Courtesy of Swan Hellenic
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Courtesy of Swan Hellenic
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Courtesy of Swan Hellenic
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Courtesy of Swan Hellenic
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SH Diana Review

Our Ship Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

Named for the Roman goddess of the moon, hunting, and the wilderness, Swan Hellenic’s small Polar Ice Class 6 ship SH Diana was christened in Amsterdam in spring 2023. At 410 feet long, the Finnish-built vessel is 40 feet longer than her sisters, the SH Minerva, which launched in November 2021, and the SH Vega, which launched in July 2022. All three Swan Hellenic ships sail to both Poles for several months a year, as well as everywhere in between. Among Diana’s crew of 141, a dozen seasoned expedition guides are joined by expert guest lecturers to satisfy the curiosity of Diana’s discerning voyagers.

Passengers also appreciate that nearly all staterooms and suites have balconies, which makes for a happy marriage between expedition experience and luxury cruise, and that even with its small size, the ship has plenty of tucked-away nooks for passengers to enjoy private scenery viewing. Further, sailings are all-inclusive, with daily excursions, fine food, high-end liquor, and strong Wi-Fi included. For well-being voyages starting in 2024, Swan Hellenic has announced a new Explore & Restore program with Deepak Chopra.

With its new ships, Swan Hellenic has been able to utilize state-of-the-art technologies for wastewater and emissions systems. Other environmental practices include water dispensers to cut down on plastic usage and the use of stateroom TVs and apps for daily guest information to save paper. Unless otherwise requested, sheets get changed every three days.

Swan Hellenic’s history dates back to the 1950s when the British Swann family developed cruises to the Greek islands with a Classicism theme, which explains Hellenic as part of the line’s name. After various ownerships and a dormant spell, Swan Hellenic was reborn in 2020, with a blend of cultural cruises and expedition experiences carrying on as the company’s forte today.

What We Love

Calming Nordic-Inspired Décor: With muted Scandi tones and organic textures, Diana’s cabins make you feel as if you’re in a luxury hotel rather than on a ship. You’ll welcome the ample closet and cabinet space and the divider that can go up between the bed and living area, which has a couch and a small table. Amenities include a pair of Nikon binoculars, an Illy coffee maker, and a well-stocked drinks minibar. Bathrooms feature Italian La Jatica toiletries and a rain shower, and the fireplaces that the other vessels have will soon be added.

The majority of Diana’s 66 cabins are 302-square-foot Balconies with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors to go along with 215-square-foot Oceanview rooms and 506-square-foot Premium Suites. There are no windowless inside cabins, nor single-occupancies. An accessible balconied cabin is ADA-compliant with a wet unit.

Global Culinary Pursuits: With open floor seating as well as private booths, Swan Restaurant allows for quiet dining despite some 150 covers. Its rotating, internationally-themed cuisine always comes with several choices of appetizers, soups, and salads, followed by four main dishes of fresh fish or beef, lamb, and chicken. Guests can choose from two white and two red wine selections at every meal.

The launch of Diana also inaugurated SH’s Maris program of visiting chefs from the JRE-Jeunes Restaurateurs organization that represents 375 restaurants with a collective 180 Michelin stars. Over the course of a voyage, guest chefs prepare their signature dishes and put on a gala dinner, as well as conduct cooking demonstrations and lead onshore culinary excursions.

The restaurant’s breakfast and lunch are buffet, while the Pool Bar & Grill puts on a casual lunch of pizza and burgers. Lunch food and snacks are also often available in the casual Club Lounge, while an in-cabin dining menu is also available 24 hours a day. For a small ship, Swan Hellenic also manages to provide plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood, often locally purchased.

A long bar counter in the Deck 7 Observation Lounge is the ship’s social center, with a drinks list full of inclusive premium brands.

Full Beauty and Spa Services: Larger than on the line’s other two ships, Diana’s wellness area includes a fully-equipped fitness center, a steam room, and a sauna with a panoramic window. The deckside hot tub can fit a good dozen guests who can recap their day’s adventures over a soothing soak. Guests can book a full range of massage treatments and a mani/pedi, or even change their hairstyle in the Beauty Salon.

Worldwide Itineraries: Diana sails all seven continents. Her PC 6 ice-class status makes her well-suited for Polar regions, with extra-large stabilizers for comfort. Two tenders make for easier shore landings than do the ship’s fifteen Zodiacs. 

Best Known For

The “See What Others Don’t” motto: The line’s small ship size allows them to enter narrower ports than larger vessels. SH’s balance of adventure and understated luxury means that after a day of kayaking and hiking or navigating in Zodiacs, guests enjoy dining on superb meals. In addition to their daily guest lectures on themes like history and culture, SH continues to develop its hands-on offerings on the physical world all around, with the heavens explored through a new series by visiting astronomers from the California SETI Institute. Some cruises also now offer a Citizen Science Program for collecting data such as recording whale sightings in the Expedition Laboratory.

Who It's Best For

Curious, Cultured Explorers: Already well-traveled and in late-career or retired, SH passengers who come mostly from North America select the cruise line not only for its emphasis on culture and geography but also its commitment to preserving the ecological beauty of the world and the chance for up-close exploration of flora and fauna. They appreciate a wide range of excursions from the physically challenging to relaxed museum and heritage site visits. With a well-stocked library of expedition and other themed books, there’s no need to bring your own reading material.

Those Who Like to Keep Things Casual: If you like personal and attentive, but not fussy service and gratuities included in the fare, SH fits the bill. With no strict dress code onboard, guests are meant to feel comfortable, and not expected to dress to impress. As of 2023, Swan Hellenic is preparing a club program for frequent passengers that they expect to roll out by the end of the year. 

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Not an Entertainment Cruise: If you’re looking for a casino or a nightclub and a floor show environment, then Swan Hellenic ships are not for you. A piano player in the Observation Lounge provides the only live music onboard. With no boutiques, shopping is mostly limited to a few branded apparel items. The spa is first-rate, and the pool is heated, but it’s too small for those who wish to swim laps or spend all day sunning on a deck.

Not Really a Family Cruise: Families are certainly welcome onboard, but with the minimum age being eight years old, there are no dedicated facilities for young ones. The majority of guests are middle-aged and seniors, so any teens should have a strong curiosity for culture and science to get the most out of expedition cruising.

John Oseid
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger