Swan Hellenic

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Swan Hellenic
Headquarters Burgess Hill, United Kingdom
Area served
Products Cruises
Parent All Leisure Holidays Group
Website www.swanhellenic.com
Swan Hellenic ship Minerva (then Explorer II) at anchor at Grytviken, South Georgia in November 2007.

Swan Hellenic is a British cruise line specialising in tours of historical or cultural interest aimed at the upper end of the cruise market.


It began in the 1950s when the Swan's Tours travel agency, operated by a father and son (W.F. Swan and R.K. Swan), was asked to organise a tour for visitors interested in the antiquities of Greece. The archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, was employed as guest lecturer.

From this developed a full programme of cruises, in which well known academics, writers and clergymen were regularly featured as guest lecturers, both on board ship and on site. The company prided itself on never repeating, exactly, any itinerary, but it concentrated, as the name suggests, on classical sites in the Aegean sea, around the coats and islands of modern Greece and Turkey. It also, however, visited classical and other ancient sites in north Africa (including Egypt) and the eastern Mediterranean. Unlike most commercial cruises, in which the on board entertainment is as important as the destinations visited, Swan Hellenic cruises landed almost every day in order to visit historic sites, and travel between sites was undertaken by the ship overnight. The operation was characterised by an English ethos of high culture, although it had an international following.

Recent history[edit]

Swan Hellenic was acquired from the Swan family by P&O in 1983. More recently, it became a subsidiary of the world's largest cruise operator, the British-American Carnival Corporation & plc. Under Carnival, the characteristically small 300-passenger ship Minerva, was replaced in 2003 by the 600-passenger Minerva II. This 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. This was reported at the time as the end of Swan Hellenic. Its demise was apparently compounded when Martin Randall Travel launched a series of cruises to fill the niche Swan Hellenic had left.[1]

However, on 15 March 2007, Lord Sterling, the former chairman of P&O, announced that he was buying the Swan Hellenic brand and intended to relaunch the cruise line as soon as a suitable vessel could be located.[2] Swan Hellenic was subsequently acquired by the All Leisure Holidays Group Plc, who also own Voyages of Discovery who ran the ship Explorer II (previously Minerva_(ship)).

The company website states that Swan Hellenic cruises started up again in 2008.


Current fleet[edit]

Ship Built Entered service for Swan Hellenic Gross Tonnage Former Names Notes
Minerva 1990 1996-2003 2008 – present 12,500 GT Minerva, Saga Pearl, Alexander von Humboldt, Explorer II Sailed as Saga Cruises Saga Pearl for the Summer of 2003, then sailed as Abercrombie & Kent Explorer II from 2003 to 2005, and sailed as Phoenix Reisen Alexander von Humboldt from 2005 to 2008.

Former Ships[edit]

Ship Built Swan Hellenic Service Gross Tonnage Former Names Notes
Miaoulis 1952 1954 1,714 GT Originally built for the Greek Government, owned by Nomikos Lines
Ankara 1927 1959[3]-1974 6,178 GT Built in the USA for New York and Miami S.S. Co., later Clyde Mallory Lines, sold to Turkey in 1948, chartered from Turkish Maritime Lines for a total of 105 cruises
Orpheus 1948 1974–1996 4,145 GT Munster (4), Theseus Previously Liverpool to Dublin ferry, as Orpheus chartered from Epriotiki Lines
Minerva II 2001 2003–2007 30,277 GT R Eight, Royal Princess Operated by Princess Cruises 2007-2011. Now sails as Adonia for P&O Cruises.


  1. ^ The Daily Telegraph (18 December 2006). "New Cruises Hope to Match Swan". News story. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  2. ^ The Cruise Ship Report, 15 March 2007 Swan Hellenic, Despite Losing Its Only Cruise Ship, Gets New Life Retrieved from The Cruise Ship Report on 18 March 2007
  3. ^ COLIN STONE. "SWAN HELLENIC REFINES THE ART OF DISCOVERY CRUISING". Magazine article. Retrieved 2014-02-12.