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SeaView Review: You don’t just book Minerva ... you get a whole library as well

It's not every day that a cruise line proudly claims that the most popular public room on its ship is the library.

But when the library has been assembled over 50 years and assists its avid explorers to discover everything they need to know about the places they are visiting, then you can see Swan Hellenic does just that.

And it is one of the reasons that Swan Hellenic’s sole ship, the 12,500-ton expedition vessel Minerva, boasts an incredible repeat booking rate of 92 per cent.

The library on board Swan Hellenic's Minerva

“It puts a lot of pressure on us to keep the library furnished with the latest books about our off-the- beaten-track excursions,” says Victoria Kennedy, Minerva’s hotel and entertainment manager who has lovingly tended the library for the past 14 years.

And on a whistlestop inspection by the line’s owner, Sir Jeffrey Sterling, he was prompted to remark: “Our expedition lecturers are experts in their various fields but they still stand to be corrected by our passengers because they are so well read.”

Minerva has one of the largest and most comprehensive libraries afloat with an extensive collection of non-fiction and fiction titles.

The non-fiction and reference collection give further information about the destinations Minerva visits and covers a range of subjects including history, art, architecture. Several titles have even been written by Swan Hellenic’s past and present guest speakers, among them eminent chuchmen, politicians and professors.

The library also offers more than just books. It has been brought bang up-to-date with internet and e-mail access for those who need to stay in touch with the outside word, and in the the deeper recesses you can play a board game or finish a jigsaw.

It was by a quirk of fate that Minerva was restored to Swan Hellenic’s colours three-years ago when Sir Jeffrey saved the line from extinction. It had failed to fit with the identity of its then owners, Carnival, following its takeover of the P&O cruise brands, and the name was mothballed.

Sir Jeffrey, formerly chairman of P&O Cruises, couldn’t resist the opportunity to revive the Swan Hellenic name and in 2007 added it to the expanding All Leisure Holidays Group which also features his beloved Hebridean Princess, on which the Queen spent her summer vacation with her family.

He did not, however, choose to buy the larger and less intimate Minerva II, which had replaced the original namesake in 2003 under Carnival much to the distress of the regulars, and opted instead to reunite Swan Hellenic with the 1997-built Minerva which, by happy coincidence, was looking for a new home.

And today Swan Hellenic is back doing what she has always done so gracefully since the line was founded by the Swan family more than 50 years ago.

A significant refurbishment in 2008 gave Minerva a new face but left her warmth and traditional ambience was left untouched.

Her cabins remain compact and comfortable rather than state-of-the-art, and the lounge, although updated, retains an aura of fireside slippers and pipes, which is just they way her 384 passengers like it.

Posted on 10th September 2011 at 12:19 pm in Cruise News | Cruise Ships | Cruise Lines |

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