April 15, 2003
P&O Cruises' Swan Hellenic sets sail tomorrow with an entirely new look. That's when the one-ship cruise line officially swaps its 12,500-ton, 360-passenger Minerva I for a 30,277-ton, 694-passenger Minerva II (the former R-8) tomorrow. Minerva II will celebrate its "inaugural" with a ten day Mediterranean voyage that calls at Turkey, Malta and Greece. What's ironic about the new Minerva is that London-based Swan Hellenic is considered the original "floating English country house hotel" style cruise line -- a concept that Renaissance later embraced. The company has made a few changes -- primarily cosmetic -- to the former R8. Among those include transferring some classic Swan Hellenic touches from Minerva I, such as passenger artwork, the contents of its quite in-depth library, a baby grand piano and a ship model. Swan Hellenic removed the diminutive casino from the former Renaissance vessel; now it's known as the Wheeler Bar. The cruise line has, well, Swan Hellenic-ized some other public rooms -- most notably "Orpheus," the ship's top-deck bar/lounge. It's keeping the Renaissance open seating dining tradition though Swan Hellenic has changed some of the restaurant names. Renaissance aficionados won't notice any major decor changes in staterooms. Minerva II's official naming ceremony is slated for July 4 on London's Tower Bridge.