Swan Hellenic Cruises

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Swan Hellenic Cruises fleet

Review of Swan Hellenic Cruises

Swan Hellenic Ltd (1950-founded as "Swans Tour Agency", 2020-relaunched / swanhellenic.com) is a 5-star luxury cruise travel brand (all-inclusive) and a British company headquartered in Limassol Cyprus.

Swan Hellenic has offices in Europe (London England UK, Dusseldorf Germany, Monte Carlo Monaco, Copenhagen Denmark), also in Fort Lauderdale Florida USA (serving North America/USA and Canada), Hong Kong China (serving Southeast Asia), Sydney NSW (serving Australia and New Zealand). Via partnerships are served the markets in India and Japan.

The company's current fleet includes three newbuilds - SH Minerva (2021), SH Vega (2022), SH Diana (2023). "SH" stands for "Swan Hellenic". Destinations include Arctic and Antarctica, Russian Far East, East Asia (Japan, Thailand, Philippines), South Pacific Islands (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu), Australia, New Zealand, Atlantic Europe, the UK (British and Scottish Islands).

The new brand targets mainly English-speaking source markets - North America (USA, Canada), the UK, Europe, Australia, Asia. Swan Hellenic's principal competitor is Lindblad-National Geographic, mainly for its vessel types-capacity, culture- and nature-themed onboard enrichment programming, and Zodiac-based shore excursions.

Company history

P&O Cruises acquired Swan Hellenic Tours in 1983 and in 2003 P&O merged with/became part of Carnival Corporation (currently the world's largest cruise shipowner). As a travel brand, "Swan Hellenic" was discontinued by Carnival in March 2007. Soon, the brand was purchased by ALG (All Leisure Group) and cruise shipping operations were restarted. Back then, ALG also owned and operated the brand "Voyages of Discovery" (2003-founded/2016-defunct). Swan Hellenic planned to restart operations in May 2008 with MV Minerva (1996-built) and an inaugural European season based on itineraries in Baltic Sea and Mediterranean.

Next is the brand's old logo.

Swan Hellenic Tours logo (old)

In January 2008 was announced that in 2009 Swan Hellenic starts cruises on Danube River (with homeporting in Vienna Austria) and Rhone River (roundtrips out of Lyon France). The voyages were via partnership (time-charter) with Arosa Cruises and were cruisetour package deals inclusive of all shore excursions, fees-taxes and gratuities.

In February 2017 (after ALG filed for bankruptcy in January), Swan Hellenic Cruises was acquired by G-Adventures. The new owner announced plans to restart operations (with Minerva) in 2018. In July 2022, G-Adventures sold Swan Hellenic to a private British investment group led by Andrea Zito (previously employed by Silversea and V-Ships Leisure). V-Ships (part of V-Group Holdings Ltd/1984-founded) is a cruise ship management company (Monaco-registered, London-headquartered) with 60+ offices in 30 countries.

Next is the brand's new logo.

Swan Hellenic Cruises logo (CruiseMapper)

Initially was announced that Swan Hellenic's owners/shareholders are associated with Vodohod Ltd (owner of the Russian river cruise brand "Vodohod") as well as with Helsinki Shipyard Oy (shipbuilder, currently owned by Algador Holdings Ltd/Russian company owned by Vodohod's co-owners) and some international investors.

As later confirmed by Swan Hellenic's officials, the company's ownership is split between three Cyprus-based companies (shareholders, also listed as shipowners) - Capstans Ltd (2018-incorporated/reg number HE384194), Valbridge Ltd (2004-incorporated/reg number C145148), Diamant Trading Ltd (2016-incorporated/reg number HE356719).

Swan Hellenic's CEO is Andrea Zito (former employee of Silversea and V-Ships).

Next is listed the company's management team.

  • John Warner (General Manager), former GM of Vodohod and G-Adventures
  • Mario Bounas (General Manager for UK & Ireland) who was previously employed by Royal Caribbean and Vodohod.
  • Patrizia Iantorno (Senior VP of Global Sales & Marketing) who in Sept 2023 succeeded Alfredo Spadon (previously employed by Silversea and MSC). The newly created (in Sept 2023) position "Senior VP of Sales Europe & UK" is held by Anna Wolfsteiner (previously employed by Scenic Group) who reports directly to the SVP of Global Sales.
  • Joe Maloney (VP of North America Sales) previously worked at AAA Auto Club Group (Assistant VP) and at Scenic Cruises USA (VP of Sales & Marketing).
  • Patrizia Iantorno (VP of Global Marketing) was previously employed by Nestle's Purina PetCare (as Strategy Director) and also worked at Now Available Africa (Neutral Advertising).
  • Pierre Thomas (Expedition Director) previously worked for several premium brands (including Lindblad and Silversea).
  • Tom Russell (General Manager for North America/Fort Lauderdale office and call center) who previously worked for "Cruise & Travel Executives" (President), Global Voyages Group (COO), Silversea North America (COO and Managing Director).
  • Mitchell Schlesinger (Sales Director for North America) who previously worked for NCL-Norwegian, Orient Lines (1991-founded/2008-defunct) and Voyages to Antiquity (2010-founded/2019-defunct).
  • Andrea Corman (Customer Relations Director) previously worked for Voyages to Antiquity (2010-2019), Uniworld and Oceania.
  • Nick Giersdorf (Marketing and Digital Director) was previously employed by Global Voyages Group.
  • Lori Sheller (VP of Sales & Marketing for North America) was last employed by MSC Cruises USA (as Senior VP of Strategic Sales) and previously by Hotelbeds Group (as Tourico Holidays' VP of Global Cruise Development).
  • Gordon Dirker (VP of Sales for North America) was previously employed by Celestyal Cruises (as VP of Business Development) and by Hurtigruten (as VP of Americas). In 2023 were employed two more North America Sales Directors - Eric Bacon for the Western USA (former employee of Celestyal, Atlas Ocean Voyages, Hurtigruten) and Kelly Predmesky for the Eastern USA (previously employed by Celestyal, Mejdi Tours Israel, Contiki Tours NZ, STA Travel UK).

Other company executives include Hans Heger (VP of Hotel Operations), Philipp Reutener (Fleet Hotel Director), Adria Bono (Shore Excursions Director),

Company changes 2023

In April Swan Hellenic signed a partnership deal with JRE-Jeunes Restaurateurs (1974-founded association of 375 restaurants) for the food-themed "Maris Cruises" on the ships Vega and Diana. The Maris-themed voyages are accompanied by some of JRE's star chefs from Italy (Manfred Kofler, Luca Marchini), France (Clement Bidard), Spain (Manu Nunez, Carles Ramon, Borja Marrero), Germany (Michael Ammon, Andreas Hillejan), Holland (Edwin Soumang, Arjan Kuipers), Switzerland (Daniel Lehmann), Slovenia (Sabina Repovz, Tomaz Bratovz). Maris-themed voyages also feature an onboard cooking show and culinary-themed shore excursions exploring the region's traditions and specialties. The first "Maris Cruise" was on SH Diana (April 15th).

Company changes 2022

In March Swan Hellenic exercised the buyout/irrevocable purchase option for its two vessels (Minerva and Vega) from GTLK (ГТЛК-Государственная транспортная лизинговая компания/State Transport Leasing Company). JSC GTLK (Russia's largest leasing company) and its subsidiaries were included in the UK's and EU's sanctions list due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Both vessels' ownership was officially changed on March 13 (SH Minerva) and on March 31 (SH Vega).

Company changes 2021

In mid-January 2021, Swan Hellenic opened a North American sales office (with a call center) in Fort Lauderdale (Florida USA) to serve the company's USA-Canada-Mexico operations.

On February 8, 2021, Swan Hellenic signed a partnership with Nordic Cruise GSA (1996-founded) for a direct presence in Northern Europe (Iceland and Scandinavia).

In April 2021 was hired Denise Landau to create the "Cultural Expedition Partner Program" - a training program for travel agents and advisors. The company also started to develop "preferred supplier" partnerships with large cruise travel agencies.

In May 2021, Pablo Brandeman became Swan Hellenic's "Antarctic Expedition Team" leader.

In late-May 2021 was signed a deal with "V-Ships Leisure" (Ship Management and Marine Services) and "Oceanic Catering" (Marine Hospitality and Catering Services). Both companies are subsidiaries of V-Group and were contracted for year-round management of the Swan Hellenic's entire fleet (all the 3 expedition ships).

Company changes 2020

In May 2020, Helsinki Shipyard Oy (with all its assets) was acquired by Algador Holdings Ltd from Arctech Helsinki Shipyard Oy. Algador Holdings Ltd is owned by VODOHOD's co-owners Rishat Bagautdinov (Ришат Диасович Багаутдинов) and Vladimir Kasyanenko (Владимир Касяненко) whose companies specialize in cruise shipping and shipbuilding businesses.

