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Opera diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa served as godmother for the July
4 christening of the 676-passenger vessel in the shadow of London’s
Minerva II replaces the 300-passenger Minerva.
The British discovery-oriented cruise line also aims to
significantly boost the number of Americans it carries, as it
debuts its first-ever Central and South American itineraries early
Over the past year, Swan Hellenic has stepped up U.S. marketing
in a bid to draw 15 percent of its business stateside.
“We’d be happy to see that going up to 20 percent to 25
percent,” managing director Carol Marlow said from the company’s
headquarters in Southampton, England.
Swan Hellenic is a division of P&O Princess Cruises, now
part of the Carnival Corp. family.
Still, Marlow said Swan Hellenic will continue to keep a British
feel on its cruises.
“Our American guests would be disappointed if that feel didn’t
come through,” she said.
Minerva II imparts a “country house” atmosphere, with fine
dining, several lounges, an extensive reference library and a daily
program of guest speakers who are experts on the destinations being
“We’ve been running discovery cruises since 1954 for people who
want to find out more about the places they’re visiting, not just
lie about on deck getting a suntan,” Marlow says.
Depending on the route, passengers might get to hear the
firsthand impressions of a former diplomat, a bishop recalling life
in a multinational diocese, an archaeologist or a foreign
Although the 30,000-ton Minerva II is much larger than the
Minerva, a shallow draft enables the new ship to explore the
smaller, out-of-the-way destinations that Swan Hellenic has built
its reputation on for the past 50 years.
And the Minerva II’s greater speed makes a wider range of
itineraries possible. Swan Hellenic already goes to some unusual
places. For example, the company has been calling at Libyan ports
This winter it will embark on its first Central and South
American season, adding little-known spots like Salaverry in Peru
for an excursion to the ancient Chimu capital of Chan Chan, and Las
Piedras in Venezuela for the colonial city of Coro.
Marlow says the itineraries mingle the big-name destinations
people have always wanted to see with smaller places that reflect
an ethnic flavor.
In style and philosophy, Swan Hellenic resembles Clipper Cruise
Line and Special Expeditions, but Marlow draws a distinction in the
level of comfort and quality offered by Minerva II.
Ninety percent of the Minerva II’s cabins offer ocean views, and
three-quarters of those feature balconies. Dining choices include
four open-seating restaurants.
Swan Hellenic replaced R Eight’s casino with the Wheeler Bar,
named after archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who served as one
of the line’s first guest speakers, and later, its chairman.
Minerva II offers mainly two-week cruises, with one excursion
per port and gratuities included in the fare. Prices begin at
$3,086 per person, double occupancy, for a 15-day program.
The ship is currently sailing from the U.K. to the British
Isles, Western Europe and Scandinavia before striking out for the
Mediterranean and Black Sea. Minerva II crosses the Atlantic to
Barbados in December and launches the company’s Central and South
American program in January.
Swan Hellenic works with U.S. travel agents through a general
sales agent based in Commack, N.Y. The line also enjoys a strong
group base in the alumni association market, especially Ivy League