Last call for Swan Hellenic - but easyCruise expands

Over half a century, Swan Hellenic built up a loyal following, partly because it pioneered a high-quality, all-inclusive policy. Shore excursions are included in the price, as are all tips. Flights to and from the cruises are operated by Qantas Boeing 747s or Airbuses belonging to the upmarket charter airline PrivatAir. In addition, every cruise has at least four guest speakers. Until his death in August last year, the founder and president Ken Swan regularly sailed on his cruise line and gave lectures on its history.

Swan Hellenic has always been a one-ship line. But three years ago, the much-loved Minerva was replaced by a ship more than twice as large. Many customers felt that the "country house" intimacy of the smaller vessel had been lost. This disenchantment appears to have fed through to bookings: the company describes the decision to move the vessel to augment a sister fleet as "purely commercial".

Tony Dyson, Swan Hellenic's managing director, says that the company is "pursuing various alternatives for the continued operation of the brand". So far, though, no replacement ship has been found. With the cruise industry traditionally dependent on long "lead times" to plan and sell voyages, it seems unlikely that the Swan Hellenic tradition will continue unbroken.

"Another great British institution is about to be lost", says Tom Hindle, from Bath, who is a veteran of five cruises with the line. Another cruise aficionado says, "The decision to close down the line seems to have been taken with indecent haste after the sad demise of Ken Swan. It seems that the new American owners do not appreciate the affection that loyal clients feel for Swan Hellenic".

Next Wednesday, Swan Hellenic starts selling its final two voyages: the first, around the Caribbean, the second a transatlantic crossing ending in Cadiz. Meanwhile, the former Minerva is now Saga Pearl, part of Saga's cruise line.

AT THE OPPOSITE end of the cruise market, easyCruise is moving into river and canal trips. The line started by Stelios Haji-Ioannou has acquired a second vessel, and, from 14 July, easyCruiseTwo will start and end in Amsterdam, calling at Rotterdam, Brussels and Antwerp. The new ship signals a move upmarket - every cabin will have a window.