Saga Ruby Review
- Ideal for solo travelers with 92 single cabins
- Atmosphere is British, but not stuffy
- First-class shows put on nightly
- Relaxed environment for the 50-plus set
- Modern spa offers a plethora of treatments
- Older ship still features alternative dining
- Global deployment means vast itinerary options
By Melissa Paloti, Cruise Critic contributor
At first glance, the U.K.-based Saga Holiday's Saga Ruby looks a lot like North America's mid-sized luxury ships. The 25,000-ton, 655-passenger ship boasts first-class entertainment, friendly and attentive service, and fine cuisine. In between days in port and nights at the theater, the ship is a place to relax -- poolside, or at its modern full-service spa. Also, Saga Holidays offers a fairly all-inclusive experience; fares include gratuities, travel insurance, airfare from select cities and airport-to-ship transfers.
Once onboard, however, what is different about the Saga experience becomes crystal clear: the passengers. In order to sail onboard Saga Holidays' Saga Ruby or sister ship Saga Pearl II, passengers must be over the age of 50 (and a minimum age of 40 applies for all traveling companions). Consider it sort of an exclusive floating "club" for those who've lived their first half century.
Saga Ruby is no spring chicken either -- the vessel sailed its maiden voyage in 1973. Saga purchased the ship from Cunard in 2003, which was known at the time as Caronia (and even before that as Vistafjord). Along with a name change, Saga Ruby underwent an extensive facelift to the tune of £17 million(about $30 million). The onboard decor ranges from contemporary to sleek and even minimalist.
Until somewhat recently, Saga Holidays' cruises have not been marketed to North Americans, and so the vast majority of passengers onboard are British. However, the company has been actively courting mature travelers from the U.S. with both bread-and-butter (Caribbean, Mediterranean) and off-the-beaten path (Baltic, Scandinavian) itineraries.
Saga Holidays is one of few companies offering single cabins on its ships, period -- never mind the extra bonus that they also come in a variety of categories from insides to balconied suites. Saga Ruby offers 92 single cabins, which make up almost 25 percent of the entire ship's accommodations (there are 383 cabins total; less than half as many, 34, feature balconies).
All cabins feature a bathroom with a shower (most also have a bathtub), a wardrobe with drawer space, a dressing table or writing desk and chair, a flat-screen television, a DVD player, radio, telephone, air conditioning and a hair dryer; twin beds convert to a king-size upon request. Innovative wall-mounted lamps are flexible and can be moved about to accommodate late-night readers. Suites feature whirlpool tubs in the bathroom. Duplex suites offer two private balconies -- one on each level, and one with a hot tub -- as well as a sauna, exercise equipment, a bar area, and a library lounge complete with sound system.
A handful of suites feature connecting doors to transform adjoining rooms into two-cabin accommodations with a separate sitting room. Six cabins are outfitted for wheelchair access and six others are designated for people with special needs. For friends traveling in groups, X and Y category cabins are suitable for three people.
Because of the relatively small number of passengers onboard, dinner is served in one open seating. The cleverly named Dining Room is open nightly from 7 to 9 p.m.
Passengers can also choose to dine in Saga Ruby's alternative dining venue, View, for no extra fee (though reservations are required). Seating only 28 passengers, the restaurant truly epitomizes intimate. It is adjoined by a lively bar called preView where there's nightly music and dancing; it is open to all passengers, but due to its proximity to View, it remains small to maintain coziness.
Passengers can take breakfast and lunch in either the Dining Room or the buffet venue, the Lido Cafe; 24-hour room service is also available. Saga Ruby also offers afternoon tea daily in the ballroom, and midnight buffets in the Lido Cafe.
Although alcohol is not built into the otherwise all-inclusive fare, prices are extremely affordable, about half the price you'd pay on a mainstream cruise ship.
The most striking public area, Saga Ruby's library, is a perfect example of "everything old is new again." On many modern ships, the library seems to be an afterthought, squeezed in wherever it fits and/or doubling as an Internet cafe with a sad assortment of texts playing second fiddle to computer stations. On Saga Ruby, the library is a highlight: dark wood cases line the walls with an extensive selection of books and DVD's, and leather chairs sit near the windows. The well-frequented space makes us feel as if we've stepped onboard Titanic or another bygone liner (Cunard's Vistafjord, perhaps).
A luxurious, modern-looking spa -- Spa Aquarius -- features an indoor pool, a sauna, a steam room and a salon; a new gym spans the width of the Bridge Deck with floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides. The spa, operated by U.K.-based Harding Brothers, offers the usual treatments as well as a few perfectly targeted to the Saga audience -- including an "arthritic body and retention fluid treatment and massage" and "liftosome facial."
The Lido deck has an outdoor pool surrounded by sun loungers.
Fiber-optic crystal lighting (that changes color) in the otherwise elegant View alternative restaurant is something we'd instead expect to see on glitz-heavy mainstream cruise ships.
The Bottom Line
With most passengers 50 or older (and none younger than 40), Saga Ruby is a relaxed, child-free environment for seniors seeking a quieter cruise experience. It's also a near-perfect ship for single seniors, with a whopping quarter of its cabins designed expressly for solo travelers.
We selected Saga for our first cruise because we did not want any children on it. We made good friends with two couples on the table to which we were allocated. The ship, built in 1973, is to be withdrawn after one more season, but is very ...continue
This was our first cruise and expectations were high. Unfortunately life has a habit of not running according to plan.
It started on the first day with problems with the ship's steering gear which took a day for the engineers to rectify - ...continue
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We took a short cruise up the Eastern Seaboard in late September aboard Saga Ruby. Flying to N.Y. cruising for 14 nights then spending 5 nights in N.Y. before flying home. What an experience that was. So when we could afford to do so, 2 years later ...continue
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