Name history: Okean, Minerva, Saga Pearl, Explorer II, Alexander von Humboldt, Minerva
Built 1996, Okean Shipyard Nikolajev, Soviet Union (hull); T. Mariotti Genoa, Italy (conversion to cruise ship)
Tonnage 12 892 GT
Length 133,55 m
Width 20,30 m
Draught 4,50 m
Ice class 1B
2 MAN-B&W diesels, combined 6 920 kW
1 bow thruster
Speed 16 knots
Another ship that has not previously appeared in this blog. Unlike the ships featured in the previous two entries, the Minerva has been around for some time, but I haven't gotten around to photographing her before now.
The Minerva is a ship with a thoroughly fascinating origin. She was laid down in the Soviet Union as the research vessel Okean (other sources claim she was to be a spy ship, but considering her size I find the research vessel explanation more plausible). Her keel was laid in 1989, but in the death throes of the Soviet Union all work ceased in 1990. The ship lay abandoned for several years, until in 1994 she was purchased by V-Ships for conversion in an expedition cruise ship for Swan Hellenic, to replace the converted Irish Sea ferry Orpheus that Swan Hellenic had chartered from Epirotiki Lines.
The half-complete Okean was towed to the T. Mariotti shipyard in Genoa and re-emerged as the Minerva in 1996, entering service for Swan Hellenic on worldwide itineraries. She sailed for Swan Hellenic until 2003, when she was replaced by the larger R-class Minerva II (today P&O Cruises' Adonia). After she was withdrawn from Swan Hellenic service, the Minerva was chartered to Saga Cruises as the Saga Pearl. In 2005 she passed on a dual charter to Abercrombie & Kent and Phoenix Reisen, spending the (northern hemisphere) winters in Antarctica for Abercrombie & Kent as the Explorer II and the summers in Europe as the Alexander von Humboldt for Phoenix Reisen.
In 2008 the ship reverted to the name Minerva and started service with the re-established Swan Hellenic. The Swan Hellenic brand had been run down by its then-owners Carnival Corporation & PLC in early 2007, but soon afterwards Lord Sterling (the former chairman of P&O) purchased the rights to the name. Subsequently he teamed up with All Leisure Group (the owners of Voyages of Discovery) to restart Swan Hellenic using the original Minerva.
In 2012 the Minerva received a large-scale refit, with additional cabins with balconies and an observation lounge added on her top decks. She remains in service with Swan Hellenic at the time of writing.
The photographs below show the Minerva passing though the Kustaanmiekka strait shortly after departing Helsinki Eteläsatama on the afternoon of 15 June 2015. Photographed from Kustaanmiekka. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.
|The bridge is very low (especially after the addition of one more deck in 2012) but somehow it works. It shouldn't, but it does.|
|The vantage point for photography wasn't perahps the best chosen, as the dark blue hull does camouflage quite well into the dark blue sea.|
|I quite fancy the Swan Hellenic funnel colours. A dark funnel with a white symbol is so much more effective than a white with a dark symbol.|
|In the strait - which isn't quite as wide as it seems from this photo.|
|In the open sea side of the strait.|