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75 Saga Cruises Cruise Reviews

I enjoyed the Cruise, and have just booked another one in July on Saga Pearl, The only thing I would say is, as I was Travelling on my own, it would have been nice, if all single travelling passengers could have an introduction when we ... Read More
I enjoyed the Cruise, and have just booked another one in July on Saga Pearl, The only thing I would say is, as I was Travelling on my own, it would have been nice, if all single travelling passengers could have an introduction when we board the ship, as I found I was on a table with couples, and didn't have anyone to pal up with. Also I was not keen on the loud speaker in the morning to wake you up. Otherwise everything was lovely. Could people that are travelling alone not be put on a table with other single people , maybe this is something you could look at. I went down for breakfast one morning just after 9.Oclock to find the restaurant closed, there was another one where you helped yourself, but the table service restaurant closed , not good for the people that are not early risers. S. Webster Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
I didn't want to go abroad, what's wrong with the mainland. I didn't want to cruise, I'd been seasick on the Coronia floating around Scarborough 50 years ago, and I certainly didn't want to have a dinner jacket on, ... Read More
I didn't want to go abroad, what's wrong with the mainland. I didn't want to cruise, I'd been seasick on the Coronia floating around Scarborough 50 years ago, and I certainly didn't want to have a dinner jacket on, ever. I was on holiday after all, and had to wear a suit and tie to the office for 38 years. All I can say is that I became entranced, mesmerised, converted and absolutely over whelmed by the experience from the moment of booking, just listening to my wife completing the booking was enough. (I'm not idle, just very deaf) Everything was absolutely superb, from being picked up at home, the food, the cabin, the staff, the price, the captain's comments as we watched him park the boat at the docks, and most of all the attitude of the staff to passengers who were not as agile as they used to be, who had wheelchairs, zimmer frames, dementia, very bad eyesight or a need just to be quiet and have a rest with no question of getting off the boat at all. Needless to say we've booked another cruise next Spring, a fly cruise on a Saga holiday using other boats as it is Canada and Alaska, and are looking at other Sapphire cruises, who cares where they are going to, just let's get cruising whilst we are still able to, there are no catering for you when you've departed this earth! Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our second Saga cruise and easily met our expectations. I should say that my wife and I were looking for relaxation and not necessarily with the need to go ashore at each port visited. The trip itself was not without problems but ... Read More
This was our second Saga cruise and easily met our expectations. I should say that my wife and I were looking for relaxation and not necessarily with the need to go ashore at each port visited. The trip itself was not without problems but this made no difference to our personal enjoyment of the holiday. Saga offer an inclusive taxi collect from home and this helps make the embarkation experience so, so much easier. The Dover operation was pretty slick and we were quickly in our cabin ready for the off. Day 2 of the voyage was a sailing day (Dover - Mantoir (for St. Nazaire)) and this is where the only problem of the voyage arose. One of the engines was found to have water in the sump and required to be shut down hence an extended voyage time which affected the whole itinerary. Day 3 in Mantoir. We, as planned, stayed on board which was just as well. The temperature was around the 32 centigrade mark and most unpleasant and other passengers told is that it was extremely unpleasant on the excursion buses. I had looked at Mantoir on Wikipedia and a one line description informed it to be a port handling liquid methane - nothing else in the description. Confirmed as a pretty depressing place. Day 4 should have been a visit to La Pallice for La Rochelle but the engine problem caused a delay so this visit dropped off the itinerary and the ship sailed direct to Bordeaux. In fairness to Saga, as compensation to their passengers, free wine (plus beer and soft drinks) was given at lunch and dinner. I do not think that you can be fairer than that! Day 5 in Bordeaux. There was the small issue here of insufficient draft for the Sapphire due to unusually low water levels in the river. Shuttle bus service to Bordeaux town was efficient but unfortunately only went to the commercial area and not to the historic area of the city. This was the nearest Saturday to the Bastille Day celebrations so the parades could only be seen from the bus. Bordeaux itself on a Saturday afternoon is, sadly, not a lot different to any large town in the UK. The shops are pretty much the same (chain shops prevalent) and the area full of teenagers. Day 6 sailing Bordeaux to Guernsey. Day 7 spent in St Peter Port, Guernsey. This was our first experience of transfer to shore by tender which I have to say was run extremely well with passenger safety paramount. It was only the passengers that made it difficult. Day 8 arrival at Dover. Again, a slick operation for disembarkation with breakfast to taxi in about 2.5 hours.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We boarded the Saga Pearl 11-with a little trepidation as we are Silversea and Seabourn regular cruises but my wife no longer can fly with her medication so of to Dover we went. First let me say the dining was very good indeed,and the ... Read More
