Operated by Swan Hellenic, MINERVA has an interesting history. Laid down by the Soviet Navy and intended to become a 'research ship', work on the hull came to a stop in 1990 at the Okean Shipyard at Nikolaev in the Ukraine. In 1994, the hull was purchased by Swan Hellenic and taken to Italy for completion, where it was fitted out as a small cruise ship. In 1996, now complete, she was named MINERVA and cruised for the company until 2003. That year she operated for Saga Cruises as their SAGA PEARL briefly, before being chartered to Abercrombie and Kent as EXPLORER II, commencing a career of 'expedition cruises' to, amongst other places, the Antarctic. In 2005 another charter followed, this time to a German firm who named her ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT. After Swan Hellenic had been restructured, the company set about re-acquiring the ship, and giving her back her original name from 2008. At 12,449 gross tons, the 133 metre-long ship can carry up to 350 passengers. Her visit to Greenock was a last-minute alteration to her schedule. She had been due to call at Rothesay and use a naval mooring in the Bay, but its condition gave rise to concerns about its suitability and a call at Greenock was substituted instead. She was seen arriving from Killybegs in Ireland, and would be heading later for Tobermory on a 15-day Round Britain cruise from Dover.