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Cruise Ship Information
Journey with us and discover the history and culture of the river Danube, taking in the spectacular scenery, experiencing magnificent cities such as Vienna and Budapest, while cruising through stunning countryside.
Atmosphere on board
Journey with us and discover the history and culture of the river Danube, taking in the spectacular scenery, experiencing magnificent cities such as Vienna and Budapest, while cruising through stunning countryside.
Family with Kids/Teens
There are rarely children onboard, and no facilities are provided for them.
Past Passenger Programs
The Main and Bridge Decks are the hubs of passenger life on Minerva, housing nearly all of the public spaces. One of the outstanding features aboard Minerva is the inviting long gallery library on the Bridge Deck, very possibly the largest such space at sea, vying with Cunard's Queen Mary 2 for sheer number of books. This spacious, paneled room offers open book shelves, comfortable wing-back chairs for reading and the occasional catnap, a reference-book table with space for opening large atlases, and three computer stations for Internet. The per-minute rate for multi-hour Internet packages is remarkably cheap for a cruise ship. On my cruise, the 12-hour package cost $34 (£21). The puzzle table is the site of much activity, and passengers typically finish a puzzle in two days before embarking on a new one. 
The lecturers' spouses serve as the librarians, tidying up the place and returning borrowed books to their proper shelves. 
On the same deck, next to the library on the port side, is the card room. Its seven tables are often filled with bridge-players, and instruction in the game is offered onboard. The small Internet lounge is just forward of the Wheeler Bar, having been moved from the library. Internet charges are as follows: £2.50 for 30 mins; £4.40 for one hour; £12.60 for four hours and £21 for 12 hours. 
A small boutique and sundries shop on the Main Deck sells jewelry, perfumes, Swan logo souvenirs, essential toiletries and sunscreen. 
A free passenger laundry with washers, dryers and ironing boards is located on the Aegean Deck. Laundry and pressing service (same-day service available if handed over before 9 a.m.) is also available for an extra fee. 
Fitness And Spa
The aft pool on the Bridge Deck is surrounded by outdoor, varnished wooden chairs and tables on three sides, with umbrellas and a new, permanent canopy for shade. The wraparound Promenade Deck is now a vast expanse of mock teak (replacing the former green astroturf), with ample sunbathing space on wooden steamer chairs. 
The beauty salon and gym were moved in the refit and are now aft on Aegean Deck. The salon offers massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, while the gym, although small (and not much used), has a treadmill and an exercise bike.
Food & Dining
All meals take place in the main Swan Restaurant or the Veranda, an informal, buffet-style cafe. In the Swan Restaurant on the Main Deck, the majority of tables seat six to eight, with a few tables for two and four. The best tables are those near the port and starboard windows. The maitre d' asks if you would like to join others, start a new table or dine alone, so the arrangement is ideal for solo travelers. You may arrive at any time between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. for dinner, though most will be seated by a little after 8 p.m. 
The dining room's decor is formal with oriental carpets, medium-dark paneling, lampshade wall sconces and matching lampshade chandeliers. Breakfast (served from 7:30 to 9 a.m.) and lunch (12:30 to 2 p.m.) include both menu and buffet items, while dinner is ordered solely from a menu. A Filipino crew provides generally prompt service. The food is typical English fare like one would find in a good restaurant, and the most creative dishes are the soups and meat dishes. Many menus are designed to reflect the area in which the ship is cruising, and a lot of ingredients are sourced locally on each cruise. Appetizers tend to be very small, and salads lack variety. Desserts are tasty, and the cheese and biscuit selections, which arrive on a trolley, are outstanding. At dinner, men are required to wear jackets and ties. At breakfast, there is a quiet table for those who would rather remain silent while partaking in their first meal of the day. 
The Veranda on Bridge Deck's starboard side is a light-filled space with about 20 tables that seat from two to 10 people, matched with wicker chairs and banquettes. The refit included new ceilings, softer LED lighting, a new wood-effect floor (blue carpet in some areas), refurbished serving areas and new coffee machines. The Veranda is often very full, though the stewards do their best to reset the tables in a timely manner. In good weather, additional seating is available just aft at teak tables around the pool. This area has been extended in the refit, with sheltered seating under a contemporary, sail-like canopy that creates permanent shade and makes outdoor dining more inviting on hotter days. Most passengers look for inviting tables to join, rather than sitting alone. 
Four buffet stations ease the queues, and the main entrees are the same as what appears on the dinner menu in the dining room. Breakfast offers eggs to order and both American- and British-style bacon. Fresh fruit is varied and abundant, and the cheese selection changes daily. The lunchtime buffet has a decent range of ever-changing salad fixings, fresh pasta and internationally themed hot entrees, such as Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian and French. Afternoon tea is a daily offering and served in the Swan Restaurant. Some passengers eat all their meals at the Veranda, due to its cheerful atmosphere, informality and casual attire. However, Swan's British passengers rarely come to dinner in jeans, shorts or without collared shirts. 
Room service is available from a limited menu, consisting mostly of burgers.
Entertainment
lecture programs are Swan Hellenic's great strength, there is little in the way of typical cruise-ship entertainment. In the Main Deck's expansive Darwin Lounge -- featuring a wooden dance floor; bandstand; lounge seating; oriental-style carpets and fluted, white, ionic columns -- a young, classically trained quartet sings and plays a variety of instruments in the evenings. One or two may also put on special solo concerts. The house band plays after dinner, and the crew puts on one show during the cruise. Team quizzes also attract a following. 
But the main attractions in the Darwin Lounge are the lectures. Most cruises carry four or five guest lecturers to cover several disciplines appropriate to the cruising region and theme. They give 40-minue talks during the time at sea, and if there is an entire day of cruising, there will be three or four talks to attend in the Darwin Lounge or to watch in the new Livingstone Lounge on big screens. 
On a trip that included English, Irish and French ports, speakers included a historian, writer, military specialist and an Anglican clergyman. Destination-specific presentations covered Ireland's Catholic-Protestant and British-Irish conflicts, Viking and Celtic culture and religion, Irish literature, the Tresco Abbey Gardens on the Isles of Scilly, wars between England and France (beginning with 1066 and the Battle of Hastings), the Channel Islands during World War II and the Normandy landings at the end of World War II. On cruises to the Mediterranean and Middle East, onboard lecturers may specialize in topics like archeology, architecture, mythology, ornithology, language, maritime history, food and wine. On my cruise, the lecturers were both informative and entertaining, though, despite the lecturers' best efforts, a couple of topics remained beyond the understanding of most of the audience. 
One of the biggest aspects of the refit is the new Orpheus Lounge on the Promenade Deck, a comfortable observation lounge with a bar, stage and big dance floor, as well as soothing burgundy and cream decor. Lighter music -- jazz and sometimes pop and rock tunes (geared to the age group) -- is offered there in the evenings for dancing.
A popular spot for pre-dinner drinks is Shackelton's Bar on the Main Deck, best typifying the ship's unhurried, country-hotel atmosphere. The roomy, light-paneled lounge features polished-wood floors and oriental-style carpets. Red-and-cream striped and olive green, wood-framed chairs and reddish couches face glass-top tables, while the bar is surrounded by five stools. On the walls, a large set of stunning black-and-white photographs depicts Ernest Shackleton's aborted Antarctic expedition and rescue. A pianist provides entertainment and background music. The lounge was extended in the refit and has a more open, welcoming feel now. 
On the Bridge Deck, portside, opposite the Veranda Cafe, the Wheeler Bar pays homage to Sir Mortimer Wheeler, a scholar and intrepid traveler, who was one of Swan's founders -- and later its chairman. The aft section of the room contains a bar area with stools for barflies and a set of wicker chairs, set on a polished, wooden floor amidst potted palms. The larger portion of the room is taken up with groupings of armchairs and couches in three shades of green, surrounding low mahogany tables. Sir Mortimer Wheeler's portrait at one end faces a stunning half-model of P&O's SS Caledonia at the other. A harpist plays before and after dinner. 
