Battles and Bottles

Battles and Bottles

From GBP £5,595


Our journey from the UK and along the Iberian Coast will appeal to those who have a genuine lust for travel and who will enjoy connecting with the history of this region that has played such a major part in the destiny of Britain. Our ideally sized MS Hebridean Sky allows us to enter past worlds of great naval and land battles and at the same time we will be able to appreciate the contrasting cultures of the Iberian Peninsula enjoying the art, architecture and of course the wines. Our journey includes fabulous coastal scenery, fishing villages, vineyards and timeless beauty all of which can be enjoyed in the company of just 118 fellow guests.

Our itinerary focuses on Atlantic Iberia, a region with a captivating military history. The British have had a major military presence in Iberia from the 1140s when they played a key role in driving the Moors from Lisbon, the most important episode in the Portuguese section of the Reconquista. Since the 14th century, British troops and/or warships were deployed to help protect Portugal from Spanish pressure. In 1808-13, the threat was French, and we will visit Oporto, Bussaco, the Line of Torres Vedras and other sites of the British commitment in the Peninsular War. Spain also was invaded by the French in 1808, and we will visit Corunna, the Dunkirk of the nineteenth century, and Cadiz, which, with British naval support, withstood a long French siege. Earlier, Spain had been allied with France, and this had led the British to siege Gibraltar in 1704 and then hold it against a series of sieges. So also in 1805 with the key destruction of a larger Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. Military sites and references come thick and fast as we sail along the ‘Edge of the World’ to Mallorca.

In addition to the fascinating history of the Iberian Peninsula, our voyage offers an insight into the great spirit of its people, their art and music, as well as its beautiful architecture and gardens. Along the way we will encounter some of the fine wines of Spain and Portugal and sample some splendid ports in the enchanting city of Oporto. Helping us understand more of all we see and do will be our expert speakers and we have ensured that the itinerary has an enjoyable mix of culture and history as well as time at leisure to relax on board or explore under your own steam.

Trip Name
Battles and Bottles
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 90.6 metres Passenger Capacity: 118 Built / Refurbished: 1992 / 2016 The MS Hebridean Sky is one of our three flag ships and sister vessel to the MS Island Sky and MS Caledonian Sky. All three vessels were built in the same ship yard in Italy at similar times and share the same excellent attributes that make them three of the finest small ships in the world. Formerly known as the Sea Explorer, the vessel underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment in Sweden in Spring 2016 before being re-launched as the MS Hebridean Sky. Your Suite. On board there are 59 exceptionally spacious and well-designed suites. All feature a sitting area and fourteen suites have private balconies. The feeling of luxury is enhanced by the wood panelling and brass which predominates throughout the vessel conveying the atmosphere of a private yacht. The passenger accommodation is arranged over five decks and all suites have outside views with suites on the Scott and Shackleton Decks featuring private balconies. Each suite affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring vanity unit with sink and walk-in rainfall shower, large wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool and excellent storage. There is a minifridge, flat screen television and a telephone in each suite. Refillable water bottles, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Additional facilities include a programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted Molton Brown toiletries and individually controlled air-conditioning and heating. Soft hues and blended tones enhance the traditional maritime style making the passenger accommodation an inviting and relaxing place to be. The beds in each suite can be configured as twins or double with the exception of suite 601 and 602 which feature fixed double beds. The impressive Hebridean Suite, located on the Shackleton Deck consists of a separate bathroom and sitting room with extra large balcony stretching the length of the suite. Additional benefits of booking this marvellous suite include complimentary mini-bar stocked with your preferences and complimentary laundry. Your Space. The spacious and finely decorated public rooms on board the MS Hebridean Sky include a large lounge on the Byrd Deck featuring a selection of seating options from individual armchairs and sofas to side cushioned benches. Daily briefings given by the Cruise Director and talks from Guest Speakers and expedition staff take place in The Lounge which is fitted with the highest standard of presentation equipment including multiple screens. In addition to the Lounge, there is also The Club, located on the Mawson Deck which features the main bar where the onboard pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The Club also offers a 24-hour tea and coffee station. Towards the aft of the ship on the Mawson Deck is The Library which is well stocked with reference books pertaining to the destinations the vessel is visiting and a selection of essential reads. A collection of games and devices to access the internet via the ship’s satellite can also be found in the library. Access to the ship’s satellite Wi-Fi via your own device is complimentary on board (signal strength varies depending on location and demand). The Dining Room which can seat all guests at one sitting is located on the Amundsen Deck and is a bright and charming setting to enjoy the delicious meals on board. Outside there is a rear Lido Deck located on the Scott Deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. Whilst heaters and blankets make dining al fresco comfortable in cooler climates. Further to this, on the top Shackleton Deck there is an observation area which offers a fantastic platform for spotting wildlife complete with deck furniture, ideal for relaxing with a book or catching up with fellow travellers. You will also find a clinic and Doctor on board and a lift that serves all decks. Additionally there is a small hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your Dining. It is quite a task to create a dining experience as that found on board our Sky vessels when you are cruising in far-flung corners of the globe, indeed it takes a team of highly talented chefs to deliver fresh, varied dishes no matter where you are at sea. Fortunately, our catering teams are well adapted to the world of small ship cruising where no two days are the same and the menus are often scheduled and tailored around the days’ excursions. With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the cuisine on board is of a consistent superior quality that befits such vessels. Where possible and when it meets their high standards, our accomplished chefs will obtain local produce in markets. Such purchases enhance the well-stocked larders and enable the chefs on board to exhibit their culinary skills and bring a local touch to the varied menus, emphasising the international expertise of the chefs on board. Afternoon tea and pre-dinner canapés take place every day in either the comfort of the Lounge or out on the Lido Deck when the weather is favourable. Tea and coffee are also available 24 hours a day. Special diets can be catered for with sufficient notice. In keeping with the informal atmosphere on board, when dining you are able to choose your seating arrangements at your leisure. Whether that be joining a table of four to six other passengers outside on the Lido Deck in the evening’s sunshine or whether you prefer to enjoy meals in the à la carte restaurant. For those travelling alone, our onboard friendly restaurant staff will take care to ensure you are seated with other like-minded travellers. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order on request. Lunch and dinner are à la carte with an excellent choice of dishes, with the menu reflecting the daily catch or local delicacies. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with both meals and there is also a comprehensive wine list with a wide selection of new and old world wines from which to choose. The onboard catering and restaurant staff are experienced at sea and enthuse a passion for superb service. Whether it be ensuring you have an outdoor blanket as you enjoy the crisp sea breeze on the Lido Deck or sharing their knowledge of the characteristics of the days’ wine selections, you will experience a service on board like no other. You may also enjoy sumptuous barbeques on deck whilst at times, the chef will make your dish to order at special pasta or stir fry stations. For Your Comfort. The MS Hebridean Sky is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilizers to minimize the ship’s motion. During your voyage we hope to offer the opportunity to visit the Captain and Officers on the Bridge to check the vessels progress by charts and learn more about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and Doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to a specific area on deck. Life Onboard. If large resort-style vessels accommodating many thousands of passengers are your ideal, then our ships are not for you as you will not find endless entertainment, round the clock buffets and the people management which is so much a part of today’s big ship on board style. However, if like us you prefer a more peaceful life at sea you will find our flagships the perfect vessels. When choosing your next voyage the choice of vessels is astounding. You can select a ship carrying in excess of 4000 passengers with impersonal service or join us aboard the MS Caledonian Sky, MS Island Sky or MS Hebridean Sky where peace, high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. We promise there will be no organised entertainment, fancy dress, deck games or any of the usual big ship experiences. Instead, the atmosphere is warm and convivial and more akin to a private yacht or country hotel in which you can learn more about the wonders of nature, culture and ancient civilisations in the company of like-minded people. A little music in the lounge or bar after dinner, Guest Speakers and informative port briefings from our Expedition Leader or Cruise Director and of course good food with wine included at lunch and dinner, all contribute to make any voyage aboard these wonderful vessels a memorable and joyful experience. After a day ashore you will return to the comfort and peace of an exceedingly comfortable ship. The daily programme on board is in the capable hands of our Cruise Director or Expedition Leader and staff who coordinate with the Captain and Officers to make the most of each day. Briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage together with a ‘Daily Programme’ that is distributed every evening to your suite outlining the next day’s activities. Dress on board is casual and relaxed and there will be no ‘black tie’ evenings.


