3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
This was our 37th cruise. Some have had spectacular destinations, some have been full of excitement and entertainment. Until this cruise, the Braemar to and through the Panama canal was overall our best ever cruise. Four days before this ... Read More
This was our 37th cruise. Some have had spectacular destinations, some have been full of excitement and entertainment. Until this cruise, the Braemar to and through the Panama canal was overall our best ever cruise. Four days before this one on Boudicca I received a phone call advising that we had a complimentary upgrade to a 7th deck cabin with terrace and wet room. When we opened the cabin door, Wow!!! So much space - the wet room was brilliant as well. We have never been disappointed with the dining rooms on any of the ships - Braemar stands out a mile in particular at lunchtime, with different flavours of diet bread and butter puddings each day! Most excellent waiters and captain waiter. There have been many cruises with great entertainment each night - one in particular (which was not a Fred Olsen). So to this cruise on the Boudicca. We were amazed by the organisation of the timings of the secret garden being open. There were a few mornings when we were too late for the normal breakfasts, but were able to break our fasts there. One day however we arrived just in time for lunch! The variety of food was most welcoming particularly for two diabetics. Our water glasses were topped up frequently and Captain Waiter seemed to take extra care with us (my wife being in a wheelchair). A big thanks there. We were on ship for the majority of the time and had plenty of options to bide away the time in the way that we wanted. Dolphin racing, bingo, quizzes, relaxing and reading and of course eating and the shows. The comedian, whose name I have forgotten was brilliant. Clean and very funny. Hope Fred Olsen has him as a regular. Stress free is a simple way of saying how enjoyable this cruise was. The place we stayed the most was in our cabin. It was excellent. We are not drinkers or pub people, but we did have our diet lemonades to take back to the cabin, where we played Cribbage. THE WATERFALLS AT goodolfusen (can't spell it) were splendiferous. Well worth a visit. I have an old friend and acquaintance who regularly cruises across the Atlantic and back again, without getting off the ship. A bit surprised at this, but now with this latest experience I can well understand why. Sorry Braemar, but you have been knocked off no.1 spot as the best ever cruise. A big thanks for the crew of the Boudicca for helping to make this one the best ever. Thanks Fred Olsen. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
We booked to go to the Fjords leaving Dover 09 June 2019. We made a little mistake when booking as we went via a Travel Agent. Firstly, the agent was poor but, more importantly, it placed an barrier between us and FO. Any queries we had we ... Read More
We booked to go to the Fjords leaving Dover 09 June 2019. We made a little mistake when booking as we went via a Travel Agent. Firstly, the agent was poor but, more importantly, it placed an barrier between us and FO. Any queries we had we were referred back to the agent. My advice - book direct. The boarding in Dover was seamless. We live near Dover so booked a taxi. Straight into the port up to terminal, bags taken from boot by porters, we were on-board within 15mins and our luggage arrived in our cabin 20mins after we did. Well done FO. A minus point for FO. As first time cruisers we booked the ship tour on our first day at sea. FO told us that all would be in our cabin when we got on-board... nothing. Never mind, we did our own tour... the lay out of the ship is quite easy and it was fun bumping into things ! Our cabin (7039 balcony with clear view. A must in the Fjords) was exactly as advertised. No issues with the cabin at all or our cabin steward (Moo) who worked her socks off to keep us happy (I did take a tip off YouTube and gave Moo a little bag of bits {no more than £6} on the first day which may have made a difference but maybe not !!!). The ship was a little tired in places altho' it was always well presented, clean and shining. Staff were excellent throughout the ship. Food was lovely (every day). We tried things we have never had before which is good for our betterment ! You must keep an eye out for the Gala Lunch (ours was on the last day at see) and take your camera ! The Formal nights were good with lots of bling altho' I did change after the meal into more casual wear. We paid for the drinks package @ £15 per day. I think this has gone up now to £19pd. You need to give this some thought. Me - I drink a lot of beer and a can Spitfire was £3.80 so I was happy with my lot. My wife tried their house wine and found it 'undrinkable'. The cocktails were very sweet. She then moved onto spirits and mixer. This she was happy with but sometimes the bar staff forgot to put the spirit in (pressure of work maybe !). To combat this we ordered the spirit and mixer as separate items. The drink came to about £6. Add these drinks to your wine at lunch and dinner and it may appeal to you. Beware that it is only for drinks from the bar. No cans of pop, no tea or coffee (posh type) and no bottled water. There is a filtered water machine and tea & coffee machine in a small drinks station. Normally this is quite clear but avoid end of meeting, talks or presentations as there is a queue before and after these sessions. Entertainment is on every night. The on-board crew do put a lot of effort into their shows and one of their shows was outstanding. There are guest entertainers: a duo who played many instruments (first time - good. Second time - not so good), a comedian - spent most of his time picking on members of the audience to the level of embarrassment - not good. In the main bar is a guitar duo who were very good and they went in turns with a pianist who is not very happy with his lot !!! There were talks given by an ex Bank Manager - Prison Guv'nor. His first talk was very good, cannot remember his second talk and his third talk was about Porridge and real prison life. I got the impression that this was pushed onto him and he knocked it together at short notice. There is quite a big gym on the top deck with a great view. I did not get there but it looked very good. There is a set 1 mile walk around the ship ( 5 x 1 mile). Did this prior to breakfast. There is an organised walk at about 0800 but the guy who runs it may have been trained to get 20 something's to walk fast rather than members of U3A ! We only did this walk once. We went solo after that. We did our own shore excursions. FO is very expensive. Most of our trips we booked from UK before we boarded and the others were taken from shore-side when we went alongside. For us, the best we did was the funicular railway in Bergen and a 5km walk around the top (huge queues at bottom but they do go down quite quickly) and we booked a Twizo electric car in Flam. Expensive but BRILL. We booked 2 hrs (11-1300). We got into Flam just before 1000. We went over to the car hire ( you will see it as you get off the tender) to show him our paper work prior to 1100. After a bit of a chat I asked if we could take it early (with a big smile). He agreed so we had 3 hrs for the price of 2 ! You have a choice where to go and we wanted the viewing platform at the top of the mountain. The SatNav looked after us and it was great fun. Top Tip, after the platform, go a little further were the SatNav will tell of a great viewing point. In short, book your own, its a lot cheaper. A fine example - there was a fishing trip that FO was charging £45. When we docked it was next door to the ship and was advertised at £30 (that's your £15 drinks package paid for on that day!!!). Disembarkation was as easy as getting on. We were called by deck and the bags were waiting for us in the departure lounge with many porters waiting to take you outside. Overall, we loved it. We would go again and yes, with FO. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2019
My wife and I had been wanting to visit these countries for the Outlander Tours (wife and Viking interests. Celtic portion, 14 Days: We enjoyed our foray to Jersey and visited the castle and enjoyed local food. Many of the towns that ... Read More
My wife and I had been wanting to visit these countries for the Outlander Tours (wife and Viking interests. Celtic portion, 14 Days: We enjoyed our foray to Jersey and visited the castle and enjoyed local food. Many of the towns that Holland America Line chose to stop at were small and quaint. We found some had absolutely nothing to do except to walk around have a beer and a bite of local food. Tobermory, Scotland had a great scotch distillery. They invited us to take the tour for free and were generous with bottling up some free samples of the whiskey. We walked about a mile out of town to visit a dairy and see some cheese making. No one was in sight so we walked through the barns and saw the cows and had a close up wet tongue visit with the calves. Dublin Ireland is a very busy and bustling city. The tourist maps that are put out make the town look very walkable. It is walkable but not as much as the maps make you think. DO NOT TAKE THE GREEN HOP ON HOP OF BUS. There are 3 HOHO lines, Green, Red & Blue. TAKE THE RED HOHO BUS. the blue seemed like it did not cover too much. The green line covers a lot, too long of a route, and time consuming especially if you are riding when they change drivers. The drivers will talk for 15 minutes and then the new driver will sit there and take a 30 minute break which cost us a taxi back to the ship on our 2nd day there. We ate at Nancy Hands at their back bar and had a great salmon meal on slate and of course, some pints of Guinness .We also ate ate at The Guinness Storehouse on the top floor. It was good but not real good. DO GO TO THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSE. What a wonderful story the tour has to tell. Get there in the morning and there will probably not be much of or no line to get in. We took a really good Outlander Tour with Clansman Tours. Tom (owner) was great to spend the day with and share some good scotch in the van at the drop off. He picked us up at the dock. Brugge Belgium was very interesting. We (3 couples) hired a round trip taxi at the Zeebrugge port Very cheap splitting the cost. Antwerp was good also. Don't miss the Chocolate Museum, (Chocolate Nation). We wanted to go into the diamond district but since it was Saturday and Jewish Shabbat, nothing was open so we had to skip it. In Amsterdam we took a canal tour with a red HOHO boat and spent quite some time at a street market. The food was great and some stalls were difficult to pass up. In Alesund , Norway we had to ask 8 different people for directions to the bus stop going to the Sea Park Aquarium. It was very nice. In Bergen, Norway we ate at Bernard Tonghandel's stall in the fish market and had great mussels and fish. It was located near the end and close to the information cent with a good view of the Bay. er. He offered sit down dining with a good view of the Bay. Don't miss it. Take the ferry across the bay to the 3 Viking museums. Very good and informational.In Flam (Pronounced Flome), (Norwegian town names get butchered in English), we took the train and had a good time. One hour up and one hour back. The best souvenir prices we found were at the main building by the railway. Other towns had a lot of the same things but were moderately to much higher priced. This is the place to buy a caribou hide if you want one. They are MUCH less costly. There was a food truck there and we tried grilled whale. Along with generous samples they offered it was very good and the samples also. In Stavenger, Norway you will want to go to the very interesting Canning Museum, with a great guide Piers Crocker. He was funny and very informative and the Petroleum Museum. It's a very walkable town. See the Viking Center across from the docks. As with just about all European towns the streets may be curvy and not well named, Most street names are on the corner of the buildings if they are there at all. We are an older couple and find it difficult to find our way around the towns. It can be difficult to find people to give good directions. The tourist maps can also be inaccurate. As for the Holland America cruise we were on the Prinsendam which is the oldest and smallest of their ships. Our cruise was from May 6 to June 3, 2019. The ship has been sold to a German line and will go out of service for HAL on July 1. Our stateroom was not an expensive one but had a good sized unobstructed window. How ever that window along with every other window on the ship was always dirty on the outside, unlike other lines we have