On Saturday I drove down in the lovely sunshine to view Swan Hellenic's MV Minerva. As I came over the hill there were only two ships in Dover that day – Oceania Cruises Regatta and MV Minerva. Now Regatta is not a big ship by any standard but even she looked big next to MV Minerva!
Minerva's hull was originally built for a Russian spy ship, and consequently is very think and capable of enduring Arctic ice conditions. MV Minerva was built in 1996, carries just 350 guests and is a demure 12,500 GRT, with six passenger decks.
The Owners Suite and Suite rooms are really very nice, and would not look out of place on any of the newly built luxury ships, however the guests that sail on Minerva are not really into the niceties of large, grand suites, hot tubs, in-suite dining and the like, and book this ship for the destinations and prominent guest lecturers. I was impressed that the balconies were deep enough to take two full size sun-loungers, plus two chairs and a table. The other cabins are comfortable, have good storage and are a fair size, with standard bathrooms. All (well soon to be all) rooms have flat screen TV's in them. The inside cabins have a huge mirror on the wall that create a nice feeling of space and are all quite adequate.
This is really where MV Minerva really comes into her own – the public rooms onboard really are quite charming – reminiscent of a country hotel or colonial club – all having been recently refurbished. The vast library runs down the side of the ship, with a selection of books that are selected to match the destination you are cruising in, which I thought was a nice touch. Comfy seats and leather sofas compliment the area, decorated in browns and reds with warm lighting – a popular part of the ship for sure. At the end of the library are three Internet terminals for emailing and keeping in-touch. Also on this deck is a quant cinema, a card room for the Bridge fanatics and a smoking room for those who enjoy a cigar. Aft on this deck is the charming Veranda restaurant – a buffet dining area with a difference. All the tables are laid up with crisp linen table cloths, silverware, glasses and flowers, complimented by wicker chairs – a far cry from many lido-buffet areas. Next to the Veranda is the cosy Wheeler Bar – a spacious room ideal for a drink or pre dinner cocktail. On the subject of drinks – the prices are in Sterling and very reasonably priced – spirits are poured with a good measure and the range and selection was impressive. My favourite public room has to be the dining room – intimate with warm lighting, well designed chairs, attention to detail with a well chosen colour palette, and a warm, cosy atmosphere. Possibly the prettiest dining room afloat. Our meal here was superb – well presented by efficient waiters and very tasty.
I would recommend MV Minerva for people who like to travel in style, where the destination and education/enlightenment are important in making the cruise an enjoyable one. Also important is travelling with like-minded people, and these cruises certainly have an intellectual air to them, and hence attract a crowd that appreciates good dining and interesting conversation. The cabins are not the biggest or the best on the seas, however the public spaces and onboard ambience more than makes up for that. I would recommend Swan Hellenic for older couples and singles who like fine dining and discovering new destinations and hidden ports of call, in elegant surroundings.