It was a late dessicion to book this cruise as my mother in law sadly passed away earlier in the year. Being the last close family member & where we usually spent Christmas we decided to take our first cruise (other than Northen lights Hurtigruten). Due to leaving it so late a lot of the Christmas cruises were fully booked but we were lucky with Saga, I rang just as they had had a cancellation & they were very efficient in booking & sending all the information out very quickly to us.
We used the chauffer service which was excellent going down stopping for a toilet/coffee break halfway down. I should say that because we live in Scotland we stayed overnight with friends in Wales which saved us £400. The Chauffer coming back was not quite so accommating.
We had a lovely greeting from Father Christmas & an orchestra as we embarked. We were also greeted by our steward whose showed us everything we needed to know in our cabin. Also on the bed was a chocolate advent calendar together with a full itinerary for the rest of the day. The cabin was sea view 6060, beautifully presented & clean, our only issue for the first couple of days was that the shower didn’t empty thus the second person in paddled in your water!!! This was sorted out however there was a strong smell of sewage in corridor 6 which did remain. It is an old ship to be fair. There was a fridge & a safe & fresh water twice daily together with a bowl of fruit.
The staff were all from the Philippines & were all amazing, so friendly, caring & helpful. There were as you can imagine a lot of elderly people on board (I am 58) & a lot with disabilities & I can assure you not to worry they were so well looked after it was lovely to see. Staff would stop what ever they were doing to offer help to people so if you use a walking stick, rolator or a wheelchair then this cruise is just perfect for you don’t worry just book you will be looked after. There were also a lot of single people.
There is no tea/coffee in your cabin but room service is free & we had tea every morning delivered on time by our very friendly waiter.
The restaurant, we had the same table for 2 reserved every night & at breakfast & lunch they tried to seat us on a table for 2 on all but 3 occasions. The food was outstanding with a choice of starters mains soup dessert, lite food, salad, grill something for everyone. There was also fish & chips everyday on deck & a barbecue weather permitting. The specialist Christmas/new year menu’s were just stupendous with several formal evenings.
There was a daily programme of entertainment to cover most needs, cards, chess, darts, singing, ukalea, specialist speakers etc & of course all the events for Christmas from carol singing, decorating the tree, Christmas market- staff organised games, pantomime etc. You can do as little or as much as you like.
The shore excursions as with everything else were organised to the last letter, not only did you have the local tour guide on your coach but also a member of the crew as a guide to help you. There was bottled water & walking sticks available if required. All the tours included several stops & all stated the level of difficulty steps etc.
A little more about the ship: free drinks were available 24 hours on deck 9 & then 10-5pm with cakes & biscuits in the lounge, where there is also a very well stocked library, board games, jigsaws, computers etc. The ship was also beatifully decorated for Christmas it was just like home from home.
I must also say that New Years eve in Funchal was out of this world, the fireworks were just fantastic & the atmosphere on board was just lovely.
To sum up it was probably my best Christmas ever & I wouldn’t hesitate to do another Christmas cruise & would highly recommend you give it a try. The Sapphire does retire this year so any cruise would be on their new ships.