We boarded the Saga Pearl 11-with a little trepidation as we are Silversea and Seabourn regular cruises but my wife no longer can fly with her medication so of to Dover we went. First let me say the dining was very good indeed,and the small but perfectly formed library we spent many lazy days in there! The service overall was good too.We especially enjoyed the interesting port lectures . However for us (and as it turned out for a great many other passengers too!) the entire highlight of the cruise was the star comedy impressionist ! Normally we avoid. This type of entertainment but we missed his first show and everyone was talking about how clever and accurate his mimics of the great comedy icons were So we went along with the ENTIRE ship to see his 2nd show of the cruise, We were so very,glad we did it truly made our cruise ,my wife hasn't been in the best of health but to see her Really laugh out loud and enjoy herself was just priceless to me, especially when he did a superb Eric Morecambe and all our favourite stars WOW! this guy must be a big star on Cruiselines Because he was genuinely funny WITHOUT it being at the expense of mocking the guests as we have witnessed on other cruises! He was CLEAN and non offensive ,it was no exaggeration to say when he ended his show he received a well deserved standing ovation and the morning after (Debarkation day ) EVERYONE was asking for comment cards to say how excellent his show was, There were other entertainers onboard too a musical duo and a pleasant classical ensemble.we are now going to try the other ship Saga Sapphire and find out if Christopher Gee will be performing again -fingers crossed! We will be booking our next 3 cruises with Saga - just proves it can be done no smut and FUNNY Comedy I know it's an old fashioned word but we really had such. FUN- WELL DONE SAGA! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Having travelled on the Saga Ruby a few years ago to the Baltics, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to the much smaller ship, Saga Pearl 11. Our trip was for four nights and we wondered if this would be long enough to get the ... Read More
Having travelled on the Saga Ruby a few years ago to the Baltics, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to the much smaller ship, Saga Pearl 11. Our trip was for four nights and we wondered if this would be long enough to get the taste for sailing again. We need not have worried. The Saga arranged taxi, was on time and we were in Dover mid afternoon. The staff on arrival were efficient and we were shown quickly to our cabin. We had asked for a standard outside cabin and found it to be larger and more comfortable than the Saga Ruby. There was the usual emergency drill to go through and then the welcome treat of drinks as we sailed from Dover. By this time most passengers were on the decks outside but to the delight of us all, Saga had arranged for a spitfire from Biggin Hill to escort us for part of the way. This was a surprise and with the backdrop of Dover it was an event not to be forgotten. Thank you Saga. Our first port of call, next day, was Jersey. We had opted for a round the island excursion in the morning and a second trip in the afternoon to a vineyard. We knew that we would be having a tender boat to take us into St Hellier but had not been told that we could not get back in time for lunch on the ship. Saga had the foresight to leave a menu in our cabin the night before for us to order a packed lunch. Up to a point we enjoyed our day but found at times the incessant information from our coach driver telling us at each section of the island that there was a church, pub and school, rather tedious. I am sure that there is a wealth of history that we could have been told but alas this was not conveyed to us. The following day we docked at Honfleur and went to The Bayeux Tapestry and the Cathedral. We were mainly on motorways and for all its history we had not known how lovely the area of Normandy is. This was to be the highlight of our holiday. Our guide was very informative but when we reached Bayeux we felt rushed. I would advise those interested in the tapestry to look at other reviews. We felt we were on a conveyor belt, quickly being taken along. I have to say that we are glad to have seen it. Our last day was Zeebrugge for Brugge or Ypres. We chose to revisit Brugge and opted out of the escorted tour. I would advise when planning trips to choose carefully. They tend to be overpriced, but on most you do have the comfort knowing that you will be escorted.. As for our the crew on our ship, as you would expect from a Saga holiday, the crew were very attentive. The food was plentiful and enjoyable but we both had difficulty at times with the dinner menu. If the menu is not to your liking there is always Salmon and chicken on offer. On the whole this was a very enjoyable holiday but we felt that we were asked to pay higher prices than were warranted. Would we be tempted to go with Saga again? Probably. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was our second cruise aboard Saga Sapphire, and our 16th cruise in all. I have to say that this one was the best ever! My family has no direct connection with the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, but I do have an interest in WW1 ... Read More