Day 1 - Day 1 Portsmouth, England.
Embark the MS Hebridean Sky this afternoon and enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we sail this evening. Transfers will be provided from Portsmouth Harbour Railway Station at a fixed time.
Day 2 - Day 2 Guernsey, Channel Islands.
During the Second World War the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to fall under German occupation as Hitler used them as a stepping stone for his invasion of the mainland. On an island drive we will see some of the massive concrete towers, gun emplacements and bunkers which remain today on the coast as well as visiting the German Occupation Museum with many displays showcasing life on the island between 1940 and 1945 including weapons, communications equipment and newspapers. Return to the ship via the Little Chapel, built in 1914 as a miniature version of the famous basilica at Lourdes and covered in fragments of shattered china. This afternoon is free to explore the pretty town of St Peter Port at your own pace or those feeling active may wish to join a cliff walk where, if the weather is fine, we should be able to see the nearby Channel Islands and possibly the French coast.
Day 3 - Day 3 Bay of Biscay.
Spend the day at sea as we cruise the Bay of Biscay. It was here on the 28th December 1943, as part of Operation Stonewall, that two British light cruisers, the Glasgow and the Enterprise, battled with the German Kreigsmarine who were in place to escort supply ships into the French Atlantic coast. The battle resulted in the sinking of three German ships by the allied ships. During our crossing our Guest Speaker will talk about the battle and its impact.
Day 4 - Day 4 La Coruna, Spain.
From our berth in La Coruna we will make our way to Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia. The city’s cathedral is the destination of the important Medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St James (in Spanish the ‘Camino de Santiago’), which is still walked today. We will visit the Conventual de San Francisco, the Faculty of Medicine, the world-famous Plaza del Obradoiro and the cathedral. We spend the afternoon in Coruna where in 1589 Maria Pita inspired the local population to resist the advances of Sir Francis Drake. It was also here during the Peninsular War, in January 1809, that the British army was forced to retreat against a forceful French offensive through northern Spain. Whilst awaiting evacuation by ship a battle ensued resulting in the death of Sir John Moore the commander of the British forces. We will have time to explore the Medieval city with its old churches and Romanesque architecture as well as Moore’s tomb at the Garden of San Carlos.
Day 5 - Day 5 Vilagarcia de Arousa.
This morning we drive the short distance to the Pazo de Rubianes which was originally founded in 1411 and was one of the three official lordships in Spain. Enjoy a guided walk through the stunning gardens, famous for their thousands of camellias but also home to eucalyptus trees, sequoias and camphors. Also visit the Pazo’s extensive vineyards to learn about the local Albarino wine production and enjoy a tasting before exploring the historical palace itself. The afternoon is free to explore the town at your own pace from our central berth.
Day 6 - Day 6 Oporto, Portugal.
Our first call in Portugal is the port of Leixoes, the base for our day of activities around Oporto. We will visit the Quinta de Aveleda, located in the heart of the Vinho Verde Demarcated Region which creates a young fresh wine with a low alcoholic content and a lightly fruity flavour. After exploring the beautiful park and gardens which surround the Manor House, we will learn about the wine which has been created here since 1947. This afternoon we explore Oporto including the impressive St Francis Church and the Ribeira, a riverside quarter made up of narrow, twisting streets and shadowy arcades. We will end at one of the many port wine cellars where we hear all about the wines and how they are produced. We will also learn about the Battle of Oporto in May 1809 where, after the disastrous retreat to Corunna and the tragic death of Sir John Moore, Sir Arthur Wellesley resumed command of the British forces and surprised Marshal Soult chasing him back into Spain.
Day 7 - Day 7 Figueira da Foz.
Located at the mouth of the Modego River, Figueira da Foz is one of central Portugal’s prime beach resorts. However, our reasons for visiting are actually inland and we have a choice of excursions today. Choose to visit the nearby city of Coimbra, the Medieval capital of Portugal for over 100 years, and the site of the country’s greatest university for the past five centuries. On a walking tour we will view the stunning buildings from the 16th to 18th centuries, including the Paco das Escolas (Royal Palace) and the Monastery of Santa Cruz before we head to the university which was recently appointed UNESCO status. Alternatively, drive to the site of the Battle of Bussaco which occurred in September 1810 in the heart of a national park. See Massena’s headquarters, Wellington’s command post and the Military Museum. Return to the ship through the Bairrada wine-producing region and visit the Alianca Underground Museum which is part winery, part art museum. Here we can explore a network of underground tunnels housing an extraordinary collection of African and Portuguese art alongside cellars crammed with huge oak barrels of maturing wines and brandies.
