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There are various stories swirling around about the problems that these two lines seems to be experiencing. Both were due to embark passengers on cruises in the next few days – Swan Hellenic (SH) on 3 January from Marseilles, and Voyages of Discovery (VoD) on 4 January from Malaysia – but both cruises have been cancelled and passengers informed. In both cases “operational reasons” are stated as being the cause of the cancellations. There are also reports from passengers booked on subsequent cruises that these, too, have been cancelled. Finally, there are rumours that the two lines may be going out of business, with some sketchy reports of possible buyers for at least one of the ships being shown over it.

The ships themselves seem to be sailing without problems – as I write this SH’s Minerva is en route from Barcelona to Marseilles – so that’s not the “operational reason” involved. Indeed, given that these are two different ships on different sides of the earth, it was always unlikely that technical problems with the ships were the “operational reasons”. However there are connections between the two lines in that they are both owned by, or are part of, the All Leisure Group (ALG).

ALG own other holiday and cruise companies, including Travelsphere and Hebridean Island Cruises. There are reports from customers of Travelsphere that they have received a letter advising them of changes to their forthcoming holidays in that the holidays will now be provided by Page & Moy, a different company altogether. As a result of all these developments it is being suggested that All Leisure Group may simply be going out of business, with some parts of the company being transferred to new owners and other parts not being transferred. But at the moment this is all speculation – all we know for certain is that the new year cruises for SH and VoD have been cancelled.

When I’ve been looking for cruises to book for ourselves I’ve looked at both of these lines and they did look attractive, in terms of the itinerary. However I also felt there were downsides. The two ships – Minerva (SH) and Voyager (VoD) – are both very small, at 12,321 tons for Minerva and 15,271 tons for Voyager. Additionally, I had read reviews that suggested that the on-board quality wasn’t great – that the all-inclusive nature of the cruises was achieved with lowest-common-denominator selections of beers and wines, for example; that cabins were very small; and that (being small) there was a lot of movement while at sea. These rather negative reports, along with the rather high prices, were why I never booked with either of these lines. That said, I also read glowing reviews from  other passengers, especially about the itineraries, shore-side activities, and the on-board lecture programmes.

At one time it looked as if Swan Hellenic was carving a very respectable niche for itself. In 2003 the original (and current) Minerva was replaced by a different ship, imaginatively called ‘Minerva II’. This was in fact one of the R ships, and at that time most were still tied up at various ports following the collapse in late 2001 of Renaissance Cruises who had had them built. At 30,000 tons with (almost) all-balcony accommodation there were and remain exceptional ships. Indeed, they were so exceptional that SH lost Minerva II! At that time the line was owned by P&O and was thus ultimately a part of the Carnival empire. In 2007 Carnival Corp could see a better use for Minerva II and it was transferred to Princess Cruises as Royal Princess. She didn’t last long with Princess, however – in 2011 she was further transferred to P&O and has since borne the name ‘Adonia’. Unfortunately for Swan Hellenic, the transfer to Princess of Minerva II left them without a ship, and the line closed down. It was re-created by Lord Sterling in 2007, and voyages recommenced in 2008 with the previous ship, Minerva. Somewhere during this period the line was acquired by All Leisure Group, which brings us up to today.

5 Responses to “2017 starts with cancellations for Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery”

  1. Malcolm Oliver says:

    Reblogged this on Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog and commented:
    Tom Burke has provided some extra information on this story, in his excellent blog:

  2. Peter Kelly says:

    My wife and I were on Minerva’s Iberian cruise last July/August. We couldn’t disagree more with the suggestion that “on-board quality wasn’t great”. Admittedly we had one of the more expensive cabins, with a fine balcony, but in our opinion the whole experience was quite superb–excellent ship, friendly and remarkably efficient crew, great facilities, exceptional shipboard food. We had booked to go on Minerva again next October and are shocked at the news of the collapse. Please don’t let the idea gain ground that the Minerva experience was anything other than first class!

    • Tom Burke says:

      Thanks for the comment, Peter. And also for the correction.

      As you’ve hinted, cabins on a ship can vary, depending on (among other things) their class. Other things don’t vary as much – food, drink, hospitality, etc. Can I ask, how did you find these aspects of your cruise on Minerva?

  3. Peter Kelly says:

    Food on Minerva was excellent–I speak as a very picky eater. If you didn’t fancy anything on the menu they would always do you a steak or chicken or an omelette. The wine list wasn’t anything special but it was certainly adequate. Hospitality was superb–all staff cheerful, efficient, helpful. The actual ship’s officers and crew seemed exceptionally competent–they reminded me of naval personnel that I have seen at work. The whole ship spick and span and every facility and piece of equipment worked as it was supposed to. Beautiful lounges etc. and an extremely comprehensive (and very comfortable) library. After the first day we didn’t join any shore excursions, preferring to explore on our own, so I can’t speak of them.

    I should add that we were first-time cruisers, so you may say that we had no basis of comparison, but we have heard many reports from others and Minerva seemed better-regarded than other cruise ships.

    Sadly, all academic now…..

    • Tom Burke says:

      Many thanks, Peter. I’m glad you enjoyed your cruise on her, and (like you) am sad there’s no longer the opportunity for more.

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