This was our second cruise aboard Saga Sapphire, and our 16th cruise in all. I have to say that this one was the best ever! My family has no direct connection with the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, but I do have an interest in WW1 history, hence embarking on this trip. Embarkation was slick, and we had an outside cabin on deck 6, close to the bow, which was a bit noisy during the few roughshod days that we experienced, slamming into waves, but nothing about that was in any way concerning. My impressions from the May 2014 cruise to the Baltic were repeated - excellent dining, friendly and courteous staff, very comfortable and of course plenty of entertainment options so that difficult choices had to be made. As this was the ANZAC Centenary, you'll not be surprised that many Australians and New Zealanders had flown 12,000 miles to join this special cruise for this special day on 25 April. We had 71 aboard, amongst the 604 passengers who embarked. A bigger bunch of extroverts one couldn't have asked for, and they were great fun to socialise with. SAGA had organised 3 Aussie military historians, as well as a UK diplomat and an army brigadier/historian who gave a series of lectures setting out the context for the political history of the Great Powers and the wide range of events leading up to the declaration of war in 2015, and then about the concept and execution of the Gallipoli campaign itself from a number of perspectives. Very thought provoking. Prior to ANZAC Day we spent two days in Chanakkule, with battlefield tours organised to take us to the different landing beaches and battlegrounds. The lectures put everything into context. On the centenary morning we were supposed to have anchored in ANZAC Cove, where the Australian and NZ forces landed along with some British regiments. The dawn centenary commemoration service was to start at 5, attended by many heads of state, plus Prince Charles. Unfortunately, someone (possibly in the Turkish security service) decided that 604 pensioners posed a threat so we were ordered to anchor off Helles Point, the site of the British contingents landing grounds, until 1300 hours, after which we could go to ANZAC Cove. We watched the very special Dawn Sevice on a broadcast by the Autralian Broadcasting Service, about 300 of decamping to the main Britannia Lounge. It was very moving. This was followed by rum & milk, with ANZAC biscuits, and an early breakfast. After breakfast an onboard memorial service was held, led by the SAGA chaplain. The names of all the relatives of the passengers who taken part in the campaign were read out, and wreaths laid. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa led the singing of National Anthems before the service ended. After lunch, we weighed anchor and cruised up the Gallipoli peninsula from S Beach at Helles as far as Sulva Bay, the most northerly landing ground, with the military historians and the UK brigadier providing informed commentary all the way. In keeping with Aussie ANZAC day tradition, post-lunch they played Two-Up, a gambling game that is illegal in Australia except on ANZAC Day. Even though it was just paper Monopoly notes being used, it all got rather raucous for an hour or so.....much drinking and lots of laughter. After Suvla we turned south, heading for Crete, and then finished the day with a fantastic Gallipoli Centenary Dinner. Head Chef Thierry pulled out all the stops for this. I would also mention that SAGA does listen to passenger feedback: 1. A request for a passenger laundry resulted in a new laundry being installed on Deck 6. Swish machines, and detergent provided. 2. The funny odour problem has been completed resolved. 3. A Tasmanian guest asked for Limoncello one evening. This wasn't on the drinks menu. Two days later, after calling into Cagliari, Limoncello was on the menu (gratis). I was impressed, as was John, the Tasmanian! This was a very special cruise and has provided lots of wonderful memories for my wife and I. Thank you again SAGA! Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
For our 40th wedding anniversary we decided on a cruise and as it was our 1st time we chose Saga because of their reputation and smaller ships. When we spoke to the sale advisor's we emphasized why we were booking the holiday and ... Read More
