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Itineraries focused mainly on Greece -- hence the name Swan Hellenic -- but also included ports throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The company prided itself on offering non-repeating cruise itineraries, top lecturers and an included shore program.

Swan Hellenic Cruise Highlights

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Editor's note: Swan Hellenic's parent company went into administration in January 2017 and the future of the line is uncertain

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Minerva's atmosphere is like that of a country-house hotel, and the decor features wood paneling and understated colors. A valuable collection of paintings, prints, drawings and maps lines the corridors, most with scenes of the regions visited.

Public rooms include a main lounge for talks and musical entertainment, two lounge bars, a smoking room outfitted with leather chairs, a card room and a large library with ample seating and tables for opening atlases. There's also a small gym, boutique and hair salon that offers spa treatments. The swimming pool is located aft, and there is a wide, circular promenade for constitutional walks and lounging on deck chairs.

Minerva has two dining venues, a restaurant and a cafe -- both with open-seating dining. In the main restaurant, breakfast and lunch include both menu and buffet items, while dinner is ordered solely from a menu. Jackets and ties are required in this venue at dinner only. The Verandah cafe has a casual dress code and buffet dining, with the same dinner entrees as those served in the main restaurant.

Of the 178 cabins, 126 are outside, 12 have balconies and a generous number are set aside for single passengers. Most have showers, refrigerators, safes and TVs.

Cruises are geared to learning experiences with a staff of specialty speakers who are drawn from universities, the clergy, media and government services to provide in-depth understanding of the areas visited. Areas covered include culture, religion, history, politics and the natural sciences. Each talk typically lasts 40 minutes, and the speakers are available afterward for further discussion, as well as during meals. Additional entertainment is limited to live music from a classical music troupe, a house band or soloists; a crew show; and films screened in the cinema and on cabin TVs. Tips for staff onboard and guides ashore are included in the fare, as are flights from the U.K.

The river fleet offers buffet dining restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating, all outside cabins (some with Juliette, or French, balconies to step out on), lounge and bar, ample open deck space, and spa and sauna facilities. A guest speaker accompanies every cruise.

Fellow Passengers

The overwhelming number of passengers is British, ages 55 and older. The average age on cruises departing from British ports is about 10 years older than on fly-cruise itineraries. Some cruises are targeted to North Americans, featuring packages that include air, transfers and pre-cruise hotel stays. The numbers, however, remain small. The atmosphere is well-mannered, and North Americans who have Anglophile leanings will be quite happy aboard this ship.

The line has a very high past-passenger rate. On average, 60 to 70 percent of passengers on a given sailing are repeat Swan Hellenic cruisers. Most passengers are quite social and enjoy lively conversations at meals and in the bar lounge before and after dinner. Many are great readers, as is evident during the days at sea. Lectures are always well-attended.

The river fleet attracts mostly British passengers, with convenient fly-to and train-to options for cruises based in France and Germany.

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