been on. The room was comfortable and had plenty of room for two. The TV and DVD player were constant problem all through the voyage. I think they didn't want to repair it as the ship was sold. The dining buffet was not good. Most of the food was over cooked or too salty and very repetitive almost every day. On HAL I have always found their salmon benedict my go to breakfast but not on the Prinsendam. The 1st morning I had to tell the cook how to make one and found their hollandaise sauce to be like mayonnaise with some strange flavor. I tried it the next day and it hadn't improved. It remained unimproved for the rest of the cruise. There were a few things that were acceptable for breakfast but most were repetitive. The coffee was great. Lunch usually found us on shore except for "at sea" days. Lunch and some suppers found me at the hot dog stand by the pool. This was a cool to cold weather cruise. I found the main dining room very noisy as I wear hearing aids. The waiters were very attentive to our needs and good at what they did. The menu was somewhat repetitive here also and portion size was not consistent. We would find a dish we liked with a nice size portion and the next time get a very small portion. The ship was small and some people have been lead to believe the small, older ships have a quaint ambiance that is lost on the larger ships. We ran onto people on the Prinsendam that had been on board 100+ days. I got bored and couldn't even drink my way through it due to the high cost plus a 15% sure charge on every drink. There was a movie every night and some were good. Theater was comfortable there was popcorn for the viewers. In that same room during the day America's Test Kitchen would put on a live demonstration. Went once and it was a joke. The demonstrator couldn't even make a simple omelette. I like their TV show. I couldn't figure out why Oprah is the "godmother" of HAL. All she does is appear on their on board TV channel and promoted a book she liked. The crew was friendly and for the most part helpful and caring. On the good side, Prinsendam offered a couple of free laundry rooms with 6 washers and dryers each unfortunately many were routinely out of service. The exercise room, steam room and dry sauna were free also. These we enjoyed immensely and used them often. The EXC excursions purchased from HAL were very expensive. Many passengers did not take them for that reason. I hope that HAL keeps up their ships as we have found them in the past. I also realize Prinsendam was pretty worn out. I would also recommend to HAL to install free laundry to all ships. This is such a big plus and so helpful to be able to have clean clothes. Keeps your room smelling fresher too. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2019
The Celtic Explorer started in Dover and traveled to Jersey, Falmouth, Fishguard, Greenock, Skye, Mull, Dublin (2 days), Zebrugge, Antwerp (2 days) and Amsterdam. The main problem with this 12-day itinerary was that with only two sea ... Read More
The Celtic Explorer started in Dover and traveled to Jersey, Falmouth, Fishguard, Greenock, Skye, Mull, Dublin (2 days), Zebrugge, Antwerp (2 days) and Amsterdam. The main problem with this 12-day itinerary was that with only two sea days, ports came fast and furious. There was no sea day between embarkation and Jersey. For folks flying directly from the States there was no time to recover from jet lag. If you get travel fatigue or suffer from jet lag this is something to consider. This itinerary also had 4 tender ports. Two of them (Jersey and Fishguard) tended in rough seas. Some people opted not to go ashore or could not because of disability. Other tender ports were Skye, Mull. We enjoyed all the ports. In Jersey we went to the Maritime Museum and while we hadn’t intended it, the museum took up most of our day, it was so engaging. We walked around town a little after the museum. In Falmouth we walked around town, went to the Maritime Museum and took the train to Truro. If you do that you may should know that there is a railway station at Falmouth Port, not just downtown. We walked to the downtown station, it was a nice walk, and returned to the port station.. In Fishguard we wanted to go to St. Davids, but because of the short port call we could not get there and back on public transport, so we took the HAL tour. It was worth it, with an engaging guide who was a natural story teller. St. Davids has a beautiful gothic cathedral, bishop’s house ruins. It is a charming small town where we enjoyed tea and scones before walking through the town market, In Greenock we visited with friends in Glasgow, but also took time to go to St. Mungo’s Museum, a museum presenting information and art from the different religions practiced in Glasgow. The art was inspiring but the exhibit I liked the best took us through the stages of life as celebrated by each of the religions covered, birth, coming of age, marriage, adulthood, elderhood and death. We arrived in Skye (Portee) on a Sunday so local buses were not running. We went ashore and found a skipper giving wildlife tours from a boat. When the tour was over some of our cruise mates who had booked taxis for a morning tour were back and we were able to take a taxi to some of the places outside of town that we wanted to see. Helen, our cab driver, was the last baby born in the Skye hospital before it closed down. She was full of stories and local lore. On Mull (Tobermory) we enjoyed walking around town, stopping at the aquarium where all the inmates are there only for a month before being returned to the sea. There was a touch tank and exhibitions on local sea life. The Tobermory distillery offers scotch tastings. The shops were multi-purpose, books and fishing tackle or iron monger (hardware) with wine and spirits. We lost ourselves in the book store for a while, got into conversation with the book seller, and the iron monger. We enjoyed scones and tea in a café that used to be a church. Dublin was a two day stop. The dock is away from downtown. There was a shuttle bus available for a hefty fee. It drops you off across from the Oscar Wilde statue in Marion Park. I recommend being on deck for the docking. The ship had to make some tight maneuvers interesting to watch. We pulled up close to downtown before turning around to face the mouth of the River Liffey when we docked. In Dublin we wandered the streets and when we saw something interesting, we went in. This included The Church, a bar set in the former St. Mary’s church which, appropriately, had been the family church of the Guinness family. We also had tea and scones in Brewley’s Café, which houses a luncheon theater, where we enjoyed a one act play. We found several small galleries and exhibits and wandered Temple Bar. When we heard music we liked we went in to listen. This was a relaxing way to see Dublin. It’s not our first time so we were not in a rush to see the Book of Kells and other well knows sights. After a much-needed sea day it was Zeebrugge. Since we’ve spent a lot of time in Belgium, we had no need to take the train to either Bruges or Ghent. Instead we bought a day pass on the tram that runs along the coast from the Dutch border practically to France. We could get on and off whenever we wanted. We had lunch in De Hann Ann Zee, a charming late 19 century beach resort where Albert Einstein spent some time after leaving Germany. If you’ve been to Bruges or Ghent this is a good alternative. Two days in Antwerp were not enough. We bought a mass transit day pass and enjoyed going the Art Nouveau neighborhoods. We also enjoyed the Cathedral, the Central Railway Station, Antwerp’s “second cathedral” and visiting churches filled with baroque art, including works by Rubens. We went to the Mas Museum and walked the old town and red-light districts. As much time as we had spent in Belgium we had never been to Antwerp. It was the most wonderful surprise of the cruise. We were tired when we arrived in Amsterdam because of the fast pace of the cruise so we took the tram to Central Station and enjoyed an hour-long cruise on the canals before getting on for the Norwegian Fjords Explorer cruise. When we got off the ship in Amsterdam from the Celtic Explorer, they did not stamp our passport because we were going back on the ship. When we got off after the Norwegian Fjords Explorer there was no one to stamp our passport because everyone had gotten on in Amsterdam. As a result We were detained at the airport leaving Amsterdam because we did not have a proper entry stamp. The immigration people were polite and helpful, there was no problem there, but it was time consuming. Had we not arrived at the airport three and a half hours before the flight, instead of the recommended two we would have missed our flight. We finally got to the plane at the tail end of boarding. Part of the problem was the 30-minute walk from immigration to the gate. Be prepared if you fly out of AMS. Here are a couple of other notes. Because of the small number of sea days there was no outside lecturer on board. We missed this but Brett, the EXC Guide gave good port talks. May was a good time to cruise. We had unusually good weather and the ship was not nearly full. Prinsendam has a capacity of 835. On the Celtic Explorer there were 567 passengers on board, no lines for dinner, an uncrowded lido, no need to arrive early to get a good seat for evening shows, and for less hassle tendering. I’m sorry to see Prinsendam go out of Holland America service. We’ve enjoyed Prinsendam in the past. She’s an older ship but we like her size, her aft saltwater pool good for swimming laps, her classic but understated appointments, her generous cabins and her walk-in closets. We’ve been on other HAL ships and enjoyed ourselves, but not as much as on Prinsendam. We will be reading Cruise Critic Reviews to try to find an new favorite. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
This was a Mystery Cruise the only clues we had were the vague descriptions of excursions in 4 ports one of which was overnight. The Captain gave us confusing descriptions each day from 28 Deg in our next Port to Heading for Florida, 12 or ... Read More
This was a Mystery Cruise the only clues we had were the vague descriptions of excursions in 4 ports one of which was overnight. The Captain gave us confusing descriptions each day from 28 Deg in our next Port to Heading for Florida, 12 or 18 knots overnight speed etc. Our electronics were no help. Everyone woke up one morning with a message on their Mobile giving the cost of calls from the USA ! The ShipMate App could not find us. We ended up visiting Oslo, Gothenburg, Copenhagen and overnight in Amsterdam. His weather button worked a treat we had excellent weather in each port and other than Gothenburg were able to walk into town (City). Neptune was sleeping so our time at sea was extremely smooth even though we were in the vicinity of the Viking Sky. Definitely a cruise for the "Older" cruiser, the entertainment was average but the intrigue was excellent throughout the ship. Some did not even realise we were in Amsterdam just as we were docking !. Our Cabin was one of the best we have had for the Class with the exception of the Showerhead. Chinese Water Punishment comes to mind. The staff were excellent and the new updated IT facilities made a big difference. The ship is 74 years old but has been well preserved. Nothing like a Mega ship but enough space to find your own comfort area when needed. Would we go again...Yes ! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Having been all over the world with Saga on land based holidays , when we looked for a Cruise to celebrate my wife’s birthday we automatically looked to Saga having been entirely satisfied with our previous holidays with them. Well that ... Read More