For our 40th wedding anniversary we decided on a cruise and as it was our 1st time we chose Saga because of their reputation and smaller ships. When we spoke to the sale advisor's we emphasized why we were booking the holiday and requested a larger Superior cabin with a balcony as this was a special occasion. Their brochure quotes “Larger cabins up to 270 square feet”. When calling their office regarding other queries we double checked that this cabin would meet our requirements and was assured this was the case. 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 an intimate meal, 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. A travel lodge room is bigger than this cabin with 2 proper chairs. We later discovered from visiting a fellow cruiser’s standard outside cabin on deck 6 was larger and more like a “large hotel room than a ship cabin” as quoted in their brochure. At no point whilst speaking to the sales advisor's was this explained nor does it show this in the brochure or on line. Had we been informed at the time of booking of these differences we would not have chosen a Superior cabin with a balcony. Having paid £754.00 extra for a smaller cabin with a balcony of little use seems excessive at least. We would also comment on the dining arrangements, these were advertised as being available in the evenings from 6:45pm until 9:00pm as a single sitting, after arriving back from a trip late one evening we went down to dinner only to find we were rushed at every stage from order to dessert Norway was a lovely country but our experience of this cruise was spoilt by the comments above and found the cruise was certainly not value for money. Don't get sucked in to higher priced cabins unless you are fully aware of what is on offer, as all is not as it appears. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
First time cruisers, our trip to the Baltic capitals was the most wonderful experience and excelled our expectations. The staff were wonderful and they made us feel comfortable at all times, welcoming us back on board after each trip on ... Read More
First time cruisers, our trip to the Baltic capitals was the most wonderful experience and excelled our expectations. The staff were wonderful and they made us feel comfortable at all times, welcoming us back on board after each trip on land and entertaining us when we were at sea. The food was wonderful and so were the nightly shows and the lectures on the places to visit very informative. If you are reasonably active and confident, most of the cities visited can be explored with a good travel book as there are shuttle buses that run frequently to the city centres and you can explore at leisure. You do need to go ashore as an organised group in Russia because of visa requirements. Although expensive, we thought the Exclusive Hermitage excursion at night one of the highlights of our trip; a magical experience! The 40 piece St Peterburg orchestra were fantastic and the glass of champagne an added bonus. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
This was our very first cruise and we loved every aspect of it! Saga really look after their passengers. The pick up and journey to Dover was excellent, as was the embarkation organisation and process. Our cabin was lovely, kept ... Read More
This was our very first cruise and we loved every aspect of it! Saga really look after their passengers. The pick up and journey to Dover was excellent, as was the embarkation organisation and process. Our cabin was lovely, kept beautifully clean by Willy, our cabin steward. The food was excellent and so was the service. The All Inclusive package was very very good. I would although have liked fizzy wine included too. The entertainment was really fabulous and actually our favourite part. We would pay to see those shows! They all are extremely talented and give 100% on and off stage. The live band are fantastic too. We particularly enjoyed participating in the passenger choir with the professional vocalists, Hannah, Michelle and Kurt. We loved the atmosphere and friendliness onboard the ship. Disembarkation and our journey home was also very efficient. We would definitely recommend and will be booking again. Happy customers! Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Our first Saga cruise but this mini was on the date we wanted and our beloved Christmas markets were covered. We have been on 35+ cruises and this was really enjoyable. The smallest ship we have been on and she did bounce about it in the ... Read More
Our first Saga cruise but this mini was on the date we wanted and our beloved Christmas markets were covered. We have been on 35+ cruises and this was really enjoyable. The smallest ship we have been on and she did bounce about it in the high seas last night but hey - horses for courses. The staff, food, service and ship were great and there was absolutely nothing to complain about. Most of the passengers were friendly and were young at heart wrinklies with just a few of the usual moaners. Would we go back on ? Yes we would, we were very impressed. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
72 days away. 23 ports, with two missed out because of bad weather - Port of Spain, Trinidad, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. 23,500 miles travelled. Fantastic experience, although for some guests the first week was not a good one because of ... Read More
