For a vessel which was originally designed as a Russian spy ship, Minerva makes a very comfortable cruise ship. She was in Dover today, saying farewell to the UK until next June, with Swan Hellenic chairman Lord Sterling hosting lunch on board.
The little ship, just 12,500 tons and carrying no more than 350 passengers, set off tonight for the Mediterranean, and will be spending four months from mid-November to February cruising from Buenos Aires to Antarctica.
She might be small, but the ship has many features which would be the envy of vessels 10 times her size. The library, for instance, is huge, and its shelves are packed with learned tomes as well as more typical holiday reading. – setting the tone for the destination-intensive voyages with knowledgeable guest speakers.
I can’t thank of a comparable ship with a dedicated cinema, and the comfortable smoking room (yes, there are still some of us left) is at least a match for the Churchill cigar lounge on Cunard’s Queen Victoria.
The cabins may be bit basic by today’s standards, and the artificial grass on the upper deck can’t be pleasant to walk on after rain, but there’s real solid teak on the Promenade deck
If today’s lunch is anything to go by, the food on board is excellent. The ship operates open seating for meals in the main dining room, and the same menus are available in the casual Verandah restaurant – which has waiter service and crisp white tablecloths rather than help yourself and Formica-topped tables.
Swan Hellenic fares include excursions at all ports of call, and there’s a no-tipping policy on board, so once you’ve paid for the cruise there are few extras – apart from the very reasonably-priced drinks.
I’m looking forward to a return visit to the country-house atmosphere of the Shackleton bar to sample a £2.50 gin and tonic . . . or few.