(7 a.m. EST) -- Over-50's line Saga Holidays has made no secret of the fact that it's been shopping around for a new ship for some time. This week brings news -- unconfirmed on the record, but our sources tell us a reality off the record –- that the company has acquired the 37,301-ton, 752-passenger Bleu de France.
The 28-year-old ship is currently sailing for Croisieres de France (CDF), following previous incarnations as Hapag Lloyd's Europa, SuperStar Europe and SuperStar Aries for Star Cruises and Holiday Dream for Pullmantur. Both Pullmantur and CDF are subsidiaries of Royal Caribbean.
Saga is yet to make a formal announcement, but we understand the ship will continue to sail as Bleu de France next year before a refit to turn it from a mass-market family ship to something more in line with Saga's comfortable, mature, Brit-friendly style.
It will join the Saga fleet in the spring of 2012.
Whether the new addition will mean Saga Pearl II is transferred to Spirit of Adventure, the other cruise line owned by Saga's parent, Acromas Holdings, remains to be seen. Saga Pearl II was originally intended as the second ship for Spirit and was supposed to be called Quest for Adventure, but ended up replacing Saga Rose, which has now gone for scrap, and sailing under the Saga colours.
The official line from Saga's spokesman today is: "We are not commenting on speculation about a new ship." We'll keep you posted as and when details of the purchase are revealed.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor