If you ever wanted to explore Scotland’s coast line and the highly varied Hebridean Islands without fussing over ferry schedules for your rented car or resorting to a confining bus tour with too many others, HERE’s your answer, a local firm with a trio of wee ships.
Snapshot: The Majestic Line specializes in small-boat cruises in Argyll, Western Scotland and the Hebridean isles, using two converted fishing boats and one brand-new purpose-built cruise yacht. While there is an outlined itinerary for every departure, the exact coastal and island calls and their sequence are dependent on the fickle Scottish weather. As the boats carry 11 and 12 passengers only, a cruise is very much a shared experience in close quarters.
Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: GLEN MASSAN (built 1975 & converted 2005 and 11 passengers) and GLEN TARSAN (b. 1975 and converted 2007 and 11p), and GLEN ETIVE (b. 2016 and 12p).
Passenger Decks: Three decks and no elevator
Passenger Profile: Primarily from the Great Britain, ages 50 and up. Children under 12 not accepted unless part of a charter.
Price: $$$ Very pricey
Itineraries: GLEN MASSAN and GLEN TARSAN offer short-break 3-night and longer 6-night cruises and GLEN ETIVE 6- and 10-night cruises from Western Scotland to lochs and town landings in Argyll and trips out to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. In all, 14 different itineraries are offered with departures from April to October. Nearly all embark and disembark in Oban, a port with ScotRail connections to the rest of Britain. Exceptions are one-way trips between Oban and Inverness and the first cruise of the season leaving from Holy Loch, Dunoon, Majestic Line’s base of operations. The vessels usually anchor by dinnertime in a secluded setting, and get underway after breakfast. If the next stop is a bit further on, then the boat may depart before breakfast.
Included features: Good selected wines at dinner. The tender may be used for exploring at no extra cost while traditional shore excursions do not exist. With maps and guidance from the crew, passengers go ashore independently to visit towns and take walks.
Why Go? Scotland is beautiful when the weather cooperates and is noted for its dramatic seascape scenery in many different lighting conditions, deep lochs to explore (similar to Norway’s fjords), a multitude of varied islands, castles and proud Scottish clans. Wildlife is seen in the air, on the sea and on land during walks. Circumnavigate the Isle of Skye, cross Scotland via the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness and cruise out into the Atlantic to see the world’s largest gannetry hosting 60,000 pairs living and breading on isolated island of St. Kilda.
When to Go? With Scotland’s reputation for unpredictable and constantly varying weather, there is no best time. Be prepared for chilly and windy conditions at any time of the year as well as long days of sunlight in May and into August.
Cabins: The vessels are small hence the cabins are compact with either twin or double-bed configurations. Two singles are available with no supplement. The newer GLEN ETIVE has larger cabins. All cabins are outside and feature en suite showers, toilets and washbasins.
Public Rooms: A passenger lounge with bar service, dining room, and open deck space. At times, the wheelhouse is open to visitors, and the crew is happy to share knowledge of navigation and geography. You might even have a hand at the wheel.
Dining: Communal table seats all. Typical meal times are: breakfast 8-9am; lunch 1pm; afternoon tea at 4pm; and dinner 7:30pm. Wine is included with dinner. Main courses feature local fish and shellfish (crabs and sometime lobsters), beef, lamb and venison all sourced locally. With so few to cook for, meals are a craft and a treat. An outside table may also be available when the weather is conducive.
Activities & Entertainment: On board, activities are board games, puzzles, and videos or relaxing and reading from the library selections. The tender takes passengers ashore to land on a beach or to a dock with sightseeing aids for creating short walks or longer hikes of one to two hours. Occasionally a one-way hike starts with a drop-off at the start and a pickup in an altogether different spot. Passengers may also fish, mostly for mackerel, or help lower and raise the lobster pots, and most likely the catch will be crabs.
Special Notes: All three vessels are available for charter, and such an arrangement can be researched first by looking at the cabin availability on the annual cruise schedule. No bookings indicate a charter may be possible, and rates are discounted by 10%. GLEN ETIVE has stabilizers and is used for longer trips that might encounter some choppy seas.
Along the Same Lines: Hebridean Island Cruises’ 49-passenger HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS also cruises in Scotland’s Western Isles.
Contact: Majestic Line, Unit 3, Holy Loch Marina, Sandbank, Dunoon PA23 8FE Argyll, Scotland; +44 (0) 1369 707 951 or www.themajesticline.co.uk.