Hebridean Sky (Noble Caledonia) Review

4.5 / 5.0
5 reviews
Editor Rating
Very Good
Sue Bryant

Hebridean Sky is the latest of three sister 'Sky' ships to be acquired by Gothenberg-based Salen Ship Management; the others are Island Sky and Caledonian Sky, which are similar, but not identical. All three are on a long-term charter to London-based Noble Caledonia, in which Salen also has a majority share.

Where it gets complicated is that Hebridean Sky is also chartered out to a couple of other operators, one being Australian-owned APT, which in turn, has a stake in Noble Caledonia. Some of the Antarctica sailings are also operated for expedition company Polar Latitudes. The experience passengers have will depend on the charterer and what it includes in the cruise fare, although this review is based on a cruise with Noble Caledonia. Passengers need to check inclusions carefully before they book.

Hebridean Sky, which underwent a multimillion-pound refit in 2016 to bring it in line with its sisters, has a classic look, with a dark blue hull and white superstructure, and elegantly raked aft decks. The ship has a wonderfully traditional feel, with teak decking and, inside, gleaming wood panelling and highly polished brass rails. The ship was built in 1991 but really isn't showing its age, thanks to the refit, which even included cushioning the engine to reduce noise and vibration.

Like its sisters, Hebridean Sky is more reminiscent of a smart, country house hotel than a cruise ship, with generously sized cabins, comfortable, informal lounges, a beautiful library and a big deck, the Lido, for outdoor dining as an alternative to the single-seating main dining room. Because the ship has an ice-strengthened hull, it visits both polar regions and has a real feeling of being a smart little expedition vessel. The decks are named after famous explorers, including Shackleton and Scott, while the corridors are lined with beautiful photographs of polar birds and animals, all taken by the expedition staff themselves, as well as mini-exhibitions from the great explorers' legendary expeditions, some procured with the help of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.

The atmosphere onboard is very much one of culture, adventure and discovery. Noble Caledonia includes all tours and this certainly isn't a ship for slackers; more often than not, you're on the road by 8:30 a.m., visiting sights of cultural interest. There are regular afternoon lectures and sometimes, local entertainers are brought onboard, or everybody is taken ashore for a classical concert.

Hebridean Sky may visit exotic locations but the home comforts are very much aimed at Brits, with Marmite and baked beans on the breakfast menu, Twinings tea in the Club, scones and clotted cream for afternoon tea every day and a traditional Sunday roast once a week. The whole vibe is comfortable, friendly and understatedly posh. If you're looking for nightclubs, spas, extensive sports facilities and West End shows, Hebridean Sky is not for you. What it's perfect for is an over-50s audience in search of a warm, comforting atmosphere that blends adventure with a genuine sense of caring and nurturing from the superb crew and expedition team.


Superb accommodation and adventurous itineraries


The cruise experience varies depending on who has chartered the ship

Bottom Line

An attractive little ship with a warm ambience, small enough to fit into out-of-the-way ports


Passengers: 118
Crew: 70
Passenger to Crew: 1.69:1
Launched: 2016

Fellow Passengers

Noble Caledonia attracts a high percentage of repeat passengers, as much as 70 percent on some voyages, and there's lots of exchange of banter about previous cruises, and happy reunions with both crew members and fellow travellers. Most are well-heeled, highly educated, extremely well-travelled and adventurous. Most are over 60, and plenty of people travel alone and soon make friends. The predominant nationality is British, except when the ship is on charter to Australian-owned APT, when most passengers are Australian, or to Polar Latitudes, which sells mainly to Americans.

Hebridean Sky (Noble Caledonia) Dress Code

Dress code is smart casual -- there's no requirement to dress up in the evenings, although most people change for dinner and a lot of men will put on a jacket. Daywear is decidedly practical; a lot of the tours include a fair amount of walking. Expect a mixture of shorts, sandals, sturdy footwear and functional outdoorsy gear, and when the ship is somewhere warm, a large number of Panama hats. There is usually one gala night a week, for which people make more of an effort and officers host tables. Women should pack a pashmina or wrap as the air conditioning can be quite fierce -- and, where possible, tables are set up outside and evenings can get chilly.

For polar cruising, fleeces, hats and boots are provided and a full set of recommendations of what to wear is sent out in advance.

Find a cruise

Any Month
Hebridean Sky (Noble Caledonia) Cruiser Reviews

Noble Caledonia Andalucian Odyssey on Hebridean Sky, November 2021

Hebridean Sky and Island Sky hold just 118 passengers (and 70 crew).Read More
User Avatar
Host Jazzbeau

many10+ Cruises

Age 70s

Noble Caledonia Hebridean Sky Voyage from Mallorca to Malta 19 Sep – 4 Oct 2021

Hebridean Sky and Island Sky hold just 118 passengers (and 70 crew).Read More
User Avatar
Host Jazzbeau

many10+ Cruises

Age 70s

Exciting Land of the Polar Bear

The dining room was lovely but we really only ate there at night, although even then we had to leave everything and dash up on deck to see whales that had most inconsiderately decided to come close at dinner time!We had several hours there as our plane back was delayed, but we had a very nice lunch in the hotel and bought more souvenirs in the shops.Read More
User Avatar

many10+ Cruises

Age 70s

A fantastic way to visit the South Atlantic

The whole experience was worth six or seven stars - I doubt if it could have ben bettered.The guides were superb, being knowledgeable but also very helpful and friendly - they were great people and they helped to engender a very positive atmosphere throughout the whole trip.Read More
User Avatar

couple2-5 Cruises

Age 70s

Noble Caledonia Fleet
Island Sky

Get special cruise deals, expert advice, insider tips and more.By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

© 1995—2024, The Independent Traveler, Inc.