As this heritage brand prepares to cruise again, Andrea Zito talks to Jennie Carr. Find out what the new Swan Hellenic and her ships have to offer, 25 years since the original Minerva set sail.
Swan Hellenic is a really iconic brand, traditionally very popular with British cruisers. You’ve been quoted as saying you love the brand. Why and what are the reasons?
I’ve been close to Swan Hellenic through other cruise line interests since the 1990s. Swan Tours was pioneering when it began back in the 1950s, creating exciting new cultural expeditions around Greece and Turkey. It evolved into Swan Hellenic and continued this sense of being unique and ground-breaking: it is this aspect which I’m so passionate about – taking guests further afield to parts of the world seldom seen for real cultural experiences.
And are these the reasons the name has been retained rather than launching the cruise line with a new name, which you could have done?
We could have chosen a new name certainly, however the Swan Hellenic brand was available, through many co-incidences, and its history and image fit extremely well with what we plan to do. It has a long, well-respected history in cultural cruising and is held in high esteem by passengers and guest speakers alike. When a group of us decided to invest in the polar expedition sector of the cruise market in 2019, the synchronicity of these two things made sense. There is also a huge awareness of the brand in America and Australia, as well as in the UK.
What is the most exciting aspect of the new Minerva? What is her unique selling point (USP)?
Swan Hellenic will have new ships, with every modern safety device and comfort. They will be solid, reliable and interesting vessels, Polar Class 5, so well able to handle extreme conditions. However, what we are offering are unique experiences. And the remote, little-visited destinations will be our USP. Our passengers will travel to places very few people have been to before. The opportunity to make memories and tell remarkable stories once home are all an extension and continuation of that USP. It’s the long-lasting emotional response that these destinations will evoke which will feed into this too.
You’ve described the ships as ‘elegant’ rather than ‘luxurious’. What made you use this word?
The ships have sophisticated, understated elegance, with many open and outdoor spaces because the destination has pole position for Swan Hellenic. Our guests with be focussed on what is outside the ship, immersed in the environment and scenery, rather than on what is inside it. It’s less about onboard opulence and more about the ship being a marvellous way to bring people to extraordinary places. We will not have helicopters or submarines on board, as we wish to be as nonintrusive as possible when visiting pristine territory.
And who do you anticipate your passengers will be? Older? Well-travelled?
Well, certainly mature, we imagine people will be in their mid-50s mainly. People who are experience and culture seekers, real thinkers, who are inquisitive and curious, with a thirst for knowledge. And people who are excited about going further, visiting regions not generally found on the tourist trail. I anticipate our guests having a ‘citizen of the world’ outlook, and they’ll be fascinated by what’s to appear around the next corner, wanting to see what others don’t.
When can we expect to see Minerva in the UK? And her first cruise will be where?
Minerva will sail in November 2021, leaving from Argentina. Her first cruises will be to
the Antarctic, based in Ushuaia, including a voyage for the Solar Eclipse early December 2021.
Before Minerva’s repositioning along the coast of South and North America through to Japan and the Pacific Ocean, the Antarctic itineraries will include the Falklands, South Georgia, the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands.
What is Swan Hellenic’s plans for the future? There’s a second ship being built, I believe.
Yes, there are two ships under construction. Minerva is to launch in November 2021 and then Vega in April 2022, which will sail initially to the Arctic. Both these ships will have 75 cabins, taking around 150 passengers. Our third ship, currently under construction in Helsinki, will be slightly bigger with 96 cabins and that will be ready for the end of 2022.
If you had just one wish for Swan Hellenic’s future, what would it be?
We want to take guests to exceptional parts of the world and to give them enriching memories; treasures of the mind in other words.
To book your cultural expedition cruise and travel to destinations you may never have imagined, visit swanhellenic.com
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Swan Hellenic.