On 21st July, I visited Swan Hellenic‘s beautiful Minerva in the naval port of Portsmouth. It was her last call to the UK until April 2016, when she returns after sailing from various Mediterranean ports.
We arrived at Portsmouth International Port just before 9:30am. The terminal is mainly used for the various continental ferries that continuously sail in and out of Portsmouth. After jumping on a shuttle bus to escort us the short distance from the terminal to the ship, we finally embarked Minerva at 10:30am.
Once onboard we were escorted to the Darwin Lounge for a quick drink, before independently exploring Minerva. The Darwin Lounge is where you can enjoy a fascinating lecture, or listen to the musical melodies played in the evening.
The Shackleton Bar is situated just outside of the Darwin Lounge and is a fantastic piano lounge and a great place for an evening tipple. The décor, like a country manor house, is homely and comfortable, yet sophisticated at the same time.
We began to explore the ship starting on Aegean Deck and working our way up. Our first stop was to visit an Outside (A36) and an Inside (A42) cabin category. Both staterooms we visited were clean and fresh, plus had contemporary décor. The cabins were not as big as modern-day standards, however for a 12,982GT ship, they were still large enough to feel comfortable in.
Back up to the Main Deck, we had a quick look at the Swan Restaurant, which is the main dining room onboard. Because Minerva operates an open seating arrangement, with no set dining times or allocated tables, guests have the choice of dining here or in the equally fabulous Veranda one deck above. We would be returning to the restaurant later in the day to enjoy a delicious meal, so we had a quick look at the lunch menu and continued our tour up onto the Bridge Deck.
A small Internet lounge featuring 6 computers is located next door to the Future Cruise Sales Office. Wi-Fi access is available throughout the ship. The Future Cruise Desk can also help you book holidays with other All Leisure Holidays’ brands, such as Voyages of Discovery or Her Majesty the Queen’s choice of cruising, Hebridean Island Cruises.
Leading off from the Future Cruise Sales Office is a large library featuring many informative reads about multiple topics, as well as destination guides.
The Wheeler Bar is a light and airy lounge towards the aft of the ship. Featuring pastel colours, there was a relaxed and calming vibe upon entering. Large glass doors open out onto the inviting pool area overlooking the aft of the ship.
The Veranda Restaurant is another dining venue onboard. This buffet style restaurant overlooks the pool deck and also offers al fresco seating perfect for those warm sunny days. Although the Veranda is a buffet restaurant, it is by no means casual, like many other cruise lines. The Veranda features white linen table coverings and all the cutlery and wine glasses you’d expect to find in a main dining room.
The pool area is fairly minimal onboard Minerva. There’s only one small-sized pool and no hot tubs. Despite that though, the pool did look very inviting as it glistened in the (surprisingly) sunny Portsmouth.
The Promenade Deck is the main area for sunbathing, and we couldn’t resist trying out one of the sun loungers for a few minutes! This is where you’ll also find the zodiac boats which are used on shore excursions to reach remote destinations or get up close and personal with wildlife. A quirky feature found onboard Minerva is an over-sized chess board and of course the traditional shuffleboard.
Further along the Promenade Deck is the Orpheus Lounge. This vibrant and spacious lounge was added to Minerva during its 2012 refurbishment. It was my favourite venue onboard and also offered fantastic views overlooking the bow of the ship. The lounge is home to evening entertainment along with a dance floor and a grand piano.
Moving one deck down, we continued our tour visiting the last remaining cabins. First stop was a Balcony Suite (BS20). It was a great size and had a large wardrobe, along with a lounge area. The balcony was very spacious.
We then viewed a Single Inside (P5) cabin category. Minerva features eight single cabins in total. The cabin felt more like a bedroom you’d expect to find in a campervan, however the layout made the most of every inch of space, from shelving suspended on the wall, to draw space under the single bed.
Finally, we toured a Deluxe Balcony Suite (DB9), one of the largest cabins onboard, but still small compared to other ships. The room, which is a similar size to standard balcony cabins on other ships, featured a lovely white vanity desk along with fresh fruit and a bottle of champagne. The balcony was very spacious, with ample room for two deck chairs and an outdoor dining table that seated two.
After viewing the majority of cabins onboard, it was time for lunch. We made our way down to the Swan Restaurant, but first quickly took a look at the gym onboard.
After waiting a few minutes in line to be taken to our table in the Swan Restaurant, we were seated on a table of eight. After a few minutes socialising with our table, it became immediately apparent why Swan Hellenic appeals to so many people. Minerva may not be full of glitzy features, waterslides or robotic bartenders, because at the end of the day, it’s the people who make the ship so special. From the attentive staff to the friendly passengers. By the end of our meal, we had all enjoyed each others company and somehow felt like we were long-time friends, despite only knowing each other for just over an hour. Combine that with a 14-night sailing and its clear that new lasting friendships can be easily made onboard. As I said at the beginning of this review, Minerva is homely and comfortable and that can not be more true.
For starter, I chose the delicious spring rolls and samosas. They were served with a scrumptious sweet chilli sauce and a refreshing kachumber salad. I then had a hearty Windsor soup served with a crispy cheese stick. For the main course I had a beautiful Tournedo Rossini beef fillet, served with perigourdine sauce, pate and croquette potatoes. Finally I enjoyed a mouth-watering chocolate lava cake – mmm!
After the meal it was unfortunately time to disembark the ship. We made our way down the wide stairways, past reception and onto the quayside ready for the bus to take us back to the terminal.
Check out our video tours featuring the main venues onboard Minerva as well as the various accommodations!