Luxury Expedition Cruise Ship Delivered to Relaunch Historic Brand 

expedition cruise ship delivered and sails for Antarctic
SH Minera transiting Germany's Keil Canal on the first leg of her trip to reach Antarcitca (Swan Hellenic)

Published Dec 9, 2021 6:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The first of the new luxury expedition cruise ships, the SH Minerva, was delivered to her owners and has begun a positioning voyage to Antarctica before her maiden voyage later this month. The ship also represents the relaunch of one of the oldest brand names in the educational and expedition cruise market.

The 10,500 gross ton SH Minerva was officially completed and handed over to Swan Hellenic on December 3 by the Helsinki Shipyard. The vessel, which was completed in just 26 months from contract signing, departed Cuxhaven, Germany on December 6 after making her way through the Kiel Canal. Her first scheduled stop is in Tenerife as she sails to Ushuaia, Argentina from where the vessel’s maiden cruise will begin on December 29. The first expedition is scheduled to last 10 days crossing the Drake Passage and visiting the South Shetland Islands and cruising around the Antarctic Peninsula.

A private naming ceremony for the SH Minerva took place at the shipyard on November 23 and was followed by final sea trials. Helsinki Shipyard reports that the trials went according to the plan and were completed within a demanding schedule demonstrating the cruise ship’s maneuverability and stability to top speed.

The new cruise was purpose-designed as the first in a series of three polar expedition vessels. While the vessels will operate worldwide cruising, there was a strong focus on high-latitude operations. The SH Minerva features a 5-megawatt diesel-electric propulsion system with selective catalytic reduction and a PC5 ice-strengthened hull with extra-large stabilizers for improved passenger comfort. 

The SH Minerva is designed to be completely self-sufficient for up to 40 days or 8,000 nautical miles. The vessels are equipped with exhaust gas cleaning, advanced wastewater treatment systems, and the waste storage facilities required for operating in sensitive polar areas. In addition, preparations have been made to implement battery technology that would make it possible to operate silently. 

Like the other new cruise ships being built for the expedition market, the SH Minerva provides luxurious accommodations for her passengers as well as amenities including a restaurant, lounge, and club room with large windows for viewing the scenery as well as a stargazing platform. She has a capacity of 152 passengers in 76 cabins and suites and is operated by a crew of 120.

The SH Minerva will be followed by her sister ship the SH Vega (NB517) and the slightly larger NB518, which are both already under construction at Helsinki Shipyard.

The Swan Hellenic brand dates to the 1950s when a father and son team in the U.K. launched tours to Greece and began operating educational trips on chartered Greek passenger ships. The brand developed a loyal following and in the 1980s was acquired by P&O which provided dedicated vessels. The brand became part of Carnival Corporation after the P&O acquisition but in 2007 they announced that they were ending operations. The brand was sold to a series of investors and for a time revived by the All Leisure Holiday Group, before that company filed for bankruptcy in 2017.

The current investors purchased the brand in 2020 and announced plans to relaunch operations as a luxury expedition cruise line. The keel for the second cruise ship, the SH Vega, was laid in February 2021 and she is due to enter service in the spring of 2022 followed by the third cruise ship before the end of 2022.