Having been all over the world with Saga on land based holidays , when we looked for a Cruise to celebrate my wife’s birthday we automatically looked to Saga having been entirely satisfied with our previous holidays with them. Well that was the right decision, we fancied a winter Norwegian Cruise, and one which specifically aimed at experiencing the Northern Lights seemed an exciting prospect As ever every detail was taken care of, from being picked up at your front door with your luggage through a seemless boarding process at Dover all promised a wonderful holiday experience,which is exactly what we got An upgrade to deck 10 was an unexpected bonus,but all passengers got the same attentive service wherever their cabin was. The whole cruise was ammended to all inclusive which was another nice touch,and we opted for fixed dining which was a delight. The food on this ship is awesome, and the after dinner cheeseboard is the best we have ever experienced anywhere Evening shows were professional and Ancora joining the cruise for week two ensured some never to be forgotten performances, the whole entertainment package was outstanding for a relatively small ship Lectures from accomplished speakers about destinations and other related subjects were interesting and thought provoking, and the library would meet anyone’s taste, complete with librarian. This is proper cruising, no razzmatazz or gimmicks, just traditional formal nights, sumptuous food and well chosen wines and a feeling everyone simply wanted you to enjoy yourselves Saga Sapphire is an old ship, but she is immaculately kept and polished to within a inch of her life morning, noon and night. At every port a free shuttle bus service to the town is available unless the berth is literally in the town centre We were incredibly lucky to see the Northern Lights on three separate nights due to high levels of sunspot activity and on our official included trip to “hunt” the Lights in a dark sky area we were treated to an hour long display of the Northern Lights which were absolutely breathtaking Overall we had a wonderful cruise, seeing the Lights was the proverbial icing on the cake Let’s be clear, Saga isn’t the cheapest cruise provider, but the quality of their cruise experience is truly 5star and on an all inclusive cruise like this you genuinely don’t need to spend any money for the whole cruise unless of course you choose to go on optional excursions The real test is would we Cruise with Saga again; in our case the answer is definitely yes. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose this short taster cruise to see if we liked the Saga experience and were most pleasantly surprised. The welcome on board was amazing with a beautiful spread of food laid out and beverages served by the staff (the cakes were ... Read More
We chose this short taster cruise to see if we liked the Saga experience and were most pleasantly surprised. The welcome on board was amazing with a beautiful spread of food laid out and beverages served by the staff (the cakes were amazing). Then came the sail away, with drinks flowing against a backdrop of live French music and singing, cosy throws set out if you felt a little chilly. Here we got to know some of the more regular Saga cruisers and enjoyed the enthusiasm they had for the Saga experience. Our cabin was beautiful and we were given fruit of our choice in the cabin which was topped up during our stay. The service, helpful staff and the food were in our opinion second to none, making our cruise a very special one. We have been on 5 previous cruises and although they have been enjoyable in their own way, Saga obviously believe in making the holidaymaker feel special. We found the whole holiday very reasonably priced as everything is included. We do not drink much alcohol and so the included wine with meals were almost as much as we needed so our spending was way below what we are used to spending. The Captains gala night was amazing and drinks flowed once again. The choice and standard of the meals were wonderful. They even had a choice of plain food, this could be perhaps steak and chips or omelette and chips etc and it is just that - for anyone who is on a special diet or who just does not like fancy food. The cabin and all of the ship was spotlessly clean. Beautiful toiletries in the bathroom. The entertainment would be a little low key for some but was carried out well just the same. Films were shown in the cinema and in the cabin if you wanted a little down-time. Getting on and off the ship was made easy and help was with you right away to take luggage or give a helping hand. We are so pleased with our little trip that we have now booked another cruise for 15 nights to the arctic circle, feeling absolutely sure that we will be well looked after. We took an amazing trip to monet's garden, which we enjoyed immensely, we had a Saga assistant, who was most helpful and pleasant, however, we also had a local guide who, despite being told by many that they could not here her comments, would not wear the headgear properly which was relaying the comments to the headphones we were wearing, and changed the pick up point resulting in the people who could not hear the instruction ending up waiting at a different place to those who had, she also pushed on with walking at times and some less able passengers were trailing behind. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This small ship is big enough and if it's going to your destination of choice then I think it's a done deal. We chose the late dining option with 3 other couples and made great friends. I liked the "sip and sail" ... Read More
This small ship is big enough and if it's going to your destination of choice then I think it's a done deal. We chose the late dining option with 3 other couples and made great friends. I liked the "sip and sail" option but not because of the endless alcohol but because you could have what ever beverage you wanted anytime. But I suppose that "sip and sail" option is for early bookers such as we happened to be. As per usual the excursions were not used as you could get much better deal elsewhere . We would gladly rebook if the destinations matched, but I'm not a cruiser as this was my first sea cruise ever. I loved that this was the Love Boat. It even looked like it a bit like it too. I thought the pizza/hot dog/ burger kiosk was lame and wouldn't recommend it unless you were in severe calorie deficit which would be quite unlikely. My favourite place for a drink was outside of the Panorama Buffet as the views were super. The upper floor library had reasonable views and looked stately; but I never used it for reading. it never seemed busy. We did do a non buffet breakfast once and found again that meeting people was the real advantage of it. The service staff at the restaurants and rooms were always pleasant Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We booked this cruise for its awesome itinerary. We've been in over 115 countries, but not Iceland or Greenland. Those of us on the Roll Call thought we'd have a Meet & Mingle get together. The Quest was unaware of such a ... Read More
We booked this cruise for its awesome itinerary. We've been in over 115 countries, but not Iceland or Greenland. Those of us on the Roll Call thought we'd have a Meet & Mingle get together. The Quest was unaware of such a social gathering. I met with the Hotel and Bar Manager who made our Meet & Mingle possible. I was so delighted such a party would take place. Guest services helped in sending out invitations and Roberto, the Bar Manager, arranged the food and drinks. We were honored to have the Captain and several of his officers attend, plus Chris, the executive chef. Pictures were taken of this first of kind event and those will follow soon. Thank you Seabourn Quest for making possible a very special and unforgettable event. Please include Meet & Mingle parties on all your sailings. The staff at the Patio Grill were the best. Brooke and Jose were outstanding. This was our first cruise with Seabourn and we look forward to returning on another. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
EMARKATION;- Embarkation went very smoothly without a hint of a queue and in fact we were allowed on the ship earlier than expected. Once onboard we were permitted access to staterooms on the understanding that they may not be quite ... Read More
EMARKATION;- Embarkation went very smoothly without a hint of a queue and in fact we were allowed on the ship earlier than expected. Once onboard we were permitted access to staterooms on the understanding that they may not be quite ready, though ours was. THE SHIP;- The ship is easy to navigate being a small ship and the decor is pleasant - much better than the Princess website photos suggest. With so few people on board (roughly 650) you don’t queue for anything and there is always a seat available whether in a bar, the theatre or a sun bed. Although we didn’t experience any very rough seas, the ship is nonetheless very stable and we felt little or no motion. It was very well maintained although we found cleaning to be lacking in public spaces e.g. mirrors and windows left dirty and no toilet attendants. The gym is small but adequate. Entertainment is limited and poor and apart from one occasion there was no entertainment poolside. Despite it’s small size it’s disappointing that it doesn’t always take advantage of the docking closest to the city centre. The downsides of the ship being small are that some of the facilities that you might expect or enjoy are missing e.g. movies under the stars or an outside evening bar. We also found the ship to be way too quiet (we called it the Marie Celeste!) as after 9pm you struggled to find another soul on board on some evenings. This was possibly because many had been on board for 111 days and I guess there’s only so much partying you can do. Also the average age was quite mature - I’d estimate late 60’s / early 70’s. It was impossible to get a drink or something to eat after 11pm unless you ordered room service. I suppose they’re not going to keep venues open if the majority are tucked up in bed. STATEROOM;- Our stateroom was very good (Club Class mini-suite) with lots of space, plenty of storage and lots of coat hangers. There was an abundance of mirrors including 2 full length. The bed was super comfortable. The air conditioning was very efficient if a little noisy at times (note it isn’t possible to turn it off). Although we were 2 decks down, we experienced disturbance from the running track as a very heavy footed runner thumped their way round the track between 5am and 6am every morning. The bathroom is adequate with a plentiful supply of toiletries. There is no separate shower - it’s over the bathtub. The hairdryer is not suitable for styling hair. DINING;- The food is generally of a good standard both in the buffet and the main dining room. We didn’t feel it necessary eat in either of the speciality restaurants. There was always plenty of choice and service was mostly prompt, SERVICE;- We found service throughout the ship to be somewhat lacklustre (with the exception of 2 or 3 standouts). We didn’t ever meet our stateroom steward although he did a good job of keeping the room clean and tidy. I was never once addressed by my name and often had to go to the bar myself as the wait staff were busy chatting to one another. Even when they noticed me at the bar, they didn’t offer to bring the drinks back to the table for me. CLIENTELLE / DRESS CODE;- Although officially there were 3 formal nights on this cruise you would never have realised it. We wore tuxedos / long gowns on those nights and still dressed up on the other nights albeit less formally. The vast majority did not adhere to the published dress code. We even saw people wearing baseball caps in the main dining room on the formal nights! Men wore shorts and t shirts on the non-formal nights. I don’t wish to be rude or offensive but honestly some looked like they were going gardening ;-/ I imagine people didn’t bother to dress for the evening as they went straight back to their staterooms after dinner. Most of the passengers were from USA (approx 80%) with the rest from UK, Australia and a small minority from other countries. DRINKS PACKAGE;- We chose to purchase a drinks package but on this ship it doesn’t represent value for money as bars close relatively early. CLUB CLASS;- I question the value of Club Class on this particular ship. Priority emarkation is of no real value as there are so few people on board there are no queues anyway. Club class dining meant a small section of the main dining room being allocated. Expedited seating was largely adhered to although we did have to wait on one occasion. There was no table side food preparation. ‘Special menu options’ meant one extra dish being offered although often you had to ask what it was and then the description might be so vague that you were completely uninspired e.g. ‘it’s fish’. Evening canapés were none existent. So really we paid for club class for 2 half bottles of wine. ITINERARY;- Very good itinerary although owing to late arrival in Amsterdam for reasons outside of Princess’s control, we ended up with just a few hours there. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2018
Booked mainly as it left from Dover, It could not have been easier to embark, cabin all ready and staff lovely. Nothing was too much trouble from any member of staff, and although our itinerary was unavoidably changed everything was done ... Read More