Day 8 - Day 8 Lisbon.
Set on seven hills on the banks of the River Tagus, Lisbon has been the capital of Portugal since the 13th century. It was in nearby Sintra that the controversial “Convention of Sintra” was signed in 1808 and the city became the site of further conflict during the Peninsula War. Choose to join a Wellington tour this morning that includes the Line of Torres Vedras, a defensive system constructed by Wellington between 1809 and 1812 in the hills that surround the city including the Fort of San Vincente. Also see Wellington’s headquarters at Pero Negro and Beresford’s headquarters at Casal Cochim. Alternatively, a tour of Lisbon includes the famous landmarks and places of interest such as the Monument to the Discoveries, Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery. Return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at sea.
Day 9 - Day 9 Cadiz, Spain.
After a morning at sea we arrive this afternoon in Cadiz, the oldest surviving city in Spain. On a guided tour we will discover the most beautiful monuments and landmarks of the city including the Mudejar-style tobacco factory, Santo Domingo Church, the Santa Catalina Fortress and finally the Cathedral of Cadiz and Diocesan Museum in the old city. Alternatively join a visit to Jerez de la Frontera, the home of Spain’s sherry and brandy industry which grew in the 18th and 19th centuries. After a visit to the old centre of Jerez, including the 11th century Alcazar, we will continue to one of the bodegas to learn about the sherry production and enjoy a tasting. We remain moored in Cadiz overnight.
Day 10 - Day 10 Cape Trafalgar & Gibraltar.
Sail at dawn. Just after breakfast we arrive off of Cape Trafalgar, just as the 33 French and Spanish ships did 200 years ago in preparation for the most famous of sea battles. Situated some 30 miles to the south west of Cadiz, we will sail through the Trafalgar battle area whilst our historian, Major Corrigan, will discuss the momentous day of 21 October 1805. Continue to Gibraltar which due to its position guarding the entrance to the Mediterranean has been the subject of many battles. This afternoon we will take in the views from Europa Point, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean before continuing to the Great Siege Tunnels, a labyrinth of tunnels built to defend Gibraltar from Spanish and French attacks between 1779 and 1783 and revered as one of the finest defensive systems. Also see the Gibraltar Museum where we can learn more about the Great Siege, the geological origins of the rock and also the areas natural history.
Day 11 - Day 11 At Sea.
Our lecture programme continues as we spend a relaxing day at sea crossing the Mediterranean.
Day 12 - Day 12 Palma, Mallorca to London/Manchester.
Disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for our scheduled flight to London or Manchester.
Day 13 - Please Note:
Itineraries are subject to change.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £5,595Amundsen Deck Standard Suite
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £6,595Amundsen Deck Standard Sole
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £6,595Shackleton Deck Owner's Balcony Suite
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £6,795Byrd Deck Superior Sole
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £7,595Shackleton Deck Hebridean Suite
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £5,695Byrd Deck Superior Suite
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £5,795Mawson Deck Premium Suite
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £5,895Mawson Deck Corner Suite
07-09-202318-09-2023GBP £6,295Scott Deck Deluxe Balcony Suite


    • Travelling with You
    • Major Gordon Corrigan. Gordon Corrigan spent most of his adult life as an officer of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, serving mainly in the Far East but also in Cyprus, Berlin, Northern Ireland and Belize. He is now a military historian and the author of a number of books on subjects ranging from the Hundred Years War to the Peninsula War to the First and Second World Wars. To date he has been the presenter of five TV series dealing with various aspects of military history, in addition to regular appearances in documentaries. He conducts military history study tours in Europe, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Turkey and North Africa. He has lectured in Russia and Central Asia and is a regular speaker on Noble Caledonia cruises. He has lectured in the United States and Canada and is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Universities of Birmingham and Kent, a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, a Member of the British Commission for Military History, and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. During our cruise he will be lecturing on the history of the nations and the areas that we will be visiting or travelling through.