In early-October 2020, Swan Hellenic signed a partnership with Tam Wing Kun Holdings Ltd to represent the brand in Asia. Tam Wing Kun Holdings represents many of the world's leading logistics companies and airlines in Asia through offices or partners in China (Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai), Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, The Philippines.

In October 2020, VODOHOD and Swan Hellenic both joined CLIA Europe (a division of CLIA-Cruise Lines International Association, which has as members all the world's largest cruise shipping companies).

In mid-December 2020, Swan Hellenic signed a partnership with Travel Planners (Eastern India) Pvt Ltd for a direct presence in India. Travel Planners (E.I.) is part of Sinclair & Co (owned by SBG-Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc/ fka Chesapeake Television Corporation) and is headquartered in Kolkata India.


All Swan Hellenic ships are Malta-flagged and registered in Valletta. Each unit costs EUR 98 million (USD 115 million). The fleet's deck and engine operations are managed by V-Ships Leisure.

The vessels were originally ordered as projects "Vega 1" (Minerva), "Vega 2" (Vega), and "Vega 3" (Diana). The shipbuilder is Helsinki Shipyard Oy (owner of the Wartsila Hietalahti Shipyard/fka "Arctech Helsinki Shipyard" in Helsinki Finland. Helsinki Shipyard generally specializes in building icebreakers, ice-class support vessels and smaller-sized (expedition) cruise ships.


The company "Tillberg Design of Sweden" was contracted to design the boat's interiors. The design was based on PC5 (Polar Class 5) ice-strengthened hull (Polar Code Category A allows navigation in polar waters with medium first-year ice), LOA length 115 m (377 ft), GT tonnage 10500 tons (volume), larger stabilizers, 9 decks (2 crew-only, 7 passenger-accessible, 3 with cabins), 76 staterooms (cabins and suites), max passenger capacity 152, crew capacity 120, 2x midship Lifts, stairs (forward-midship-aft).

The propulsion is a diesel-electric hybrid, with total power output 4,6 MW. The vessels are SOLAS-certified (with SRtP-Safe Return to Port). SRtP is required for passenger ships (2010-built and onward) with LOA length 120 m (or longer) or with 3 or more above-water decks.

The third ship (SH Diana) is slightly larger (12100 vs 10600 GT-tons/volume), with more staterooms (96 vs 76), a higher ice-classed hull (PC6 vs PC5), bigger passenger capacity (192 vs 152) and crew capacity (140 vs 120).


Each boat features Swan Restaurant (Dining Room), Marine Life Library, Expedition Laboratory, Club Lounge, Observation Lounge (for expert lectures by renowned specialists and the ship's expedition team), wellness complex (Spa, Sauna Room, Hair Salon, Gym), Pool Deck (with outdoor Pool Bar, Grill, Jacuzzi/whirlpool hot tub and heated infinity pool), Zodiacs (high-speed motorboats for coastal cruising and passenger tendering), aft marina Platform (for launching watersports activities), Clinic (Infirmary), Mud Room (expedition equipment storage).

Staterooms feature mood lighting (LED ceiling lights), holographic/electric fireplace, contemporary furniture (made of natural textures), 2-seater couch (with cushions), glass-top coffee table, wall-mounted smart HDTV (satellite Internet, Infotainment system), direct-dial phone, premium carpet flooring, binoculars, electronic safe box, minibar/refrigerator, large bathroom (glass-enclosed shower cubicle with rainfall shower heads, luxury brand bath products), individually-controlled air-conditioning.

Swan Hellenic cruise ship

The first unit's (SH Minerva's) construction started on April 27, 2020, with the steel-cutting ceremony at Helsinki Shipyard Oy. The ships are actually assembled from blocks (33 total per unit) pre-fabricated in Klaipeda Lithuania (at Western Baltija Shipbuilding), where they are outfitted and painted, then loaded on heavy-lift barges and shipped to Helsinki.

For Swan Hellenic's shipbuilding projects, Helsinki Shipyard Oy sub-contracted the following companies:

  • MHI-MME (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Marine Machinery and Equipment) to supply the retractable fin stabilizers
  • Valmet Oyj - to supply the marine automation and information management systems, as well as for project engineering, factory acceptance testing, commissioning, staff training
  • ALMACO Group - to design, build (as prefabricated modules) and deliver all crew cabins (and crew public spaces) and all passenger cabins.