Booked mainly as it left from Dover, It could not have been easier to embark, cabin all ready and staff lovely. Nothing was too much trouble from any member of staff, and although our itinerary was unavoidably changed everything was done to make our cruise memorable. Shore tours were, in the main, excellent and just around the right length and certainly just as described. Dining was a pleasure with tables not too close, staff attentive and the evening menu varied. The Breakfast & Lunch buffet was very good plus there was an a la carte choice as well. Only downfall [for me] was the evening entertainment, it lacked a lot, but the evening of entertainment from the crew - excellent. Throughout the cruise we were always kept well informed of the days itinerary and shore visits very well organised. Have already booked two more cruises - from Dover of course with very helpful booking from the staff at Fred Olsen offices. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
The cruise was from Dover so an easy drive from East Sussex, the destinations in Northern Germany with combination of Kiel, Travemunde, Hamburg and Bremen were attractive and it was a good balance of sea days and port visits - an advantage ... Read More
The cruise was from Dover so an easy drive from East Sussex, the destinations in Northern Germany with combination of Kiel, Travemunde, Hamburg and Bremen were attractive and it was a good balance of sea days and port visits - an advantage of the smaller ship allowing us to dock so close to the centre of each city. First time on Fred Olsen and was impressed, the ship is an older one but had been refurbished well and the standard of cleanliness was very high, good crew and excellent food. Fred Olsen is definitely for the more 'mature' client and is very British but that made a nice contrast to other cruises we have made with a more American flavour. Entertainment is low key but fun and we met some lovely and down to earth people. We had a balcony cabin which was very nice, deck 8 slightly restricted view but really no problem, on the whole would recommend especially if over 50 and not looking for the wild nightlife! Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
First cruise. What I do find misleading you see the adverts from.....we paid double and more. I wish they would set a price. Some back to back (people who were on previous or later tour) were 'phoned up and given a good discount ... Read More
First cruise. What I do find misleading you see the adverts from.....we paid double and more. I wish they would set a price. Some back to back (people who were on previous or later tour) were 'phoned up and given a good discount for including the mini break. We were told they did not discount..........mmmmm Still good holiday, first time cruisers, lovely, lovely staff, happy. Wish I was back. The Reception staff, not tour booking. I found when I asked a question I was told in your Ship's newsletter, we had not been cruising before. They could have told us there and then. They did their job, but listening to how they dealt with older people, got the impression not a happy group. Perhaps need fresh people....sign on desk, this ship is full, no change of cabins. Fortnately we were pleased with our cabin. On a tour, a guide told us that a ship is never fall. Little negatives....which let down the otherwise lovely, happy and excellent team. Saga get your pricing realistic to the cost.....the from........hearing don't do discounts but two couples told us they stayed on because they were given a deal.......make all staff happy. Lovely to deal with. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2018
I choose this boat because it was smaller and not as many people but it was the old Love boat and it said that it had been refurnished but the old bathrooms were the same as many years ago you had to step up into the bathroom. The cabin ... Read More
I choose this boat because it was smaller and not as many people but it was the old Love boat and it said that it had been refurnished but the old bathrooms were the same as many years ago you had to step up into the bathroom. The cabin crew were fabulous, dining was fair do not go to the main dining room for breakfast you can not get what you asked for simple omelet. We went on the Flam Railway excursion it was disastrous one guide for approx 120 people on 3 different carriages guide had to go from one carriage to another. never counted guests until the last leg on bus, could have lost anybody as changed at station. When got on the Flam railway and got into the cabin we were told the porter came out and YELLED that we had to get out of those seats and find others they were the seats we were told to take but he YELLED again get out, have never been spoken to like that on an excursion Seems to be very class conscious on how many cruises you have had with them even to the dining room had different color tablecloths for the elite. Activities during the day you can have so many times throwing of bean bags as an activity At bingo the guests which were the nosiest one picked the games you played the caller lacked personality. when on a cruise we never miss a bingo session and were very disappointed Embarkation and disembarkation were good Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
The embarkation was very swift and smooth. The room staff was brilliant in personality and service throughout the cruise. The trip in general was good however we found issue in relation to a number of the excursions provided by the ... Read More
The embarkation was very swift and smooth. The room staff was brilliant in personality and service throughout the cruise. The trip in general was good however we found issue in relation to a number of the excursions provided by the cruise line. They did not cater for the mobility impaired patrons as well and other cruise lines do. On the tour they are left to their own devices. One shore excursion involved 3 carriages of passengers and only 1 (ONE) guide was supplied. Incorrect information was provided. There appeared to be a large emphasis in the promotion of further cruises and appeared to go overboard at times. We found that ship notices/announcements were available to the cabin however the TV had to be on a certain channel and by the time the TV was turned on or able to be changed to that channel the message was completed and missed. Disembarkation from the ship at Dover was very swift and clean Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
The ship. Our previous cruise was aboard the Astoria (Cruise Maritime Vessels), a good comparison being about the same size. The Astoria is a bit smaller in dimensions and weight, but has a larger draught. The Pearl II has a knot or ... Read More
The ship. Our previous cruise was aboard the Astoria (Cruise Maritime Vessels), a good comparison being about the same size. The Astoria is a bit smaller in dimensions and weight, but has a larger draught. The Pearl II has a knot or two extra in top speed, and carries 45 odd fewer passengers (512 vs 556). Both ships give the benefit of small ships to those that prefer this; no great hikes to get from one place to another, plenty of sitting places, no long queues, interesting layout that feels like a ship rather than a shopping centre. The Pearl has gangway entrances on two decks and when the gangway was used from deck A it never seemed as steep as Astoria. Perhaps the decor on the Pearl was marginally better (say 9/10 rather than 8.5/10), but this depends on personal preference so lets say they are equal. We had an inside cabin on A deck, which was small but adequate. The shower is a bit tricky until you realise the doors open both ways; inwards and outwards. If you open them outwards, it is a tight squeeze to get between them. If you open them inwards, it isn't easy to close them behind you. The trick is to open one inwards and one outwards, then it is a piece of cake. Having now experienced Saga, we have booked on Saga Sapphire for next year, "Stylish Scandinavia", visiting Denmark, Sweden and Norway. We were told our cabin 6576 on deck 6 will be nearly twice as big as our current one on Saga Pearl II. Our current cabin (311) is not in the best location as it is under the Discovery lounge with lots of bumping when they rearrange the seating for afternoon tea, and thumping from the bass when they have music during showtime. We always bring a small torch (as insurance against emergencies), but we found one (with a luminous casing to find it in the dark) provided in the cabin. This is a useful safety feature which should be provided on all ships (Safety at Sea need to get up to date). Saga also provided a pair of binoculars and two bathrobes, chocolates on the pillows with the turn down service, petit fours after every evening meal (not just formal nights), free wine at lunch and dinner. The TV includes a DVD player with DVDs on loan (from the Internet help desk). Saga seem to include little extras with basic cabins that only come with higher grades on other lines. They also provide free Wifi from the public areas. It is not officially available in the cabins, but we found it did work at quiet times. This might depend on your cabin location. Layout of the ship The library was good, a decent size with plenty of books and seating, but like many ships it suffered from poor placement, being between the main dining room and the show lounge and thus was a main thoroughfare. Many people, particular those with loud penetrating voices liked to stop on the way through if they meet someone and have long conversations, often accompanied by raucous laughter, while others were trying to read or concentrate on emails. I have found this to be a problem on all ships unless the library is properly located. Another problem on the Pearl, which I have met before is the siting of a bar with live music in the middle of the library, with the doors propped open. When not used for music they have functions like exercise classes and quizes in there. The Saga ships up until now have been bought second hand and so ship design, although it can be tinkered with on a refit, is pretty much baked in. Placement of the library looks better on the deck plans for the new Sprits. I understand that people are on holiday and want to enjoy themselves and conversation with others and shared laughter is an important part of this, but there does need to be a quiet place on every ship where people can go to relax, read a book or sleep. If the library can't provide this function then another place needs to be found for it. It is worth studying the ships deck plan that you get given on boarding as some places are not easy to find. The Sundowner Bar is such a case, and as many people never find it, it can be a nice quiet relaxing place. We went there for a pre dinner cocktail once to be told there would be a private function starting in quarter of an hour, for the first time travellers. Since we were first time travellers we qualified anyway. Travel service, embarkation/disembarkation, muster drill. Saga provide a choice of chauffeur travel or free parking. We chose chauffeur, but were given a limit of one case and one carry on per person. We have since found this is only a default limit, it can be exceeded if you arrange this when you book, and they will allocate a people carrier rather than a car. A benefit of this service, (like ship excursions) is that if anything goes wrong, Saga will sort it out. If you travel under your own steam and have a breakdown, it is up to you to catch the boat up if it leaves without you. It could be a benefit to use your own car and park if you bring your own wine (allowed on Saga - although free wine is provided with meals). We found embarkation a doddle, we arrived at the scheduled time and went straight through the check in process and boarded straight away, no different to other lines, except there was no waiting. They retained passports at check in, a process we do not like. We got our passports back after Norway, but with the usual paper labels stuck on; at least these were done neatly and were easy peel. Disembarkation was an improvement over CMV, much the same except that you were given numbers rather than colours and had to vacate cabins by 9:00 rather than 7:00. The disembarkation ran to schedule except for a ten minute delay between 1 and 2, which was never caught up, but no more was lost. We were scheduled for 10:00, called at 10:10 and drove out of the terminal at 10:25. As you come out, you queue up to get a porter, he loads your cases on to a trolley and a man at the gate reads out your name for your driver to step forward from the waiting queue. and he shows us all to the waiting car. It worked very well. The Mercedes people carrier was very comfortable. Muster drill was well organised like Princess lines. A seated affair in the muster station with instruction by tannoy and demonstration by the staff. No traipsing out on deck for a roll call by name; you give your cabin number on arrival and get checked off. One thing that was unique in my experience, was that as soon as the captain started to speak, every one fell silent and paid attention. It makes a change from the normal case of people talking over important announcements. Once muster drill was over we were ready to leave, but Sapphire, at terminal one went first, and we followed after, using the same tug to spin us round. The staff and service I find that staff are generally friendly on all cruise lines, sometimes you get a brusque receptionist (bad choice by management), but no complaints on this occasion. Other passengers have reported being greeted by name, from cruises 3 to 20 years ago. The waiters are attentive and keep you topped up. Dining is open seating but you can request fixed seating if you prefer that. Most passengers seem to prefer open seating, and if you need a quick meal the waiters, on request, will not leave you waiting while others have every course going. We did find that the normal start time of 7:00 p.m. was rather late for us. Our cabin stewardess, Juliette, was very efficient, with our cabin always ready for us after breakfast and evening meal. One suitcase, which opens flat went under the bed, but the other was too fat to go underneath the other bed, so we left it in our cabin while we went for our evening meal, meaning to ask when we came back if there was somewhere it could be stored. When we returned it had already been taken care of. It reappeared, as if by magic, on the evening before packing without us having to ask. The passengers I have seen complaints on Cruise Critics that the passengers on Saga are geriatric. I found them no worse than other lines who have their mix of walkers, sticks and zimmer frames. In fact I have seen no wheelchairs on this cruise, but they have been common place on other ships. I do find that there are more open minded passengers on Saga, interesting to talk to and enjoy their cruising, though there are always some bigoted, insular people complaining about foreigners. I can never understand people going on a cruise and then expecting everything to be the same as at home. If you don't like foreign food and new experiences, then take a holiday in your own country. The food Like most ships there are two restaurants, the main dining room which is waiter service, and the buffet higher up which is self service. There are no speciality restaurants. The food is of a high standard and served hot, with the exception of the salads and chilled soups of course. Saga are still serving chilled soups (unlike HAL who have recently abandoned them), with a different chilled soup on each day's menu. To be honest they are often more like smoothies than soups, but they come with the soup course and can serve as a refresher, like a sorbet, between courses. Formal nights include a sorbet between the soup and main course. One of the ways I judge a ship's catering ability is by the Fish and Chips they produce. I have had them with slimy fish and soggy batter, or rock hard batter that is difficult to cut (would be good for resoling shoes). The Pearl Chefs passed my test, crispy, crunchy batter, but easy to eat, good quality haddock, mushy peas made with petits pois rather than the traditional marrowfat peas, so they actually tasted like fresh peas. Equal to the best that England can produce. The chips were not quite up to the Belgian thrice fried standard, but were good, and hot. Later on another test was passed, poached pear which was just right. I have had this in France which was so hard it was difficult to cut with a knife. Start with a juicy pear and it ends up as mush. The Tarte Tatin was not so good, and not tradionally made. They have a huge range of cheeses, a different selection every night of around eight to ten cheeses, many of which I had never heard of, and we do have a good cheese shop in Colchester. Not just the Brie, Cheddar and Edam that you can get offered each night on other lines. A welcome change was the absence of Baked Alaska on the last night. We had the chef and waiter parade but that is an opportunity for us to show their work is appreciated. The itinerary and cruise Our first stop was Arendal in Norway followed by Sasnitz in Germany but the rest were in Sweeden. Marriehamn is actually Finland but the island of Åland is culturaly Swedish. Some of the excursions were better than others; we particularly enjoyed the Tall Ships Experiwence on Mercedes at Sasnitz, and the visit to the Elk farm at Umeå. We also found Marriehamn a charming place and enjoyed that execursion. If you want more detail of the excursions, with Google maps of the tracks and pictures you can refer to my cruise blog at http://sturnidae.com/cruises/201806%20Bothnia/index.htm. The last part of the cruise was a daylight transitof the Kiel Canal. This is a wonderful experience in fine weather. Unfortunately not the best for us this time, they put on a German lunch with Sausages, Sauerkraut and Beer which made an enjoyable occasion using the outside decks at the aft of the boat and bridge decks; and the rain held off until lunch was over. There were three formal nights, being a 2 week cruise. Saga seem to be still hanging on to the old outdated traditions and expect formal wear in the bars and buffet. They have relaxed a bit as they used to have three dress codes, but now only have two. My view is that if you want to get dressed up, do so, but don't expect everyone else to do so as well. If you want to be surrounded by pretentious people then travel on Cunard. Smart should be good enough for anyone nowadays, you don't get togged up in dress suits to go out to a local restaurant in the evening. Not everywhere has to be like Glynebourne. Before travelling on Saga I asked for opinions on Cruise Critics and was told they may look up market but are not really any better than the basic lines. From my experience of one cruise with them I disagree. I have not travelled with Azamara or Oceania so may be they are better, but they are expensive. Saga look expensive at first sight, but you get a lot of extras included which you have to pay for in your onboard account on other lines. We will be travelling with them again and have two more cruises booked now. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We were just scrolling cruises and saw this one ,unbelievable price ,with just two weeks to sailing ,too good to miss ,so booked it !!! Then I started reading reviews how the crew were surly unhelpful etc...and I thought omg what have ... Read More
We were just scrolling cruises and saw this one ,unbelievable price ,with just two weeks to sailing ,too good to miss ,so booked it !!! Then I started reading reviews how the crew were surly unhelpful etc...and I thought omg what have we done ,and worried for the next two weeks !!!!.... Well , how wrong were the reviews ,or what did people expect ...bowing and scapeing...we found everyone so happy ,glad to help you with anything ... Kelly in reception .. Manuel our waiter ,and Denis always in the restruant with a smile , Eddie our cabin Steward.Saulo, Marvin ,bar waiters ,in fact all the crew ..... The food was very good ,downside ..you had to pay for bottled water at meal times , ...you could ask for anything and they tried to oblige us ..I had mash potatoes every night with my meal (cos I love them ) The cabin were very nice and clean ...downside no tea/coffee making facilities The ship was a bit over OTT ,glass , mirrors , stainless steel everywhere ,but so so clean ,lifts always available,... The nightly shows were disappointing,and not to the standard of P &O Fred Olsen . The ship had lots of nationalitys ,and everyone got along fine ,there was a very happy atmosphere on board ,and I would certainly go with them again ... Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2018
We booked this cruise as originally we booked a P&O cruise which was cancelled because they sold the ship! We booked it 7 months in advance and requested 1st sitting for dinner on a table of 6-8 people so that we would have a variety ... Read More
We booked this cruise as originally we booked a P&O cruise which was cancelled because they sold the ship! We booked it 7 months in advance and requested 1st sitting for dinner on a table of 6-8 people so that we would have a variety of people to talk to over a lengthy meal. However on arrival we discovered that we were on the 1st sitting but on a table for 4. The other couple were very pleasant but were very elderly (guessing near 90) and had very little conversation. We decided that we could not take another 9 evenings of stilted conversation and asked to move table but there were none available, so the only option was to move to the 8.30 sitting which we reluctantly did. Luckily we were on a table of 6 like minded people and enjoyed the rest of our meals. However, this meant that I was starving each evening waiting for my meal and had to fill up on snacks. Also there is absolutely no entertainment on the ship between 5pm and 8pm so the only options were to go to the bar, read a book or watch TV (which did not work a lot of the time as it lost the satellite signal so there was only the news or films to watch). In Addition the 2nd entertainment show was not until 10.30 pm, so we could not go as we wanted to be in bed by 11pm as we had be up early for tours. So our evenings were spoiled. However, we enjoyed the daytimes, food was very good and so was the service. We took advantage of the drinks upgrade which meant certain drinks were included all day. We enjoyed the one show that we did go to and the various tours, with the exception of Dublin, which was not very good. We were lucky that the weather was lovely and saw the Scottish islands at their best. We had a balcony cabin mainly because it gave you a larger cabin as the standard cabins on Boudicca are very small. Fresh fruit, water and canapés included every day, comfortable bed. Would not cruise with Fred Olsen again unless they change the evening meal to open dining. We were surprised that Shetland, the Orkneys and Lewis are very bleak with hardly any trees, the tours were of good quality. Only spent half a day in Mull, would have preferred longer. Some people had to get up at 6 am to go on a lengthy tour to be back in time to leave. Loch Ness boat ride was lovely. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
This was our first cruise on a smaller ship and our first to this region. Embarkation was easy and fast, probably because we boarded later due to the long drive from London. Our inside cabin was spacious and had a lot of closet and ... Read More
This was our first cruise on a smaller ship and our first to this region. Embarkation was easy and fast, probably because we boarded later due to the long drive from London. Our inside cabin was spacious and had a lot of closet and shelf space, more than other ships. We were midship and it was easy to get around, even for my handicapped husband. Dining was delicious and our servers were polite and charming. Entertainment was varied and pleasing. Without a big theatre with a stage, the performers were up close and personal. They were all friendly and happy to interact with the audience. Because of my husband's disability, we were offered special treatment; stickers for tours were delivered to our room saving him a walk to the lounge and he was given front seats on the busses. We loved the small ship experience. No lines for elevators, shows or purchases. The bathroom shower was bigger than most with lots of storage in the bathroom. The only thing I missed were onboard activities like book club, fashion show and pop choir. We usually toured in the morning and napped until dinner, although the large, lovely library was a favorite place to relax and read, especially on rainy days. We would definitely go on this ship again, perhaps to anther location. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Cruising on Pacific Princess was as wonderful as our friends had told us! The Captain and all the crew ensured everyone had a fantastic time. Our cabin attendant, Eduardo was hardworking and ensured the cabin was perfect when we ... Read More
Cruising on Pacific Princess was as wonderful as our friends had told us! The Captain and all the crew ensured everyone had a fantastic time. Our cabin attendant, Eduardo was hardworking and ensured the cabin was perfect when we returned from a day out. It was a pleasure seeing his smiling face. We chose second sitting, 7.45pm, for dinner in the dining room. It was perfect timing for us as we didn't need to rush when returning from an excursion. The meals were very good with plenty of variety. The desserts a delicious treat! Our waiter, Samsuri and wine steward, Javin were attentive, professional, friendly and helpful when choosing our meal. We looked forward to seeing them each evening. Sat at a table for 8 but there was always only 6 of us as one couple never turned up. Buffet breakfast and buffet lunch, free seating, was excellent with a wide variety of choices. If we had an early morning excursion, we enjoyed breakfast in the cabin. Ports of call were all wonderful but St. Petersburg was fantastic! A magnificent cruise that we can highly recommend and one we will remember for ever. Being a smaller ship, it was easy to meet people and make friends. There were shows on board but we preferred relaxing after dinner in the piano bar listening to entertainer, Austin Ray who played the piano and sang songs from a long list of popular songs. Austin is a wonderful entertainer. We very much look forward to one day cruising on Pacific Princess again. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
The Ocean Princess (R4-1999) was a favourite of ours until they sold her to Oceana and she was renamed Sirena, but Princess Cruises brought Pacific Princess (R3-1999) over to replace her role and we found her just as charming. We live ... Read More
The Ocean Princess (R4-1999) was a favourite of ours until they sold her to Oceana and she was renamed Sirena, but Princess Cruises brought Pacific Princess (R3-1999) over to replace her role and we found her just as charming. We live in Essex so traveled to Dover by car and didn't use any pre or post cruise hotels. We used Port Parking who are very efficient and reasonably in price. You can park on the dock, which is very convenient, but is a little more expensive and can be bad for your car if there is a storm. We are Platinum level and so boarding was quick and easy, but they have it well organized at Dover with a snack bar, Tannoy announcements of progress, comfortable seating and plenty of room. The itinerary was the main attraction for this cruise, besides trying the Pacific for the first time. We love Iceland (we were there in June too) and we have always gone via the North Sea so to go via the Irish sea with visits to Dublin, Belfast, Liverpool and Oban was just too tempting. There was no wind when we left Dover so the sea was the flattest I have ever seen it, but this did mean we could not see France due to the sea fog. By the time we had got to the Irish Sea it had freshened up a bit and the ship did roll and toss but it was never bad. My wife suffers when it is really rough and she never did need any pills. Bags were out once or twice, there were the occasional white horses but you could always walk down the corridors without looking too drunk. Our impression of the ship is that she is just like the Ocean was, spookily similar in layout, slight differences in decor, but with the same helpful friendly crew. The design is well thought out with plenty of seating in lounges, plenty of places for photography from the ship, shelter on some decks from the wind and enough variety in layout to keep it interesting but not so much that you get lost. Some cruise ships we have been on are more like cross channel ferries, this feels like a real cruise liner. Our cabin (6031) was well laid out, plenty of drawer and cupboard space, the settee was a little small (it could seat two thin ones, but we had to take turns) but there was a second chair. The mattress sloped at the edges, so if you strayed too near the edge you could slide out of bed, but it was a Queen size bed so it could be avoided. Our cabin was quiet (we have had noisy neighbours before) but we chose this one as it has only one neighbour (lifeboats on the other side). There are four of these cabins on deck 6, two at the front and two at the back. The forward ones are handy for the Show Lounge, the aft ones are handy for the Main Restaurant. The balcony had a small table and two loungers. I was told by Princess that all their ships have US 110v only, but this is not true. Certainly the Pacific Princess has both US 110V and continental 220V. We were able to run three USB chargers with no problem. There were plenty of onboard activities. We went to an Astronomy lecture but didn't attend any more as we have both studied this at University level, it was fine for the ordinary cruiser though. We attend the Glockenspiel classes (5) which we thoroughly enjoyed, they have done Ukuleles, Penny Whistles and Tin Pans on other cruises. We also attended several of the trivia sessions when we were not ashore and won two of them. We had two Brits and two Aussies in our team; another two USA or Canadian would have been ideal. We didn't go to any shows or use the bars. We used the main dining room most of the time which is fixed seating in two sittings. The staff are efficient, knowledgeable and friendly and the food is good. We never take the comprehensive drinks package which we think is extortionate, but we took the wine package. They have four; 7 bottles or 10 bottles and silver (up to $35) or gold (up to $45). They have a good range of wines which are expensive if you compare with what you can pay in a supermarket, but reasonable compared to restaurant prices. The only problem we found was they have a limited number of tables for two. We needed this for two reasons, noisy Americans who have to talk so that the whole room can hear, and passengers who insist on having every course and then talking instead of eating. As the waiters like to synchronise the courses it can take an age if you are only having one course. The Panorama buffet is an alternative to the main dining, the food is often the same, sometimes you can get extras like Biscuits and Gravy (it is fun watching Brits put butter and jam on the biscuits thinking they are scones). We found previously it could be difficult getting a seat in the Panorama, but it was no problem this time. There are two specialty restaurants; Sabatinis and the Steak House but we did not use these. We have tried Sabatinis on the Ocean Princess and found it rather filling. They seem to have a new procedure for excursions when you dock; meet on the pier at your coach. Tender ports are still run from the Show Lounge so that the tenders can be scheduled and to avoid congestion at the boarding pontoon. The organised excursion were good, though maybe a bit expensive compared to Fred Oulsen say. We had one excursion canceled due to lack of interest, but this is down to the other passengers, not the cruise line. Disembarkation was painless compared to CMV. We could pick our slot (independent travel with platinum) and chose 8:30 but were allocated 8:00. We didn't have to vacate our cabins until 8:00 so could have breakfast first. Dover port had trouble with the automatic gangway which delayed start of disembarkation but by the time they got to us they had caught up. Apart from a 15 minute delay at the Dartford Crossing due to an accident further up the M25 we had an uneventful journey home. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and have put down a future cruise deposit, hopefully they will have a round Britain cruise in 2019 (we already have 3 cruises for 2018). Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
This was our 3rd Crystal cruise and whilst all have been excellent, this was probably the best. We booked fairly late due to life getting in the way of a previously booked cruise in July so did not have the best choice of cabin, and ended ... Read More
This was our 3rd Crystal cruise and whilst all have been excellent, this was probably the best. We booked fairly late due to life getting in the way of a previously booked cruise in July so did not have the best choice of cabin, and ended up right at the front of the ship. It was absolutely fine most of the time, but we did have one rather rocky night in the Bay of Biscay! Embarkation was remarkable. We were very lucky to be within driving distance of Dover, where our cruise started. From leaving the car, we were in the Crystal Dining Room within 15 minutes – having stopped off to check out our room on the way! We have stayed in this room category on Symphony previously (PS), so it was just as expected and very comfortable. As I have said in previous reviews, I do think a little updating is required and hopefully this will happen in the upcoming dry dock. In particular, the TVs are very small and somewhat dated and some of the furnishings are looking a little tired. However, it is a well-planned and thought out space with plenty of storage, and a good-sized and equipped bathroom. The bed was very comfortable with quality linens and pillows. We forgot to bring a phone charger, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was an integral charger in the clock. We sampled many of the facilities on the ship – the gym, spa, cinema (rather weird choices of films sometimes!), Vintage Room, lectures, casino, shops etc. We also enjoyed several specialty restaurant reservations. Service throughout the cruise was outstanding. Where we did have an issue, it was resolved quickly, efficiently and with good grace. The crew, across the board, were unfailingly friendly and helpful – I know they are trained to be so and ‘have’ to be, but it makes for a great ambience nevertheless. We found the food to be excellent, as previously. We did eat several times in the specialties and never tired of either. The CDR was also good, but I felt service was a little below par at times and that they were over-stretched with so many people to take care of especially on the BTO evenings. This resulted in either long waits before ordering and between courses, or conversely one plate being whipped away and the next course being served almost simultaneously. We found the included wines to be very drinkable and of course there was always the option to purchase wines when we felt like splurging. I wish they had a better included champagne though! We are reluctant to buy a bottle of champagne because we would never get anywhere near finishing it, but I cannot drink the included stuff. We had signed up for the Ultimate Vintage Room, but perhaps there wasn’t enough interest because it was not offered. Instead we did the regular Vintage Room dinner and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Great food, wine and company.. a really good evening. We thought all the ports were well worth visiting, but perhaps didn’t make the best choices with a couple of our excursions which were a bit long/boring/expensive. We didn’t get to all the shows but enjoyed those that we saw, with the exception of the new light show which wasn’t to our taste, but I’m sure many would disagree. We also found the lectures interesting, informative and entertaining. All in all, we had a wonderful time and look forward to our next Crystal cruise. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We wanted a short cruise just to try it out - and without kids squawking so we chose Saga. Saga supplies door to door transport - very poor on the way there with a bad driver who nearly got us involved in a major accident but good on the ... Read More
We wanted a short cruise just to try it out - and without kids squawking so we chose Saga. Saga supplies door to door transport - very poor on the way there with a bad driver who nearly got us involved in a major accident but good on the way back. Luggage transfer is smooth - once it is in the car you won't have to haul it around anywhere. We had a balcony cabin - not worth it on the ship as the balconies are about as wide as a window box. The cabin was a good standard, very clean with comfortable bed and a walk in shower. Ship has main Pole to Pole restaurant, Verandah casual (but menu same as Pole to Pole at night), East to West which is extra so we did not try, fish and chips by the pool and afternoon tea in two of the lounges. Food was really excellent - a talented chef on board - amd with plenty of choice. Dinner seven courses if you wanted it - with included house wine which was OK, lunch at Veranda either a choice of three cooked things, barbecue grill or an extensive cold buffet. Very pleasant eating outside here. Saga makes much of tables for two being available - but in reality there are very few. We were lucky, being put with two other people we really got on with. We sat together thoughout There is no tipping on Saga ships.Staff mainly Filipino and apart from odd language problems excellent. If wi fi is important to you avoid this ship as mainly it does not work and the so called computer exper is clueless. Two pools -outdoor very chilly, indoor quite warm. Tea and coffee is help yourself from a machine - which we did not like much. Drawing Room a very nice place to sit. Plenty of loungers around the ship. Clientele definitely on the elderly side - bit like a seagoing care home. Entertainment a bit on the seaside concert party side - and is in one of the large lounges as this ship does not have a theatre. A good choice if you want an easy trip and need to be looked after. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2017
We had never been on a small ship, didn't think we would like traditional dining , but it was great. Elevators not crowded, disembarkment easier on tours, entertainment at night was great, more intimate. It is an older ship and we ... Read More
