Having been offered the opportunity by Swan Hellenic to visit their cruise ship Minerva, whilst she was in the French port of Bordeaux, we jumped at the opportunity of having an escorted tour of the ship followed by lunch.
Minerva was in port overnight following an evening fireworks display to celebrate Bastille Day, the French National Day which commemorates the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789.
As we walked alongside Minerva our first impressions were that she was well proportioned and, at 12,892 tons, is quite small compared to the huge vessels of today. She carries around 300 (mostly English) passengers plus 150 staff made up in the main of Eastern European and Asian nationalities.
With the ambience of a country house hotel, guests cruise on Minerva in Style and make the most of the spacious lounges, bar areas and well-appointed cabins and the friendly staff give a warm welcome and professional service.
Our tour began on the Baltic deck which is the lowest deck available for passengers. There are 4 cabin types on here, all of which are a decent size, with 20 inside and 20 outside with port holes. All of these feature an en suite with shower and, as with all accommodations on Minerva, each is equipped with a kettle. The medical centre, complete with a fully qualified doctor and nurse can also be found on Baltic deck.
The next deck is the Aegean deck which has 24 inside cabins (including 2 that are wheelchair accessible) and 56 outside cabins all of which feature a large picture window and en suite with shower. Aft on Aegean deck is a free self-service laundrette (powder supplied) and which opens until 9pm, a compact gymnasium complete with treadmill, rowing machine, weights and shower, and a salon offering a hairdressers and a variety of massage treatments. The purser’s reception area and shore excursion desk are also on this deck.
Up one deck is Main deck. Aft can be found the elegant and comfortably furnished Swan restaurant where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served and is waiter-service only. Further along is a small gift shop and kiosk before one reaches the Shackleton Bar complete with large picture windows and where piano music is played to those taking pre or post-dinner drinks. The walls in here are adorned with many interesting and original drawings, artefacts and photos of the expeditions of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Next to here is the Darwin Lounge, complete with presentation stage, where people gather and listen to a variety of guest speakers including historians, professors, and ornithologists and so on.
It was time for lunch so we made our way up to the next deck, the Bridge Deck. Here we were welcomed to the Veranda dining room by the assistant Maître d’ Desmond from Manila. He was a real nice guy who did everything he could to make us feel welcome.
The food choice was a little disappointing but I suppose that when they’re catering for just 300 guests there is going to be less choice and we are used to being spoilt for choice on ships of 2,000 plus guests. I had a mixed seafood salad followed by Mahi-mahi (a meaty white fish) with some freshly cooked chips and peas. Dessert was a ginger sponge and custard but Desmond insisted I had a scoop of coffee ice-cream alongside!!
The food quality was quite good though the presentation was a little uninspiring. We then ordered coffee which was brought to us on the pool deck just outside the dining room. Here there are a number of tables with parasols which were needed today as the temperature hit a sizzling 34c!
Back inside on the Bridge Deck is the Wheeler Bar (adjacent to the Veranda dining room), an internet lounge, a card room where bridge classes are frequently held and the Livingstone Lounge. Add to this the impressive 5,000 + book library and one can see why this particular deck is many guests’ favourite ‘hang-out’. Further forward are 12 suites comprising of 10 superior balcony suites (1 which is wheelchair accessible) and 2 owners’ suites each measuring 34.30m².
The Sun Deck on Minerva is made up of 20 balcony suites, 12 deluxe balcony suites (1 wheelchair accessible) and 8 single inside cabins. Aft are a number of tables with parasols which is a nice spot to sit with a cooling drink whilst looking out to sea. However before a major overall was made in 2012 this was as the name suggests, purely a sun deck.
When these changes were made, the Promenade deck above was extended completely across to form what is now really a sun deck complete with loungers and deck chairs. There is a walking track which goes completely around its perimeter and where eight laps, apparently, is equivalent to one mile! This new Sun Deck offers access to the newly added Orpheus Lounge. This is a lovely lounge area built with a much more contemporary feel to it than the rest of the ship. Large panoramic windows offer superb views from all angles. Striking shades of reds and browns with contrasting cream make up the furnishings and carpets in the Orpheus Lounge which are complimented by a large wooden dance floor, stage and bar area.
To summarize, being the size she is, Minerva has a lot to offer travellers wishing to explore ports less accessible by much larger cruise-ships and seeking a relaxed cruise on a ship that is more about the destinations visited rather than what time the night club opens until.
I personally would not hesitate in recommending a cruise on Minerva. With saver fares starting from £1199.00 per person* for a 13 night cruise to the Canaries, including gratuities and most of the tailor-made excursions, they represent exceptional value for money.
*If booked by 31st August 2015 and subject to availability.