Hebridean International Cruises -- the two-ship fleet known for its country-house style, all-inclusive, luxury cruises in the British Isles and around the world -- announced that it has sold its larger ship, the 98-passenger Hebridean Spirit. A spokesperson was unable to share the identity of the new owners at this point. The sale means the small-ship, U.K-based line will have to lay off a number of employees and will cease to offer cruises in international waters.
According to Mike Deegan, managing director -- quoted on the company's Web site -- the increasing costs of operating a ship in international waters and the weakening of the pound against the euro and dollar forced the line to sell its second ship. The line intends to "concentrate on our core product, which is the operation of Hebridean Princess in Scotland."
This is not the first hit the U.K. cruise industry has taken of late. Ocean Village is phasing out its two ships by fall of 2010, and North America's Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced that it won't offer any ex-Southampton cruises in 2010. The U.K. cruise industry is also losing ships due to SOLAS; Cunard, Saga and Fred. Olsen have all recently given up (or announced they'll be giving up) ships that couldn't meet new, upcoming requirements.
However, Hebridean's citation of the economy as the main reason for the decision to downsize is a clear sign that the U.K. cruise industry is feeling the effects of the recession.
Hebridean Spirit will leave the fleet prior to the start of the summer 2009 cruising season. The news is disheartening not only for fans and staff of Hebridean, but also to the many travelers whose holiday will now be canceled. Hebridean representatives are in the process of contacting all booked travelers and offering them a full refund or the option to transfer to a Hebridean Princess sailing to the Western Isles of Scotland.
Hebridean International Cruises began life in the 1980s as Hebridean Island Cruises. Hebridean Princess launched in 1989, with a focus on Scotland cruises. After the company was acquired, a second ship, Hebridean Spirit, was added in 2001 to sail exotic itineraries in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and South Africa. The line has seen many illustrious passengers, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor, with reporting by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor
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Hebridean Sells Half Its Fleet, Loses Its Spirit
March 19, 2009