72 days away. 23 ports, with two missed out because of bad weather - Port of Spain, Trinidad, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. 23,500 miles travelled. Fantastic experience, although for some guests the first week was not a good one because of an unseasonably early storm after departing Madeira. Saga Pearl II is smallish so it got tossed around a bit The quality of staff (Filipino) is excellent, and lots of long service crew which says a lot about Saga employment practices. Staff and management aboard worked hard to ensure that the cruise was a memorable experience for guests - for all the right reasons - and they succeeded. The entertainment was generally of good quality and high standard, something for everyone, really. The highlights for me and the missus were: - the Panama Canal transit (one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World - meeting up with an ex-colleague in Guayaquil, Ecuador - Lima, Peru - the Chilean fjords, "glacier alley" and the Garibaldi Glacier - a lap of honour around Cape Horn on a calm and sunny morning - Buenos Aires, with a return evening performance by the Morgado Esteban Cuarteto and tango dancing, aboard. The quartet had done 3 performances on the Colombia - Peru leg. - Rio de Janeiro, the trip to Christ the Redeemer (in clear weather), and an evening performance aboard by Samba Rio. (I heard that the ship's doctor was on standby with the defibrillator.....but maybe that was a tongue-in-cheek comment from one of the female passengers because the Samba dancer outfits were somewhat skimpy!) And that's just to name some of the highlights.....there was much, much more. The only downside.......stepping on the scales yesterday. The dining was excellent with really good complimentary wines at lunch and dinner. We did our own excursions as we are fit and able, and confident about doing our own thing. One memorable excursion we organised via the internet was the 'Grafreetti' in Valparaiso, conducted by a street artist. Amazing creative art! I can highly recommend Saga cruises. Of the 23 cruises we've done, this has to be the best cruise ever! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We chose this cruise because it sailed round the u.k. without stopping which suited our purpose because my wife has severe walking problems. The embarkation was superbly handled, the cabin was large, comfortable and clean, the food on ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it sailed round the u.k. without stopping which suited our purpose because my wife has severe walking problems. The embarkation was superbly handled, the cabin was large, comfortable and clean, the food on board was superb and the staff and crew could not have been more helpful. Unfortunately, our cabin was on the wrong side of the vessel for sightseeing so had to go on deck for all viewing which, due to the somewhat misty weather at some ports was not the greatest for viewing. This, of course, was nothing to Saga's detriment. We had early morning tea delivered to the cabin, and were invited to the captain's table on the second night. The only drawback was disembarkation at Dover which resulted in us having to wait 3-1/2 hours before a chair could be found for my wife, this was all ordered at the time of booking but, unlike embarkation when people arrived in dribs and drabs, everyone was disembarking at the same time in Dover. Having said this we are booking another cruise next year and have asked for the same cabin. must say one final word which is about a crew member named Jemma who could not have been more helpful and was always cheerful and ready to assist when required. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Trying a cruise on my own for the first time. Embarkation and disembarkation always goes so smoothly and I found no difficulty being on my own. There are Saga staff to help if needed. It was a great success. From the first moments ... Read More
Trying a cruise on my own for the first time. Embarkation and disembarkation always goes so smoothly and I found no difficulty being on my own. There are Saga staff to help if needed. It was a great success. From the first moments before sailing the entertainment crew- Abby -a dancer and Richard a gentleman host came and chatted as I was sitting on my own. I was seated at meals with other single passengers and made many friends. The food was fantastic as usual. My cabin was very comfortable. I would advise any ladies to take their own hairdryer if needed as I found it quite difficult with arthritic hands to keep my finger constantly on the button to use it. The showtime group were very professional. This was my third cruise on Sapphire and I would not hesitate to travel on my own again. The included chauffeur service from home was perfect. It is so nice to not see your luggage until it is in your cabin! I am ready to book on Sapphire next year once again! Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We wanted to treat our family group of 12 to a mini cruise which would involve no expense whatsoever to them, and stumbled across Saga with whom we had never considered cruising before, despite having enjoyed over 25 cruises with 9 lines. ... Read More
