'We felt safer on a Scottish cruise than going to a supermarket'

The Isle of Mull is home to less than 3,000 residents
The Isle of Mull is home to less than 3,000 residents Credit: Pierre Longnus

A couple who haven’t even visited a supermarket since the start of lockdown six months ago decided to go on a Scottish cruise with seven people they hadn’t met. Why?

Charlie and Wendy McNicoll, both 66, have been very cautious over coronavirus. Their only outing has been to a post office to return a parcel – they did all their food shopping online.

But they felt confident booking one of the first post-lockdown cruises with small-ship company The Majestic Line.

Speaking on board Glen Shiel, Mrs McNicoll said: “We were concerned about the Covid situation and wondering if we should go but we knew the managing director, Ken Grant, is an epidemiologist so we thought it would be OK. It was a smaller ship with fewer people and the passengers were just from the UK.”

Her husband added: “There was a little trepidation, actually, but we weren’t too worried, we were quite excited. The excitement overcame the slight trepidation, and I’m glad it did.

“I had concerns about if we contracted coronavirus would we have wasted our money. I spoke to The Majestic Line and they said no, if anything untowards happens we’ll give you your money back, no question, so that put my mind at rest on the money side of it. They said they were going to test the crew and do a health questionnaire for passengers coming on.”

There are four ships in The Majestic Line fleet Credit: SIMON FLEMING

The couple chose a holiday within the UK to avoid having to fly – and they remained cautious on their drive from home in Buckinghamshire to the ship in Oban, sandwiches with them and stopping only at filling stations where they could pay at the pump. 

On boarding, they were welcomed by Dr Grant and got to know their fellow passengers – two other couples and three solo travellers. 

Mrs McNicoll said: “It was like a child waiting for Christmas, you build up the excitement. We came on board and it was: wow, people!”

So, after a six-night cruise around Mull, what did they think of the Covid precautions on board?

“Over a week you get maybe a false sense of security with our temperatures being taken every day and living in this ‘bubble’ you tend to feel safer,” said Mrs McNicoll.

Her husband added: “The hints and tips about the sanitisers, and the way the food’s been served, I think that was the right thing to do. It’s been done very well. 

“We love boats and we love Scotland. I’m Scottish and it’s always a pleasure to come back to your roots" Credit: DAVE MONK

“We know at a certain age it becomes more dangerous so that has allowed a feeling of safety - for three or four months we have never been so close to people so that’s been refreshing, it’s been lovely to do that as well.”

Asked why they had chosen The Majestic Line, Mr McNicoll said: “We love boats and we love Scotland. I’m Scottish and it’s always a pleasure to come back to your roots.

“It’s met expectations, certainly, and in a lot of ways exceeded them because I love the atmosphere with the fellow passengers, it’s been a great crowd. It doesn’t matter who you sit with and talk to, you have an easy relationship.”

Mrs McNicoll said: “They have been generally like-minded people, of similar age, similar expectations, a similar take on life. We’re all relaxed in each other’s company. That’s been wonderful.”

The couple have already booked another cruise with the same line for next year, this time around Skye and the Inner Hebrides.

“We’re not keen to go on a bigger cruise ship, said Mr McNicoll.

“We don’t like the idea of sitting around a captain’s table – I would rather go and chat with him up in the wheelhouse.”