Voyages of Discovery Welcomes Second Cruise Ship to Fleet; Swan Hellenic Announces Refurb

September 1, 2011
(12:10 p.m. EDT) -- British-owned cruise line Voyages of Discovery announced today that it will get a second ship, almost doubling its capacity. The announcement ends weeks of media speculation about the destiny of Alexander von Humboldt, a 550-passenger ship acquired by the line's parent company, All Leisure Group, in 2009.

The vessel is currently being chartered by a German company, but in November 2012 it will start sailing for Voyages of Discovery with a new name, MV Voyager. Since its acquisition, the ship has undergone technical improvements and modernisation, as well as having more balcony cabins added.

Voyager isn't a new ship in any sense: It was built in 1990, so it offers a more ‘classic' experience than newer vessels in that only 30 of the 278 cabins has a balcony. But there are two restaurants big enough to allow the company to offer open-seating dining for the first time, as well as a smaller grill restaurant, which will be pre-bookable at no extra charge.

"We're not a ‘Fun Ship' and we never will be a ‘Fun Ship,'" said managing director Alan Murray, citing Carnival's nickname for its huge, ultra-modern, facility-packed fleet. "But what we want to do is modernise. We believe this ship will appeal to a lower age range, from 45 upward."

To coincide with Voyager's launch, the line's existing ship, MV Discovery, will go into dry dock for three months, during which it will undergo an extensive refit of decks, passenger areas and cabins. Both ships will then offer adventurous itineraries with an emphasis on smaller ports; land tours before, after and within cruises will also be added, most of which will be included in the cost.

In other news, sister brand Swan Hellenic, which specialises in high-brow cultural cruises, is also in for big changes.

More than £10 million will be spent on the 12,449-ton, 350-passenger Minerva this winter. The ship will be taken out of service from November to March while 32 balconies are added to the cabins on the Sun Deck and new bathrooms are installed in all 181 cabins. A new wrap-around promenade is being created on the top deck, as well as a new observation lounge, the Orpheus Lounge. Shackleton's bar is being extended, and a new Internet lounge will created. In addition, the gym and beauty salon are being moved down to the Aegean Deck, and the pool deck will be covered with a canopy, so that outdoor dining can be introduced.

Six cabins are being removed to make space for the improvements, but the number of passengers carried (350) will remain the same. Minerva is deliberately sold below its full capacity of 391 to keep the ambience of a sea-going country house hotel.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor