Minerva - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)



Berlitz’s Ratings

Ship: 340 out of 500

Accommodation: 145 out of 200

Food: 305 out of 400

Service: 303 out of 400

Entertainment: 77 out of 100

Cruise: 285 out of 400

Overall Score: 1455 out of 2000

Minerva Statistics

Size: Small Ship

Tonnage: 12,892

Lifestyle: Standard

Cruise Line: Swan Hellenic Discovery Cruises

Former Names: Explorer II, Alexander von Humboldt, Saga Pearl, Minerva, Okean

IMO Number: 9144196

Builder: Mariotti (Italy)

Original Cost: n/a

Entered Service: Apr 1996/May 2008

Registry: The Bahamas

Length (ft/m): 436.3/133.0

Beam (ft/m): 65.6/20.0

Draft (ft/m): 19.6/6.0

Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (6,960kW)/2

Passenger Decks: 6

Total Crew: 157

Passengers (lower beds): 380

Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 33.9

Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.1

Cabins (total): 190

Size Range (sq ft/m): 139.9-360.6/13.0-33.5

Cabins (for one person): 0

Cabins (with private balcony): 44

Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 4

Wheelchair accessibility: Fair

Cabin Current: 220 volts

Elevators: 2

Casino (gaming tables): No

Slot Machines: No

Swimming Pools: 1

Hot Tubs (on deck): 0

Self-Service Launderette: Yes

Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No

Library: Yes

Onboard currency: UK£


A really comfortable ship with a focus on discovery and learning

Overview. Minerva passengers, called ‘Swanners,’ are couples and single travelers of a mature age who seek to cruise off the beaten track in comfortable surroundings, and who don’t need the highly organized entertainment provided by larger ships. This ‘soft expedition’ vessel is highly valued for its excellent food, friendly service, and fine library. It is not recommended for children.

The Ship. Originally intended as a spy ship (Okean) for the Soviet navy, the strong, 1989-built ice-strengthened hull was built at the Nikolajev shipyard on the River Ingul in Ukraine; it had a stern ramp for launching submersibles for submarine tracking (now removed). It was later converted for ‘discovery’ cruising and tailored to suit British tastes. The ship now operates for Swan Hellenic Discovery Cruises, part of the UK’s All Leisure Group.

After an extensive refit in 2011-2, the ship’s former angular profile has been improved. The refit included the addition of 32 wide balconies to existing cabins; remodeled bathrooms in all cabins; a new, large Orpheus (observation) Lounge above the navigation bridge; an extended Shackleton’s Lounge; a larger, dedicated Internet-connect lounge; and an expanded library. The changes reflect the financial commitment of Swan Hellenic Cruises to its loyal clientele, and provide a better sense of space, more public rooms, and more comfort. There’s ample open and shaded deck space too, particularly in the aft section, and there is also a new, wide teak walk-around promenade deck atop ship.

Four rubber inflatable Zodiac craft are carried for excursions ashore, useful for inhospitable locations such as in Antarctica without landing piers or formal docking arrangements. The interior decor is homely and restrained, like a country house hotel, not in the slightest bit glitzy, for passengers with good taste, although cushions would be a welcome addition to the many sofas. Lectures and briefings take place in the Darwin Lounge, the main lounge. Fine wool carpets inhabit the passageways and public rooms, and furniture is decidedly ‘colonial’ in style.

Perhaps the most appreciated and used public area is the excellent 5,000-book library with its classical ‘armchair’ decor and a fine range of reference books, many of academic standard. Shackleton’s Lounge and Wheeler’s Bar (in which is displayed fine glass-cased half-cut model of the SS Caledonia) exude a country-house atmosphere, and are good for socializing, as is the new Orpheus Observation Lounge atop ship. The ship also has a small shop, and an in-port kiosk for basic items.

The ship absorbs passengers well and maintains a feeling of intimacy. A great benefit of a cruise with Swan Hellenic is the quality and diversity of the lecturers and guest speakers. The open space is very good for the size of the ship. Wine is included with lunch and dinner, as are shore excursions. All gratuities are also included, although port charges are extra.

