Even the richest travellers are not immune to the credit crunch
High operating costs and the weakness of sterling have forced Hebridean International Cruises to sell their ship Hebridean Spirit. The vessel will be withdrawn from service before the start of its 2009 cruise season.
Customers who have booked cruises on the Spirit are being offered alternative voyages on the company’s other ship, the Hebridean Princess.
The alternatives are unlikely to be what the passengers had hoped for in the first place. Spirit, which carried 98 passengers, sailed international cruises in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and other exotic destinations.
Princess, which was chartered by the Queen for a birthday cruise in 2006 is even smaller. A converted car ferry, she sails cruises around the Western Isles of Scotland.
Both Hebridean vessels are ultra-luxury ships, providing the ambience of a five-star country house hotel at sea to a well-heeled clientele.
Managing Director Mike Deegan said “We have made the decision to withdraw from international operations to concentrate on our core product, which is the operation of Hebridean Princess in Scotland”.
“Clearly we have not taken this decision lightly. I am very aware that the cancellation of an eagerly anticipated holiday is very upsetting and we shall work with all affected customers. That we shall also be losing some good staff, some of whom have seen many years of service with us, is equally upsetting for us”.
One of Hebridean Spirit’s sister ships – they were originally built for the defunct Renaissance cruise line – is easyCruise One (above), which is also no longer sailing. She was sold some months ago and Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s company operates cruises in the Greek islands on its replacement, easyCruise Life.
In their new guises, the Spirit and easyCruise One were totally different ships; Spirit carried no more than 80 passengers in the same amount of space as the orange One’s 232.
Hebridean would not say who has bought their ship. I wonder where it will turn up next. Saga desperately need a replacement for the Saga Rose, but I expect Spirit would be too small for their requirements, especially now they have Susan Hooper, formerly of Royal Caribbean International, in charge.
She is probably looking for something bigger, although I don’t expect to see climbing walls and ice rinks on a Saga ship any time soon.