View From the Bridge - COLIN STONE

Rick Sasso of MSC Cruises

Swan Hellenic

Colin Stone has been involved in the financial & commercial fields of UK cruise & ferry companies since 1977 when he joined the Cunard Steam Ship Company in Southampton. In 1986 he became Chief Accountant of British Channel Island Ferries plc, and in 1993 Colin joined Geest plc, who operated four UK–Caribbean vessels through the Windward Islands.

Four years later he joined the P&O Group and in 2001 he was invited to join Swan Hellenic – then still within the P&O Group – as Commercial Director before being appointed Managing Director of Swan Hellenic in 2008, shortly after the company became part of the All Leisure group plc.


By Colin Stone

Swan Hellenic is proud of its long and distinguished heritage of offering cultural discovery cruises accompanied by eminent guest speakers. The first cruise took place as long ago as 1954 when WF & RK Swan, who ran the Swans Travel Bureau, organised a cruise to Greece for members of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. The cruise, on the chartered Miaoulis, was such a success that another cruise followed in 1955, the all-inclusive policy of including excursions and all gratuities dating from this time. It has remained company policy ever since

Regular cultural cruises followed and in 1957 the famous archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler – well known to television audiences of the day – joined the company as Chairman. In 1959 the company chartered the Ankara, a 6,178 gross ton ship belonging to Turkish Maritime Lines, and so began a long and happy association; from 1959-1974 Swans Hellenic Cruises offered a total of 105 cultural cruises on the Ankara – a ship still fondly remembered by some regular Swan passengers.

In 1964 Swan Hellenic began to offer fly cruises to the Mediterranean, rather than travelling overland by train. Four years later, in 1968, the business was sold to Trust House Forte, although the cruises continued much as before with Guest Speakers accompanying each cruise to illuminate the destinations visited, giving talks during the days at sea.

In 1975 the company chartered the Greek Orpheus, another popular ship with loyal Swan passengers. Swan Hellenic offered 105 summer cruises on the Orpheus during the subsequent 21 years and, from 1980, introduced cruises outside the Mediterranean including round Britain cruises and itineraries that ventured into the Red Sea.

In 1983 Trust House Forte sold Swan Hellenic to the P&O Steam Navigation Company. P&O had, for many years, offered educational cruises on their subsidiary line, the British India Steam Navigation Company, but following the sale of the last ‘school’ ship, decided that these passengers might transfer their allegiance to the Orpheus. They did, but the ageing Orpheus finally needed replacing and, in 1996, Swan Hellenic introduced the Minerva, a 12,500 ton ship specially designed to meet Swan Hellenic’s unique requirements.

Minerva’s hull was intended to be a Soviet spy ship but, since the disintegration of the USSR, had lain unwanted in a Ukrainian shipyard. The hull was transported to Genoa where she was rebuilt to incorporate design features such as an encircling teak Promenade Deck, a large library, choice of restaurants, two bars, a spacious open deck area around the swimming pool, a card and smoking room, all decorated in comfortable country house style. With Minerva, Swan Hellenic could offer her traditional Mediterranean cruises as well as sailing through the Red Sea to India and the Far East in the winter and as far north as Norway and the Baltic in the Summer. Minerva remained with Swan Hellenic for seven years, until she was replaced in 2003 with the larger, faster Minerva II.

With the 30,277 gross ton Minerva II Swan Hellenic was able to further expand her cruising areas, offering Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America and, from early 2004, a circumnavigation of South America. Minerva II, while offering larger cabins, many with balconies and a choice of four restaurants, retained many of the features that had made Minerva so popular with her passengers: a large library, elegant public rooms, a choice of bars, good open deck space, card room, internet area – all furnished in country house style – and still offering single sitting dinner, enabling all passengers to dine at leisure, at a time to suit themselves and in the company of their friends.

In 2007, however, Swan’s parent company – now Carnival Corporation – re-allocated Minerva II to Princess Cruises. Minerva II’s final cruise took place in April of that year. Later the same month, Swan Hellenic’s unique brand of discovery cruising was purchased by Lord Sterling, and in July 2007 Swan Hellenic joined the All Leisure Group. Earlier in the year the All Leisure Group had chartered the former 350-berth Minerva on a long term basis, the brand and the ship being reunited in May 2008 when Swan Hellenic once again commenced cruising on the country house styled Minerva.

As in the past, Swan Hellenic continues to offer cultural discovery cruises in refined comfort aboard a small ship, always accompanied by a team of distinguished guest speakers who deliver a programme of talks relevant to the cruise itinerary. Also included is a tailor-made shore excursion programme with supporting documentation, an experienced on-board Swan Hellenic team (including those who have planned your cruise), all gratuities to staff on board and ashore, flights and transfers where applicable, and all pre paid airport and port taxes. As ever, our distinctive small ship cruising features single sitting dining, enabling passengers to dine at leisure, at a time to suit themselves and in the company of their friends. With over half a century’s experience, Swan Hellenic has refined the art of discovery cruising.

For more information visit Swan Hellenic


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• Cdr Mark Gaouette
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• Colin Stone
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• Mike Deegan
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