Noble Caledonia is primarily a tour operator, but it does have its own fleet of two small expedition ships.
The 4,280-ton, 114-passenger Island Sky and Caledonian Sky were built as sister Renaissance-class ships in the early 1990's for Renaissance Cruises, part of a series of eight small, yachtlike vessels. (Two of the others still around include Orion Expedition Cruises' Orion II and Travel Dynamics' Corinthian II.) Noble Caledonia acquired Island Sky, formerly Renaissance VIII, in 2010 after chartering it for a few years and immediately spent several million pounds turning it into a comfortable but elegant boutique ship.
In 2011, a second ship was acquired. Built as Renaissance VI and subsequently sailing as Hebridean Spirit before it was sold to a private investor, it joins the company as Caledonian Sky in spring 2012. Caledonian Sky will undergo a refit similar to that of its sister to bring it up to Noble Caledonia's exacting standards.
Noble Caledonia is a British-based tour operator, established in 1991, specialising in escorted tours, whether by ocean or river cruise ship, overland or by train, all aimed at the informed, enquiring traveller. The company covers an enormous range of itineraries on its own ships and also sells cruises on ships of other lines, from Voyage to Antiquity's Aegean Odyssey to Hapag Lloyd's Hanseatic and the sailing yacht Sea Cloud II. An extensive river cruise programme features everywhere from the Rhine and Danube to the Amazon and Siberia. The common factor among all the cruises is that they're adventurous, usually in sheltered waters, always on small ships, culturally oriented and aimed at a mature market.
Four ships out of the wide range in the programme are chartered for sole use by Noble Caledonia: the expedition ships MS Clipper Odyssey, which sails in the Pacific; MS Quest, which sails in Scandinavia; and river boats Johann Strauss and Rembrandt.
Two further vessels are leased: 114-passenger Island Sky, on which millions of pounds were spent when Noble Caledonia acquired it in 2010, and its twin sister, Caledonian Sky, formerly sailing as Hebridean Island Cruises' Hebridean Spirit. This second vessel will join the fleet in 2012 after a refit and will sail for Noble Caledonia for a minimum of five years.
Noble Caledonia'a 4,280-ton, 114-passenger sister ships, Island Sky and Caledonian Sky, offer a comfortable, informal environment, with attractive lounges and a single restaurant offering open-seating dining. (Passengers eat on the aft deck, too, in fine weather.) A lot of money has been spent on the cabins, which are extraordinarily spacious, more like hotel rooms than typical ship staterooms. They feature plenty of polished wood, luxurious fabrics, marble bathrooms and extra seating areas.
The emphasis is on gentle socialising in the bar and attending lectures in the lounge; there is no casino onboard, and evening entertainment is limited to a pianist after dinner. Sunbathing doesn't really feature, either; there isn't even a pool, although each ship does have a hot tub on its top deck. Each ship carries a fleet of Zodiac inflatables for ferrying passengers ashore in remote anchorages.
Noble Caledonia goes all out to create a convivial, house party atmosphere on each ship. Wine is included with dinner, and as most excursions are included in the prices, passengers spend a lot of time together, often forming firm friendships.
Noble Caledonia sells almost exclusively to British passengers of a mature age, who are seeking an adventurous, culturally enriching cruise, train journey or escorted tour. Some passengers are from Australia and New Zealand, too. Most are couples, but cruises often include a smattering of singles and groups of friends. On the company's 114-passenger Island Sky and Caledonian Sky and its other exclusively chartered ships, the house party atmosphere, with included tours and open-seating dining at mainly big tables, makes this an easy environment for singles.
A lot of passengers are extremely loyal to Noble Caledonia and will switch between a variety of holidays, including river cruises, ocean cruises and land tours. They consider the destination more important than the accommodation and would label themselves travelers, rather than cruisers. The guest speakers (who offer themes relevant to the area in which the ship is sailing), the included tours and the culturally enriching itineraries are important to them; they see cruises as voyages of discovery, rather than lazy holidays.
Noble Caledonia's cruises are not suitable for families with young children -- and similarly, anybody looking for nightlife, lavish entertainment and sophisticated spas should probably try another cruise line.
The company has a loyalty club, the Commodore Club, offering 5 percent discounts on future cruises, among other benefits.
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