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Swan Hellenic is a Britishmarker 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 travel agency, operated by two brothers by the name of Swan, was asked to organise a tour for visitors interested in the antiquities of Greecemarker. 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 seamarker, around the coats and islands of modern Greecemarker and Turkeymarker. It also, however, visited classical and other ancient sites in north Africa (including Egyptmarker) 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

Swan Hellenic was acquired from the Swan family by P&O. 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.

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.. 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).

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

Current fleet

Ship Built Entered service for Swan Hellenic Gross Tonnage Former Names Notes
Minerva 1990 2008 Minerva, Saga Pearl, Alexander von Humboldt, Explorer II Operated for Swan Hellenic 1996-2003

Former Ships

Ship Built Swan Hellenic Service Gross Tonnage Former Names Notes
Miaoulis 1952 1954 Originally built for the Greek Government, owned by Nomikos Lines
Ankara 1927 late 1950s-1974 Built in the USA for New York and Miami S.S. Co., later Clyde Mallory Lines, sold to Turkey in 1948
Orpheus 1948 1974-1996 Munster (4), Theseus Previously Liverpool to Dublin ferry, as Orpheus chartered from Epriotiki Lines
Minerva 1990 1996-2003 Minerva, Saga Pearl, Alexander von Humboldt, Explorer II Now, once again, operating for Swan Hellenic
Minerva II 2001 2003-2007 R Eight Now operating for Princess Cruises as Royal Princess


  1. The Cruise Ship Report, 15th March, 2007 Swan Hellenic, Despite Losing Its Only Cruise Ship, Gets New Life Retrieved from The Cruise Ship Report on 18th March, 2007

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