We had never been on a small ship, didn't think we would like traditional dining , but it was great. Elevators not crowded, disembarkment easier on tours, entertainment at night was great, more intimate. It is an older ship and we had a couple of room issues which were solved when we complained. Overall an older group, and cool location therefore pools not used a lot, so lucky not a lot of sea days . We were kept busy by many ports. We enjoyed Estonia, Tallin was clean, historic, outside dining and nice shops, and would have liked two days there rather than Stockholm. Russia was not our first choice eIther, especially for two days......many were impressed with the castles.....guess we have seen too many , big waste of money when streets could be cleaned up and other builds. Amsterdam seemed to be a place we could have spent more time as well. Overall we enjoyed! Read Less
29 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
This review has sections for each of CruiseCritic’s “ tips for writing a great review” except “hotel information” and “children's clubs” which do not apply. CruiseCritic’s scoring, like most review questionnaires, ... Read More
This review has sections for each of CruiseCritic’s “ tips for writing a great review” except “hotel information” and “children's clubs” which do not apply. CruiseCritic’s scoring, like most review questionnaires, rates a series of general aspects, like dining. Helpful though these scores are, they do not allow for specific aspects of the service, some of which may be poor and some excellent. Our ratings are repeated below and followed by an attempt to explain why the overall rating is not the whole story. Background information We are experienced travellers but have previously only cruised three times, twice with P&O and once with Thomson. We are English (as were nearly all our fellow passengers) and now comfortably meet Saga’s over 50 requirement. Our reasons for selecting Saga and the “Celtic Charms” cruise were for the lack of children, the included door to door travel, the included tips and the itinerary. We wanted to see Guernsey and Ireland and this cruise included St Peter Port and five ports in Ireland. It really did offer to go where other cruise lines don’t. Ship information Saga Sapphire is a proper cruise ship as distinct from a giant floating tower-block. It seemed similar in size to P&O’s Artemis and Thomson’s Spirit but smaller than P&O’s Canberra. It lacks a wrap-round promenade. The prom on deck 9 is in two bits but you can walk right round on deck 12 at the top. It has ten passenger decks but two of these, decks 2 and 4 are only partly public, housing an indoor pool, beauty treatment and a lecture room. The Beach Club on deck 11 is worth a mention. It offers self-service ice-cream and sweets, fish & chips, a pool, and deck-chairs, all free but you need to go into the adjoining Drawing Room to find a bar. The ship has a friendly, club atmosphere and as with all Saga, is child free and for the over 50’s (see Onboard Experience). The whole ship was always clean and tidy. Even the public loos looked and smelt like they had not been used. Table cloths were always spotless. We did not normally see any cleaning but when we did, they were taking extra trouble for example, on their knees, vacuuming the cracks in the grating where the lifts join the floor. There were hand cleaning machines and sprays everywhere and they were greatly used. There was quite a lot of banging on the second night. Reception, next morning, offered no explanation and said that we should have reported it at the time. Other passengers more helpfully suggested that it was waves hitting the ship. There was some swaying from side to side the following day but things settled down after that. It’s difficult to compare different ships in different conditions but we’ve had worse in the north sea and in the bay of Biscay. It was our impression that this ship rode rough waters better than some. Cabin Our Rating - Average A review of the cabin is in CruiseCritic’s separate section. Dining Our Rating - Excellent - but Saga Sapphire has two main restaurants but there is little difference between them. The bigger “Pole to Pole” on deck 7 is slightly more formal with a slightly more comprehensive waiter service. The alternative “Grill” on deck 9 has an out-side option, the “Verandah”, weather permitting. There is also a speciality Asian restaurant, “East to West”, also on deck 9 which is free but we had to queue at specific times to get a booking. We only ate there once at a table for two in a spacious, peaceful room with an interesting menu and excellent service, let down a little by the request at the end to say how good it was on our end-of-cruise survey. Dining times could be better. Breakfast often ended at 9:30. With two restaurant options, it should be possible to offer breakfast till at least 10am and preferably 11am. Dining times for lunch and dinner were similarly limited and changed from day to day but we did not find this a problem. There was no late night buffet and the unappetising late bites (hors d'oeuvres) offered in some of the bars were no substitute. Dining arrangements were better than expected and better than other ships we have tried. Although we did not apply for an optional fixed table, we were often able to get a table for two on arrival at “Pole to Pole”. Otherwise, there were usually options to join tables for four, six or eight. At some of the tables, the seating was quite close but we have experienced worse. Only once, did we find ourselves dining in poor company and on that occasion we were soon joined by another couple who lightened the atmosphere. The overall atmosphere in both main restaurants was generally hectic rather than relaxed. There were some quiet areas but mostly waiters and fellow passengers were coming and going around the tables all the time. It was never quiet and the temperature got quite high in some places. On our cruise, heat was not a problem. It did not get warm enough to use the “veranda”. The speciality “East to West” was more spacious and much more peaceful. Restaurant service was consistently polite and attentive. We usually did not have to wait long, either to be seated or at any stage during meals. Aspects of the service were, however, confusing. We could order from a menu, but it was never clear what else was available from the buffet (both restaurants) or even where the buffets were. Waiters would explain, but some of them, presumably because of limited English, gave misleading or unhelpful responses. Sometimes the wrong meal was delivered and when offered coffee and requesting tea, we were likely to get another waiter offering coffee again before tea turned up. Menu choices were good. For breakfast, we have not seen more options anywhere else. Lunch and dinner menus changed daily but it was not clear how many courses there were supposed to be. Soups and salads were all listed under starters and it was not clear which of the main meals needed additional potatoes or vegetables. The waiters would, however, without question, bring anything ordered including items not on the menu. For breakfast, toast, like tea, coffee and fruit juice, was waiter served with a choice of white or brown. It turned up somewhat randomly, before of after what you wanted it with and it was never hot. None of the above points prevented us from getting what we wanted at meal times and all the food was really good. Free wine (reasonable quality red or white with lunch and dinner) and water were topped up regularly and there was tea or coffee with sweeties to finish. The food was, if anything, better than we have had from P&O and much better than Thomson. Finally, further comments about other food and drink options are under “Service” below. Embarkation - including travel to embarkation port Travel Service - our rating would be Good - but it could be better. Travel or parking are included in the cost of a Saga cruise. The people carrier arrived at our home a little early. There were already a couple in it, so we got the rear seats - spacious but not as comfortable as the middle seats or a car. The driver loaded and unloaded our four cases. The journey should only have taken two and a half hours but our fellow travellers wanted to stop once and then the driver wanted to stop again, only half an hour from the port. On arrival, there was a ten minute queue of vehicles waiting to be unloaded. At the head of this queue, on leaving the people carrier, neither the driver nor anyone else were able to advise us, so we followed our luggage. This turned our to be wrong and we were re-directed to another queue. After another few minutes, as we got closer to the head of the queue, it became apparent that it was only for optional photo’s. We then walked straight to a reception desk. Embarkation - Our Rating - Excellent Having got past the unnecessary delays, check-in and boarding were instant. We exchanged our passports for plastic cards, signed a health disclaimer and walked on to the ship. A girl immediately escorted us to our cabin. Here the welcome news-sheet explained what was on, how to register our ship’s cards to our bank card (or credit card for a 1.5% charge) and most importantly where to find the welcome buffet. This was extensive with more than we needed for lunch. There was ample seating, waiters regularly re-filled tea and coffee cups and a string quartet entertained us. On returning to our cabin, two of our cases had arrived and the other two followed within half an hour. Because of bad weather, muster, shortly after returning to our cabin, occurred in the public rooms where we took rather than wore our life-jackets. This was a good deal more civilised than mustering on deck. Activities (enrichment or otherwise) Our Rating - Poor There were some but that is not what were were looking for or expecting from this cruise. We did attend one of the lectures for a bit but it was so uninteresting, we can not even remember the subject. Entertainment Our Rating - Average - just None of the entertainment was annoying and some of it did entertain. The “cruise director”, Jo Boase, did a good job of compering and informing us of what was on. The shows were not as good as on other cruise lines, not helped by the lack of a proper theatre. Irish dancing where the audience can not see the dancers feet is pointless although the music and energy were good enough and there were TV screens dotted around. The “Saga Orchestra” seemed to comprise five musicians - not really enough for a band let alone an orchestra. The sound was quite good but the single saxophone stood out with no other wind instruments. Similarly, the second main act, the “Ocean Duo” relied on one good female voice backed by recorded tracks and an unimpressive male singer-guitarist. This duo might be more entertaining if their repertoire was not so limited. We heard many numbers more than three times. The “cocktail pianist”, Stuart Anderson was entertaining. If anything, too entertaining for a cocktail pianist, especially as he played mostly in “Coopers” bar which is really too small for entertainment. Saga would have done better to deploy Stuart in place of the Ocean Duo and add a pianist to play the untouched grand pianos which were all over the ship. In addition to these acts, there was a classical string quartet, “the Pier” who were good and “Mr Yalba” a speciality music act. His first show was good but not good enough for us to want to see the second. Fitness & Recreation Our Rating - Average This may not be a fair rating as we did not look for or use any fitness facilities. There was some equipment and an indoor pool in the bowels of the ship on deck 3. There were also some recreational classes, notably exercising, crafts, dancing and bridge but we did not join in. The promenade on deck 9 is in two bits so you can not promenade around the ship but you can walk right round on deck 12 at the top, where there is crazy-golf and other games. Onboard Experience Our Rating - Good - but In at least two places there were lingering bad smells of drains and or fuel. Fortunately this did not affect our cabin or the public rooms. Each morning, “Today” a four page what's-on plus a four page newspaper summarising UK and world events were delivered to our cabin. “Today” was a great help in planning each day. We were treated to three “cocktail parties” where bubbly or soft drinks flowed and staff officers circulated. They were pleasant enough get-to-gethers but there were no actual cocktails. We are in our seventies but our fellow travellers seemed old. Walking sticks and walking frames were everywhere. This did make progress slow on the gangways and shuttle buses but having said that, there was normally no problem getting around