We wanted to treat our family group of 12 to a mini cruise which would involve no expense whatsoever to them, and stumbled across Saga with whom we had never considered cruising before, despite having enjoyed over 25 cruises with 9 lines. A dedicated group travel consultant at Saga dealt with every aspect of our booking. Cabins were reserved without deposit until bookings were confirmed, and there was a group booking discount of one free place. He was also the point of contact for any queries we had before sailing. Much more than usual was included in the price of this cruise- free travel insurance for us all including several of our party with medical conditions which normally attract a considerable premium, chauffeur service to and from Dover or free parking for those who choose to drive themselves, all on board gratuities, free 24 hour room service, bottled water and packed lunches for those on excursions, free shuttle buses in all ports, free Wi-Fi, and generous helpings from a choice of over 10 wines or soft drinks at lunch and dinner. The published cost of the cruise may appear to be higher than on some lines, but is offset by the included extras, and several of our group disembarked with a "nil" on board account. We sailed from Dover in warm sunshine, sipping complimentary champagne and were treated to a surprise flying display by a WW2 Spitfire, and Vera Lynn singing The White Cliffs of Dover. Cabins were clean and comfortable with adequate storage, fridge, T.V and DVD player, and even pillow chocolates. Bathrobes, good showers and full sized bottles of toiletries were provided. Saga Pearl caters to the over 50's and carries a maximum of 450 passengers and 250 officers and crew who were unfailingly helpful and friendly. The atmosphere is relaxed and sociable but even on this 4 night cruise there was one formal night, giving the opportunity to dress up if one wished. Entertainment was low-key, as there is no theatre and the on board singers performed in the Discovery Lounge. On the final evening we were treated to a performance by Beyond the Barricade. The library carries a huge array of books and magazines to which you are trusted to help yourself, and there is a small cinema, gym, and beauty salon. One of the most impressive features of the cruise was the fabulous food which was outstanding in both variety and quality. Seating is mainly open, but as a group, we were allocated two tables for six, and a very good selection of gluten free was offered in addition to a diabetic menu. Having experienced Cunard Queen’s Grill and Silversea we felt that Saga ’s food was undoubtedly equal, if not superior. We are wondering why it has taken us so long to “discover” Saga, will have no hesitation in recommending them to our friends, and will definitely sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We have cruised with Saga several times before, enjoying their small ship atmosphere, and were keen to visit the Norwegian Fjords. Saga Sapphire is a spacious ship and the cabins (we were in an outside cabin on level 5) are a generous ... Read More
We have cruised with Saga several times before, enjoying their small ship atmosphere, and were keen to visit the Norwegian Fjords. Saga Sapphire is a spacious ship and the cabins (we were in an outside cabin on level 5) are a generous size. Our first shock was, when booking, to find that two days after receiving the brochure we found that prices has been increased by 10% - all cabins as offered were already sold. We almost cancelled, but decided we liked the itinerary so confirmed the booking. Not a good start,however, and not handled very diplomatically by Saga staff. The staff on board were from many countries - the captain and the "cruise director" were British; deck and engineering officers of various European nationalities; catering and "hotel" staff mostly Filipino; entertainment by performers from several European countries. Some aspects of the cruise were as we had expected from previous experiences with Saga. Filipino staff all friendly and diligent - no reason to fault them. Food generally good, but let down by some very poor meals - consistency not as good a we had been used to. Bars and (free) wine with meals - no problems. Entertainment was mixed, however. Some good performers were overwhelmed by the resident backing "orchestra" - pianist and guitar drowning out the voices, violin soloists etc. No attempt to mix sound properly. And there didn't appear to be anyone taking an interest in resolving the problem - the "Cruise Director" was busy telling us all how wonderful it was, with no time it seemed, to check it was as good as he believed.. (We have over fifty years of experience in musical shows so know good from bad..) Then we were very disappointed to be given some basic info about towns we were to visit, but barely anything about the fjords - which was the basic reason for coming on the cruise. In the event we saw no fjords in normal daytime hours except on excursions. When we were due to see fjords at night (in daylight still, of course) there was inadequate (or no) guidance on when to be on deck so we missed them. We also found that, particularly in Bergen, the ship was allocate a berth four miles form the town centre. Saga does not rate highly with the port, it seems. Finally, it took us four hours from berthing at Dover before we left the port. We saw no evidence of any supervision of the multitude of staff rushing around; embarking crew were mixed up with disembarking passengers; our taxi driver had himself been waiting over four hours. Chaos reigned. We gained the impression that Saga is now a very small outfit trying to punch above its weight in a very competitive market. In the past they appeared to keep going. On this performance they failed to provide the vision, the management or the supervision that are needed to survive in the same league. We will not be cruising with them again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We wanted to visit the fjords and see the Midnight Sun and wanted to cruise on Sapphire again, so of course opted for this cruise. It was excellent from start to finish. Booking was easy over the phone. The door to door transport was ... Read More
