FAQ

Planning

  • Why should I book with Swan Hellenic?

    If you are looking to experience the remote Polar regions or explore truly off-the-beaten path destinations and cultures of our spectacular planet, then you are in great company. Swan Hellenic is an established, well respected owner-operated heritage brand with more than 70 years of expertise in undiscovered destinations.

    Our vision to be the world leader in cultural expedition cruising remains constant offering unrivalled service whether we take inquisitive travellers to encounter a beautiful, frozen wilderness or to meet indigenous people in remote islands, always respecting the environment and the locals we are visiting.

    The ships are being built in the Helsinki shipyard in Finland and will combine the latest polar ice-class technology with stylish sophisticated interiors. Think boutique luxury hotel with contemporary sophistication! Which we call ‘Scandi-design’ Chic.

    We sail to places unreachable by others, seek immersive experiences, and make discoveries that change the way we see the world. Through a discerning eye, the wonders of the world take on a richer hue.

    Travel with Swan Hellenic, and you’ll see what other's don't.

  • I’ve never been on a cruise. Is this for me?

    Our two, new intimate boutique ships, SH Minerva and Vega Class, are quite different from the mega cruise ships you might see in the Caribbean or Mediterranean.


    Expedition cruises are all about the destination and discovery. Your holiday itinerary will focus on the magical places you have travelled to see and will aim at getting you off the ship and into the spectacular scenery as much as possible.


    With Swan Hellenic you get to do so in elegant and refined surroundings.  You will share your space with no more than 152 other passengers. SH Minerva and Vega Class are the newest expedition ships in the business, built in our shipyards in Helsinki.

  • Do I need to book my own flights?
    Yes - airfares to and from the destination port are not included in the cruise fare. (Unless otherwise stated within the itinerary details) However, at the time of booking our reservations staff will be able to advise on the best routes, timings and hotel options for your specific trip. 
  • What else is included in the cruise fare?

    At Swan Hellenic, we want to ensure your experience with us is an effortless experience, leaving you to make the most from your expedition, which is why we have included the following within your cruise fare:

    INCLUSIONS FOR REST OF WORLD

    1. One night pre-cruise hotel accommodation with breakfast
    2. Transfer from the airport to the hotel on the day prior to embarkation
    3. Transfer from the hotel to the port for embarkation
    4. Transfer from the port to the airport on return
    5. Onboard accommodation
    6. All meals onboard including room service 24 hours a day
    7. Coffee, tea, soft drinks & select alcoholic beverages 24 hours a day
    8. Lecture programmes by our experienced expedition team and guest speakers
    9. On shore transfer per port of call
    10. Basic WIFI inclusion (Premium WIFI available)
    11. Onboard gratuities & port taxes

    INCLUSIONS FOR ARCTIC & RUSSIA FAR EAST

    1. One night pre-cruise hotel accommodation with breakfast
    2. Transfer from the airport to the hotel on the day prior to embarkation
    3. Transfer from the hotel to the port for embarkation
    4. Transfer from the port to the airport on return
    5. Onboard accommodation
    6. All meals onboard including room service 24 hours a day
    7. Coffee, tea, soft drinks & select alcoholic beverages 24 hours a day
    8. Lecture programmes by our experienced expedition team and guest speakers
    9. Shore excursion programme led by our expert expedition team
    10. Branded Swan Hellenic expedition parka
    11. Use of rubber boots for shore landings
    12. Basic WIFI inclusion (Premium WIFI available)
    13. Onboard gratuities & port taxes

    INCLUSIONS FOR ANTARCTICA

    1. Return flights: Buenos Aires to Ushuaia or Santiago to Ushuaia
    2. One night pre-cruise hotel accommodation with breakfast
    3. Transfer from the airport to the hotel on the day prior to embarkation
    4. Transfer from the hotel to the port for embarkation
    5. Transfer from the port to the airport on return
    6. Onboard accommodation
    7. All meals onboard including room service 24 hours a day
    8. Coffee, tea, soft drinks & select alcoholic beverages 24 hours a day
    9. Lecture programmes by our experienced expedition team and guest speakers
    10. Shore excursion programme led by our expert expedition team
    11. Branded Swan Hellenic expedition parka
    12. Use of rubber boots for shore landings
    13. Basic WIFI (Premium WIFI available)
    14. Onboard gratuities & port taxes
  • What is not included in the cruise fare?

