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knotheadusc

Time to wake up this board again. About to book another whisky cruise!

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Hebridean is offering a nice discount on their Westering Home and Whisky Galore cruise in August.  I just made a booking request.  Looking forward to another wonderful week onboard!  Not looking forward to my credit card bill.  😄

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Great. Hopefully you will do another blog ,they always make for interesting & enjoyable reading.

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If my wife and I weren't already booked on a 21-night QM2 cruise in July, we'd love to join you. But I look forward to your cruise blog. I love your perceptions, your insights, and your writing style.

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Thanks so much for reading!  I'm really looking forward to the trip.  It's been too long!

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In the spirit of keeping this board awake [good choice not to use the dreaded word that rhymes with 'dump' :classic_cool:],

I have a few questions about Hebridean [and, for that matter about the combination of 'knothead,' 'USC,' and Germany – which could help you keep the thread going! – and I would return the favor by explaining the origin of 'Jazzbeau' ]

 

I have this cruise line on my back burner.  DW and I are 71 but still physically active, so we are trying to prioritize our bucket list [and the 'B-list'] to do the more physical things first and then gradually slide into senescence.

 

My impression of the Hebridean itineraries is that they are on the less-active side and can therefore be left to later.  [As compared to: #1 walking the Camino de Santiago, which we did a few years ago but probably couldn't do now; #2 a Backroads or VBT hiking tour of Iceland or Portugal, which we have scheduled for this year and next; 3# an ocean cruise with heavily packed daily shore excursions planned by yours truly trying to fit into one day everything Rick Steves says you should see in a week; and #4 a river cruise with daily excursions [planned by reasonable people] included in the fare.]  My assumption is that Hebridean resembles #4 above.  Correct?

 

[The itineraries do fit our current focus on in-depth exploration of an area, rather than the typical large ship itinerary that only calls at mega-ports that can handle mega-ships.]

 

Second issue is dress code.  We do not wear jeans or shorts, but on the other hand I don't own a tux and DW doesn't want to pack the equivalent type of women's outfits.  Would we fit in if the most I pack is polo shirts and a sport coat?  Or do I need to bring the navy Brooks Brothers suit? [and DW pack accordingly in both cases]

 

Third issue is the one you started with: whisky.  I have tried my best to like Scotland's distilled products, but no go.  OTOH I do love gin and tonic, especially with the newer trend of bespoke gins and FeverTree tonic pairings.  [And wine]  Will I fit in, or is it:  whisky or Ugly American?

 

Which also brings up: food and wine.  Is the food as good as the brochure pictures imply?  And is the included wine its equal?

 

Finally: the ship.  Hebridean Princess was built as a car ferry in 1964 and was turned into a luxury coastal cruise ship in 1997.  How is she holding up against more modern competition?  And is the owner stable [I see references to common ownership with Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery, both of which are no longer with us.]

 

Thanks – for treating this as both serious and light-hearted!  We did the British Isles itinerary with Viking Ocean last year, and I really would like to come back to western Scotland for an in-depth look like those offered by Hebridean Princess.

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Hi Host Jazzbeau...  I'll see what I can do to answer your questions.

 

First off, my name.  From 1999-2002, I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina.  At that time, people referred to it as USC, even though there's a more famous (but less aged) USC in California.  Recently, the university started to encourage alums to refer to it as U of SC to differentiate it from the California USC.  The name "knothead" comes from being called that by my dad when I was growing up.  Knothead was often taken on bulletin boards and the like, so I added "usc" to make it my name.  I've been knotheadusc ever since.

 

2: Hebridean caters to elderly people and singles.  We took our first cruise with them in 2012 and at age 40, I was the youngest onboard.  That being said, most everyone on the ship is able to get around.  Some itineraries are more physically challenging than others.  I've been on cruises with people in their 90s who were still quite spry and fun to talk to.  On our last cruise, my husband (a veteran) befriended a man in his early 90s who served in World War II and did 30 years with the British Army.  Then he worked another 15 years in Germany with the Canadian Army.  He was absolutely fascinating.  

 

Every day, you get one or two excursions, which are included in the price of the cruise.  It typically involves riding on a bus or tendering to wherever you're going, then possibly walking.  There's a guide who gives you information about what you're seeing.  On each cruise we've done, we've had a different guide.  They've all been outstanding.  As for how strenuous the excursions are, it really depends on what you're doing.  I've been to Sanda Island twice and that involved walking on an uninhabited island for a couple of miles.  On our last cruise, we visited The Giant's Causeway, which involved a short walk or bus ride and climbing the rocks.  You set your own pace, though, and choose what you want to do.  And if there's something you'd rather do, the staff will work with you to make it happen.  So yes, in that sense, Hebridean is like a river cruise.

 

3: After the first night, you are expected to dress for dinner.  They usually have one or two nights for "galas" in which people wear tuxes or kilts.  My husband has worn his dress blues on our four previous cruises, but will wear a kilt next time.  There's no dancing or anything... you dress up and they serve a fabulous meal and haggis, if you want it.  On non gala nights, people dress like they're going to church.  Jacket and tie for the men and dressy casual for the ladies.  However, if you don't dress to the nines, I can't imagine they'd say anything to you.

