As well-travelled cruisers with several other companies we wanted to try out the SAGA experience so booked a superior cabin on their 17 day Scandinavian Christmas. My wife and I are in our early 70’s so thought it would be a nice change. To some extent there were parts of the cruise we enjoyed but to ever repeat the SAGA experience again regrettably it would not be for us. We paid for a superior cabin on Deck 8 with a balcony and this was our first disappointment. We were surprised and disappointed how small this cabin was, it only had a low oval coffee table with one lounge chair and a dining chair at the other side of the bed as a result it was impracticable to have a meal in the cabin, which was one of the reasons for choosing the Superior cabin. The balcony of our cabin was so narrow it was impossible to sit down on the chairs provided. It could be better described as no bigger than a window box.
We paid a total of almost 11K for this cruise we consider was grossly overpriced, despite the tips being included as well as a courier service to and from the ship. The one aspect we didn’t like was the fact that the seasoned SAGA regulars become members of the Britannia Club after so many cruises and there are several perks these guys have over the remaining guests. You could normally identify these seasoned SAGA regulars by the size of their girth and the space they took up whilst wobbling through the corridors!
The best dining options on board was the Thai East to West Restaurant which provided stunning cuisine in a very conducive environment but regrettably we were only able to dine there twice during our 17 day cruise. We spoke to a couple who were gold Britannia members who were able to dine there on six occasions. One rule for the Britannia Club and one for everyone else!. Whilst the food was reasonably good in the main restaurants with good choices the Thai restaurant was certainly the finest dining experience. But only for the chosen SAGA regulars.
The very best feature of this service was undoubtedly the Filipino service staff who were impeccable throughout. They were personable, extremely efficient and helpful, hardworking and were responsive to our every need. We dearly hope that SAGA pass on ALL the included service tips to theses dedicated and loyal individuals.
The second part of this cruise involved us spending four days on the ship cruising from Stockholm to Bremerhaven and during this time all the public areas became unbearable to spend time in due to the fact of being confined inside with limited seating space being available. In this last few days most passengers had developed coughs and sneezes and we and several others left the ship with a serious chest infection mainly due to this four day confinement. The last four days on this ship was like a sanatorium the like of which we have never experienced previously on any other cruise ship.
Whilst a small ship has its advantages it also has its limitations as well. The entertainment on board was variable with the usual song and dance troop the best features were the classical guitarist and the banjo playing comedian both of which proved very popular. Likewise most of the guest speakers were informative and presented well one in particular a marine historian so called expert was utterly boring in reading for almost an hour from a rigid script. One night a magician was the guest artist and this show was very amateurish or perhaps we were sitting too close to the action to see all his many failings. He only made one appearance of a planned series and his act was a complete joke.
This whole SAGA experience was memorable but for the wrong reasons which of course we shall not be repeating. The so called SAGA Britannia family has a strong masonic feel to it which offered these regular cruises the many advantages mentioned over the fellow cruisers. We were bored on more than one occasion listening to the conversation around the dinner table of the numerous cruises these guys has done. One couple were equally boring and seamed proud to announce that this was their 58th cruise with SAGA, what a sad couple they were. We didn’t feel that the several advantages being offered to these individuals was fair after we paid highly for supposedly the same experience.
We shall in future stick to what we know and like, and with the companies we feel give us much more favourable value for money. Therefore we will not be pursuing any more SAGA nights towards the future SAGA Britannia Membership Club. These guys even have their name displayed in gold lettering on a notice board on the main deck.
Good luck with your new ship; if it’s anything like the SAGA Sapphire we shall give it a very wide berth. We may however in the future consider cruising again if we have the good fortune to live to our 80s or 90s.