    Additional activities such as kayaking, private tours, special arrangements, plus private Zodiac tours, cost extra.

    In destinations outside of polar regions, we will have a series of shore excursions available to book for each port of call 9-12 months prior to departure. Within each of those destinations there will be an activity or transfer included free of charge. All others will be chargeable.


    Laundry, premium wines and spirits, plus purchases from the ship’s boutique and any spa treatments are not included. 
    Basic WiFi will be free where available on SH Minerva and Vega Class with additional data packages available for purchase on board.


    You will need to purchase your own visas where required, travel insurance, flights, domestic transfers and any hotel requirements pre or post cruise, unless otherwise stated within the itinerary description. 

  • If I travel alone, is there a single supplement?

    Yes. There are no single rooms on board. The single supplement will be at a rate of 1.7. 

  • How far in advance should I book?

    With any wish-list trip it is important to book as far in advance as possible in order to secure your preferred cruise dates and flights. 
    You might also want to reserve a particular cabin category and it is worth bearing in mind that suites and interconnecting rooms for family or friend groups are always in demand. 
    All suites will have the ability to connect with the balcony room next door. We recommend booking at least one year in advance.

  • Do I have to pay for the trip in full when I book?
    Guests have the ability to hold their booking free of charge for 48 hours. 
    Bookings can be reserved with a 25% deposit, with full payment taken 90 days prior to departure.
  • How cold does it get?

    Antarctic

    The Antarctic Peninsula is the warmest part of the continent (summer 2019 saw one of the warmest on record, with one research station recording 17.5°C). 
    Prepare for at least -5°C and for temperatures to feel much colder than that if there is a wind chill. 
    January is the warmest month to visit. 


    The Arctic 

    The average Arctic summer hovers around 0°C in June through September. In general, Arctic summers are short and cool.

  • Do I need to pre-book excursions?

    In destinations outside of polar regions, we will have a series of shore excursions available to book for each port of call 9-12 months prior to departure. Within each of those destinations there will be an activity or transfer included free of charge. To ensure you do not miss out, we would recommend booking ahead of your cruise.

    More information will be provided in your personal, pre-trip documentation packs.
    Zodiac excursions do not need to be pre-booked. 

  • Are the ships wheelchair accessible?

    We offer an Oceanview cabin that’s been specifically designed to be completely ADA compliant and therefore includes a fully operable wheelchair access wet unit.

    The ship itself has two lifts serving every passenger deck except the Stargazing top deck, which is therefore more difficult to access, as are the Aft Marina and Swan’s Nest forward observation platform. Moreover, we do not have any special equipment facilitating access to the swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna. Otherwise our ship is entirely at your disposal.

    Many of the expeditions ashore in remote places are by zodiac. Boarding them and returning aboard can present challenges for wheelchair users. In addition, polar expedition terrain can of course itself be problematic. But these challenges are by no means always insurmountable. Our highly-experienced crews are trained to provide reliable advice and assistance. They will always make every effort to ensure our wheelchair-using guests enjoy a memorable experience of each destination.

    Our general guidance, however, is to recommend that wheelchair users travel with a companion for their ease and enjoyment.

    At the same time, guests who prefer to remain aboard, where we naturally continue to provide a complete service, can fully appreciate the beauty of the magnificent remote areas visited in a way that’s worlds apart from any towering giant cruise liner. Our panoramic interiors and ample open decks enable you to enjoy a truly immersive and intimate experience of the inspiring surroundings.

