(1:30 p.m. EDT) -- A series of emotional farewells to ageing and venerable cruise ships continues on October 30 when Saga Rose sets sail from Southampton for the last time. This comes only a fortnight after Fred. Olsen Cruises said goodbye to Black Prince in the same port.
The 24,474-ton, 587-passenger Saga Rose, which was built in 1965 as Sagafjord, is being retired at the end of this 37-night Mediterranean cruise as it will no longer comply with SOLAS regulations which come into force in 2010.
But a vessel as loved and revered as Saga Rose demands a suitable send-off – and what a party it will be.
The ship will sail at 4:30 p.m. packed with celebrity guests, with an aerial display from the Blades aerobatic team as tribute. Throughout the cruise, there will be entertainment from the great and the good of British show business: comedian Des O'Connor, Ronnie Corbett, opera singer Katherine Jenkins (due to sing in Venice on November 9), Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell (who will escort a visit to Olympia), newsreader Peter Sissons, Woman's Hour's Sue Macgregor; and the Hot Rhythm Orchestra, among others.
Along the route, which takes Saga Rose to Limassol and back, diversions include an exclusive sound-and-light show at the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo; a Venetian masked ball; a Last Night of the Proms; and a special celebration in Vigo, where Saga Rose will be joined by sister ship, Saga Ruby.
The voyage will end with the ship entering Southampton Water escorted by a flotilla of yachts as passengers enjoy a final champagne breakfast.
Incredibly, there is still limited space on the Barcelona to Valletta sector and the Limassol to Southampton leg, departing November 4 and November 10 respectively.
The ship, a record-breaking veteran of 44 world cruises, inspires enormous passion in people. "Saga Rose was so well-loved that we had passengers doing 13 or 14 voyages back-to-back every year," a spokesman for the company told Cruise Critic. Her captains, meanwhile, have both paid tribute to her seaworthiness. Captain Alistair McLundie wrote in his final blog: "The ship has been a living being to us all onboard. As a Captain, she keeps us steady, she shakes off the heavy seas, as a dog would shake its coat if wet. She ploughs on without hesitation."
Captain David Warden-Owen, who is taking the vessel on her final cruise, said in a statement: "Saga Rose has been my second home for the best part of 12 years and I have travelled thousands of miles around the globe. The experience has not only enriched my life but the lives of thousands of passengers who have also been privileged to sail on this 'legend of her time'".
As for the future... the fate of the ship is still undecided. Rumours that it may become a floating hotel in Southampton are, a spokesman said, "wildly speculative." Watch this space!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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Saga Rose Sails From Southampton For The Last Time
October 29, 2009