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Review: Minerva

Cruise - Ocean Cruise

A Cruise to Iceland on Minerva

  • By SilverTraveller Paul-Gray

    5 reviews

  • Jul 2010
  • On your own
  • Regular holiday
  • Outside

47 people found this review helpful

A CRUISE TO AND AROUND ICELAND WITH SWAN HELLENIC ON BOARD MINERVA.
From Dover 28 July 2010, calling in to Kirkwall, Orkney Islands and Lerwick, Shetland Islands, on the way out; and to Torshavn, Faroe Islands, and to Leith on the way back, and return to Dover 12 August.

I have sailed on Minerva many times, including to Antarctica when it was called Arctic Explorer. Minerva was converted in 1994-5 from a Russian “spy ship” to Swan Hellenic’s specifications, to be an up-to-date cruise ship to cater for their now more discerning passengers, who required more creature comforts than were available on their previous cruise ships. There are about 300 passengers, two dining rooms, two bars, a comfortable lounge, also used for lectures; there is good food, about 3 or 4 star. Swan’s description of its ship as a “floating country house” is not wide of the mark.

Swan Hellenic started out in the 1950s, but is a direct descendent of the Hellenic Travellers Club of the late 19c, when intrepid travellers braved the elements, bandits, basic hotels or worse, to view Greek Temples in remote places. There are therefore, unsurprisingly, many people on board who are more interested in history and culture; and to whom the guest lecturers are an important, if not the most important, part of the cruise.

There are of course no Greek Temples in the Islands we visited, or in Iceland, but Swan Hellenic has widened its interests to include, for examples, prehistoric sites (lots in the Islands and in Iceland), wildlife, botany, volcanoes and almost any interesting topic you could think of. We had good weather although it was quite cold and occasionally wet. Ashore the coaches to take us to view the sights were comfortable and warm.

For me the most interesting aspect of the cruise was the geology. In Iceland we visited famous thermal springs which heat houses and are a source of power. There are some fantastic waterfalls, and fast flowing rivers through deep ravines. The Geyser areas are spectacular, and compare well with those of New Zealand. For those passengers interested in wildlfe there was plenty to see with sea birds and whales. We had on board two wildlife conservators whose lectures were most interesting (even for me!).

Approaching Iceland we circumnavigated Spetsey Island which arose from out of the sea during a volcanic eruption in 1963. We visited Reykjavik; Grundarfjordur and Isafjordur, both on that NW bit of Iceland which sticks out from the main land mass; our last call was to Akureyri, to the NE of the island, from where we drove to sites of major volcanic activity.

We were invited to visit that volcano which caused so much havoc to airlines earlier in the year, at a cost of an extra £99. As we were told that we would not get very close to the volcano, and there was no guarantee that we would see anything , there were no takers! However the Volcanologist on board did go (he had geological friends on the island), and reported back that we had missed nothing.

This had been a most interesting cruise, and well recommended for those who enjoy geology, wildlife and good company. Do not expect to get a tan!

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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