Stepping aboard SH Vega, Swan Hellenic’s new compact expedition vessel, Dave Monk found a world of luxury and comfort.
Coming home to a crackling fire isn’t something you’d expect in a cruise ship cabin – even if the realistic glowing logs and flickering flames are fake and reassuring.
I was thrilled as soon as I saw the centerpiece as I entered my balcony cabin on the new ship Swan Hellenic SH Vega for her three-day christening voyage from Helsinki.
But that wasn’t the only thing that took my breath away. Around the fireplace were no less than 14 cupboards and drawers, in addition to two wardrobes, a desk, a fridge and bedside tables.
Next to it, a coffee machine sat on a pedestal while a cupboard above held a kettle and an ice bucket. Thoughtfully, there was even a make-up mirror inside the office – not that I need one – but impressive, nonetheless.
Opening the bathroom door, I found a rain shower and a shaving mirror. On the bed was a key to the door. Not a plastic card, medallion or bracelet, but an actual metal key on a choker. Retro? Maybe, but quite satisfying too.
This level of accommodation is not unusual either. Of Vega’s 76 cabins, 54 have balconies. There is only one lower category of 16 ocean view rooms, which are basically the same without the veranda. The other six bedrooms are all suites.
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Cruise ship reviews often focus on large public spaces — more of which later — but falling in love with your cabin as soon as you drop off your luggage is a big plus when you’re spending several days traveling in the Arctic. or Antarctica on a ship like the SH Vega.
Some cruise ship cabins barely have enough storage for a weekend’s clothes, let alone two or three weeks, but my cabin wardrobe was very generous.
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With its soft-colored carpeting, clever lighting, and small art objects, this room felt like a place where I could live happily, curl up with a book, or fall asleep while enjoying the comforting illusion of wood that burns gently.
All decked out
Tearing myself away from exploring, I walked along a posh hallway and experienced the pleasure of being on a relatively small ship – there is only room on board for 152 passengers, less than on some small river boats.
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With a total of nine decks – I was on deck 6 – it only took a few flights of the central glazed staircase up or down to reach all the main areas without having to use the elevators.
At the very top of the ship is a star gazing deck which during the heat wave we experienced in Finland was more of a sunbathing area. But I admire the idea of devoting the top floor to admiring the night sky – a reminder that cruising in its purest form is about the sights and sounds you can enjoy from the ship, not the ones there. .
However, when the weather turns chilly, there’s no better place than to sit in the hot tub, relax in the heated pool, or enjoy the sauna with panoramic ocean views.
An unusual feature on Deck 6 is the Swan’s Nest – a small circular area that juts out from the front of the ship providing great views of any passing wildlife. Also ideal if you are looking for bragging rights on instagram.
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The Observation Lounge – the main meeting area, where I spent evenings relaxing with a drink, chatting with friends and listening to a pianist play familiar tunes – is on Deck 7, as well as two restaurants, the Club Lounge and the Pool Bar & Grill.
The overall style of the ship is very “scandi chic” with its muted colors, expensive upholstery and tasteful artwork. Together they give the ship a very welcoming air.
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The ship’s main dining area is the Swan Restaurant on deck four, which offers flexible seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Alternatively, the Club Lounge on Deck 7 offers casual dining 24 hours a day, while the Pool Bar & Grill is the perfect place to enjoy an al fresco snack while the sun shines. All venues offer a wide selection of food and drink, from healthy snacks and nutritious cuisine to local specialties, supported by a world-class cellar of classic vintages, new wave natural wines, premium spirits and craft beers.
Onboard, you’ll also find a private chef’s table dining experience with matching wines (this is available at an additional cost) and you can also enjoy 24-hour room service and a sumptuous afternoon tea. ‘afternoon.
Hidden on the lowest passenger level, Deck 3, is the Basecamp area for going on expeditions, as well as a lab for scientists to test the polar waters. As I walked around the ship, I saw a fleet of Zodiac boats in the stern ready to explore.
All that remains on this perfectly formed little ship is the spa, which offers massages in two treatment rooms, as well as a library and 24-hour gym.
Find your ideal cruise
Vega – named after the first ship to transit the Arctic’s Northeast Passage – is identical to her sister ship, SH Minerva, launched in December 2021.
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While at Helsinki Shipyard, I was also invited to view construction work on the third in the fleet, SH Diana, a slightly larger 192-passenger sister ship due for delivery in February 2023. features will include an events room, private dining room and two purpose-built annexes.
With 120 crew on Swan Hellenic’s smaller vessels and 140 on Diana, personal service is a priority. Among the team are 12 expert expedition guides including geologists, photographers, polar meteorologists, historians, ornithologists, marine biologists or naturalists. Animators supervise excursions such as kayaking, hiking, snorkeling or snowshoeing.
Environmentally, Vega has a hybrid electric/diesel engine, which means it can run quietly and emission-free on battery power in sensitive areas and wildlife reserves. Passengers are also given a bottle of water that they can refill at various locations on the ship and, to reduce paper, daily itineraries are displayed on TV.
Crew uniforms avoid the use of fleece fabrics which release large volumes of microplastics when washed.
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If you think you’ve heard of the name Swan Hellenic before, it has a long and distinguished history, dating back to 1954 when travel agents WF Swan and her young son Ken organized their first cruise of discovery by chartering a ship called Miaoulis to take 128 members. of a university society to explore the sites of ancient Greece with three guest lecturers.
Swan Hellenic sadly closed in 2017 but was re-launched as a new company in Cyprus in July 2020, building on its UK roots to offer a global cruise program giving guests the chance to “see what the others do not see”.
More like a phoenix than a swan, the company is rising from its ashes. May her false fires continue to burn brightly.
Climb on board
A 20-night cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the South Atlantic Islands aboard SH Vega, from Ushuaia to Cape Town, via the South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Orkney Islands of South, South Georgia, Gough Island and Tristan Da Cuncha, departs March 5, 2023, from £12,138 (swanhellenic.com).