After stating previously that cruise ships very rarely visit West India Dock, we welcome the MV Hebridean Princess into the dock. The MV Hebridean Princess is considered one of the smallest luxury cruise ship afloat and has an intriguing history and a Royal connection.
Although the MV Hebridean Princess is now considered the height of luxury, the origins of the ship were much more mundane.
The ship began life as the MS Columba which was the last of three car ferries built in 1964 by Hall, Russell & Company, Aberdeen and operated by David MacBrayne Ltd, the ship also took up the Isle of Mull service. She travelled around the various Scottish Isles visiting Stornoway, Mallaig, Oban, serving Coll and Tiree, Colonsay, Iona, Lochaline and Tobermory.
In 1988, she was acquired by Hebridean Island Cruises to offer luxury cruises. After a major refit she emerged as the luxury cruise ship, the MV Hebridean Princess. She began providing luxury cruises around the Western Isles of Scotland. In recent times , the ship’s itineraries have been extended to include Ireland, the Orkney and Shetland islands, the Norwegian Fjords and France.
The ship is 72 metres long with a beam of 14 metres, gross tonnage of 2112 and an average speed 12 knots (14 miles per hour). There are only 30 bedrooms on board, all named after West Coast Scottish islands, castles, sounds, lochs and bays – individually designed in the style of a large country hotel – with 10 cabins specifically designed for single occupancy. With 50 guests looked after by a crew of around 38, The ship is very popular for cruises around the Scottish Isles where her size allows access to many locations not accessible to larger cruise ships.
The ships transformation from humble car ferry to luxury cruise ship was given a royal seal of approval when HM Queen Elizabeth II chartered the entire ship for a ‘family holiday’ around the Scottish Islands both in 2006 and 2010. It was estimated the charter cost was £125,000 for the use of the ship.
The ship departs for one of its cruises in the next couple of days, it is one of the most unusual cruise ships in service and a welcome and interesting visitor to the dock.