I had a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable holiday it is hard not to with Saga's superb standards and because I was prepared to make an effort.
That effort was necessary because Saga Ruby does very little to provide port information for independent travellers.
Its business model is aimed at the elderly (you have to be at least 50 to book and even companions have to be 40)
The concept is clearly successful as demonstrated by the high percentage of fellow cruisers having completed multiple world cruises indeed some give the impression of almost living on Saga ships.
The age profile on this cruise was really elderly.
I reckon the average age was close if not exceeding 80.
There were wheelchairs,mobility scooters,walking frames and walking sticks galore.
There is much to admire in being aged with mobility problems and still having the will to enjoy life.
On this cruise there was a man of 92 proud of being the oldest man on the dance floor a lady of 99 still on the tenders... inspirational.
Saga's approach is concerned only with selling its port tours and providing a safe environment Nothing wrong with that concept the business model works.
Saga cruisers have paid their money to be looked after in style and not run around ports trying to catch a bus.
The mistake that I made was buying the cruise for destinations and I submit Saga cruise advertising highlights destinations a trap for the unwary.
Those of us of an independent mind have to waste a lot of precious land time frantically trying to work out transport links to land attractions.
Saga do not help
The amount of time available at ports is small with few overnight moorings on one occasion having to be back on board by the ridiculous time of 2:30 (unforgivably 4:30 on the sublime Easter Island)
Sometimes berthing occurs a considerable distance from the main downtown areas.Saga's response to 'why' is always we have to berth here because no other berth was available for a small ship.
Really ? I reckon it has more to do with berthing costs and say Saga we always provide a free shuttle bus.
This encourages booking the really expensive tours as Saga are quick to recommend or their other stock phrase.... use a taxi.
On board destinations lecturer (with a name that Charles Dickens would have been proud to dream up) Peter Crimes highly professional lecturer that he was with a large stock of photographs was hopeless on specific questions on all but a few high profile ports even resorting on one occasion to trundling out a tired old urban myth about crew in a taxi where the wicked driver used his radio to alert his henchman to mug them.
Unforgivable contempt to a specific question asking is there a bus?
What was wrong with an honest I do not know (or care).I accept he has a duty to err on the side of safety (and promote tours).
So yes you visit the destinations promised and get the stamps on your passport but really in the time allowed ashore you see precious little.
Even the excursions waste much of their valuable time in gift shops and eating.
Want proof ?
Try this Of 3 and a half precious hours available at the Great Wall of China Tour one and a half hours were frittered away in a jade shop and eating...what a waste!!
Saga say rightly this is a cruise,we do call at all the destinations promised (weather permitting) and we offer safe comfortable tours to give you an overview.
Saga standards are exemplary although you pay a high price for them.
Met at home and transported to the dock in style (and returned home after the cruise)
I simply love the ship.
Saga Ruby (originally Caronia and before that Vistafjord) is the last of her kind.
An elegant queen of the seas her very line invites admiration.
She huffs and she puffs as a lady should, she creaks and she groans and bits fall off but she gets me there. I reckon this ship would take me anywhere I wanted to go. I love her,her teak deck and shining fixtures.
Embarkation is smooth and competent.
The cabins many and varied 383 cabins and a crew of 480 is an excellent ratio As to standard you get what you pay for.Food quality and variety is excellent with a single seating for dining in the main dining room with alternative dining available in the Lido Lounge with curries to die for (take a bow Kumar chef supreme) There are not to many formal nights although I accept formal nights are important for some cruisers who I would guess would prefer more opportunities to get their glad rags on.
Great efforts are made for themed buffets which without exception are a joy to behold as is afternoon tea served to table white gloves and all.
There are bars with drinks at a reasonable price. A pint of acceptable bitter costs Â£2.40p served to table less than the going pub price in England one bar even has a smoking area and there is a fine a fine library.
On 'relaxing at sea' days there are enough organised activities to satisfy even the most demanding cruiser.Special compliments to organised bridge played to a reasonable standard with a beginners class as well. Craft with exceptional standards and no additional charge and painting lessons.An organised group of lectures of varying standards cover diverse subjects with something for everyone (take a bow here Brigadier Hugh Willing History Lecturer beyond compare every one of his lectures innovative and a genuine pleasure to attend). Entertainment ? Well what to say ? Entertainment is such a subjective subject. Polite to say some good some bad. Enthusiastic if amateurish crew shows can be enjoyed without difficulty and the classical string trios are a delight.
Saga Ruby's Spa pool Sauna and Steam Room are a joy.
The Gym and Golf Simulator excellent for a small ship.
Special praise to the crew mainly Filipino they work their socks off. Nothing seems to much trouble and they give the impression on being genuinely anxious to please In particular the dedicated and largely unseen night shift. Horrible hours 11pm-8am they work hard painting and polishing so the ship gleams in the sun.My god there is even a French Polisher on board to make her timbers glow.
Whilst I fully admire the crew mainly Filipino with a genuine desire to please I have reservations on the Saga cruise staff. Highly professional without any question they come across as insincere in the wretched 'have a nice day' format that infects so much of modern communication and tend to concentrate on the high profile known multi-booking cruisers whilst ignoring newbies of low status.
I exclude from that comment the front end reception counter staff who without exception were smiling and obliging however stupid the question. Now and again they even seemed please to see me which was nice.
We had two captains for the three quarter section of the cruise we completed.
Both highly competent seamen they could not have been more different and in their approach is really an explanation of the attitudes of Saga Cruisers (as I experienced them) Captain Steve Angrove young and ambitious very approachable and not afraid to get his hands dirty.He could be found ashore and on board in civvies quite prepared to respond to any question. Captain David Warden-Owen older far more aware of his status always correct but aloof.Bristled with indignation when I had the nerve to complain at being dragged back on board at 2:30PM 'well how long do you want to stay' he responded and simply snorted and withdrew at my provocative answer of 2 days.
The two captains reflect the cruisers some just snobs aware of their wealth very concerned with status and expect attention for their money Others a joy to be with witty and knowledgeable and prepared to share not stuffy.I learned a lot from them and for me it was cruisers of that type who have gifted me my fondest memories. Sadly they were in a minority.
Cooped up with ones fellow man in sublime luxury for weeks on end tells you a lot about human nature I can promise you.
Overall a Saga cruise is a Saga cruise expensive but well worth the money.
Would I do another one ?
Not in a million years.
That I submit is Saga's problem if they want to grow the business they need to attract the younger end of the age range with some bounce in them.
Yet I enjoyed the standards Saga Ruby set.
I liked the elegance have no wish to be troubled with shorts and flip flops and noisy discos so perhaps I am really a Saga cruiser in the making after all
Shame on me eh ?