Luxury cruise line Hebridean International announced this week that it is pulling out of the international cruise market with immediate effect.
The move is one of the biggest signs yet that the growing UK cruise industry, which many thought was virtually recession-proof, is feeling the effects of the global downturn.
The upmarket specialist has sold the larger of its two vessels, the 98-passenger Hebridean Sprit which offered sailings throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Indian Ocean and South America.
Managing director Mike Deegan blamed rising operating costs which he said were partly due to the deteriorating value of sterling.
“We cannot continue to absorb these increases, especially when the vessel has been operating in a very aggressive market where heavy discounting is the norm,” he said.
This leaves Hebridean with its original ship Hebridean Princess, which offers cruises around Scotland’s Western Isles and was chartered by the Queen for a private family voyage three years ago.
The company is contacting all customers booked on Hebridean Spirit cruises to offer a full refund or transfer to a cruise aboard Hebridean Princess. There will also be redundancies within the company.
Hebridean Spirit is not the only ship to disappear from the UK cruising scene. Casual cruise line Ocean Village is being phased out from later this year, while Carnival Cruise Lines scrapped plans to base a ship in the UK this summer.