Swan Hellenic

Swan Hellenic was a British cruise line specialising in tours of historical or cultural interest aimed at the upper end of the cruise market. The BBC reported that the parent company of Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery had gone into Administration on 4 January 2017 leaving 400 passengers abroad. The Civil Aviation Authority will help to repatriate them. Future bookings for 13,000 others have been cancelled but they will receive refunds.[1]

Swan Hellenic
FateBrand discontinued by Carnival in 2007, then founded again in 2007.
Ceased trading in 2017 due to All Leisure Holidays being placed into administration
Founded1950 (As Swans Tour Agency)
2007 (Re-established as Swan Hellenic)
Defunct2007, 2017
Area served
ParentAll Leisure Holidays Group


In the 1950s, a British travel agent called Swan's Tours, 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 coasts 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 onboard 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 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. [2]

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.[3] 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).

Grant Thornton's Eddie Williams, administrator to All leisure Holidays Group, told the BBC in January 2017: "The cruise operations [Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery] have been significantly loss-making over a number of years and the ongoing cost of funding these operations by the tour operations has created significant cash issues for the entire group, which has ultimately led to the administration of all businesses."[1]

In 2017 it was reported that the G Adventures company had purchased the name and brand, with a view to re-launching Swan Hellenic with the first cruises planned for 2018.[4]


Current fleet

ShipBuiltEntered service for Swan HellenicGross TonnageFormer NamesNotesImage
Minerva19901996-2003, 2008 – present12,892 GTMinerva, Saga Pearl, Alexander von Humboldt, Explorer IISailed as Saga Cruises Saga Pearl for the Summer of 2003, then sailed as Abercrombie & Kent's Explorer II from 2003 to 2005, and sailed as Phoenix Reisen Alexander von Humboldt from 2005 to 2008.

Former Ships

ShipBuiltSwan Hellenic ServiceGross TonnageFormer NamesNotesImage
Miaoulis195219541,714 GTOriginally built for the Greek Government, owned by Nomikos Lines.
Ankara19271959[5]-19746,178 GTBuilt 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.
Orpheus19481974–19964,145 GTMunster (4), TheseusPreviously Liverpool to Dublin ferry Munster; as Orpheus chartered from Epriotiki Lines.
Minerva II20012003–200730,277 GTR Eight, Minerva II, Royal Princess, AdoniaOperated by Princess Cruises 2007-2011. P&O Cruises 2011-2018. Started sailing as Azamara Pursuit in August 2018 after leaving the P&O Cruises fleet in April.


  1. "All Leisure Holidays stops trading". 4 January 2017 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  2. The Daily Telegraph (18 December 2006). "New Cruises Hope to Match Swan". News story. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  3. 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
  4. https://swanhellenic.com/. Accessed: 2017-09-06. (Archived by WebCite® at https://www.webcitation.org/6tHIJpV9x)
  5. COLIN STONE. "SWAN HELLENIC REFINES THE ART OF DISCOVERY CRUISING". Magazine article. Retrieved 12 February 2014.

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