We were lucky enough to be invited to stay for the night on Saga Sapphire. And I mean lucky. Very lucky! Although we didn’t pay for the cruise, I hope I’ve been as honest and fair as possible.
The ship exudes elegance and it’s a real pleasure to be onboard. The layout is more reminiscent of a river cruise ship with cabins on one side and amenities on the other – a very clever layout ensuring that things seem that much closer, and of course, that’s helped by it being a small ship.
There are lovely and quirky touches throughout, such as a crazy golf course and seaside cabins, one with an ice cream machine and the other a sweetshop where you could help yourself to sweets! Other touches include lamps dotted around adding to the rather special atmosphere, such as the fez lampshades in Cooper’s Bar! It was also great to see that library books weren’t locked behind doors. That speaks volumes about the sort of clientele you can expect on board. As for cleanliness, everywhere was spotless, I especially liked the public toilets with handles that squirted gel, a great way of ensuring hygiene.
Our cabin, 8512, was spacious and well-appointed with binoculars, a torch, bathrobes, huge bottles of toiletries and lots and lots of space and light, along with lovely soft towels. It was a surprise to see a bath – the shower worked very well and it was difficult to drag myself away! The steward was keen to show us how the shower worked, and gave us a tour of the light switches.
The cabin had a balcony, but it was very small, just enough for two chairs but not a table. We were slightly taken aback to find that there was no kettle, although the well-stocked tea/coffee station wasn’t far away, and room service is always available with a comprehensive menu.
We had afternoon tea in the Britannia lounge – along with gluten free / sugar free options, there was a very comprehensive range of goodies on offer. Along with a range of sandwiches, savoury “snacks” included sausage rolls, tempura prawns, pork pies and quiches – the sweet selection on offer was exceptionally large, from scones to bread and butter pudding, mango mousse and chocolate truffle cake.
After a quick drink in Cooper’s, we went on a guided tour of the ship. This revealed an indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room – like so many other things, there’s no additional charge. Taking into account that so many other things are included, such as internet access, drinks with meals and even travel to the ship. And there’s no tipping. Any of these can put hundreds of pounds onto the price of a cruise. But it’s not just what’s included, the quality is also there. No wonder the “Saganauts” seem so anxious to keep sailing with Saga! One odd thing, that will put right with new EU regulations, is the surcharge for credit cards – even Saga branded ones.
The tour included a “cabin crawl” – there’s a really great variety of cabin styles onboard for such a small ship. The suites were absolutely wonderful, however, one of the indoor cabins we saw was extremely spacious and after all, it’s got a view if you put the right TV channel on!
It was lovely to see everyone had dressed up for the Captain’s reception and dinner. At the reception, we were joined by a delightful 92 year old lady and her daughter and time slipped away very quickly. At 56 and 64, we were probably one of the younger couples onboard, and didn’t notice any other same sex couples on this sailing, quite unusual for most cruise ships we’ve sailed on.
The quality of our evening meal was excellent, I was also impressed with the ability of the servers to cope with the various dietary requirements. My absolute favourite thing about cruising is that once you’ve ordered, it’s the waiter who remembers, simply placing your meal in front of you, leaving you to chat to your fellow passengers who are always so interesting.
A lovely touch after the meal was that the head chef did a little tour of some tables, checking we’d enjoyed everything and chatted about the menu.
Afterwards, we went to the Drawing Room rather than the Britannia lounge where a duet and a small ensemble entertained us. For a small ship, there seemed plenty of options on how to spend the evening.
We didn’t get a chance to go to the Verandah as it was having some work done, but from what we could see, it had a Singaporean feel to it and I don’t doubt the food was every bit as good as in the main restaurant – apparently it has the same menu.
The breakfast menu was very comprehensive, there’s a continental buffet in the main restaurant, with hot items served to order – my breakfast minute steak was excellent quality – not a daily special, but on the menu every day.
The ship was sailing for Canada the next day, and it did cross my mind once or twice where I could stowaway onboard as the itinerary looked amazing! At least I got there for one night, and am definitely looking forward to sailing again with Saga at some stage.