Departure Date: 11/09/2012
Cruise: Best of the Baltic
Cabin Number: 10040
We booked by telephone. At the time of booking I asked for confirmation that all the problems the Sapphire was having were fixed. I was assured they were. They weren't. The booking experience was acceptable. We did call the aftersales service and they were helpful. Level of booking service was good. Accuracy of information on cruise documents was poor as I had told them I am American and they put me down as British. Preholiday administration was ok after I got my nationality straightened out. Improvements could be made by paying closer attention to what the customers are telling you when they book. Also, don't confirm information unless you know it is true because it may come back and bite you in the behind.
The Saga arranged travel was acceptable. We had a shared journey and the car was too small for four large people and lots of luggage. The driver was nice and the journey was ok but he drove too fast when he didn't need to. We sailed from Dover England and the port experience was acceptable.
Opinion of Captains, staff and crew is that the ones we actually came in contact with (very few) were professional, the exception being Horst Pint, the hotel manager. He and I got into an altercation the first day, even before we sailed, when I most adamantly expressed my opinion of the exorbitant charge for the internet. We paid upward of Â£10,000 for this cruise and I would have expected the internet to be included or AT LEAST a more reasonable price. Mr Pint practically threw some vouchers at me and said to come back when I wanted more. Then, he made a rude remark about my being American. I was not impressed and this started my cruise off on a sour note. So far as the rest of the question, I don't agree with using cabin staff and stewards for entertainers. Some of them were woefully lacking. The Flanagan Trio were excellent as were the Perfect Mood. Rosalind Whyte was an excellent speaker; the other two were so-so. Haji and Michael in the computer room tried hard, but they are not instructors. Recommendations: Ask the staff not to pass the buck when asked to do something. So many times I was told, I will take care of that for your Madam, but that is so-and-so's job. Also, please ask the staff to stay out of the lifts during busy times. The lifts were slow enough without having a staff member dragging a heavy piece of equipment into it. I had to actually ask a young man to please exit the lift with his equipment so that a lady in a wheel chair and her husband could get on to go to dinner. I was almost knocked over by a maintenance man rushing out of the lift as I tried to get on it.
Efficiency of embarkation was ok. The welcome on board and porterage of luggage was good. We had a superior deluxe stateroom and the standard of the room versus the money it cost us was very, very poor. The room was clean enough but the bathroom smelled strongly of sewage the entire time we were on board and one night it smelled so strongly of a chemical smell (hydrochloric acid or an acid drain cleaner) that I became ill with burning eyes and throat and a headache. Not very good health and safety for a ship like the Sapphire. The carpet in our room was bunched up in the middle of the room and for someone with difficulty walking such as me, it was dangerous. We called about it but they never did get it right. The air conditioning didn't work and the room was cold so they brought an oil heater. What a laugh. The bathroom stayed cold. The room had no soundproofing and we could hear people walking above us at all times during day and night. We could also hear the people in the next room when they used the toilet. Charming. Public rooms were mostly nice and the quality of the food was at times very good and at times barely acceptable. We seem to have the same items a lot with not that much variation. Coffee in the morning was so slow in coming that sometimes we had finished our breakfast before it was poured. I finally said something about it and the service did improve. Some of the dining staff were very nice, i.e., Dexter and Icy especially, but some were surly and unhelpful.
The Computer Centre was ok but sadly underutilised due to the cost of using the internet. The lads who took the photos did an excellent job on the video and the photos they took seemed reasonably priced.
The excursions were very expensive but that is to be expected. Local guides were mostly good. Copenhagen buffet lunch was a totally disaster as there were way too many people trying to get food, eat, have coffee and use the toilet in 45 minutes. Everyone was snatching and grabbing and gathered around the food five layers deep. It was a terrible experience. It certainly could have been better organised. Excursion staff were either very excellent or very dismal. We had both.
General: The cruise overall was sadly lacking and does not compare to what was offered in the brochure. It seems as if Saga are cutting corners in the quantity of food offered, entertainment, daily programmes, etc. The hot tubs were never open when we went to use them. The Drawing Room was badly designed as people were all over each other and at times, could scarcely pass in the corridor. The acoustics in the Pole to Pole restaurant were terrible and one had to shout to carry on a conversation with one's tablemates.
We definitely will not use Saga again for anything as I feel they really let us down on this cruise and definitely will not recommend Saga to anyone as a premium cruise company, quite the opposite. I know there are many people who swear by Saga, but I am not one of them. I think this memo explains the reasons why and there were other niggling things which I have omitted to include.
This is not my first ocean cruise as I have cruised most of the oceans of the world with many different companies. This was the first and last time with Saga. Never again. The ship was tired looking and acting and we broke down once. Captain McClundie was brilliant and an excellent Captain; one of the best I have sailed with.