SH Diana Floats as Surge in Expedition Cruise Ships Nears an End

expedition cruise ship SH Diana
SH Diana was floated from the building hall in Helsinki on January 23, 2023 (Helsinki Shipyard)

Published Jan 27, 2023 10:38 AM by The Maritime Executive

Construction on one of the final cruise ships currently on order for the luxury expedition market is moving forward with Swan Hellenic and Helsinki Shipyard announcing the float out of the SH Diana. Over the past few years, the expedition market has grown rapidly as travelers looked for “bucket list” trips beyond the ordinary destinations.

Historically, expedition cruising focused more on the destination and providing tours to experience areas ranging from the Arctic to the Antarctic but in the past few years, the ships that were once basic in their accommodations have been replaced by luxurious ships. Over the past five years, more than 40 cruise ships have been launched into the segment adding more than 8,500 berths. 

The SH Diana floated from the building hall in Helsinki on January 23, is one of the last orders for the segment and reflects the subtle changes in the market. She is almost 15 percent larger than the first two cruise ships built for Swan Hellenic, moving from 10,600 gross tons for the sister ships SH Minerva and SH Vega to 12,100 gross tons for SH Diana. At 410 feet in length, she is 73 longer than her fleet mates and increased her capacity to 192 passengers.

“Building on the outstanding amenities of her sister ships, she adds a dedicated Multifunctional Room next to the Observation Lounge, a Private Dining Room for special occasions, and two tenders which bring guests a comfortable alternative to Zodiacs for expedition landings,” Swan Hellenic highlights. She is the first of their ships to have shore tenders, each accommodating 48 people, in addition to a fleet of 15 Zodiacs and eight kayaks. Another change is the new ship was built to Polar Class 6 versus the first two which were Polar Class 5 with ice-strengthened hulls. 



All the ships feature extensive outdoor spaces for observing the destinations as well as dedicated expedition facilities and are staffed with seasoned guides, expert speakers, and lecturers to provide background and education on the destinations. Power by a hybrid diesel-electric power plant, the ship was also designed with an endurance of up to 40 days and 8,000 nautical miles. She is staffed with 141 crew.

Reflecting the luxury element of the market, the Swan Hellenic ships each have three dining venues, including alfresco dining. There is also a library, club room, spa, sauna, gym, a heated outdoor pool, and beauty salon. Accommodations range from a standard stateroom at 215 square feet to a premium suite at over 500 square feet with most also having a private balcony.

“We are delighted with the construction progress and quality of SH Diana, a Polar Class PC6 vessel with state-of-the-art ship technology and sustainability that will enter service as planned in April,” said Andrea Zito, CEO of Swan Hellenic. “We look forward to welcoming our guests aboard her to experience our cultural expedition cruises with the first-time option of choosing between shore exploration by tender boat as well as expedition zodiac.”

Swan Hellenic ordered its third cruise ship in October 2020 just months after Zito announced plans to relaunch the storied brand which dates back to the 1950s and the origins of the modern expedition market. The first of the vessels, SH Minera was introduced in December 2021 and SH Vega followed in July 2022. Construction on the third ship began in June 2021 with production a few months later after the ship’s steel blocks were built at CRIST shipyard in Poland and transported to Helsinki for assembly.

The cruise line reposts that the outfitting is already underway for SH Diana. The shipyard expects sea trials will be held in early March lasting about a week. The SH Diana is due to enter service on April 15 from Italy, first cruising in the Mediterranean before shifting to Scandinavia and the Arctic. She moves to Africa and arrives in the Antarctic for the first time in December 2023.

After the rapid growth and delivery of new ships for the exploration market, SH Diana is one of five ships currently on order and all are due for delivery this year. These ships will add another 1,000 berths to the market, but currently, there are no further orders for expedition cruise ships. The next big growth spurt in cruising moves to the ultra-deluxe segment. The industry currently has 25 ships on order for that segment, with deliveries extending to 2028. Those new ships represent over 18,000 berths. 

The growth in expedition cruising and now deluxe ships reflects consumers' strong interest in smaller ships with luxury appointments and service.