Antarctica cruises

  • Where is Antarctica – and how do I get there?

    Antarctica is the southernmost of the world’s seven continents and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. The Antarctic Peninsula is the closest point to land and can be reached in two days from the tip of South America. 

    Guests will fly to Argentina, or Chile, and then take an onward flight to Ushuaia , located at the very tip of South America. Your ship will depart from Ushuaia. 

  • When is the best time to visit Antarctica?

    The visitor season straddles the southern hemisphere’s spring and summer (November to March), and although weather can never be guaranteed you should see plenty of sunshine. 

    In spring, visitors can expect to see more sea ice and dramatic icebergs – a big draw for many. Bear in mind that in early spring proposed stops may have to be rescheduled if they remain ice-bound, or a sudden drop in temperature overnight causes ice to re-freeze. This is also the mating season for seabirds and mammals including breeding elephant seals. 

    In summer the chances of seeing whales – including humpback, orca and minke – are greater. Penguin chicks and seal pups are in abundance. As the Austral summer progresses you will experience almost 24-hour daylight. 

    The continent is at its warmest between mid-December and mid-January.

  • I’ve been to the Arctic, would I enjoy Antarctica?

    The two destinations share several characteristics and our itineraries to both of these destinations emphasise scientific appreciation and historical understanding. 
    If you enjoy immersing yourself in pristine, off-grid wilderness and seeing extraordinary wildlife in its natural habitat, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy both the Arctic and Antarctica. 
    The wildlife is surprisingly different in both places - you’ll only see penguins in the Antarctic not Arctic, for example.

    Extreme temperatures aren’t for everyone. Life on board the ships will follow similar patterns with the day comprising a combination of informative and engaging talks, expert-led excursions, fine dining and relaxation time on our luxury boutique ship. 

    Our ships have plenty of outdoor space to take in your surroundings. 
    For guests, the journey to Antarctica (around two days in total) is a consideration however.

  • Apart from my cruise, is there anywhere else I can visit as part of the trip?

    We recommend spending some time in the region’s stunning national parks. 
    From Ushuaia it is possible to visit Tierra del Fuego – there are treks and walks of various lengths. 
    In Chilean Patagonia (near the port city of Punta Arenas) there are trips to Torres del Paine National Park, known for its spectacular glaciers, lakes and pampas.
    Other iconic sights in Latin America include the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu in Peru, Iguazu Falls in Brazil and Cartagena in Colombia.

Arctic cruises

  • How do I get to The Arctic?

    Depending on which destination your expedition ship leaves from (Tromso, Svalbard, Kangerlussuaq), you should be able to book flights fairly easily to the main departure point. 
    Note that flights to and from the ship are not included unless otherwise specified. (View the what’s included section at the end of each itinerary).

  • I’ve been to Antarctica, would I enjoy The Arctic?

    The two destinations share several characteristics and our itineraries to both of these destinations emphasise scientific appreciation and historical understanding. 
    If you enjoy immersing yourself in pristine, off-grid wilderness and seeing extraordinary wildlife in its natural habitat, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy both the Arctic and Antarctica. 
    The wildlife is surprisingly different in both places - you’ll only see polar bears in the Arctic not Antarctica, for example.

    Life on board the ships will follow similar patterns with the day comprising a combination of informative and engaging talks, expert-led excursions, fine dining and relaxation time on our luxury boutique ship. Our ships have plenty of outdoor space to take in your surroundings.

    Flights to the Arctic are usually shorter. Bear in mind that despite less jet lag, long nights of midnight sun will affect your body clock.

Before you go

  • What do I need to pack? Do I need formal clothing?

    Expedition cruises are primarily concerned with what happens outside the ship, so dress codes are very relaxed. There are no formalities at mealtimes. 

    At breakfast and lunch, you will wear the clothes you are going outside in (minus the outer gear). Once you have changed out of your expedition gear in the evening you will want to put on something casual and comfortable. And it is always worth having an extra layer at hand if you are the type that likes to rush out on deck when something is spotted.

    During the daytime around the ship, you will want casual trousers, jeans or smart sportswear, long-sleeve tops and thin jumpers plus a bodywarmer and/or other layers. It will be warm and comfortable inside. 

    Evening is casual too – perhaps pack a couple of casual shirts and or skirts/dresses. Keep footwear to a minimum. On board a pair of lightweight trainers or similar (useful for when trying on gear for size) will suffice, while slippers should be worn in your cabin only. 

    For shore excursions, you will be provided with Swan Hellenic Expeditions parkas and rubber muck boots. 

    For more about What to Pack, please see

  • How much luggage allowance will I have?

    The international allowance (and the number of checked bags) will depend on your airline and class of travel. When booking onwards internal flights to your departure port, check that airline’s allowance. Some only permit 15kg per person. It is usually possible to buy an extra 5kg but be sure to do this online for both the outward and return flights, before you travel, and keep a copy of the confirmation number and/or email.

  • Who will my fellow travellers be?

    Our typical guest is well-travelled, curious and eager to learn about the places they visit. Our passengers care about the environment, too, which is why our expert wildlife guides always travel ashore with passengers. In this more intimate cruising environment, where like-minded people are seeking genuine destination immersion, good relationships are easily formed.

    Due to the small-group touring philosophy, there will also be opportunities to meet fellow passengers on your trips ashore, and in the evening, at the daily/evening recap.


  • Will I get seasick?

    Not everyone feels the effect of motion sickness. If you know you are prone to it or are unsure, visit your doctor and see advice regarding the best preventative medicine for you (you will need to take tablets prior to boarding). A good pharmacist should also be able to offer advice over the counter. Check for any conflicts with existing medication. Regular cruisers use various methods including tablets, patches and PSI/acupressure bands, but it is not a case of one size fits all. If you need medical assistance onboard, our doctor is on hand with advice.

    For our Antarctica cruises, bear in mind that the Drake Passage can be rough. You may be lucky but if you do become unwell remember: it is important to keep hydrated and to eat little, and often (dry toast, biscuits or crackers are good). 
    Do not look at the waves or other moving objects. Don’t use electronic devices, watch the TV or attempt to read. Avoid alcohol, fatty or spicy foods.

  • Are vaccinations required?

    No vaccinations are required for visiting The Arctic or Antarctic. However, it is recommended that you have all your up-to-date vaccinations for tetanus and flu.

  • Should I buy a camera?

    Many camera outlets will also rent cameras, so if you are not sure whether to spend money on a new camera, then look into hiring equipment before you leave home. 
    For more about photography on board, visit our blog section.

  • Can I fly drones?

    Unfortunately, you cannot bring nor fly drones onboard. The flying of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is prohibited or strictly regulated in several countries we sail to.

  • What currency do I need?

    On board
    On-board currency is the USD. Onboard spend will be added to your final bill. It is worth taking a debit/credit card in case of any problems paying your bill. Remember to tell your bank before travelling to avoid having your card refused.

    Antarctica
    There is no official currency as Antarctica does not belong to one country. It is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) signed by various nations.

    The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are British Overseas Territories and as such use GBP.

    Arctic/Russian Far East
    Destinations on our Arctic and Russian Far East cruises include Norway, Russia, Greenland (Denmark), Canada and Alaska. 

    Check your itinerary for which destinations are covered. In most cases, you will only need currency at the beginning and end of your cruise, and for souvenirs, as most other expenses will be covered on your cruise.

Life Onboard

  • What is the food like onboard? Do you cater to all dietary requirements?

    On our elegant expedition ships, we pride ourselves on offering an extraordinary culinary experience that combines varied international trends in food and drinks, sometimes with a local accent, with healthy, energy-packed ingredients and plenty of protein for the explorer in you. Menus will please the most discerning of palates, with healthy menus showcasing fresh, local ingredients and menus to serve special dietary requirements.


    Breakfast  will include a wide range of hot, cold and cooked-to-order items. Expect daily chef ‘specials’ and eggs cooked to order. As well as plenty of fruit, nuts, sprinkling seeds (such as chia) and fresh juices there will be home-made bread, granola and other cereals, salmon and cooked meats and cheeses, yoghurt and porridge/oatmeal.


    Lunch might consist of a salad bar and soup and other starter items followed by pasta, fish, meat, veggie options and a variety of hot and cold desserts. There will always be a cheese board and coffee and tea. House wines and beer are served with lunch or dinner.


    Dinner is served a la carte, and will be akin to fine dining, with friendly informality. Expect nothing but the finest dishes – creative, healthy and with service to match. Enjoy our choice of fine wines, served throughout the meal.


    Dietary requirements - most dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan and diabetic will be catered for and there will also be gluten-free options. Please make clear any special requests at the time of booking as we cannot guarantee options will be available once the cruise departs.

  • Where are meals served?

    The Swan Restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our restaurant is free seating. 

    The Club Lounge will offer 24-hour dining, lighter dishes and snacks. 

    Expedition passengers are generally outgoing and friendly and like to mingle with fellow passengers. In the evening our maître d’ can accommodate any special requests.

    Room service is also available as and when you're in the mood for some quiet time.

  • Will there be an open bar / self service or manned bar?

    Our ships have a very well stocked bar with a selection of soft drinks, wines and beers included within your cruise fare. A selection of premium beers, wine and spirits are available at an additional cost.  

    Expedition passengers are generally outgoing and friendly and like to mingle with fellow passengers. In the evening our maître d’ can accommodate any special requests. 


  • What are the cabins like?

    Your cabin is your elegant home from home – a place to relax, recharge and admire the ever-changing scenery. Expect superb beds, minimum noise and vibration and a separate entrance, living area and bedroom. We also offer interconnecting suite and balcony rooms for families and groups. 

    Our cabins range from 19 sqm (Oceanview cabins) to 49 sqm (Premium Suite). The stylish and contemporary Scandi-design decor is on a par with the best of the world’s boutique hotels. Softwood fittings, earthy tones and textures and thoughtful lighting make the rooms a place of retreat, rather than just somewhere to sleep. All have wardrobes, a desk, comfy seating areas and personal safes and mini-bars. There will be USB ports for charging devices.

    Ensuite bathrooms are equally roomy with large sinks, glass-enclosed rain showers and plenty of storage space.

  • Will I have a balcony?

    Our Suites and Balcony cabins have a balcony with chairs and a small table. Depending on your cabin category balconies range from 6 to 12 sqm. 

  • What is there to do on board?

    Take time to relax in one our spacious viewing areas and enjoy our wide selection of rich reference and other reading materials in the stylish library. We make guest wellbeing our priority, so you can work out in our state-of-the-art gym, enjoy a massage or enjoy the thermal suite, and try some yoga or stretch classes. Or just kick back in the elegant bar area or your scandi-design cabin retreat. 


    Lectures are led by the foremost experts in their field to allow you to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings, learning about the environment, flora, fauna, geology, climate and history of a destination.


    Our photography lab supports your own personal adventure on board, allowing you to capture your journey and those exceptional moments that will last a lifetime. Professionals are on hand to guide you with free classes to help you record your memorable encounters, with private assistance on demand at a cost. 


    Take a pew in the forward-facing Swan’s Nest observation platform for extraordinary 180-degree views.

  • What is WiFi like on board?

    WiFi is available but we ask all guests to bear in mind that we are cruising in an extremely remote area so coverage is patchy and speeds may not be what you are used to. 
    Basic WiFi is free where available, with a range of data packages available for purchase onboard.

  • Is there a doctor on the cruise?

    All ships have a medical room and a ship's doctor on board. 

  • How clean is the ship?

    Both ships will be compliant with the strictest Public Health and hygiene standards of the industry for all the activities on board including all the food handling and processing.

    We go to great lengths to ensure cleanliness and sanitation onboard. The air distributed on board is disinfected by latest generation of advanced oxidation UV cells for the maximum protection against viruses and bacteria.

    There are plenty of hand sanitiser stations around the ship and you will be encouraged to sanitise your hands before and after going ashore and always before mealtimes. In order to protect the environment, we also adhere to strict biosecurity rules. You will be asked to walk through a cleaning solution on leaving and re-boarding the ship.

  • What is your policy on sustainability, and what about the company’s environmental credentials?

    Our ships have been designed and built in accordance with the latest sustainable practices. 

    Onboard we are reducing the use of paper and single-use plastic onboard the ship
    Our ships use dynamic positioning technology which allows our ships to remain in locations without dropping anchor, which in turn reduces our environmental impact.
    Whilst in port, we use batter power which reduces the burning of fuel. As our ships are new, they are fitted with SCRs (Selective catalytic reduction units)
    Water filtration onboard allowing guests to choose between still and sparkling water. Guests can use their complimentary refillable bottles to reduce the amount of plastic bottled water in use.


    Finally, our staff follow strict guidelines to limit our footprint in the destinations we visit. We are constantly reviewing our sustainability policy and always looking at ways we can leave a positive impact wherever we take our guests. 

  • What wildlife can I expect to see?

    From penguins, seals and whales in Antarctica, to walruses, polar bears and Arctic foxes in the Arctic, your Swan Hellenic cruise will guarantee you see plenty of wildlife. For more about what wildlife you’ll see, check out our blog

  • How close do we get to wildlife?

    Observing from a distance is the best mantra. Official guidelines require passengers to keep a minimum of five metres away from the wildlife, though penguins (in Antarctica), in particular, are curious creatures and unafraid of humans, so this may not always go to plan! 
    Whilst among wildlife walk slowly and keep noise to a minimum. If wildlife changes its behaviour, stop moving, or slowly put more distance between you. Animals are particularly sensitive to disturbance when they are breeding (including nesting) or moulting. 
    Your guides will keep a watchful eye at all times but do keep your distance. 

  • How physically active do I need to be?
    The ships are very well designed with side and aft marina embarkation allowing everyone to safely and easily embark on zodiacs.

    Good mobility is essential, particularly for getting on and off the Zodiacs ashore. We have made the ride to shore as stable as possible by using superior quality non rigid keel zodiacs which will make possible for you to land-beach in the most interesting location.

    For less mobile guests we will provide to sightsee in the destination and cruising around ice, icebergs, reefs etc  with our specially designed hard keel zodiacs .

    There will always be guided walks of various difficulties level so that you can chose the plan that suits you best. Those wishing to partake in more active excursions, such as kayaking, will need prior experience.
  • How do we ‘land’ ashore?

    The Zodiac nudges up to a ‘beach’ or an island. Sometimes the boat captain will use the tide to push the boat ashore. Expedition guides and crew will hold the Zodiac stable while passengers slide their legs over the side and wiggle toward the front of the boat before stepping out. This may mean stepping into the water but there will be someone to help you and the muck boots will prevent you from getting wet. 

  • Do you have rest days from excursions?

    Most guests will want to partake in at least one excursion per day but if you wish to sit some excursions out there is plenty to do on the ship. Many of our cruises also have sea days, when we do not land. Visit the library, get to know your fellow guests, attend the photography lab or one of our scientific-based lectures, watch a film on your in-room TV or enjoy the views from the observation lounge. You will never be bored.

  • Can i smoke onboard?

    Smoking is permitted in designated areas on Deck 8 aft portside and on Deck 4 mid ship portside.

    There is no smoking in any indoor area nor on balconies.