Minerva is one of those vessels with a history. Her hull - strengthened for cracking ice - was once destined to be fitted to a Ukrainian spy ship, and first came to its home line Swan Hellenic in 1996. She was struck off in 2003, replaced with the much larger Minerva II, but revived in 2007 when the line almost went under. And now, Minerva is sailing stronger than ever, following a multi-million pound overhaul that she underwent in 2011. New bathrooms, new balconies, an extended walk-around promenade deck and a brand new lounge were among the improvements, as well as new tenders that allowed a faster more comfortable ride ashore.
Upon boarding, you can expect to be greeted by a rather stately country house atmosphere, courtesy of the predominantly British clientele. While fares may initially appear staggeringly high, they are not as unreasonable as they first appear, thanks to the full programme of tours and activities built into the pricing structure.
Minerva prides itself on being one of the top enrichment choices in the cruising world. Food, however, is typically English affair, with options including soups and meat dishes.
Many menus are designed to reflect the area the ship is cruising in. Desserts are tasty, particularly the cheese and biscuit selections. If you're not a morning person, you can choose to sit at the quiet table to partake in the first meal of the day.
Lecture programmes are the Minerva's great strength - you can expect your cruise ship entertainment to be dominated by interesting talks given by a wide variety of professors and experts.
The house band plays after dinner and the crew puts on a show at least once for every itinerary. If you're looking for somewhere to enjoy pre-dinner drinks, Shackleton's Bar on the main deck is just such an occasion. It boasts an unhurried country-house atmosphere that sums up the overall vessel perfectly.
Dress code during the day is casual but few passengers opt for jeans - this is an older clientele that prefers cruises from a previous generation. As such, some of the restaurants aboard the Minerva require dinner jackets or dark suits in the evenings for men, and cocktail dresses or gowns for the women.