the ship. When the weather was bad, staff helpfully escorted the numerous, partially disabled around and this did slow things down. There were, however, none of the crushes to get to the best seats that we have experienced on other ships. Our cruise seemed more like a floating care home than a floating holiday camp. The passengers were universally polite, good humoured and not down market. We developed quite close relationships with several passengers and had interesting conversations with many more. Public Rooms Our Rating - Average Saga Sapphire has two large public rooms, the Britannia Lounge on deck 8 and the Drawing Room on deck 11 plus two smaller rooms, the Aviator Lounge on deck 7 and Coopers Bar on deck 8. There is also an under cover outside bar at the Verandah on deck 9. The Britannia Lounge has assorted comfortable seating mostly with tables. There is no tiered seating, the stage is not very high and much of the entertainment uses the dance floor. So, it’s good for listening to shows but not so good for seeing them. Afternoon tea and the “cocktail parties” are held here when waiters serve the drinks. There is no bar. The Drawing Room is very multi-purpose. Basically it is an observation lounge but it has a library; board games and jig-saws set at small tables; self-service cakes and hot drinks; a bar and a dance floor plus doors out to the forward deck and to the Beach Club. It hosts daytime and evening entertainment. The seating is all upholstered but mixed. There are some comfy armchairs, some less comfortable fitted sofas with too few cushions and other fixed sofas facing the wrong way, away from the windows, dance-floor and performance area - there is no stage. There are some tables but also some space wasting large upholstered boxes which are neither tables nor stools. This room is very different at different times. Mostly, it’s a peaceful observation lounge. Sometimes, when the self-service is available, it’s a busy tea-room. Sometimes it’s an entertainment venue, including classical concerts, quizzes and evening dancing or shows. It was popular and at times difficult to find a seat. The Aviator Lounge is split into two parts with the reception and tour desks in-between. One part has a bar and waiters try to service both sides. The seating is mostly near to windows and comfortable with tables. Coopers Bar is next to the Britannia Lounge. It is small but despite this, on our cruise, was a popular entertainment venue. Waiters imported extra seating and the room became very crowded when Stuart was performing. At other times, it was peaceful and the seating (apart from the bar stools) was comfortable. It was good to find draft real ale, Shepherd Neam’s Spitfire, in all the bars. Service Our Rating - Excellent - but The staff were mostly Filipino and they were universally polite, helpful and friendly. Once or twice, it was not clear whether our request had been understood. For example, meal orders were not always repeated back to us but this is really a minor quibble. We would be pleased to get such good service in England. We did not try the launderette, partly because the laundry service charges were reasonable. £1.50 for a shirt from memory. The results were more than acceptable but the ultra-fussy may want to do a bit of re-ironing. Other aspects of service were not quite as good. Meal times were restricted, particularly breakfast, as mentioned above but on top of that, the availability of other options was unclear. The hot drink machines had restricted hours and the free room service was limited. We did not try ordering food from room service, just late night hot drinks. We could have tea, coffee and biscuits but not a cappuccino. It took two ‘phone calls to establish that cappuccino was only available “when the bar was open” and even then we would have had to pay although a cappuccino would only cost £0.95. Shore Excursions Our Rating - Average - and expensive Because of bad weather, we first went to Cherbourg instead of Guernsey. We then went round Ireland the opposite way, calling at all five ports but in reverse order. Finally, we called at Portland (Weymouth) instead of Ilfracombe before returning to Dover. Captain Julian Burgess was very informative, especially about the changes, saying that we were on a magical mystery cruise. We considered three options for the ports we were to visit, Saga’s optional excursions, booking advance tickets or making our own way (d.i.y.). We settled for two of Saga’s excursions and d.i.y. on the day for the rest. Just as well we did not book advance tickets as we did not visit two ports and the other five were all on different dates. We had been tempted by an on-line 15% discount for advance booking of the Dublin hop-on-hop-off bus but glad we did not. On excursions generally, there were always queues to get on or off the ship, not helped by the slowness and disability of some of the passengers. Saga should and could do things to improve this. 1 - Cherbourg This was in place of St Peter Port, Guernsey, where we planned d.i.y. visits to Castle Cornet, the Union Street pillar box, German Naval Signals HQ and possibly Guernsey Museum. We did not get off at Cherbourg. 2 - Cobh (Cove in English) As a result of the re-scheduling, we arrived here a day early at 7:30pm. We took advantage of this and went ashore after dinner. A couple of hundred yards from the ship we found an Irish pub in the town square with three musicians, bagpipes, flute and squeeze-box, sitting round a table, playing jigs. With a pint of Beamish it was an enjoyable Irish experience. There was no singing but we left fairly early. Next day Saga suggested getting the train to Cork but we stayed in Cobh visiting St Colman’s Cathedral, well worth the climb as others have remarked, and the Titanic Experience. Although tiny compared with the Belfast version this guided tour of the original White Star ticket office cost just €8 each (about £6.80) and was almost as interesting. 3 - Dublin Here, because of the re-scheduling, we did not stay as long as planned, arriving at 11:15pm, a bit late to go ashore that night. Next day, we had nothing booked so took the free shuttle-bus into central Dublin. A lot of Dublin seems to be being dug up for a new tram system. We walked past the Molly Malone statue and the parliament building to the GPO where we bought tickets for the Witness History experience at €8 each. There was a film re-enactment of the revolution in a small cinema; small screens showing learned people explaining the revolution plus displays of a few artefacts. It was not anti-British and interesting to learn how loss of empire started almost accidentally. Compared with other capital cities, we were not impressed by what we saw of Dublin. 4 - Belfast We had pre-booked Saga’s “Birthplace of the Titanic” tour for £59 each. It’s an impressive building and exhibition complete with a ride through a simulation of the construction, a film show and a multi-screen reproduction of the Titanic’s luxurious interior. Arguably as interesting were the original slip-way and sole remaining White Star Line ship outside. We did not see any artefacts although there was not enough time to see everything properly. The tour bus then took us past some of Belfast’s sights including the Falls and Shanklin roads - interesting. Overall the tour lasted four hours. As there seemed to be no queue for tickets on the day for the Titanic Experience and it was only about two and a half miles from the ship, it probably would have been better and cheaper to take a taxi and spend more time there. The tickets do, however, cost £14.50 each, more than twice the price of the Cobh exhibition. Perhaps because of the limited bus tour, Belfast was more impressive than Dublin. 5 - Killybegs Saga’s tour to the Belleek Pottery was already fully booked when we booked the cruise. We registered our interest on boarding at Sapphire’s tour desk and subsequently got tickets at £49 each. This tour was better value. It included an extensive trip through County Donegal and a stop at Donegal town as well as the pottery. We also passed some small cells “Killybegs” in Galic, claimed to have been occupied by monks who gave the place it’s name. It would have been difficult for us to independently get to and from the pottery, some thirty-six miles away. Donegal is quite a pretty little town with some touristy shops and what they call a castle but not a lot else to see or do. The Belleek Pottery guided tour was interesting and comprehensive with plenty of time after to browse the displays and shop or use the cafe. After returning to the ship and a late lunch, we went ashore again, taking the shuttle bus less than a mile into Killybegs village. Here we looked at the completely and impressively refurbished church, St Mary’s and walked back via St Catherine’s Well, on a small hill overlooking the harbour. It was all interesting enough so we did not mind not finding the Maritime & Heritage Visitor Centre. Irish sign-posting seems to be comprehensive but not necessarily accurate. 6 - Glengarriff We had nothing booked here. We went ashore mid-morning by tender and walked about half a mile into the village. There was not much to see. A few shops and a few pubs half of which were closed on a Tuesday lunch-time. We went in one to try the local Guinness. The pub had, if anything, less atmosphere than your average English local and to non-Guinness drinkers, it tasted the same as it does at home. 7 - Portland This was in place of Ilfracombe and again we did not go on an excursion. We took the shuttle-bus into Weymouth, walked through this picturesque sea-side town and took the bus back to the ship. Disembarkation (and Return Travel) Our rating would be Good. Disembarkation was if anything smoother than embarkation but took much longer. Our cases had to be packed and put outside the cabin before we went to bed. Breakfast was early as we had to be out of the cabin by 8am. We then had a long wait in the Drawing Room for our number to be called. At least the hot drink machines were working and there were Danish pastries. Our call came on time just after 11am. Travel Service - our rating would be Good - but it could be better. The travel service home was better than coming. On leaving the ship, we pointed to our cases and a porter trolleyed them first to our driver and second to his people carrier. As before, there was a (different) couple already in the middle seats. This time the journey was direct, first to their home in Colchester and then on to ours. A private limousine would make this service much better. Value for Money Our Rating - Poor - but Saga cruises are expensive. Set against that are the free travel service; included tips; free wine with meals and bubbly at parties; free shuttle buses; free room service; free fruit in the cabin (though not daily) and free to book the speciality restaurant. Bar prices are also a little below the on-shore average. £3.20 for a pint of real ale, £1.50 for Pepsi. A 175cl glass of wine cost from £3.70 to at least £4.70. In addition the food was excellent. From memory, better than we had on P&O’s Artemis some years ago and significantly better than we got on Thomson’s Spirit, four years ago. If you take off all the extras, it is likely that a Saga cruise would still be a little more expensive than others but there is probably not much in it. A more subtle benefit is that with so much thrown in, there less to worry or think about. On that basis Saga cruises probably are value for money. Summary Our Rating - Very Good Saga’s package is impressive. In many ways the cruise was excellent. Our little niggles were not enough to spoil a great experience. The service and food stand out for commendation. We had particularly wanted to see Guernsey but did not. We also wanted to see Ireland and did, though from what we saw, we are in no rush to return. It was good to see but now we’ve seen it. The itinerary changes were a disappointment but Saga went to some trouble to re-arrange things to cope with the weather conditions. This too deserves commendation. Of the niggles mentioned above, the early breakfast times and lack of a late buffet were the most annoying. Also, the travel service could be better and the entertainment should be better but what got nearest to spoiling our holiday was the number of passengers with significant disabilities. Their age was not a problem. For complex personal reasons we booked this Celtic Charms cruise after booking Saga Sapphire’s “Continental Christmas Markets” which sails on 4 December 2017. Our experience of the Celtic Charms cruise has convinced us not to cancel the second cruise, even though we will be cruising twice in the same year. We hope that this shorter shopping cruise will attract a higher proportion of mobile passengers. Read Less

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