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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The cruise ships in Scotland that have been turned into holiday homes


Sea change for cruising: Desperate to get on board? These ships have been turned into holiday homes

  • St Hilda Sea Adventures has turned its cruise ships into exclusive holiday homes 
  • They are moored in the Dunstaffnage Marina near Oban in Scotland
  • Each one has plush guest accommodation and high quality galley facilities 

While empty ships from major cruise companies bob idly in the waters off our south coast seaside resorts, one small British outfit has found a solution to the temporary suspension of cruising — turning its vessels into holiday homes.

Moored in a pretty marina near Oban in Scotland, the three cruise ships of St Hilda Sea Adventures normally take up to 11 passengers on wildlife, art and sightseeing cruises around Scotland’s west coast and islands.

However, just like the giant ships from major cruise lines, they have been unable to operate for months because of the pandemic. So now the company is offering the chance to book any one of its cruise ships in its entirety as an exclusive, self-catering holiday home.

Innovative: St Hilda Sea Adventures has turned its cruise ships into holiday homes

Innovative: St Hilda Sea Adventures has turned its cruise ships into holiday homes

For any cruise addicts missing the view through a porthole and meals served from the galley, it offers a chance to experience all the excitement of being a passenger — without having to leave port.

Colette Dubois, co-owner and chef for the Oban-based company, describes these holidays as ‘like staying in a quirky cottage with the feeling of being on the water. It’s a perfect place to sit on the deck and watch the sun set in the evening’.

Her ships are much smaller than the gargantuan cruisers moored in the English Channel.

St Hilda is an ex-tall ship with mast, rigging and sails which sleeps six from £204 per night. Seahorse II, formerly a Norwegian ferry, sleeps up to 11 people and costs from £396 per night. While Gemini Explorer is a converted cruising lifeboat that sleeps eight people from £300 per night. The minimum stay is three nights.

None has a casino, grand atrium or waterslide, but all have plenty of room to enjoy a socially distanced nautical break.

Each is equipped with plush guest accommodation and high quality galley facilities.

Seahorse II, for example, offers wood-panelled double cabins plus modern en-suite shower rooms with fluffy towelling dressing gowns. It also has a dining saloon with leather sofas which looks out to sea, and plenty of deck areas with wooden sun-loungers.

Paul, from Kent, and his grandchildren were among the first guests to try renting Seahorse II. They wrote in the visitors’ book afterwards: ‘Covid-19 might have prevented us from setting sail, but the view from the marina each morning and life on our quirky Norwegian ferry made for a wonderfully different experience.’

Exclusive: The ships have plush guest accommodation and high quality galley facilities

Exclusive: The ships have plush guest accommodation and high quality galley facilities

St Hilda Sea Adventures leaves a 72-hour gap between bookings, during which the vessel is deep cleaned and sanitised.

All electricity, gas, bed linen and towels are provided, plus complimentary hand sanitiser.

But there’s no crew on board and the vessels do not set sail. They are moored in the Dunstaffnage Marina, three miles north of Oban in the middle of a spectacular seascape framed by the mountains of Mull and the western Highlands.

It makes a perfect base for walking, wildlife spotting, fishing and sampling whiskies.

The beauty spot is overlooked by the imposing Clan MacDougall castle and chapel on the headland, a Historic Scotland site that has recently re-opened with pre-booked tickets.

The marina has a bar, restaurant and shop, and attractive Oban has shops, pubs and plenty to do, including short wildlife boat trips.

St Hilda is hoping bookings will help it stay afloat during the pandemic, and has a programme of cruises lined up for next year.

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