Cruising Supplier

Swan Hellenic

Written By: Mayra Donate, MSM / Director of Marketing, All Leisure Holidays North America



All Leisure Holidays (ALH)  is the sales and marketing office for All Leisure Group PLC, a publicly traded company in the United Kingdom, handled in North America by Discover the World, based in Scottsdale, AZ. ALH handles three globally marketed small ship cruise brands specializing in discovery cruising: Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic and Hebridean Island Cruises. The three cruise brands are distinct with their own customer profiles and price points, but are combined in their focus on enrichment and discovery cruising, which is about combining the chance to relax at sea on small ships featuring stylish onboard amenities and hospitality, with the opportunity to discover the world’s greatest sites and cultures in the company of experts lecturers.  Although none of our ships offer casinos, all of them do offer expert lecturers who provide educational information on a variety of subjects, including the history, geography, and sociology of the global destinations that we visit.  We also have partnerships with three premier UK Organizations: the National Trust, the Royal Horticultural Society, and the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).  These three partnerships provide our guests exclusive access to speakers, castles, events, and other opportunities not available to other cruise lines.



For 60 years Swan Hellenic has been perfecting the art of small ship discovery cruising, leading the way to some of the world’s most intriguing destinations in the company of renowned Guest Speakers who delight in sharing their enthusiasm and expertise with you.



In July 2007, All Leisure Group acquired Swan Hellenic, a well-known premium British cruise company that, surprisingly, owes its existence to the YMCA.  Under the direction of Mr. W. F. Swan, already well known in the travel trade, the YMCA began to organize trips to under the name Red Triangle Tours.  In 1931, with the business badly affected by the Great Depression, the YMCA withdrew and Mr. Swan took it over, renaming it Swans Travel Bureau. During WW II, the company had to stop operations and then resumed general travel business in 1947. The company chartered ships for the next several years and then in 1950’s when the Swan’s Tours travel agency, operated by a father and son (W.F. Swan and R.K. Swan), was asked to organize 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 program 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 characterized by an English ethos of high culture, although it had an international following.


In 1968, the business was sold to the Trust House Forte hotel group, who then in 1983, sold Swan Hellenic to the P& O Group. In 1996, for the first time, Swan Hellenic had a vessel which had been specially designed to meet their requirements.  The Minerva, in fact, had rather exotic origins.  She was based on the uncompleted hull of a Soviet spy ship which, since the disintegration of the U.S.S.R., had been laid up in a Ukrainian shipyard. Minerva remained with Swan Hellenic for seven years, before being replaced by a larger and faster ship, allowing the company to offer cruises to even more distant destinations, such as a circumnavigation of South America.  The new ship, called Minerva II, was originally built as the R Eight, the final vessel ordered by Renaissance Cruises.


In 2004, P&O Princess Cruises was purchased by Carnival Corporation, of which Swan Hellenic was a trading division. In December 2005 a Carnival Group company, Princess Cruises purchased Minerva II and continued chartering the ship to Swan Hellenic. However, Carnival Corporation then made the decision that they intended to sell Swan Hellenic as they wanted to concentrate on their core business. In April 2007 the former chairman of P&O, Lord Geoffrey Sterling, purchased the iconic Swan Hellenic brand and then joined the All Leisure Group in July 2007, a like-minded British company which earlier in the year had announced it had chartered the former 350-berth Minerva on a long-term basis.



From the moment you arrive at your departure port you can rest assured that you will be well looked after by our long-serving, experienced Swan Hellenic staff who will accompany you as you travel aboard Minerva in the company of just 350 like-minded passengers. Aboard our flagship you will travel in country house style to cities of music, culture and art, sites of ancient civilisations, remote villages, iconic coastlines and inspirational landscapes.


During leisurely days at sea, absorb in-depth talks and browse our extensive library. Step ashore and you will discover an inclusive shore excursion programme which has been carefully planned to ensure every aspect of your cruise is delivered to the highest possible standard.


As each day comes to an end, retire to your tastefully furnished cabin where thoughtful finishing touches include dressing gowns, slippers and a range of complimentary L’Occitane toiletries ensuring a relaxed evening which leaves you refreshed and ready for another wonderful day of exploration.


On-board activities

Attend our Guest Speakers’ intriguing talks in the Darwin Lounge, setting the scene for Minerva’s arrival in her next port of call. You may also watch these presentations in the Livingstone Lounge or from the comfort of your own cabin.


Meet new friends for morning coffee in the Veranda, keep in touch with your family via the Internet Lounge, shop for postcards in the Kiosk or browse the range of merchandise in our on-board shop. After a visit to our well-stocked Library retire to the serenity of the Orpheus Lounge which offers splendid panoramic views. Relax in a teak chair on deck, or refresh yourself with a dip in the swimming pool. Alternatively, learn a new skill – bridge, painting, yoga or tai-chi – in one of our occasional workshops.



At lunchtime choose from a delicious à la carte menu in the Swan Restaurant, a lighter buffet in the Veranda or an al fresco barbecue around the pool. Afternoon tea is a fine tradition, and each afternoon a complimentary selection of cakes, sandwiches and biscuits will be served in the Swan Restaurant.


In the evenings you can dine at the table of your choice in the company of your friends at any time during opening hours. This relaxed arrangement is one of the most popular features of life on board Minerva, and creates a unique, congenial, atmosphere on board.


Entertainment & nightlife

As the sun sets on another perfect day, meet friends for drinks in one of Minerva’s bars: the intimate Wheeler Bar, named after Swan Hellenic’s first Chairman Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the spacious Shackleton Bar or the panoramic Orpheus Lounge. Background cocktail music – piano, harp or classical guitar – and the buzz of animated conversation set the tone for an enchanting evening in wonderful company.


After dinner, enjoy a varied programme of entertainment which might include classical concerts, amusing after-dinner talks, sparkling revues, our ever-popular crew show or a light-hearted quiz or film night in the Darwin Lounge. Later, you might choose to dance to the Minerva band by the pool, enjoy late-night music in the Orpheus Lounge, or stroll around the Promenade Deck under the stars.


At Swan Hellenic, we take care of every detail, so you can sit back and relax as you cruise to some of the world’s most spectacular destinations. For more information, please visit or call us toll-free at (866) 923-9182 (Monday – Friday from 9am – 7pm EST).