Originally called Hebridean Island Cruises (a name it changed in May 2006 to Hebridean International Cruises to reflect its wider-ranging scope of destinations, before changing it back again when it settled in the Western Isles), the company was founded in 1988 by a Yorkshire family who had previously operated a small canal boat company. Fanatical motor-boaters, they spent much of their free time exploring Scotland's lovely Western Isles, and got the idea of offering exclusive "millionaire's yacht"-style cruises while storm-bound one day in Loch Scresort, on the Isle of Rum.
They bought the Oban-Mull ferry MV Columba from Scottish ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne and had it totally refitted by George Prior Engineering of Great Yarmouth. It was re-launched (by Sarah Ferguson, the then-Duchess of York) as the Hebridean Princess -- with space for 46 passengers and 27 crew -- on May 26th 1989.
After nearly ten years of successful operation, the business was taken over by Altnamara PLC in 1998. Its new managers decided to invest in a second ship and put it on far-flung international itineraries.
In 2001, it acquired the 4,200 Megastar Capricorn from Star Cruises, refitted it (again at George Prior's yard) and launched it as the 80-passenger, 70-crew Hebridean Spirit on July 3rd, 2001. Citing the difficult economy, the line announced the sale of Hebridean Spirit
in March 2009 and the ship departed the fleet in April 2009. Hebridean International Cruises and its sole ship, Hebridean Princess, were purchased by U.K.-based All Leisure Group, which operates both Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery. The line also reverted back to its original name, Hebridean Island Cruises.