Morocco was upon us before we knew it and we decided to travel together for our next two ports of call. We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion from Agadir to the ancient city of Taroudant. Before we hit the road, we stopped by the ancient 16th century Kasbah perched above the city. The inevitable camel was patiently waiting to for a photo call with a backdrop of beautiful views of Agadir below.
The drive to Taroudant took us through the Sousse Valley where we were fascinated to see goats climbing into trees, a first for me! We sampled fresh mint tea and Moroccan cookies at a beautiful restaurant just outside the city before proceeding through the impossibly narrow entrance of the golden stone walls. We were very grateful to have an excellent guide to shepherd us through the maze of the souk on a busy afternoon. He helped with haggling for souvenirs so that no one paid more than they should. We called into a women’s ‘cooperative’ to learn about Argan oil for which Morocco is famous and stocked up on pungent spices and juicy dates.
Casablanca was slightly spoiled by being like a wet day in Wakefield, as yet another storm hit us, but even so we enjoyed a coach trip around the city where old mixes with new. The Hassan II Mosque was well worth a visit as it is the largest Mosque in Africa and only completed in 1993. What a feat of architecture and design.
Last Stop – Vigo
We both fell in love with this gem of a city in Galicia, northern Spain. Vigo has a rich seafaring history and at first glance seems to be surrounded by water. This is a place we shall definitely return to explore in more detail. The area boasts many quiet sandy beaches and the off-shore islands, known as Islas Cies, make for exciting day trips.
The old town, Casco Vella, is a maze of streets winding their way down to the waterfront with fish restaurants at every turn.
Again we chose to be independent which was helped by the ship docking very near to the centre of the city. It was a sunny spring day and we walked to the top of the very high Castro Fort where the ruins date back to 1600’s. The area is now a park with wonderful views and pretty landscaped gardens. For those passengers wanting to see more of the area the Saga shore excursions included the chance to visit Santiago de Compostela or the cathedral at nearby Tui.
When you have been on these busy and interesting shore excursions it is very lovely to return to the Sapphire and all that is familiar. Knowing you have a comfortable cabin and a delicious evening meal to go back to!
So last port ticked off and all that was left was two sea days back to Dover.
Life on Board
The food on any Saga cruise is truly wonderful, it just never seems to stop, and great self-control is needed. Being ‘all inclusive’ really does mean what it says with wine, spirits and cocktails all taken care of. You can opt to pay a supplement for specific wines or premium brands, but what is on offer is very enjoyable. Saga guests pace themselves with food and drink so there is never a mad rush for the buffet, or people taking ridiculous amounts of food.
Breakfasts that offer everything you could ask for – from porridge to kippers to pancakes and delicious fresh fruit. Then it is time for a coffee break in one of the lounges and there is homemade cake and cookies constantly tempting you. Lunch can be a sumptuous buffet or a more formal 3 or 4 course meal. Then the afternoon tea…all the tempting treats of a top London hotel laid out before you. Sometimes there is a theme, strawberry or chocolate, sometimes ‘just’ a mix of delicate savouries and sweet delicacies. Scones and jam and cream obligatory! If this isn’t enough the cocktail lounges hand round delightful savoury mouthfuls with pre and post dinner drinks and there is always 24-hour room service if you prefer to eat in your cabin.
Once dinner is over and the last petit four has been enjoyed it is time for the nightly entertainment, which I felt was exceptional. The evening shows were carefully thought out to include some local artistes when we were in port. We enjoyed a variety of productions including delightful Welsh singer, Maria Lyn and dance troupe ‘Explosive Productions’ who gave us performances to rival anything from the West End.
Whilst in the Canaries we had local entertainers join us for some traditional Flamenco.
Then came the handsome boys that make up the ‘Four D’s’ who had everyone rocking in their seats with their harmonies and slick routines, belting out hits from the 50’s and 60’s.
Not forgetting my favourite, the hilarious Perry Grant who held court in the intimate ‘Cooper’s Lounge’ each evening. A mix of songs and banter that made us laugh until we ached.
Last but not least are the ships staff, loyal employees with many of them racking up over 10 years with Saga. Always smiling and greeting you and ready to lend a hand from deck crew through to the Maître ‘D. They seem to remember faces and are soon greeting you by name. This is what keeps guests coming back again and again.
We shall be sorry to say goodbye to Saga Sapphire and her lovely crew. With the ship being decommissioned next year we won’t have the chance to sail on her again. Saga are entering a new era of cruising with two purpose-built boutique ships coming into service in 2019 and 2020, Spirit of Discovery & Spirit of Adventure.
To sum up – yes, I would definitely cruise from the UK at any time of year.
It was so relaxing to give airports a miss and modern-day ships can cope with storms without too much disruption. As for the Canary Islands – each had its own identity and can offer different experiences. For a winter sunshine break they are just the ticket.