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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We are seasoned cruisers and chose this 4 night cruise to introduce friends to the joys of cruising. We couldn’t have made a better choice. Like most of our previous cruises, the food was excellent as was the entertainment, but where ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers and chose this 4 night cruise to introduce friends to the joys of cruising. We couldn’t have made a better choice. Like most of our previous cruises, the food was excellent as was the entertainment, but where they differed was for the price - the level of service was first class, you could almost believe there were more waiters than guests in the buffet restaurant! There was an inclusive drinks package, which covered generic spirits and a few cocktails. But they were willing to extend this to a particular named sherry when we pointed out that there was no choice offered of a generic one. This is just an illustration of their “can do” attitude. The cheapest cabin which we had, was the largest one we had seen for the price. The Asian themed restaurant was a gourmet dining experience at no extra charge. We are sorry that the Saga Sapphire is to be replaced soon, but we will be cruising with Saga in the future. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
A first experience of a Saga cruise - for a child-free quiet holiday. Much enjoyed. The standard and quality of the ship and what it offers compares well with our experience of Cunard. The incentive of chauffeur-driven transport to and ... Read More
A first experience of a Saga cruise - for a child-free quiet holiday. Much enjoyed. The standard and quality of the ship and what it offers compares well with our experience of Cunard. The incentive of chauffeur-driven transport to and from Dover was very appealing and worked perfectly. The cabin was very spacious and comfortable (without balcony - but that was our choice and they are a lot less of them on the Saga ships). The steward was attentive and looked after our cabin well throughout the cruise. The dining experience was excellent throughout. Lunch and dinner were accompanied by good wines so that it was not necessary to purchase off the wine list. I was most impressed that the evening when "reserved" table service was suspended due to planning for a late night buffet after the return of those passengers who had attended the Edinburgh tattoo, but the maitre d' approached us and kept our table for us (we had chosen to dine on a smaller table for each meal). Very relieved and amazed that he remembered to do this for us. A great plus. WE didn't attend much of the "formal" entertainment: though some of it happens more casually around the ship during the "Edinburgh Fringe" theme of the cruise. What we saw and heard was very good - just not our "social scene". My gripe about all the cruises we have been on - the dress code is clearly explained both before and during the event. At least one evening is "formal" - so why can't people abide by this rule? Evening dress means evening dress - not just a jacket with a bow-tie! The ladies (generally) make the effort - why can't the men? Even on the less formal nights, I feel it would be polite to wear a jacket even if no tie is worn. Saga doesn't have a policy of certain parts of the shop being free from these rules (unlike Cunard) so people ought to come prepared for the whole "experience". The trips we went on were well organised, and well executed with some excellent guides (esp. the trip to see Hadrian's Wall and Chesters). Saga didn't make much of visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia as we were docked right by it. But we made a private visit and it is well worth seeing. Perhaps the ship ought to make more of this - by planning "blocked booking" for the ship's passengers as clearly it gets very busy and the queues looked long at times (luckily we went first thing in the morning). Overall. a very good experience - though (personally) I did find the age-profile rather higher than I was expecting and it did slow-up (particularly) the trips on coaches on days in port. Some people had clearly not read the notification that there was walking involved. Getting (older) people on and off coaches takes time (and effort): so planning for a "ten minute stop" to see one site actually took thirty minutes!! This timing needs to be built into the programme as at times things seemed rushed. Some of the passengers were disappointed about the Edinburgh Tattoo - expecting to be able to obtain tickets - either privately or via Saga - only to find they were sold out. A shame if this was the sole reason who had come on this particular cruise. But we enjoyed what we saw and experienced. Thank you. Read Less
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18 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
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
Did a lot of research before hand, as we new nothing about cruising, and chose Saga because, to win all the awards they have, they must be doing it right. We were not disappointed. From pick up from our door to return to home, our whole ... Read More
Did a lot of research before hand, as we new nothing about cruising, and chose Saga because, to win all the awards they have, they must be doing it right. We were not disappointed. From pick up from our door to return to home, our whole experience was way above our expectations.Embarkation was quick and easy, cabin very clean and bigger than expected with more than enough storage space. The food was of a very good standard, with plenty of choice. Entertainment overall was good.The service throughout was excellent,with all the crew being very polite and helpful. although the sapphire is classed as a small ship, it certainly didn't feel like it to us . Disembarkation was very slick and smooth, yes, there is a waiting time, but you know in advance your app. time to go. all in all a very enjoyable holiday, and yes we will go with saga again in the future. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
This was our first cruise and it was excellent we were treated like royalty the staff were fantastic.We were well fed and watered , we were picked up at the door and dropped back to our door.we went to le harve, belgium, holland and ... Read More
This was our first cruise and it was excellent we were treated like royalty the staff were fantastic.We were well fed and watered , we were picked up at the door and dropped back to our door.we went to le harve, belgium, holland and tilbury. we went on the excursion to amsterdam river trip which was fantastic, and the highlight was Keukenhof gardens we spent 6 hours there and it was brilliant .The food was excellent, the cabin was great and the staff looked after us well,the ship was well keeped and spotlessly clean, the cabaret was brilliant.Embarkation was ok and disembarkation was covered very well no rushing to get off the ship, we were given a number and when they called that number it was our turn to disembark.. we now have the cruising bug and after this cruise hopefully we will cruise with saga again. We recommend saga cruises. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
This was booked only 5 weeks beforehand and was our only option for a short cruise over Easter, departing from Southampton. As we had never cruised with Saga beforehand, we had no real idea what to expect but we were very pleasantly ... Read More
