Cruise Loch Ness

25 July 2018

Family-run business Cruise Loch Ness Celebrates 50th Anniversary

A love affair with Loch Ness has resulted in a family-owned cruise company celebrating 50 years in business.   

Cruise Loch Ness, which operates from Fort Augustus, has been running boat trips from the banks of Loch Ness since 1968 carrying more than two million passengers in that time. 

Norman Mackenzie first launched the business with the support of his late wife, Effie, offering cruises over Loch Ness in their first boat which was an ex RNLI Liverpool class lifeboat carrying 12 passengers at a time.   In 2002, Norman retired from the business passing over the reins to son Ronald Mackenzie, although he is still very involved in the business.   

Ronald runs the business along with his wife Debi, and now operates two passenger vessels, as well as three high-speed RIBs, employing 14 staff, who all live locally.   

In 2018, a state-of-the-art catamaran “The Spirit of Loch Ness” was launched with an investment of £1.5m increasing overall passenger capacity by 30%, bringing the total up to 354 across all boats at any one point. The Spirit of Loch Ness boasts cutting edge sonar equipment to optimise passengers’ view of the famous loch with 10 monitors on the main deck and saloon and a further five on the upper deck. 

Cruise Loch Ness managing director, Ronald Mackenzie, said: “With passenger numbers growing by around 20% each year, we decided to invest in a new vessel to help us meet the demands in tourism.  As part of our growth strategy we continually increase and improve our offering and we expect our passenger numbers to increase by a projected 27% in the next 12 months.”   

Ronald continued: “We are very proud of how far we have come during this half century, it’s a far cry from the tours on an ex-RNLI lifeboat carrying 12 passengers, to now operating all year round and carrying a total of 354 passengers at any one time.    In one trip we can now carry more passengers than my father carried in his first year of business.  

“I have very fond memories of helping my father as a young boy, whether this was helping to fix the engines or preparing the boat for a charter, I always knew I wanted to be involved in the future of the business.    

“Through my father’s experience, the company has exceptional knowledge of Loch Ness, its history, and wildlife, and we love to share this with our passengers offering a five-star service, bolstering the Highlands as a tourism destination.”  

To celebrate 50 years in business, on 28 May this year, Cruise Loch Ness gifted every passenger who boarded their vessels with a scratch card.  On each cruise throughout the day the winner received £50, with other prizes including various monetary values and free drinks; ensuring nearly all passengers walked away with a prize.  On boarding every passenger was also given a custom designed cupcake sourced from local company Cupcake Creations.  To continue with the celebrations all staff partied into the night.