As the weather causes another cruise ship cancellation today (Wednesday September 4th) the businesses and tourist attractions of Stornoway are keeping their fingers crossed for a big visitor next week.
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth is due in to Stornoway on Monday morning for a full day of sightseeing on her way to Akureyri in Iceland. Her 14-day tour of Iceland and the British Isles starts on Friday (September 6th) as guests embark at Cunard’s home port of Southampton.
The Queen Elizabeth is expected to bring more than 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew to Lewis and Harris, putting a final flourish on a busy season for Western Isles tour guides. She’ll be positioned in the outer anchorage, making a fine spectacle as other vessels pass and tenders bring passengers to the pier.
Up to 22 coach tours are expected to depart from the ferry terminal on Monday, visitors choosing whether to hike the Bernera trail, see Air an Lot in Ness, visit the Callanish Stones and Gearrannan, travel south to Harris or head up north to the Butt of Lewis. They can also stay in Stornoway and either walk or cycle in the castle grounds. Some guides will go out twice in one day to ensure that local knowledge is always available to the visitors.
All of the season’s remaining cruise ship visits are weather-dependent, and with today’s cancellation of the Astoria due to this afternoon’s forecast, there remains uncertainty over Queen Elizabeth and the three ships that are booked to follow her up to September 21st – Sea Breeze next Wednesday, Seabourn Ovation on September 20th and a last call from the Hebridean Princess on September 21st.
The final call marks the end of a successful season for the infrastructure that supports the cruise industry, with tour guides, cruise ambassadors, Stornoway Port Authority and Stornoway Shipping Services working together to ensure that every visit goes smoothly.
Western Isles Tour Guide Association co-ordinator Doro Rieder told welovestornoway.com: “The season went well so far, no accidents, slips or trips at all. To make sure everybody returns safe and sound is always our top priority! Even with some obstacles like a closed off broch and a lot of wet weather this summer, our clients returned from their tours happy, satisfied and full of good memories.
“The feedback from the passengers was on the whole positive: They enjoyed ‘the nice clean air’, ‘stunning scenery’ and the ‘extreme friendliness of the Hebridean people’, to name only a few. They also very much enjoyed the warm and informative welcome they get from the cruise ambassadors at the pier.
“The work of the WITGA guides is also regularly commented on when the visitors return. They praise them as ‘extremely knowlegeable, very informative, enthusiastic and professional.’"
As well as cruise ship visitors, many independent coach parties on the island took a WITGA guide on board for interpretation and sightseeing. Some of these coach parties requested completely new stops, including a group of Swedish knitters, who spent their day visiting the story room of the Harris Tweed Authority, taking a Westside tour and meeting local knitters in Jackie's Wool for Ewe shop. Doro said: “They even got homemade scones there and absolutely loved the experience!”
Queen Elizabeth’s planned visit on Monday September 9th is her third scheduled call to the islands. She made Stornoway one of her first stops on her maiden voyage in June 2016 and was due to call in for a second time in August last year, but had to reschedule.
Pictures show the Queen Elizabeth (Cunard) and a party of Swedish visitors enjoying a knit and natter in Stornoway earlier this summer (Doro Rieder).