 

4: As for whisky, no you don't have to drink it if you don't want to.  They make wonderful gin and tonics on the ship, have a nice selection of British beers, and/or other spirits you might want to try, as well as wine and non alcoholic beverages.  It's all included in the fare.  If you like gin, you'll be able to try a nice array of it.

 

5: I think the food is fantastic!  One thing they do that I love is the Sunday Roast on Sunday nights.  It's very traditional, excellent beef.  They offer extremely fresh seafood, including a "cold buffet" one day each week that is fabulous.  Fresh salmon, crawfish, smoked trout, you get the picture.  23 and Me tells me I'm over 3/4s British, so it makes sense that I'd love their menu.  It's very English.  I also think the wines are fine, although you can purchase wine if you want to.  In fact, wine is one of the few things you can purchase on board.  One thing I love about Hebridean is that they don't even take a credit card when you get piped onboard.  We have NEVER had a bill at the end of our cruise.  Once you pay, you've paid, and they take care of everything, including entrance fees on excursions.  On our first cruise, we did two five nights back to back.  On turnaround day, they booked a cab for my husband, me, and another lady and we went to Glasgow and visited the Burrell Collection at a museum.  They paid for the cab and even our lunch.

 

6.  The ship is indeed old, but she's been recently refurbished.  I've been to the engine room and the bridge.  It's all in fine working order, although keep in mind that there are no elevators on the ship.  Before I started doing Hebridean cruises, I was a SeaDream fan.  I still really like SeaDream, but haven't been onboard in several years.  As much as I loved SeaDream, I think I like Hebridean more.  The only thing that would make it better for me is if they had a piano bar (I love to sing).  The crew members are wonderful, kind, and sincere, and most of them gave me a big hug when we last disembarked.  I look forward to seeing them again.

 

I've blogged about both of our most recent trips and you can find the links on this board, if you want to see some pictures.  I tend to be kind of irreverent, though.  Here's a link to part six of my posts about our most recent trip.  I start at six because the previous five parts are about our couple of days in Glasgow before the cruise began.  https://travelingovereducatedhousewife.blogspot.com/2017/09/scotland-and-northern-ireland-2017-part_85.html

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Thanks!  Your blog is great – read from #6 all the way to the end, and really got a feel for a Hebridean cruise.

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I hope sometime you can give it a try.  We considered doing a French barge cruise, too, but the company we contacted didn't have availability for the time we wanted to travel.

 

Maybe next year...

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Host Jazzbeaux, if you want a bit more activity then perhaps consider the ‘Footloose’ cruises. They offer walkers and strollers(less energetic) at each location. Some of the walks are reasonably strenuous ( we are a few years younger than you) but have done An Scurr  on Eigg, Dun Cann on Rasaay and the Qu’irang on Skye (apologies for spellings). There is always the option to take one of the ship’s bicycles and make your own way around. The Footloose cruises certainly give you a chance to mix with others and make friends quickly. 

As for gin...well, as new whisky distilleries start up they have realised that you don’t get any return on you spirit for about 10 years so quite a few have opted to make gin as well. I can recommend Harris gin which was produced for this reason but has become a hit in its own rite. 

I would advise; Go now...you can always do another more sedate one in a few years time. 

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After hearing so many wonderful things about Hebridean Island Cruises over the years, including from Knotheadusc, we signed up for a cruise some time ago that will be departing in two months.  We chose the Gastronomic Scotland Cruise because we were attracted by the opportunity to sample some of the best local food and whisky, in addition to seeing the marvelous scenery. 

My wife is from England, and she has always wanted to see more of Scotland, and particularly this part of it. We did a circumnavigation of the UK with Seabourn about 6 years ago that called at a few ports in Scotland, but we are expecting this to be much more in depth. 

The cruise is 7-days from September 24 to October 1. Any idea what we should expect for weather? Any tips or advice?

Thanks.

 

 

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We went on our last Hebridean cruise in September.  The weather was very pleasant, although our cruise was affected by Hurricane Irma, so the itinerary was changed around.  That was two years ago.  It meant we went directly to Northern Ireland instead of Islay.  We also toured a different whisky distillery, which was no big deal, since it was one we hadn’t been to previously.

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We had some cloudy days and rain.  We also had some sun.  Scotland is one of those places where the weather changes constantly.  I did have to buy a sweatshirt at one of the distilleries and I wore my sweater more than once.  I didn't need the shorts I brought, although I probably could have worn them in Edinburgh when we started our trip.

 

I'm getting ready to write my blog series about our trip.  When the first post is ready, I'll post it in a new thread.  I predict I'll have at least a dozen posts for those who want a blow by blow.  We had a wonderful time!  Of the five cruises I've done on Hebridean Princess, this one was my favorite, despite the rough seas at Cape Wrath.

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I'm on post #7, which is about where the writing about the cruise starts.  I predict another eight.  😄

 

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