Drinks prices at all the ship's bars are reasonable, with a 175 ml glass of Sauvignon Blanc (Vanel) setting you back £3.50, a Gordon's Gin & Tonic at £ 2.75, a pint of Carlsberg at £2.60 and a bottle of beer (330 ml) at £1.75.
Also forward of the library on this deck is the new Livingstone Lounge, the former cinema. This refurbished venue hosts events like wine-tasting or singles' parties and shows lectures from the Darwin Lounge on a big screen.
On the same deck, next to the library on the port side, is the card room. Its seven tables are often filled with bridge players, and instruction in the game is offered onboard. A paneled smoking room sports seven brown leather chairs and two couches. 
Shore excursions are included in Minerva's cruise fares, often with multiple options per port. Extra-special tours are offered in certain ports for an additional cost, though I found them fairly priced. However, most passengers lean toward the included tours or, if time permits, take a free tour, followed by a for-fee excursion. Shuttle buses between the ship and city or town center are always complimentary. In general, passengers choose their excursions in advance of embarkation, rather than booking onboard. After attending the onboard lectures, I found that visits to such sites as the Normandy beaches, the Bayeux tapestries, Celtic stone circles and illuminated manuscripts (such as the Book of Kells) took on far more meaning.
Staterooms
Accommodation is one area that received a lot of attention in the refit. Thirty-two new balconies have been added to the cabins and suites on the Sun Deck -- which, in addition to the existing 12 balcony suites on Bridge Deck, one deck below, bring the total to 44 cabins with balconies on the refurbished ship. The remainder of the outside cabins have windows or, on the lower decks, portholes. There are 46 inside cabins, and four cabins across all grades are equipped for wheelchairs. (The number of insides has decreased, as a couple have been sacrificed to make way for the relocated gym.) Certain cabins are designated for single use, depending on demand, as the line carries a lot of solo passengers.
Standard- and superior-grade cabins average 140 to 162 square feet (13 to 15 square metres), while the deluxe cabins and suites measure 226 square feet (21 square metres).
All cabins come with mirrored vanities and chairs, adequate drawer and hanging space, safes, mini-fridges, telephones, bathrobes, hair dryers and binoculars. For the Deluxe Balcony Suite and Superior Balcony Suite (Category B & C) guests receive a welcome bottle of mineral water on embarkation, along with an initial complimentary set-up of the mini-bar, and for the Balcony Suite and Aegean Deck Cabin Outside (Categories D, F and G), they receive a welcome bottle of mineral water on embarkation. In-cabin TVs show BBC, Sky News, in-house programming, replays of onboard lectures and films. Voltage is 220 with British-style, three-prong sockets. (Adapter plugs are available.) All bathrooms and soft furnishings were replaced in the refit, creating a more contemporary, luxurious feel.
The Balcony Suites on Sun Deck, formerly superior cabins, now have extremely spacious balconies with outside sitting areas. All cabins on the port side have baths with showers, while all those on starboard side have glass-enclosed showers.
Deluxe Suites on Sun Deck have now become Deluxe Balcony Suites, thanks to the new balconies. Complimentary Champagne on arrival and complimentary mini-bar are included. Again, cabins on the starboard side are fitted with en suite shower facilities, and cabins on the port side fitted with en suite bath facilities. 
Cabins on Bridge Deck, the Superior Balcony Suites, are the original, pre-refit balcony accommodations. They have since had a complete overhaul with new bathrooms (baths on port side, showers on starboard), furnishings and balcony doors. Size is from 30.70 to 32 square metres, including the balconies.
Tipping
As ever we have listened to you, our loyal and growing number of passengers who remain as passionate about the Swan Hellenic lifestyle as our staff and ship's company, and are now able to act on those comments and announce a visionary multi-million pound upgrade which will take Swan Hellenic and Minerva forward into the next era.
Fellow Passengers
Most passengers are British, with a small number of Americans, Canadian and Australians onboard, depending on the itinerary. Repeaters, known affectionately as Swans, often make up a high percentage of the passenger manifest. Most Swan Hellenic cruisers are ages 55 and older, and the average age on cruises departing from British ports is about 10 years older than on a fly-cruise itinerary. Travelers younger than 50 are almost always part of multi-generational family groups.
Our recommendation