This was booked only 5 weeks beforehand and was our only option for a short cruise over Easter, departing from Southampton. As we had never cruised with Saga beforehand, we had no real idea what to expect but we were very pleasantly surprised with the experience. Boarding at Southampton was very quick - possibly an advantage with a smaller ship - and we were able to access our cabin immediately. We then went to the Britannia Lounge for a very early afternoon tea - at 2pm. The food was excellent but we found this very strange, having been used to having a "proper" lunch with other cruise lines. However, we enjoyed it. We ate in Pole to Pole the first evening but from then on ate in the Veranda where the food was excellent - and the service second to none. The staff couldn't do enough to please and the Manager, Mark, was exceptional. The entertainment in Britannia lounge was excellent, especially The 4Tunes, four very talented young men with Operatic/West End Musicals experience. It was also wonderful to have 'live" music throughout the ship. We had already decided not to do any excursions as we both needed this to be a restful cruise but, in view of the wet and cold weather, we felt it was just as well. Of course, the weather is out of everyone's hands but we were disappointed not to be able to go to Guernsey and, although the captain managed to arrange for us to visit Cherbourg, it's a port which I can happily miss - best driven through quickly from the ferry to more pleasant places in France. Unfortunately, the Ratings section on here doesn't appear to have a facility to show "not used" so I've had to give "average" ratings for Enrichment, Fitness and Excursions. So, overall, an excellent experience and we would definitely cruise again on this ship. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
Having spent previous Christmas & New Years in warmer climes, we thought it would be good to go to the snow. Not Saga's fault but we only got a mere sprinkling in Oslo. The cabin, service and food were up to the usual high ... Read More
Having spent previous Christmas & New Years in warmer climes, we thought it would be good to go to the snow. Not Saga's fault but we only got a mere sprinkling in Oslo. The cabin, service and food were up to the usual high standard. For a festive cruise the entertainment was only average with less than average cruise directors (they swapped part way through). Some partying on deck was not well publicised and the first we knew of it was in a video shown at the final cocktail party. A previous reviewer criticised the benefits given to Britannia Club members. These include a bottle of sparkling wine, a cocktail party and some discount on on board purchases but not preferental access to the East to West restaurant where, by the way, the staff are Filipino, not Thai. We have certainly never found any hint of it being a clique. There was a cough spreading through the ship and, yes, some passengers, including my wife and her friend, were still suffering after our return. Friends who have just returned from the Caribbean on P&O Britannia were suffering even more. We are not put off but will take greater precautions against picking up ship's bugs. I'm told that saline spray and Vaseline smeared inside the nose cavities is a help. As usual the staff were beyond first class but the captain lacked the persona of those we have met before. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
As well travelled cruisers with several other companies we wanted to try out the SAGA experience so booked a superior cabin on their 17 day Scandinavian Christmas. My wife and I are in our early 70's so thought it would be a nice ... Read More
As well travelled cruisers with several other companies we wanted to try out the SAGA experience so booked a superior cabin on their 17 day Scandinavian Christmas. My wife and I are in our early 70's so thought it would be a nice change. To some extent there were parts of the cruise we enjoyed but to ever repeat the experience again regrettably it would not be for us. We paid for a superior cabin on Deck it with a Balcony and this was our first disappointment. We were surprised and disappointed how small this cabin was, it only had a low oval coffee table with one lounge chair and a dining chair at the other side of the bed as a result it was impracticable to have a meal in the cabin, which was one of the reasons for choosing the Superior cabin. The balcony of our cabin was so narrow it was impossible to sit down on the chairs provided. It could be better described as no bigger than a window box. We paid a total of almost 11K for this cruise we consider was grossly overpriced, despite the tips being included as well as a courier service to and from the ship. The one aspect we didn't like was the fact that the seasoned SAGA regulars become members of the Britannia Club after so many cruises and there are several perks these guys have over the remaining guests. The best dining options on board was the Thai East to West Restaurant which provided stunning cuisine in a very conducive environment but regrettably we were only able to dine there twice during our 17 day cruise. We spoke to a couple who were gold Britannia members who were able to dine there on six occasions. Whilst the food was reasonably good with good choices the Thai restaurants was certainly the finest dining experience. The very best feature of this service was undoubtedly the Thai service staff who were all impeccable throughout. They were personable, extremely efficient and helpful, hard working and were responsive to our every need. We dearly hope that SAGA pass on ALL the included service tips to theses dedicated and loyal individuals. The second part of this cruise involved us spending four days on the ship cruising from Stockholm to Bremerhaven and during this time all the public areas became unbearable to spend time in due to the fact of being confined inside with limited seating space being available. In this last few days most passengers had developed coughs and sneezes and we and several others left the ship with a serious chest infection mainly due to this confinement. Whilst a small ship has its advantages it also has its limitations as well. The entertainment on board was variable with the usual song and dance troop the best features were the classical guitarist and the banjo playing comedian both of which proved very popular. Likewise most of the guest speakers were informative and presented well one in particular a marine so called expert was utterly boring in reading for almost an hour from a rigid script. One night a magician was the guest artist and this show was very amateurish or perhaps we were sitting to close to the action to see all his many failings. He only made one appearance of a planned repeat performance. This whole experience was memorable for the wrong reasons which of course we shall not be repeating. The so called SAGA Britannia family has a masonic feel to it which offered these regular cruises the many advantages mentioned. We didn't feel that several advantages were offered to these individuals after we paid highly for supposedly the same experience. We shall in future stick to what we know and like and therefore will not be pursuing any more SAGA nights towards Britannia Membership. 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
28 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
Saga Sapphire Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 0.0
Family N/A 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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