While the ship is not new and the cabins are small, the refurbishment has added new features, and all cabin bathrooms were replaced. The food and service are extremely good, and so the score just tips the ship into the four-star category.

Accommodation. There are eight different cabin price grades, in 12 price categories. The price depends on grade and location rather than any great difference in size. Most standard cabins really are quite small, particularly when compared to the ‘standard’ cabin size on the latest ships today.

Owner’s Suites (2). These Bridge Deck suites measure 372.4 sq ft (34.6 sq m). Facilities include a queen-size bed, bedside reading lights, an extra-large double closet and ample drawer space; separate lounge area with sofa, table and chair, and vanity table/writing desk, TV set with movie and audio channels, refrigerator, hairdryer, and binoculars; floor-to-ceiling patio doors leading to a private balcony (with green turf-covered deck); bathroom with bath/shower combination and toilet.

Deluxe Balcony Suites (22). These suites on Bridge Deck measure 336 sq ft (31 sq m), including an extra-large balcony. Facilities include twin beds or queen-size bed, two double closets and ample drawer space; separate lounge area with sofa, table and chair, and vanity table/writing desk, small TV set with movie and audio channels, refrigerator, hairdryer and binoculars; floor to ceiling patio doors and private balcony; bathroom with tub/shower and toilet.

Deluxe Balcony Suites. These new Sun Deck suites measure 340 sq ft (32 sq m), including a large balcony. Facilities include twin beds or queen-size bed, bedside reading lights, two double closets and ample drawer space; separate lounge area with sofa, table and chair, and vanity table/writing desk, TV set, refrigerator, hairdryer, and binoculars; large picture window; bathroom with bath/shower and toilet.

Standard outside-view or interior cabins. These ‘standard’ cabins are small (140 sq ft/13 sq m) when compared to the 182-sq-ft (17-sq-m) cabins aboard today’s newest ships. Facilities include twin beds or queen-size bed, two double closets and ample drawer space; separate lounge area with sofa, table and chair, and vanity table/writing desk, TV set, refrigerator, hairdryer, and binoculars; large picture window or porthole, depending on deck and price category (outside-view cabins only); bathroom with shower enclosure and toilet.

The bathrooms have a raised ‘lip’ to step over, are totally white, and have small shower enclosures (except for some suites, which have bathtubs and marble tiled floors).

All grades have a hairdryer, 100 percent cotton bathrobe, cotton duvets, binoculars, passenger list, direct-dial telephone, fresh fruit basket, and L’Occitane toiletries and soap, but bottled mineral water costs extra. All bathrooms have hygienic hand-held, flexible shower hoses, and large bath-size towels.

The TV set includes movie and music channels, although the quality leaves much to be desired. There is little space for hanging outerwear parkas and other gear for any of the ‘soft’ expedition-style cruises, and some cabins on B Deck aft are subject to noise and vibration from the ship’s engines/generators.

Dining. The Swan Restaurant has open-seating dining, allowing you to eat with whomever you wish. The menus are quite extensive and feature many traditional British favorite dishes. The food itself is of a high quality. It’s also creative, attractively presented, and has plenty of taste. The wine list is very decent (it includes the Chairman’s Rothschild wine selection), and so is the special Champagne. The service staff are very pleasant, friendly, and willing.

Coffees and teas are available 24 hours a day from a beverage station in the self-serve Veranda Café, in which you can have casual breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners in an open-seating arrangement; for dinner, items from the menu in the Swan Restaurant are available, in addition to lighter fare.

Entertainment. Although there is a main lounge (Darwin Lounge), this is used principally for lectures, for classical music ensembles, and poetry readings. The ship has a small band and solo entertaining musicians to provide live music for dancing and listening.

Spa/Fitness. There is a small fitness room on Aegean Deck, and a beauty salon, but no sauna or steam room. Massages and aromatherapy facials, manicures, pedicures, and hair beautifying treatments are available, provided by the Ocean Spa company.