Swan Hellenic, the 70-year-old British discovery cruise brand, has been resurrected as a cultural expedition line which soft-launches to the trade today.

A new standalone company, with offices in Cyprus, Monaco and the UK, has acquired the Swan Hellenic brand and database from its previous owner G Adventures for an undisclosed sum.

It is building two “state-of-the-art” expedition ships in Finland, each with 76 cabins and aimed at providing 152 guests with an “elegant, intimate and personal onboard experience, delivered by 120 warm, friendly and knowledgeable staff”.

Swan Hellenic will be targeted at travellers with “inquisitive minds who want to discover incredible destinations, reconnect with nature and locals, all the while sharing unique experiences”.

The first ship will be launched at an event in London in November 2021, before setting sail for Antarctica. The second will launch in April 2022 from St Petersburg en route to the British Isles and Iceland, before venturing into the Arctic summer 2022.

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After completing their Polar seasons, both ships will continue around the world, visiting a range of countries from New Zealand to Brazil and Papua New Guinea to the Philippines.

Swan Hellenic general manager John Warner, who is also managing director of Russian river cruising business Vodohod, which recently began selling through UK travel agents, said the new line was “British in heritage and pioneering spirit, but international in its outlook”.

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, he said: “Who wouldn’t want to bring back an iconic brand like Swan Hellenic and put a modern twist on it?

“Seventy years on from Swan Hellenic’s discovery cruise beginnings, the British-born expedition cruise line is back. Its core values remain unchanged, as does the brand’s passion for exploratory cruising.”

Swan Hellenic chief executive Andrea Zito, formerly senior vice president of marine operations and new building at Silversea, said: “I am proud to announce the rebirth of Swan Hellenic a pioneering iconic travel brand with the mission to be the leader in cultural expedition cruising.”

Asked if the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on their launch plans or given them concerns about the future of cruise, especially given current Foreign Office guidance advises Brits against cruising, Warner said: “We would have tried to be in the market a little bit earlier, but the world was overcome with dealing with Covid and so we delayed it slightly.

“But things are starting to come back, and we need a long lead-in time so people can re-establish their interest in the brand.”

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Warner added: “In 17 months’ time we’ll be in a better place. We know agents and consumers are dealing with it right now, but we just want them to contact us and register their interest.

“My feeling is that this is primarily a trade-play. I’m a massive believer in our industry. The importance of agents, from all aspects of adventure to cruise, is colossal. If we find blue chip partners they will become ambassadors for us.”

Interested agents can register their interest from today.

Asked what would make Swan Hellenic stand out from the other expedition cruise ships entering the market, Warner said: “Our ships will be brand new, the very latest hardware and a lot of focus has been put on them having excellent sight-lines, which gives us the modus operandi ‘Wherever we are, we will get people to see what others don’t’.

He said further expansion of the fleet was on the cards.

“We will start with two ships, but we are already talking about further expansion of the fleet and expanding the proposition of Swan Hellenic,” said Warner.

Warner, who used to be vice president of global sales at G Adventures before joining Vodohod and subsequently Swan Hellenic, will be supported by senior vice president, sales and marketing, Alfredo Spadon, formerly of MSC Cruises and Silversea, and vice president of marketing, Mario Bounas, formerly of Royal Caribbean International.

He explained that while he and colleagues “straddle and represent both Vodohod and now Swan Hellenic”, they are separate, standalone companies.

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