April 13, 2011
(6:10 p.m. EDT) -- Just months after the announcement that Saga Cruises, the over-50s specialist, has acquired a new ship, swelling its fleet to three vessels, it appears that growth may be fleeting. According to Saga's Web site, a "Farewell Cruise" for the 446-passenger, 18,591-ton Saga Pearl II is advertised. That 14-day voyage on Saga Pearl II, which only debuted in 2010 after a £14 million investment in refitting, will take place 22 April, 2012.
Saga Pearl II, built in 1981 as Astoria, has since last year offered cruises that reflect Saga's trademark style and ambience with traditions such as afternoon tea, ballroom dancing and cabaret-style entertainment. The refurbishment effort included the addition of new balcony cabins, show lounge upgrades, a spa and pool makeover, and the creation of a library and a new restaurant. Unusually, 25 percent of its cabins are aimed at solo travellers -- a big plus for Saga aficionados.
So where could the ship be going? Back in 2009, when Saga acquired it at auction, Saga Pearl II was originally earmarked for Spirit of Adventure, a small cruise brand aimed at over-21s owned by the same company as Saga, Acromas Holdings. But when Saga got rid of the ageing Saga Rose at the end of 2009, it needed a ship, so Quest for Adventure, as the new Spirit of Adventure ship was due to be called, never happened, and the vessel was launched as Saga Pearl II instead.
We're told by a Saga spokesman that an announcement is due to be made later this week but fans of SPII, as it's affectionately known, must be wondering what's going on. There's nothing on the Spirit of Adventure Web site yet to suggest a new ship is coming, although that seems a likely destination for the vessel.
Saga's new ship, to be called Saga Sapphire, debuts on 26 March 2012, and will undergo a multi-million pound refit before its premiere.
--By Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor