This venerable British line was founded a half-century ago when two men with the surname Swan began chartering ships to take well-educated British passengers to the Greek Islands; the company has since expanded its horizons to cover the entire Mediterranean and well beyond to Asia and South America. Highly qualified lecturers enlighten passengers on what lies ahead on their itineraries, with talks aboard and shepherded forays ashore, all included in the cruise fare.
What We Love
Social Atmosphere: Most everyone attends the lecture program and joins the touring programs, which generates lots of conversations in the lounges. You also have the option of dining with a group in the main restaurant, which means that if you are socially inclined, you have a ready-made path to make new friends. (If you'd prefer more privacy, you can request a table for two.)
Best Known For
Lecturers: The talks led by historians, diplomats, ornithologists, clergy, former politicians, and other experts are both outstanding in quality and often equally entertaining.
Organization: While Swan Hellenic cruises to many little-visited locales, you can be sure that the staff is well-versed in each port and masterful in eliminating a lot of standing about and annoying queues.
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Who It's Best For
Educated Anglophiles: Unless there is a North American group aboard, you are likely to be in the minority among a largely well-informed British passenger roster.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's Intense: These cruises are fully immersive: The excursions are packed with sightseeing, and sea days are largely devoted to the information-rich lecture program. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, beg off.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.