By Katie Macleod
The Midnight Rose is a true luxury yacht, the kind you expect to see on the French Riviera, with glittering celebrity parties taking place on deck as the sun goes down.
This summer, Hebridean Prestige Cruises are bringing some of that Mediterranean glamour – and the Midnight Rose – to the Outer Hebrides.
Based out of Castlebay, Hebridean Prestige Cruises will be offering bespoke private charter cruises on the Midnight Rose for those who wish to see the Outer Hebrides in style.
As a joint venture between Brian Currie, owner of the Craigard Hotel in Barra, and Captain Roddy MacLeod, a Master Mariner with 38 years of sailing experience, Hebridean Prestige Cruises aims to develop the luxury market in the Hebrides.
Customers can expect “high-end customer care, quality accommodation, some of the best scenery in the world, and a completely bespoke experience,” says Brian of the services on offer. He also encourages potential customers to use their imagination in creating their ideal island cruise. “If you can think up an itinerary and it is safe to do so, we will try and deliver every aspect of the customer’s requirements.”
In addition to the bespoke charters, Brian and Roddy also offer a six-day St Kilda cruise on board the Midnight Rose. With visits to the outlying island being completely weather dependent, Hebridean Prestige Cruises will make the most of the Midnight Rose’s ability to cruise at high speed, allowing them to take advantage of short weather windows. “The St Kilda trip completely focuses on getting you to, and on, St Kilda, for as long as possible,” Brian adds.
It was after taking over the Craigard Hotel in 2014 that Brian began to see the potential in a luxury cruise business, through use of the new pontoon systems that had been installed in locations throughout the islands. “Having experimented in a smaller scale charter business I felt there was real potential,” remembers Brian. “The one thing I personally lacked was experience. So I did what any good businessman would do and I sourced the most experienced person I could.”
That was Roddy MacLeod, a Master Mariner of ten years who has been sailing for 38. He was involved one of the first luxury Scottish cruising ventures, the Hebridean Princess, in its early years, and has sailed around the world with various cruise companies. The two men set about developing a business plan, and by the spring of 2016, Hebridean Prestige Cruises was born.
One of the first challenges, of course, was finding the best vessel for the job – a search that took them to the French Riviera, eventually leading them to the Midnight Rose, berthed in Cannes. The initial purchasing and surveying process took more than three months, and involved five trips to Cannes for Brian and Roddy.
Their final departure date from Cannes was delayed following the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice, but by the end of July 2016, their sea voyage from the French Riviera to the shores of Barra was under way. The Cannes to Castlebay experience was, Brian says, “one we will never forget.”
The journey covered 2400 nautical miles, and involved nine days at sea, with short stops along the way for refuelling in locations like Valencia, Gibraltar and Lisbon. Within 24 hours of setting sail, Brian and Roddy knew the Midnight Rose had been the right choice – strong winds and wild seas turned their first night into “one of the most challenging we encountered. All on board were apprehensive at first, but soon settled into a sense of pride as the vessel we had purchased exceeded all our expectations of seakeeping!”
After a winter of refurbishment, 2017 will see the first passengers experience everything the Midnight Rose, the Outer Hebrides and the West Coast of Scotland has to offer. “There are companies doing similar things, but they try and contain the custom on board the vessels,” explains Brian. “Our venture will try and take customers to the islands and showcase what we have to offer, recreationally and food-wise, throughout the islands. We want to promote local businesses and produce.”
As their first summer season approaches, both Brian and Roddy are looking forward to the future. “We are both very proud of what we have achieved with the project so far,” says Brian. “We look forward to promoting what the islands have to offer, and what part we can play in this.”