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AFTER an uncertain start, the cruise liner Boudicca’s maiden call into Fort William has been hailed a ‘resounding success’.
The Fred Olsen luxury vessel arrived on Wednesday September 28. The pontoons had been built, shelters for the passengers installed, excursions organised and all that remained was for the weather to hold up its side of the bargain. Which it did not.
Gale-force winds prevented the 880 passengers aboard from visiting Portree and an attempt to get to Ullapool also had to be cancelled.
Many a sleepless night was had on September 27 as interested parties kept a watchful eye on a track-finder website to find out whether
or not the boat would make it into Loch Linnhe – which thankfully she did.
After her safe arrival, Anthony Borradaile, cruise director, told The Oban Times 90 per cent of the passengers on board were from the UK and that the typical British mentality had helped to keep spirits up on board, despite the complications.
He added: ‘Keeping the passengers informed has been key. They know we have done everything in our power to try and take them to Portree but we wouldn’t jeopardise their safety.
‘There has been a real excitement about coming into Fort William, though, so we are delighted that worked out.’
Mikael Degerlund from Finland, the ship’s captain who has been sailing on various vessels for 35 years, described Boudicca as an elderly lady but said she had state-of-the-art equipment.
Captain Degerlund, who also has a pilot’s licence, had previously come to Fort William in 2015 to test the route. In his report he said it would be for the captain on the day to decide if he felt it appropriate to sail through the Corran Narrows and that not all commanders would want to do it.
At that time he did not know that he would be captaining Boudicca.
He added: ‘There are only maybe three other places in the world which offer scenery as beautiful as Fort William and the Corran Narrows: the Norwegian fjords, Chilean fjords and Alaskan fjords. Why don’t more people know about Scotland?’ he wondered.
He said he believed for the economy it could mean about 100 euros spent per person who went ashore. He said that, with the right weather conditions, a large liner could pass through the narrows but he thought Fort William had to find its own attractions to offer people and make it stand out to passengers when they are asked afterwards to name their favourite port.
Back on (semi) dry land, members of Fort William Town Team greeted passengers who were whisked away by coach tours to nearby attractions. A charter steam train had also been organised.
Later, local historian Ian Abernethy helped to conduct a homespun ‘virtual tour’ in the town discussing ‘then and now’ from the West End Hotel to the old fort and everything in between.
Marylin and Jeff Alvred from Rochdale said of their experience: ‘The downside about
sailing around Scotland is the weather but the upside is the views. We have been out to see the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument and it was just stunning.
‘We took the steam train out to Glenfinnan and the coach back, and it was definitely worthwhile.
‘Someone said it’s one of the best train routes in the UK and she wasn’t joking.
‘We like to cruise a lot. We have been to Barbados and sunny climes but we have enjoyed this one just as much.’
John and Christine Dainty from Birmingham had been to Fort William and sailed down the Caledonia Canal in the past but had really enjoyed this trip.
They also booked the steam train excursion but decided to head back into town in the early afternoon to spend some time in the High Street.
They said: ‘It’s a shame we haven’t been able to get off at some of the other stops so we are so thankful to be able to do so in Fort William.
‘We are going back out this afternoon to stretch our legs.’