(8:45 EDT) -- Niche British cruise line Noble Caledonia
has today announced that it has acquired a second ship to operate alongside its existing vessel, MS Island Sky.
In fact, it's secured Island Sky's twin sister.
Originally built for Renaissance Cruises in 1991, the 4,200-ton, 114-passenger vessel, which is to be named Caledonian Sky, sailed as Renaissance VI until November 2000, when it was acquired by Hebridean Island Cruises
and sailed as Hebridean Spirit, a ship which was greatly missed by Hebridean's loyal following when recession forced the company to sell it to a Middle Eastern investor in 2009.
The new owner planned to convert the ship into a private yacht, but ultimately the ship went back on the market, stayed there for quite some time and is now returning to life as a cruise vessel.
As with most cruise ship purchases, the details of the contract are fairly complicated. A sister company of Noble Caledonia is the actual owner of the ship, and Noble Caledonia will operate the ship as Caledonian Sky for a minimum of five years.
Caledonian Sky will undergo refurbishment in the coming winter to bring it into line with the upmarket Island Sky and will start sailing for Noble Caledonia in May 2012. Itineraries will be announced this autumn, but the line says in a press statement that the ship will sail in British and Arctic waters next summer before heading for South America, Australasia and the Pacific Rim for the winter of 2012/2013. Island Sky, meanwhile, will sail in Europe, Africa, South and Central America.
Prior to the acquisition of Caledonian Sky, Island Sky has been the line's only dedicated ship and has operated in the niche luxury cruise market. As part of the cruise fare, Island Sky offers wine at lunch and dinner, a high-brow guest speaker programme and in-depth excursions, and the offerings and target market for Caledonian Sky will be the same.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor