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The houdini box


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Swan Hellenic is the cultural cruising arm of P&O and offers cruises with a strong educational content in a country house ambience.  The main attraction remains the itineraries, the excellent lecture programmes and the opportunity to broaden the mind. Tour programmes are also usually available at beginning and end of each cruise.
Swan Hellenic has been navigating the globe for more than 50 years, and in 1997 was acquired by P&O Cruises. Billed as an enriching experience for both veteran and first-time cruisers, Swan Hellenic offers unique itineraries, academic and expert lecturers, and customized shore excursions led by local guides. Swan Hellenic is a one-ship cruise line which operated the small 300-passenger expedition type vessel MV Minerva, which was replaced in 2003 by the 716-passenger Minerva II, a new cruise ship, focuses almost entirely on ports-of-call - as opposed to onboard frippery. When the ship is at sea, time is often taken up with guest lectures offered by a series of erudite, mostly British, experts in fields ranging from archeology to wine. The usual onboard cruise diversions - casino gambling, bingo, bad hair day lectures and "sun'n'fun" activities poolside don't apply. All voyages aboard Minerva II feature guest speakers who are authorities in such diverse subjects as classics, history, art, botany, archaeology, marine biology, astronomy and music. All of its restaurants operate on an open seating policy, evening entertainment consists of low-key (but excellent) jazz bands, talent shows by Indonesian or Filipino crew, one-man shows by well known (at least in the U.K.) British actors, and bands that play wonderful-to-dance-to torch songs. Taking on one of the former Renaissance R-series cruise ships, the one-ship Swan Hellenic has, in essence, doubled its capacity from the 300-passenger Minerva to the 716-passenger Minerva II. What this adds to the Swan Hellenic experience is more services (larger spa, more elaborate pool areas) and more expansive facilities, along with a plethora of balcony cabins (approximately 73 percent). And yet, the cruise line has managed to preserve the intimate, elegant ambiance for which it has attracted its legion of loyal (mostly U.K.-based) passengers. It has one of the industry's highest repeat passenger ratios. This is a perfect choice for any Anglophile but it must be noted that a trip on Minerva II is a consummately British experience. It may require an adjustment for Americans - in areas ranging from the way they make a martini to the very reserved demeanor of crew and staff.

On the other hand the replacement of the original Minerva with Minerva II led to criticism that the intimacy of the original cruise concept had been compromised. In April 2007, Carnival ended its operation of Swan Hellenic, and transferred Minerva II to the Princess fleet, with the new name Royal Princess. Swan Hellenic was subsequently acquired by the All Leisure Holidays Group Plc, who also own Voyages of Discovery,  Hebridean Island Cruises and Discover Egypt River Cruises. The original Minerva ship was returned for operations to Swan Hellenic. All Leisure Holidays Group Plc also acquired the 15,271 gross tons MV Alexander von Humboldt. The ship is chartered to the German cruise operator Phoenix Reisen GmbH.

Cruise ships and itineraries:

Minerva: Bahamas registered, built 1989, 12,500 gross tons, 394 passengers (198 for Antarctica), 146 crew members.
Itineraries: Norway, French Atlantic Coast, Baltic countries, Iceland, British Isles, Iberian Peninsular/Mediterranean/Adriatic Sea/Aegean Sea/Black Sea out of Dover (London) - UK; Mediterranean out of Cadiz - Spain; Aegean/Red Sea out of Piraeus (Athens) - Greece; Red Sea/Aegean/Black Sea/Mediterranean/Iberian Peninsular out of Aqaba - Jordan; Black Sea/Mediterranean out of Istanbul - Turkey; Adriatic Sea/Black Sea/Aegean Sea out of Naples - Italy; Aegean/Black Sea out of Piraeus (Athens) - Greece; Mediterranean/North Africa/Red Sea out of Valetta - Malta; Mediterranean/Red Sea out of Limassol - Cyprus; Mediterranean/Red Sea/Arabian Sea/Persian Gulf out of Limassol - Cyprus; Antarctica out of Ushuaia - Argentina; Middle East/India out of Dubai - UAE; Southeast Asia out of Colombo - Sri Lanca; Brunei/Borneo/Philippines out of Singapore; Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand out of Hong Kong - China; Southeast Asia/Indian Ocean out of Bangkok - Thailand; India out of Chennai - India; Middle East/Red Sea out of Muscat - Oman; , Spitsbergen Archipelago, Iceland.
  Minerva ship-Swan Hellenic Cruises

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