Posted by: tireecottage | October 12, 2011

Hebridean Princess – Fit for a Queen

As part of our occasional series profiling the big cruise companies, SeaView’s cruise expert David Simpson gives the low down on Hebridean Island Cruises, and their flagship the Hebridean Princess…

Hebridean PrincessRoyal mission: The Hebridean Princess played host to the Queen in 2006

The Low Down

Since the demise of the Royal Yacht Brittania in 1997, only one ‘ship’ has been able to rightfully claim to be fit for a Queen.

Hebridean Princess, the lone vessel of Hebridean Island Cruises, was chartered by Her Majesty in 2006 to take her family on an 80th birthday celebration cruise around the Western Isles, and again in August last year for a family vacation.

Not bad for a tiny, 2,000-ton vessel that began life as the Caledonian MacBrayne car ferry, and now sets the benchmark for luxury, child-free cruising around the dramatic coast of Scotland, the Western Isles and beyond to far-flung St Kilda, the Orkney and Shetland Isles. In
2012 she returns to the south coast of Ireland.

Hebridean Princess, acquired by Hebridean Island Cruises in 1989, offers a lifestyle more akin to a sumptuous stately home. The 30 bedrooms – not vast but perfectly formed and all with Victorian-style bathrooms – are named after West Coast Scottish islands, castles, sounds, lochs and bays, and bedecked in finery usually associated with life of the aristocracy. Ten of them are for single travellers.

A real brick-walled Inglenook fireplace is the focal point of the Tiree Lounge, but don’t expect it to be lit for safety reasons. Don’t expect to find a swimming pool or a casino with slot machines either.

But you can count of exquisite cuisine.

Hebridean PrincessRoyal progress: The Queen comes aboard for her 80th birthday cruise

The 50 guests – many of them repeaters – who are fortunate enough to sail on Hebridean Princess seek genteel pleasures, watched over by just 38 crew members. They are piped aboard at embarkation by a Scottish piper and greeted individually by the captain.

But all of this regal attention comes at a price – in fact some of the highest to be found for cruising.

All-inclusive cruises of between four and nine nights, departing from Oban or Greenock, concentrate on destinations inaccessible to larger vessels, each designed to capture their cultural essence and historical significance.

The itineraries are always being refreshed, and there are 20 new ones for 2012.

Some cruises have themes such as castles, gardens, walking or cycling, but the common denominator is spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and remote locations.

Most nights, the ship anchors in sea lochs or bays far from habitation – but she is well protected in case of inclement weather, which is not unrare.


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