We wanted to visit the fjords and see the Midnight Sun and wanted to cruise on Sapphire again, so of course opted for this cruise. It was excellent from start to finish. Booking was easy over the phone. The door to door transport was really good and embarkation simple and quick. In no time at all we were on board and shown to our cabin which was as expected. We felt at home straightaway and headed on up to our favourite bar where we were greeted by the same smiling bar staff from our previous cruise. It was the same for the rest of the cruise. We chose to eat mainly in the waited-on restaurant, Pole to Pole, and as we prefer to eat alone in the evening were given a fixed table for two. However the table was not to our liking, but, no problem, the Maitre d' Kirsten changed it for us to one we were completely happy with. We had lovely food, not a bad meal all the way through, ,and a good choice of courses. The waiting staff were excellent, nothing was too much trouble, and we were greeted by the same friendly faces as last year. Show entertainment is not our thing so we preferred to go up to the drawing room after dinner for quiet drinks, laid back music and quizzing! Service all through the ship was excellent, we wanted for nothing, from the early tea-tray brought by the steward to the turned down bed at night with the chocolate on our pillows. The ports we visited were interesting, although we feel some of the excursions were too expensive for what they were. It was good to have the free shuttle bus service at the ports where we had not booked a trip. Unlike a previous reviewer we felt we had enough information about the itinerary and we did get to see the fjords and the Midnight Sun. In fact it seemed as though the previous reviewers had been on a different cruise to us! We have already put our names down for another cruise on Sapphire in 2018 and eagerly await the new brochure. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Recently returned from Baltic Capitals cruise on board Saga Sapphire which was our first experience with Saga. Everything from being collected at the door to returning home was extremely well organised and went smoothly. The cabin on deck ... Read More
Recently returned from Baltic Capitals cruise on board Saga Sapphire which was our first experience with Saga. Everything from being collected at the door to returning home was extremely well organised and went smoothly. The cabin on deck 10 which was adapted as I am a wheelchair user was a good size with a large wet room and balcony, ideal! The food, and there is plenty of variation, was excellent and always served with a smile. Entertainment was in the main of a high standard and there were plenty of activities on board. Shore excursions are not cheap but are well organised, but there are shuttle buses in the ports that are for the passengers who wish to adventure on their own.Saga Sapphire is a lovely ship with a very happy helpful crew who make sure your cruise is a happy one. All in all a wonderful experience and looking forward to our next cruise on Sapphire. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Our first ever cruise and couldn't fault it. So good we've booked another cruise on Saga Sapphire for May next year whilst on board. Spotlessly clean cabin on arrival and our cabin steward kept is so for all the cruise. ... Read More
Our first ever cruise and couldn't fault it. So good we've booked another cruise on Saga Sapphire for May next year whilst on board. Spotlessly clean cabin on arrival and our cabin steward kept is so for all the cruise. Exemplary service. Food excellent and very varied menu. Opted for the 'open dining' option and found this the best way to meet people. Entertainment generally very good, with the 4 piece string quartet and pianist in the bars excellent. Organisation from collection from home to return first rate. Shore excursions were very well organised and advance informative talks given 1-2 days before arrival. Lots of lectures on various subjects to keep you occupied during at sea days. Very good on-board library. WiFi on board free through-out the ship, but can be a bit slow due to being on a satellite link. Best port of call was Arendal, only small but very interesting and easy to get to without need of shuttle bus. Except for St Petersburg (due to visa requirements) shuttle bus for port best option. Tallinn was crowded, but 3 other cruise ships docked at same time. Enjoyed the galley tour with George Streeter the chef - very informative. The weather was generally good, and the captain gave advance notice of some slightly choppy waters after Stockholm so everyone was prepared. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Although my wife and I had sailed many times on the mail ships of the long defunct Union Castle Line between Southampton and Southern Africa we had never contemplated taking a cruise, per se. What changed our minds were the many ... Read More
