We knew we were in for a special adventure when we reached Stansted Airport outside of London and found the dedicated check-in for the Hebridean Spirit charter flight. No long lines here or worry about having to change planes in difficult-to-navigate airports. The Hebridean Spirit uses a spacious charter flight to whisk its passengers directly to and from its embarkation/disembarkation ports. The plane leaves London Stansted airport in the morning with the embarking Hebridean Spirit passengers, flies to meet the ship, and returns to London in the late afternoon with the disembarking passengers. I think it is a great extra addition to the cruise since guests don't start or end their cruise vacation with the memory of a cramped airline seat or disgusting airplane food.
After checking our bags, we explored some of the Stansted shops before heading out to find the plane. Arriving at the gate, we were delighted to find a continental champagne breakfast laid out for the Hebridean Spirit passengers. What a nice touch! I'm sure all of the other passengers in the gate area were envious of our small group of about 60 passengers. Many of the Hebridean passengers were old acquaintances, having sailed on the Spirit beore. We sipped mimosas and munched on rolls while waiting to embark on our flight. On board the plane, our small group was able to spread out and relax before enjoying an excellent luncheon on board--first class food for our group!
Eating and drinking seemed to take up much of the time on the flight to Bari, Italy near where the Hebridean Spirit was docked at Molfetta. It sure made the time pass quickly! Two coaches (busses) met us at the airport for the short drive to the pier. We were on board the Hebridean Spirit and unpacked in time for afternoon tea in the Skye Lounge. Our first impressions of the ship were of the smiling staff, the wonderful traditional wood used in the corridors and the elegant, welcoming English country house look of the common areas and the cabins.
Cabins on the Hebridean Spirit
We were in an "Isle" cabin (Grade C) on Hebridean deck 3, which was conveniently on the same level as the reception desk and the Skye Lounge. Our 241 square foot spacious cabin had plenty of storage space for two women, a huge picture window, and one of the best showers (most water pressure) I've ever had on a ship or hotel. The furnishings in the cabin were burr maple, very functional and attractive. The electric voltage in the cabin was 110v, so I could recharge my camera batteries or plug in a curling iron without a converter. The cabin also had a lighted dressing table with hair dryer, TV credenza with built in refrigerator and coffee/tea pot, two comfortable chairs and a small table. The marble-styled bath was large, with shelves for all our "stuff", a tub with shower, and a heated towel rack. Using a warm towel after an exhilarating shower before slipping on your Hebridean Spirit terry robe is true decadence!
The Hebridean Spirit has 49 cabins, each with its own name (ours was Isle of Mingulay). Eight of the cabins (Grade B - the Glens) on the promenade deck have balconies. There are two suites - Grade A cabins, but they do not have balconies. Since the ship is small (80 passengers) everything is very close by. We didn't miss a balcony as much as I thought we might since it was only a short walk from our cabin (or any other) to the outside.
Several of the cabins on the Hebridean Spirit are designated for solo travelers, and the cruise line does not charge a sngle supplement for singles in these cabins.
Let's take a look at the cuisine onboard the Hebridean Spirit.
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