she is at anchor in a quiet bay is perfect for bathing. There is also a Spa, with treatment room, hair salon and fitness and steam rooms. Bicycles are available for shore visits which seems a good idea for anyone who would like to explore on their own.
Hebridean Spirit - Cruise Directory
Now that I have whetted your appetite, where should you plan to go?
You can experience Hebridean hospitality from the Arctic Circle to the Bay of Bengal, and there is a lot to see in between. En route to the Baltic, Spirit visits some of the more remote reaches of Sweden and Denmark, and once there calls at Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn, in Estonia. The Treasures of the Baltic cruise combines these stunning locations with a visit to the splendid St Petersburg. Southwards, Hebridean Princess pays a rare visit to Sassenach waters sailing from the Pool of London to the Channel Islands, the western coast of France and then to the Scillies and to Dublin before returning to the familiar territory of the west coast of Scotland.
Returning to Hebridean Spirit and Cadiz, Corsica, Sicily and Naples; the Aeolian and Ionian Islands, Delphi, the Corinth Canal, Phaselis, Perge, Baalbeck Temple and the extraordinary Krak des Chevaliers, Alexandria, Salalah, Sur, Muscat and Sri Lanka, and a raft of lovely islands - La Digue, Praslin, Denis, Silhouette and Wasini - are just a very few of the alluring destinations on offer.
Picnics and al fresco lunches are a speciality of Hebridean cruises wherever you may be travelling and beach barbecues in the shade of coconut palms or the rocky outcrops of Scotland's coast will surely be a memorable treat.
The flag of Hebridean Island Cruises features the outline of the mountain range, the Five Sisters of Kintail, with a silhouette of the Hebridean ship at anchor and a red sun shining above. It is good to know that this image of Scotland - with its dramatic landscape of mountain peaks - now flies from the mast of two ships as they sail in their different directions around the Scottish islands as well as across to the other side of the world - just as many hundreds of Scottish adventurers and explorers have travelled for hundreds of years.
For more information see the Hebridean Islands Cruises> Web site.
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