Whether you are contemplating taking a cruise for the first time or checking out a cruise line you have not sailed with before a ships day visit is always a pleasurable experience.
Saga are no exception and provide an excellent insight to their cruise product.
The sun was shining as I arrived at Dover No. 1 cruise terminal where Saga Sapphire was berthed, looking resplendent with her dark hull, white superstructure and funnel in the Saga livery colours of two tone blue and white making a distinct change from the yellow of the previous Saga ships.
Sapphire is Saga’s flag ship and largest, at least until the new Spirit of Discovery arrives in 2019. Starting life as Europa in 1981 Sapphire has seen service with various names until being transferred as Saga Sapphire in November 2011. The ship then went to Italy for major renovation and restructure when extra balcony cabins were added. By modern standards Sapphire is a small-mid size ship carrying just over 700 passengers. Weighing in at 33,819 GT., 655ft long and 93 ft. wide translates into a ship which can visit ports that the larger ships cannot navigate but with a deep draught of just over 27ft Sapphire will cope well in adverse conditions.
It’s coffee and biscuits at the cruise terminal before passing through security and boarding the ship for what is the start of an excellent tour. Time to explore the cabins that come in the guise of Suites, Balcony, Outside and Inside situated on various decks dependent on what you choose. The best suites are huge with separate bedrooms, lounge and dressing areas, the bathrooms feature full size baths and showers, it’s more akin to an apartment than a cabin. If these are beyond your means, and they certainly are mine, start looking at the lead in cabins, no view insides but with their class leading 230 sq. ft., which are tastefully furnished and arranged in such a way even people suffering with claustrophobia will feel at ease in them. Are you a solo traveller, no problem Sapphire has 44 cabins designed with you in mind. All cabins enjoy a large range of toiletries, Hand Wash Lotion, Conditioner, Shower Gel, Body Lotion and a wonderful shampoo fragranced with Verbena and Rosemary, branded ‘Distant Shores’ presented in 250 ml bottles.
One of the reasons people enjoy cruising as a way of vacationing is the food. Cruise ships have reputations for excellent food and lots of it. Hence the old joke that people ‘Come on as passengers and leave as cargo’ is almost true, certainly the trouser waistband is tighter when you disembark after a cruise. The food on Saga Sapphire it has to said is of exceptional quality and is supplied through a variety of restaurants. The main 620 seat dining room, Pole to Pole is exactly that, being divided into the zones of Africa, Asia, Europe and The Americas to enhance your dining experience. For something different step into the world of East to West, a 64 seat Asian restaurant providing popular dishes from the Orient where the ‘Smiling Buddha’ looks upon you. It’s encouraged to book this restaurant in advance as most nights it is full such is its popularity. For something more casual try the Verandah and Grill with its large al fresco area for continental breakfast and buffet lunch but waiter service at dinner. If my starter of a seafood salad with drippings of Caviar and washed down by a delightfully fruity, chilled white wine are anything to go by, no one will be disappointed.
Public areas are well appointed, ‘The Drawing Room’, a delightful area that’s a real home from home, comfortable arm chairs and settees, an area from where a duo entertain, well-appointed bar, many bookcases with a generous selection of paper and hard back novels. The walls adorned with artefacts from all over the world, a huge modelled serpent on one, Thai dancer on another, Asian elephants on a wooden unit, various lamp stands made from golf bags, trumpets and camera tripods from a bygone age. The bars are themed, Coopers Bar, a memory of the legendary comedian, Tommy Cooper, lamp shades and cushions in red to match his famous ‘Fez’, walls adorned with pictures from his life, a venue to sit with friends, enjoy a drink and laugh whilst The Aviator Lounge, as the name implies is a tribute to the aviators of bygone days. Britannia Lounge wears several suits of clothes being a venue for dance lessons, quizzes and lectures, change the clothes and it hosts that truly British tradition, afternoon tea, in the evening it changes again to become an entertainment venue. The Beach Club, this outdoor pool area sports a truly British seaside atmosphere with tables, chairs, sun loungers together with the ‘Ice Cream’ shop and ‘Sweet Shop’.
Apart from the fore mentioned there are shops, spa with indoor pool, gym and much more. How do you get to the ship, don’t worry Saga offer a home to the ship and return service with the good news its included in the price. The question is who will this ship appeal to, the answer is simple, anyone over the age of 50 who appreciates, quality, good food and service and who wants to sail to interesting destinations with like minded people.