Farewell to Swan Hellenic and superior cruising

The impending demise of the up-market, culture-vultures’ formerly British cruise-line, Swan Hellenic, at the hands of its philistine American owner, Carnival Corp., deserves a regretful obituary and a footnote in the history books.  Not only did Swan Hellenic offer toSwan Hellenic's 'Minerva II' many retired British ambassadors the opportunity of a free holiday afloat in return for delivering a few weighty lectures on the countries being visited:  it also enabled the (mainly English) middle classes to enjoy the minor luxuries of cruising, in the nautical sense, without being forced to mingle at mealtimes with the lower orders, few of whom seem to be attracted by the prospect of being lectured at by retired ambassadors, bishops, professors or art historians.  A certain middle-class smugness certainly characterised the sole Swan Hellenic cruise recently enjoyed by this blog (as paying passenger, not lecturer), but in spite (or because) of this it was a uniquely British, or perhaps English, kind of holiday and it’s lamentable that its only ship, Minerva II, should be renamed and converted next April into a floating casino and Revuebar so as to increase the return on capital for Carnival Corp’s shareholders.  They presumably don’t know, still less care, that such iconic figures as Anthony Powell and Mortimer Wheeler used to be patrons of Swan Hellenic cruises, as well as all those ex-ambassadors with their solemn (or less solemn) lectures.  So, farewell, the good ship Minerva II! 

(Actually, Minerva's swimming pool is far too small, so perhaps it's not such a tragedy after all.  And no dancing girls….)  

PS:  Watch this space for Ephems's Diary of his and his spouse's sole Swan Hellenic cruise, and his holiday snaps from it.  Coming Soon. 

3 Responses

  1. Martin Kelly says:


    And another nail is sunk into the culture’s coffin.

    Well done, Carnival.

  2. sally barlow says:

    I enjoyed your comments on the Minerva.  We sail with her next month on her last ever trip and wonder if all the swans will be weeping on each others shoulders and all the memsahibs from surrey will be trumpeting their usual nonsense or it just might be terrific fun.  We’ve sailed on her many times and each time say ‘never again’ but here we are booking up on what will be a ‘never again’.  We’ve learnt a lot, visited some wonderful places from the Falklands to Vietnam and made life long friends – also some we hope never to see again!  yes, the pool is too small and a bit of lighter entertainment would be fun, even housey-housey and ‘guess the day’s run (gives my age away) would be a good idea – but no, serious stuff and no giggling in the library and heaven forfend if you complain about the school food to Izzy

    best wishes and happy sailing wherever

    Sally Barlow – Switzerland

  3. crew says:

    minerva ii was a beloved ship by her crew and passenegers

    i do not understand your sarcastic comments

    if you had said "never again" why had not you gone sailing on a carnival mass product money making floating platform?

    a crew member

    Brian writes:  My comments were not sarcastic, and indeed I lamented the demise of Minerva II and her distinctive style and culture.  I can well understand the affection that many passengers felt for her, and I'm interested to learn that some of her crew felt the same way.  But I stand by my remarks about the middle-class cultural smugness of the Swan Hellenic experience, which I personally found somewhat stifling.  Many others obviously didn't.   

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