Swan Hellenic sets contingency for New Zealand

CEO Andrea Zito says expedition cruise market remains underdeveloped

Swan Hellenic‘s CEO Andrea Zito says the expedition line has a backup plan for next year’s New Zealand deployment should cruise bans on international operators still be enforced in early 2022.

The reborn Swan Hellenic’s first ship, MS Minerva, is scheduled to launch at the end of this year.

With a PC5 ice-strengthened hull and accommodating 152-guests, Minerva will operate its first voyage to Antarctica on 27 November 2021, from Buenos Aires and concluding in Ushuaia.

The purpose-built ship will then operate a series of expeditions to the White Continent until early February. On 8 February 2023, the ship departs on its longest expedition – a 34-day semi-circumnavigation cruise of Antarctica, across the Ross Sea, and onto Dunedin. The voyage is priced from a whopping $45,435 per person.

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Currently, Swan Hellenic’s schedule then features a 13-day New Zealand in Depth cruise to Auckland, departing 13 March. That sailing will visit Fiordland, Stewart Island, Akaroa, Kaikoura, Marlborough Sound, Napier, Gisborne and Tauranga.

SH Minerva will then embark on a 16-day Pacific Islands voyage (Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands) en route to Papua New Guinea.

Last week in an interview with Insider Travel Report, citing the impact of the pandemic, Zito confirmed “we are following what is happening in Australia and New Zealand which are still closed for business. We hope that these things will change.”

“We have plan B in the bag in any case,” Zito stated.

What Swan Hellenic’s contingency plan involves is however under wraps, for now, a spokesperson for the cruise line told LATTE. But any itinerary adjustment would be conveyed to guests first.

Swan has already confirmed that its crew will be 100% vaccinated against COVID and that the cruise line would align with whatever health authority protocols are introduced for the industry.

Rendering of the new polar expedition ship, SH Minerva

Not luxury, but “highly elegant”

Revealed in July 2020, Swan Hellenic will comprise three initial ships. Under construction in Helsinki, the fleet comprises two sister-ships – SH Minerva and SH Vega (launching in April 2022) – and a 12-metre longer vessel with an increased capacity of 192-guests, and a PC6 ice-class classification. The yet-to-be-named larger ship will be delivered at the end of next year.

Zito says the ships will be 5-star but was reluctant to term them as luxury.

We don’t want to call them luxury because sometimes luxury has a negative connotation. We want to call them highly elegant vessels,” he explained.

He said the public spaces, which include a restaurant, lounge, theatre, spa and mudroom, will be “very simple, yet practical”.

Dining will be “very, very sophisticated,” with Swan Hellenic to have menus designed by a Michelin-starred chef. The lounge will be very elegant, but informal.

The fleet design will incorporate large windows and open space, “lots of open space”, Zito remarked.

“The show is not inside the ship. It’s outside.

“Guests will want to sit outside when it is raining or snowing. The show Mother Nature is giving with the sea, wildlife, icebergs… it’s phenomenal and you don’t want to miss it.”

Zito said that Swan Hellenic’s 2022/23 itineraries are currently being refined, but both the smaller vessels will be based in Antarctica over warmer months, with one ship focused on the fly-cruise market and the other traditional cruising.

Expedition cruising “underdeveloped”

The cruise expert, who oversaw the merger of Silversea into the Royal Caribbean Group a few years ago, said he relaunched Swan Hellenic as an expedition line as he believes the niche remains an “underdeveloped sector, compared with the rest of the cruise industry”.

Zito said the expedition sector is still in its infancy and started much later than traditional cruise lines.

“A lot of the [current] tonnage is not purpose-built. You still have trawlers converted, ice-breakers converted, scientific research vessels converted. You even have ferries converted. So really the new builds started less than 10 years ago, with Ponant probably the first.”

Swan Hellenic Lounge

Swan Hellenic’s target audience is “high-end international travellers that are willing to step beyond the normal and that are thirsty to discover the beauty of our planet,” he said.

Zito also stated that as a newcomer to the market, Swan Hellenic will “rely” on travel advisors to sell the product, and is keen to educate them via webinars and other training options.

View Swan Hellenic’s 2021/22 Worldwide Expeditions’ e-brochure here.

To view Insider Travel Report‘s full interview, click here.

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