We'd always wanted to visit the Inner Hebrides & this seemed the most civilised way to do it, especially as the ship came with HM the Queen's recommendation. From the moment we first made contact with Reservations to disembarkation day at the end of our chosen cruise, every member of staff we dealt with was courteous, helpful, friendly, thoughtful & consummately professional. We felt cossetted & secure throughout our dealings with them all.
So many superlatives have been written about this wonderful experience (everything in the brochures is absolutely true), that I thought I'd write about the bits you don't discover until you arrive for your first cruise...
The ships embarkation procedures were very civilised. We had driven ourselves to Oban &, on our early arrival at the Lighthouse Pier our luggage was checked by Security & put straight on board the ship, while we were directed to the delightful nearby Manor House Hotel & greeted by Hebridean representative Joe. After a brief spell of form-filling, Joe took our car keys & organised tea, coffee, scones, jam & clotted cream for us, while we relaxed, enjoyed the harbour view & awaited the arrival of those fellow passengers who were also making their way independently to Oban. By 4.30pm we were all assembled & David, the Chief Purser, arrived to introduce himself & lead us back down the hill to the ship. As we left the hotel, we noticed that our cars had already been collected by the garage who would be responsible for their storage & safety during the cruise.
Benbecula is a lovely cabin on the forward starboard side of the ship. It has 3 large windows facing starboard in the main cabin (one of which opens at the top for fresh air) & another window in the door leading onto the private balcony, so the cabin gets plenty of natural light. There is another large window facing forward in the bathroom, with a view of the forward decks & beyond. The bed is king-sized & very comfortable & there is plenty of storage space in the 2 wardrobes & 4 drawers available.
Everything is cleverly stowed to avoid undue rattling or breakages of crockery, glasses, toiletries & ornaments. The bedding is changed daily, as are towels if requested. There is only one 3-pin plug available for kettle, hairdryer & phone-charging use, but that was in a handy position (behind the TV) & perfectly adequate for our needs.
The whisky tray is automatically removed after the first night aboard unless one leaves a note for the cabin staff requesting otherwise (we did & the decanter was replenished daily for the remainder of our holiday). Also, the contents of the mini-fridge can be changed to the occupant's wishes (we asked for an extra jug of fresh milk to be provided daily).
Possibly not the quietest cabin aboard, what with the rattling of anchor chain & ringing of the Bridge to Engine Room telegraph on arrival or departure anywhere, but since the ship didn't cruise during the night our sleep was never disturbed & we regarded those noises as the cue to dash to the bathroom window & watch the crew's expertise with the capstan on the foredeck.
The cabin's situation on the Princess Deck is near to the Reception Foyer & therefore handy for the Purser's Desk & Shop, the wide flight of stairs leading up to the Promenade Deck & Tiree Lounge & the narrower stairs leading down to the Waterfront Deck (from where the ship's tenders & speedboat ferried us ashore on various excursions), while the handsome Columba Restaurant is at the other end of the same deck.