September 7th 2023

Orkney is the UK’s cruise capital, with a very busy season between April and October. Ships of all sizes can berth or anchor at 15 locations around our Isles and visit Europe's largest natural harbour, Scapa Flow. The world's largest cruise ships can safely berth in Orkney, but there are plenty of opportunities for the smallest explorers with less than 100 passengers travelling in luxury to visit too.

They say the best things come in small packages and Orkney's 70 islands and 600 miles of coastline offer the perfect playground for small-ship cruising. Getting to the more remote corners of Orkney, these adventurous vessels offer a platform for visitors to see Orkney in all its beauty.

For some, small ships are an intimate platform for viewing Scotland’s awesome scenery and wildlife. For others, the smaller, often more distinctive, designs of these boats are an engineering spectacle itself.

Join us as we sail through a selection of smaller cruise lines and ships we regularly welcome to our waters.

Hebridean Cruise with the Hebridean Princess

Esteemed for her elegance, the Hebridean Princess is an icon. Welcoming 48 guests at a time, this liner has hosted luxurious cruises throughout Scotland’s waters and beyond for over three decades. Its smaller size, says the company, enables the 38 crew to deliver a service “guests simply cannot receive” on a larger ship.

After a day at sea, passengers can relax into the evening in one of the many grand spaces available on board. The Tiree Lounge features plush furnishings and a cosy brick inglenook fireplace. And fine dining enthusiasts won’t be able to resist the Columba Restaurant, where guests can enjoy a selection of high-quality Scottish produce daily, from three-course dinners to carefully packed picnics.

Scenic Luxury Cruises with Scenic Eclipse II

The Scenic Eclipse II is embarking on an ultra-modern take on luxury cruising. Using state-of-the-art technology, the liner has redefined ocean discovery. Not only can passengers enjoy delectable culinary experiences and thoughtfully designed on-board spaces, they can also opt to soar above the ocean via helicopter or dive below in Scenic Neptune, a custom-built submarine.

Connecting Scotland to the rest of the world, Science Eclipse II sails to all seven continents – visiting 500 ports in 63 countries via 148 departures.

While small in size, Scenic Eclipse is undoubtedly big in ambition. No wonder the ship named NASA scientist and space adventurer, Dr. Kathy Sullivan, its godmother; Sullivan has visited space three times and was the first woman to explore the deepest part of Earth’s oceans.

Noble Caledonia with the Hebridean Sky

Looking for something a bit more traditional? Hebridean Sky is one of Noble Caledonia’s flagship vessels, alongside MS Island Sky. Its soft hues and maritime colour scheme contribute to the ship’s classic nautical design. All 59 of the ship’s suites benefit from their own private balcony, helping passengers ease into a peaceful cruise experience.

No black-tie evenings here. When on board, guests can participate in a specially-tailored events programme, from nature watching to hiking Orkney’s rugged coastal walk.

The Majestic Line with West Coast Cruises

The Majestic Line has specialised in Scottish cruising holidays for more than 15 years, with 5 small cruise ships: Glen Massan, Glen Tarsan, Glen Etive, Glen Shiel and Glen Rosa. These converted fishing trawlers accommodate between 6 and 12 guests, making them some of the smallest cruisers to visit Orkney shores.

When in Orkney, Majestic Line’s cruises highlight the archipelago’s rich history. From tombs to standing stone circles, such as the infamous Ring of Brodgar, this includes the region’s Neolithic settlements that continue to enchant people from all over the world.

Interested to learn more about the small ships and other vessels we receive here in Orkney? You can read all about it on our website.

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