My husband and I are both in our seventies and we have never considered a cruise with Saga before. The last five cruises we have have taken have been with Azamara or Oceania, but we were attracted by the idea of sailing on the Spirit of Discovery as she seemed to incorporate all that we like about a cruise ship.
We were absolutely delighted with the 14 day cruise around the Iberian peninsular. The weather was wonderful and everything about the ship lived up to expectations. We were collected from our home and driven to Dover, where embarkation was swift and we were shown to our standard twin cabin, which was very near the stern of C deck. I was a bit concerned that being so far aft might not be ideal, but the ship is so quiet and smooth it was not a problem at all. The balcony was a good size and was furnished with two upright chairs with cushions and a small low table.
We wondered if there would be enough drawer space in the cabin, but there is so much room in the wardrobe we just hung most things up, as there were fifty hangers. Anything we didn’t have room for in the drawers stayed in our suitcases as there was lots of room under the bed for those. The bed was extremely comfortable with good quality sheets etc. It was nice to have a USB port next to each side of the bed and also a good reading light.
After the safety drill, which for us took place in the Club, we went to make our bookings at the speciality restaurants. (It is also possible to book these by telephone at certain times during the cruise). There seemed to be no problem getting a table for two at each of the three restaurants. We enjoyed all three dinners very much, but perhaps we liked Coast to Coast, the seafood restaurant, the most. All the other evenings we ate in the Grand Dining Room on Deck 5, where the food was also excellent. We were able to have a table for two every night except one, when we sat at a table of 10. Breakfasts was either in the Grand Dining Room or, when we were in more of a hurry, in the Grill or the Verandah. The food was the same in both locations, and was very good. When the weather became very hot we tended to have lunch in the grill, where there was a delicious choice of salads as well as all the hot food which was also available in the dining room. We managed to resist afternoon tea except on a couple of occasions, but it was delightfully served every day in the dining room with a choice of teas and a glass of sparkling wine, as well as sandwiches, cakes and scones. It was also available in the Grill.
We didn’t see all the entertainment, but we did see all three shows performed by the Spirit of Discovery Show Company; we thought they were very good indeed, with superb sets. We also saw two different shows done by the Opera Boys, and one evening when Jools Holland performed - all marvellous. The Playhouse is a beautiful theatre with room for over 400 people; the only thing that worried me was that there were a lot of people on board who had walking difficulties and they struggled with the steps in the theatre; perhaps space should be reserved for them in the back few rows. We did attend the very good destination talks by Alistair Guthrie, wine tasting with Oz Clarke, talks by cookery writer Jennifer Deeprose and talks by coroner Dr Peter Dean. The ORCA team gave a presentation about the whales and dolphins we might see and then they were on the observation deck during the days we were at sea.
We had three sea days at the start of the cruise which gave us a good chance to explore the ship. The spa is beautiful; although we didn’t have any treatments we did use the lovely hydrotherapy pool. One of our favourite places to sit and read was the Terrace, which is at the stern on the Promenade deck. You can chose to be in the sun or shade there, and there are machines to help yourself to coffee or fruit juice. The identical coffee machine is also to be found in the Grill and in the Library. I have never had such good coffee from a machine before! The Library is a nice place to sit, and so are the Living Room and the Britannia Lounge. In fact, there is a huge amount of space, both inside and out, with masses of chairs and loungers on deck, in both the sun and shade.
Our ports of call were Gibraltar, Cartagena, Sete, Barcelona, Alicante and Lisbon. We did not join any of the ship's shore excursions, but walked and made use of hop-on hop-off buses. All very enjoyable, but hot!
We were interested to hear that the vast majority of passengers on board were all long time Saga enthusiasts and I now understand why. The crew are fantastic and look after everyone superbly. We very much hope to sail on this ship again in the near future; it really is lovely.