After four years of languishing in dormancy, one of the UK’s most respected cruise brands is being revived by Russian river cruise operator Vodohod.

The relaunched Swan Hellenic Cruises will begin operations in November 2021 using two 10,700-gt, 148-passenger expedition cruiseships that Vodohod ordered at Helsinki Shipyard in June 2019.

The second ship will join upon delivery by the shipbuilder in April 2022.

Swan Hellenic will be headquartered in Monaco, with former Silversea Cruises senior vice president Andrea Zito as its chief executive.

Joining Zito in this venture are several other well-known industry names including new UK-based managing director John Warner, who previously held senior management positions Canadian expedition cruise operator G Adventures and vice president of marketing Mario Bounas, previously director of sales in the UK for Royal Caribbean.

Alfredo Spadon, who previously held senior executive positions at Silversea and MSC Cruises, will run the company’s sales and marketing office in Germany.

Long history

Swan Hellenic's previous ship, the Minerva (built 1996), was sold to Saudi Arabian interests for use as a private yacht. Photo: Jonathan Boonzaier

Swan Hellenic’s origins stretch back to the 1930s when, as the Hellenic Travellers Club, it chartered ships to take members of the British aristocracy and academia on educational cruises visiting places of historical interest in the eastern Mediterranean.

The company passed through the hands of a number of owners over the decades, but always maintained its educational focus and using small, comfortable ships often chartered from Mediterranean operators, such as Turkish Maritime Lines and Epirotiki Cruises.

In 1996, the company — then owned by P&O — teamed up with shipmanager V.Ships to build the 12,900-gt, 428-passenger cruiseship Minerva using the hull of an incomplete Russian research ship.

The company was later sold to the All Leisure Group. It ceased trading in December 2016 after All Leisure ran into financial difficulties.

The Swan Hellenic name and clientele list were acquired the following year from All Leisure's liquidators by G Adventures, which initially planned to revive the company but never did.

TradeWinds understands that Vodohod recently acquired the rights to the brand name.

Preliminary details released by the revived Swan Hellenic reveal that the company will have little in common with its predecessor. Cruises will operate to the polar regions and other remote places rather than to historic places in the Mediterranean.

Its ice-classed ships will offer what its marketing material describes as cultural expedition cruising “aimed at the traveller who wishes to explore, experience and enrich the infinite beauty of the world and its inhabitants in a safe and sustainable way”.