SH Vega: bringing elegance to cultural expedition cruises

SH Vega: bringing elegance to cultural expedition cruises

CFR

Swan Hellenic hosted a tour of SH Vega on 11 July, shortly after the ship’s christening ceremony

Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, is known as a hub for cultural exploration and scientific research. And it seemed very fitting that Swan Hellenic’s expedition cruise ships SH Minerva and SH Vega were built there, and that SH Diana is currently under construction at Helsinki Shipyard.

The cruise line, which was first established in the 1950s as Swan Tours and then revived in 2017 as Swan Hellenic, hosted the naming ceremony for its second ship SH Vega at Helsinki Shipyard on 11 July 2022. I was kindly invited onboard to attend the ceremony and experience the ship first-hand.

In an interview with Swan Hellenic’s CEO Andrea Zito last January, he told me that “guests are looking to buy emotions and memories that they can take home – something that cannot be bought in a shop,” and this is exactly what SH Vega provided.

Guests arrived on 10 July ahead of the naming ceremony, embarking to find spacious cabins equipped with a holographic wood burner, boutique-style artwork, an abundance of storage space and a balcony overlooking Helsinki Shipyard’s dock. The interiors created by Tillberg Design of Sweden offered a feeling of understated elegance and provided a glimpse of the relaxation that future guests will experience when arriving back from expedition trips.

We were welcomed into a buffet dinner in the new Swan Restaurant and then into the Observatory Lounge to enjoy drinks and live music.

The christening ceremony took place the following morning, with representatives from Swan Hellenic, Helsinki Shipyard, the media and travel industry present. A brass band played as Patrizia Zito, wife of Swan Hellenic’s CEO Andrea Zito and godmother to SH Vega, cut the ribbon to break the bottle against the ship’s hull.

Shortly after, guests were invited back onboard to enjoy a three-course lunch in the Swan Restaurant, demonstrating executive chef Avhier Singh’s Italian-style gourmet dishes that have been created specifically for Swan Hellenic. The Swan Restaurant is the main dining venue, but the Club Lounge, Pool Grill & Bar and Observation Lounge also served drinks and snacks throughout the day. From caviar to Grey Goose vodka, Swan Hellenic was keen for us to taste the best of its hospitality!

Members of the press and travel agents were given full freedom to explore the ship, including the lowest deck where guests will prepare for expedition trips in Base Camp and embark onto Zodiacs through a specially designed exit onto the water. Captain Tuomo Leskinen, who previously served as captain of SH Minerva, also welcomed visitors to the bridge, which features a traditional helm alongside digital computers and dashboards.

During the trip, guests were also invited to view the progress of Swan Hellenic’s third ship SH Diana, which is currently under construction at Helsinki Shipyard and due to be completed in February 2023. Shipyard representatives explained the shipbuilding process, revealing that it will take 500 people to build a new ship within 24 months. With 96 cabins, SH Diana will be larger than SH Minerva and SH Vega.

On 12 July, Zito held a press meeting to discuss the cruise line’s 2023 itineraries. Zito gave insights into the destinations that will be on offer, as well as the culture, wildlife and history that guests will be able to explore in these places. Between all three ships, Swan Hellenic will visit the Arctic, Antarctic and the rest of the world. He also provided anecdotes from his time onboard SH Minerva and detailed the line’s process for scouting destinations that can be included in itineraries.

“SH Diana will visit the largest colony of giant turtles near China and offer guests the chance to snorkel alongside them,” said Zito. “It’ll also travel past Madagascar and then offer overnight excursions to visit the wildlife parks in Mozambique.” The new ship will then continue northwards towards Europe before turning around at Longyearbyen in Norway's Svalbard archipelago.

Anthony Jinman, a polar expedition lead, also shared his experience of Antarctica during the meeting, mentioning an incident where his team was rescued by SH Minerva whilst stranded on a research trip. He expressed his gratitude towards the team onboard SH Minerva and how he is proud to now be a part of the Swan Hellenic team. Jinman is now a polar guide and Zodiac driver onboard SH Vega.

Overall, I experienced SH Vega’s elegant yet practical interiors, gourmet menus, attentive crew and got a glimpse of the brand’s plans for next year. Swan Hellenic certainly seems to be on track to live up to its motto of taking guests to ‘see what others don’t’.

Zito will share more about Swan Hellenic’s luxury cruise experience in a roundtable on luxury cruising in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. Meanwhile, Swan Hellenic’s expedition lead Oscar Dunn will share his insights on the brand’s upcoming itineraries in the 2022-2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning.

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Alice Chambers
By Alice Chambers
21 July 2022

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