Minerva works her magic on me

//Minerva works her magic on me

minerva_valletta.jpgAs the Roman goddess of medicine and magic, crafts and poetry, weaving and wisdom, Minerva is almost the perfect name for a cruise ship. Arguably it would be good to add travel to the list, but Mercury got there first.
Minerva the cruise ship is now refreshed after a multi-million pound refit, and it was appropriately to Italy that I flew last week to spend a few days on board – embarking in Naples and sailing to Sorrento and Palermo before visiting the magnificent Roman amphitheatre at El Djem in Tunisia and then disembarking in Malta.
But it’s not the destinations we are interested in this time round, but Swan Hellenic’s vessel herself.
minerva_orpheus.jpgThe new Orpheus Lounge (above), added to what used to be the Funnel Deck, is a stroke of genius. It is a comfortable panoramic viewing lounge during the day and a popular hang-out for drinking and dancing – to the group Pink Champagne – by night.
The Promenade Deck has moved up to this level and a “new teak” (that’s plastic) floor has replaced the garish AstroTurf that used to cover the area. The original teak decking, down one level, is now occupied by 32 cabin balconies and is now re-named Sun Deck.
I stayed in one of those cabins – described as a suite – and it was excellent; L-shaped (around the en suite bathroom) and spacious, with ample wardrobe space and a sofa, easy chair and coffee table in addition to the king-sized bed.
The refurbished bathroom came with a large shower rather than a bath, and flushing the toilet didn’t always work on demand – it was a bit like pressing the button and waiting for a lift, but at least when it did eventually arrive it always went down.
The balcony was a total delight, with two cushion-covered teak chairs and a sizeable, solid table. If I had been travelling with a companion it would have been the perfect location for a room-service dinner or a Champagne breakfast.
The beauty salon has moved from Main Deck to allow for an extension of Shackleton’s Bar, and it is now located on Aegean (formerly Atlantic) Deck, next to the rudimentary gym, relocated from the top deck.
minerva_library.jpgI required neither and, like most passengers, spent more time in the virtually-unchanged Darwin Lounge – used for lectures and classical concerts – and the extensive library (above), which claims to contain about 5,000 books.
A dedicated internet room has been created just off the library in what, if I remember correctly, used to be the cigar lounge. That is a facility which will no doubt be missed by a dwindling number of Swan’s loyal customers, but I wonder how many more will be perplexed, like me, as to why the cinema had to make way for what appears to be nothing more than a second card room for the legion of bridge players.
minerva_awning.jpgThe Swan formal restaurant and the Veranda buffet restaurant – which also has attentive waiter service – remain unchanged, and the outdoor area around the aft pool has gained a permanent awning (above) which is a big improvement on the table parasols.
The refit was almost unique in modern-day cruising in that the total number of cabins – and therefore the passenger capacity – was actually reduced, while the volume of public space has increased considerably. Six inside cabins have disappeared to make way for the salon, gym and launderette, and 10 inside cabins on Sun Deck no longer figure on the layout. I believe they are now occupied by crew and entertainment staff rather than passengers.
I can’t imagine any of the mass-market cruise lines would follow that example, but then Swan Hellenic is not exactly mainstream, and can apparently afford to offer a more comfortable experience to its largely well-heeled passengers.
The quality of the work, and the thought that went into it, also bodes well for the refurbishment planned for Discovery, which cruises under the flag of sister cruise line Voyages of Discovery, later this year. And indeed for Voyager, which will be joining the line in November.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:51+00:00 10 April 2012|Cruise Ships|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Derek Morris 13 April 2012 at 8:25 am - Reply

    We met Capt John at dinner must agree with all he says about Minerva and would add that the food was the best ever( we were on our 6th Minerva cruise)but John missed the last night on board when the ships Captain led a conga line around the Orpheus lounge.

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