First time for us with Swan Hellenic and first time on such a small ship. It was a delight. Just small enough for easy access to all amenities. After our last cruise, on Aurora, my husband, who was convalescing after a hip replacement op, came back exhausted and worse than when we left. This time, after having been very ill until April, he came back with a new lease of life, a vastly improved appetite and having gained a much needed stone in weight.
No casino, no 'West End Style' shows, very small shop, no photographers, no pressure to dress up at night and no background music round the pool all suited us down to the ground.
A great mix of passengers - mainly Brits but a good contingent of Americans and Canadians (who all loved it), several Indians and a few Australians. Ship was only 2/3 full so there was oodles of space. Open sittings for all meals with lots of large tables meant we got to know a large number of our fellow passengers quite well. Very definitely older than your average cruise ship passengers but lots of lively minds and some very witty Americans.
Entertainment was low key - harpist, pianist, good small band with vocalists and a couple of classically trained singers with accompanist. Made for very pleasant, laid back evenings but any one who claims Swan Hellenic is too stuffy should have been on board the night they were 'Rocking Around the Clock' in the Darwin Lounge whilst an improvised 'Old Time Music Hall' sing-song was going on in Shackleton's Bar.
We had booked an outside cabin but were upgraded to a suite so had the luxury (on this ship) of a balcony which was a good size with plenty of room for 2 sun-loungers plus 2 comfortable chairs and a table. This was a particular bonus when we sailed up Gironde and Garonne to Bordeaux and the Seine to Rouen and added some spice to our trip across Biscay in a gale!
Food was well above average cruise ship standard - the full and regularly replenished fruit bowl in our cabin was a particular delight (best fruit we've tasted in a long while). Gratuities included but service was excellent.
I was too lazy to attend most of the lectures and had too many books to read to spare the time for them but my husband went to a number and thoroughly enjoyed them. Excursions (also included) were good and very well organised.
1. For some reason, the films and transmitted lectures in the cinema both failed to synchronise pictures and sound. This was very distracting and a great pity because it was a great little cinema.
2. We flew out to Lisbon on Monarch Airways. Had we known in advance, we would have booked our own flights separately after swearing, in the past, that we would never fly Monarch Airways again.