Itinerary of Swan Hellenic Cruises

Swan Hellenic's 2022-2023 season cultural expedition cruises of Antarctica repeats the itineraries with which the company successfully returned to the waves in December 2021, while also adding new ones and more choices.

The new season is served by 2 ships: both SH Minerva and SH Vega - the 2nd purpose-designed 5-star ship of the cultural expedition cruise pioneer, due to be launched in September 2022.

The wider-ranging voyages comprise the 19-day “Shackleton’s Discovery: Antarctica, South Georgia & The Falklands” departing from Buenos Aires on November 16, 2022, and the 16- and 19-day Antarctic Peninsula & South Georgia, departing from Ushuaia on December 14, 2022, and January 19, 2023, respectively.

The various shorter but in-depth cultural expedition cruises feature 9-, 10-, and 11-day explorations of the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.

SH Vega is offering 2 completely new 18-day early-season itineraries for her maiden voyages, departing from Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Ushuaia (Argentina) on October 19 and November 5 respectively for the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica.

Swan Hellenic 2024 cultural expedition cruises

Cruise enthusiasts looking for an authentic experience with magnificent wildlife, historic sites, and lesser-known destinations have a reason to rejoice this week. Swan Hellenic has unveiled the details of its 2024 cruises, all of which can be found online.

Swan Hellenic, known for its pioneering cultural expedition cruises, is the preferred choice of adventurous individuals from different generations who seek in-depth exploration of various regions. These include the Arctic, Antarctic, and other parts of the world such as Brazil, the Bijagos Archipelago, Norway, Nova Scotia, Argentina, Africa, Madagascar, and the Mediterranean.

The company offers exclusive exploration opportunities worldwide through its ships, SH Vega and SH Diana. These cruises range from 8-day expeditions to epic 21-night semi-circumnavigation voyages. Accompanied by experienced guides, renowned experts, scientists, and explorers, passengers can expect an immersive journey.

SH Vega begins by exploring the Antarctic Peninsula from Ushuaia until early March 2024. Then, she embarks on an extraordinary 21-day South Atlantic Semi-Circumnavigation cruise, visiting Gough Island, known as the seabird capital of the South Atlantic, and Tristan de Cunha, before reaching Cape Town, South Africa. Following this epic voyage, SH Vega continues with cultural expedition cruises along the West Coast of Africa, reaching Lisbon, Portugal, and then following the Atlantic seaboard to Honfleur, France. The ship explores Cornwall, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland before heading to Iceland, Norway, and the Arctic for the Summer Season. In September, SH Vega is due to cross from Greenland to Halifax, Canada, and then journey southwards, spending October and November exploring the Caribbean, Brazil, and concluding in November 2024.

On the other hand, the larger SH Diana, equipped with tender boats and expedition zodiacs, is to be stationed in Antarctica until late February 2024. From there, she is expected to head north through the Chilean Fjords, along the entire West Coast of South and Central America, until reaching La Paz, Mexico. The ship then returns south and traverses the Panama Canal, exploring Cuba, before sailing up the East Coast of the United States to Halifax, Canada. In late May, SH Diana is due to cross to Greenland for its Arctic Season. On July 20th, she departs from Tromso, Norway, sailing south to the fjords, Scotland, and Holland. Continuing her journey along the Atlantic Seaboard, she enters the Mediterranean for an in-depth summer exploration of culturally rich destinations that inspired the establishment of Swan Hellenic in the 1950s. In early October, the ship transits the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to explore the Seychelles, Madagascar, and South Africa until late November. Finally, she departs from Cape Town for a semi-circumnavigation voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula and Ushuaia, arriving in early December for the start of her next Antarctic Season.

Noteworthy options include the "In Shackleton's Footsteps" expedition on SH Diana, which retraces historic events in Antarctica, and the "Pristine Islands of West Africa" expedition on SH Vega, which explores the stunning Bijagos Archipelago, comprising 88 UNESCO Biosphere Reserve islands. Additionally, the "Unspoilt Wilds of Southwest Africa" expedition on SH Vega stands out for its inclusion of visits to the extraordinary wildlife of Loango National Park in Gabon and Conkouati-Douli National Park in the Republic of the Congo, both of which are inaccessible to other cruise companies.

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