Swan Hellenic Cruises prides itself on maintaining the traditions that its founders, WF and RK Swan, set out nearly 60 years ago. These can be summed up as providing well-planned and thought-provoking itineraries around the world, with the added ingredient of stimulating guest speakers to bring the sights to life.

However, the company is also looking to the future, as well as the past. This year, Minerva exchanged its home port of Dover for Portsmouth, and this winter will see the ship undergo a major multi-million pound upgrade to provide a vastly improved cruise experience when she sets sail again in March.

I joined Minerva as she left her new home for the last time this year, heading south to spend her final few weeks in and around the Mediterranean before her refit.

The itinerary was entitled A Spanish Summer but, after the rain in Spain had drenched passengers visiting Santiago de Compostela, Captain Giovanni Biasutti described it more as an English Summer cruise. But the sun soon shone and, as we made our way to the Straits of Gibraltar via stops at Oporto and Cadiz, on-deck dining soon became the norm.

The crew responded with alfresco barbeques and entertainment, all under the watchful eye of excellent Cruise Director Paul Rutterford. Paul had been drafted in at short notice for his first stint in the post and did such a wonderful job he received a huge round of applause from the passengers at the end of the cruise.

For some reason, this itinerary didn’t sell out until very late in the day so there was a slightly more mixed clientele than normal, with more Minerva first-timers on board. However, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.