I had shared transfer to Southampton travelling from Yorkshire in 6 hours with two stops.Check in was excellent and a short wait to board and taken to cabin on 6 deck in LS grade (single standard).The cabin was small and basically equipped with shower over bath,large wardrobe space,bedside table,table by a two light window with lamp,small TV,fridge and shelving-with a single bed with duvet.This is Saga:no children!The immediate impression was of a crew who cared and wanted you to enjoy the Saga experience:they were all polite,smiling especially the waiters in the Verandah where I was to dine most evenings preferring it to the low ceiling and noise level of the main Pole to Pole.I had breakfast in the main restaurant or the Verandah Grill.The menus were always interesting although there was less choice in the Verandah.I did not try East to West restaurant although it did provide steaks.
This was the Christmas & New Year cruise of 18 nights and visiting 10 ports - Lisbon,Casablanca,Agadir,Arrecife Lanzarote,Las Palmas Gran Canaria,Santa Cruz Tenerife,San Sebastian La Gomera,Santa Cruz La Palma,Funchal Madeira,El Ferrol Spain.The ship was well decorated for Christmas and we were able to decorate the main tree outside the Britannia Lounge during the provision of mince pies and mulled wine.The Captain was David Warden-Owen and Cruise Director Tanya Whitehurst:they both seemed to enjoy their jobs.
Christmas Day Formal Lunch was excellent:although Saga had taken away the one time included wine.The standard of the production shows was frankly amateurish,too loud and worth leaving to the Cooper Bar or Drawing Room for more laid back musical entertainment.The main lounge had poor sight lines especially from the back and suffered from poor design with ramps and steps throughout including the entrances.
The highlight for me personally were the two trivia quizzes run by cruise staff although Saga had made cut backs with no prize points awarded anymore:they added more fun and competition.There were musical highlights,perhaps not to everyones taste but I thought that the musicians set a high standard and variation of their mainly classical repertoire.The cocktail pianist was excellent and appeared at tea time in the Britannia,Coopers Bar and Drawing Room throughout a busy day.There were a few deck games arranged and some internal games but with an absence of points there were not as many takers as there had been on Ruby a few years ago.
The cruise benefitted from excellent sunny weather,calm seas although a lack of working whirlpools on open deck and in the inside Spa was disappointing.The jacuzzi in the Spa only worked on 5 days of the whole cruise.The Beach Club by the open pool served afternoon fish and chips in a Saga Times or Beefburgers and fries;there were also help yourself sweet and ice cream points by the pool:these were very popular.
There were four formal nights and the others a mix of Informal and Casual.There were two main visiting speakers on natural history and transport together with port talks:these were mainly an advert for the tours.
The 9 days at sea passed slowly at times although the fireworks for the New Year at Funchal were still exciting and beautiful to watch from the open deck.
Overall I enjoyed Saga Ruby for the ship design and the friendliness of a smaller ship:Saga Sapphire had 631 paying passengers and a total of 706.
It is worth mentioning that the ship was clean,tried hard to please although the race from Drawing Room the length of the ship and down two decks in the evenings proved too much for a holiday atmosphere.I liked the provision of teas and coffees most of the day in the Drawing Room together with freshly baked cakes:very enjoyable.
A thought:why spoil a cruise with the provision of the smallest soap tablets I have ever seen on a cruise ship and not providing shoe cleaning equipment.
Well Done Saga for insisting on an extended safety drill prior to sailing and the hand sanitizers which were everywhere.Disembarkation was early and smooth with a one stop transfer back home.Following a comment letter to Saga they phoned me at home to discuss the comments:good for them.
I am going this year with Silversea and giving Saga a rest:what a shame that Ruby's final voyage is later this year.