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Swan Hellenic is a British cruise line specializing in tours of historical or cultural interest aimed at the upper end of the cruise market. It began in the 1950's when the Swan's Tours travel agency, operated by a father and son (W.F. Swan and R.K. Swan), was asked to organize a tour for visitors interested in the antiquities of Greece. The archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, was employed as guest lecturer.
 
From this developed a full programmed of cruises, in which well known academics, writers and clergymen were regularly featured as guest lecturers, both on board ship and on site. The company prided itself on never repeating, exactly, any itinerary, but it concentrated, as the name suggests, on classical sites in the Aegean sea, around the coats and islands of modern Greece and Turkey. It also, however, visited classical and other ancient sites in north Africa (including Egypt) and the eastern Mediterranean. Unlike most commercial cruises, in which the on board entertainment is as important as the destinations visited, Swan Hellenic cruises landed almost every day in order to visit historic sites, and travel between sites was undertaken by the ship overnight. The operation was characterized by an English ethos of high culture, although it had an international following.
 

Swan Hellenic was acquired from the Swan family by P&O in 1983. More recently, it became a subsidiary of the world's largest cruise operator, the British-American Carnival Corporation & plc. Under Carnival, the characteristically small 300-passenger ship Minerva, was replaced in 2003 by the 600-passenger Minerva II. This led to criticism that the intimacy of the original cruise concept had been compromised. In April 2007, Carnival ended its operation of Swan Hellenic, and transferred Minerva II to the Princess fleet, with the new name Royal Princess. This was reported at the time as the end of Swan Hellenic. Its demise was apparently compounded when Martin Randall Travel launched a series of cruises to fill the niche Swan Hellenic had left.
 
However, on 15 March 2007, Lord Sterling, the former chairman of P&O, announced that he was buying the Swan Hellenic brand and intended to re launch the cruise line as soon as a suitable vessel could be located. Swan Hellenic was subsequently acquired by the All Leisure Holidays Group Place, who also own Voyages of Discovery who ran the ship Explorer II (previously Minerva_(ship)).
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