Although my wife and I had sailed many times on the mail ships of the long defunct Union Castle Line between Southampton and Southern Africa we had never contemplated taking a cruise, per se. What changed our minds were the many recommendations from friends who had cruised on smaller ships under the Saga and Fred Olson flags. The final factors were being picked up from home and returned thereto by a an efficient chauffeur service; sailing from a 'home port' (Dover); the number of passengers being limited to 450 and the cruise itself (the Baltic via the Kiel Canal, visiting Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Copenhagen and Wismar). Embarkation to the Saga Pearl 2 via the Dover Cruise terminal was speedy and efficient and a warm personal welcome awaited us in the Ship's Reception area. Our luggage awaited us at our cabin (an outside cabin on A deck). The cabin itself was perfectly adequate and spotlessly clean but the bathroom was small and getting in and out of the shower would have been an impossibility for some of our 'larger' fellow passengers. However, we did not spend much time in the cabin, but we did appreciate the large window. I don't think we could have coped with an 'inside' cabin with no natural light! The ship itself was very comfortable and had the atmosphere of an up-market country house hotel. The shipboard administration was extremely efficient and I have to say that if I had to choose just one factor which enhanced our enjoyment of the cruise it has to be the predominantly Filipino crew (waiters, cabin stewards, catering staff and cleaners). They were invariably cheerful, very polite and well trained/efficient. Nothing was ever too much trouble and the service we received in either of the two restaurants couldn't be faulted. Moreover, our cabin was maintained at a level we've never previously experienced in any previous form of accommodation. The food could have graced any 5 star hotel dining room and with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and a 'midnight feast' - as well as other 'one off' treats - we had to watch our calorie intake!!! We had a look around the 'galley', which was impressively spotless and an absolute hive of activity. The Executive Chef in charge has to be congratulated for overseeing the production of so much high quality, imaginative, tempting food on what is virtually a production line basis. We elected to go on a 'fixed' table for dinner but all other meals were on an 'open seating' (But very well controlled/administered) basis. Mealtimes (with complimentary wine at lunch and dinner) were fun occasions where we enjoyed meeting a variety of very nice, interesting people. Being 79 and 80 respectively, my wife and I thought we would be in the older echelons amongst the passengers (all of whom have to be over 50 anyway) but this was not the case! We also noticed that there were quite a few people with mobility problems, necessitating use of sticks, 'walkers', wheelchairs and (surprisingly) a battery scooter. Fortuitously, sea conditions for the entire cruise were very good and the absence of any untoward movement in the ship was uncanny, but of benefit to those unsteady on their feet. The entertainment was of a very high, professional , standard and there were enough lectures and other activities laid on to keep a wide variety of personal tastes satisfied. The resident band deserves special mention - especially the 20 year old very versatile pianist (a university economics student!) - and the professional troupe of dancers/singers were consistently excellent - supported by well known professional singers, a magician and a classical string quartet. Boredom was not an option on this cruise, although the excellent library and computer room provided a calm and peaceful environment, if required. A very wide variety of shore excursions were available, covering all the ports visited, and all could be booked on board. These excursions were very efficiently organised and managed - with the exception of our first day in St Petersburg when heavy rain and Russian immigration bureaucracy conspired to cause a degree of chaos on the dockside. This was in no way the fault of the Ship's admin team. Transiting the Kiel canal in daytime sunshine on the return leg of our voyage was tantamount to an 'add-on' river cruise and was an enjoyable experience. During the cruise we received a very informative daily newsletter with details of all shipboard activities, together with a separate ' Daily News' sheet covering world news etc. Disembarkation back at Dover was like an efficient military operation and we were seamlessly reunited with our main luggage (packed the previous evening) and connected to our driver for the journey home. The collapse of the footbridge onto the M20 the day before, combined with August Bank holiday traffic, made our journey home somewhat tedious, but would have been much worse but for the professionalism (and sat-nav) of our driver. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the 'Saga Cruise experience' which was specifically designed to cater for over 50's. It is nice to be pampered and I would recommend any cruise involving the Saga Pearl 2 and its excellent Captain, Officers and Crew. Oh, before I forget - the Ship's Doctor and medical Staff were brilliant too ! Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Best of the Baltic cruise, Saga Sapphire, 8th - 23rd September, 2016 Checked in at 3.15 in Dover. A very nice outside cabin, 7038, and just a short walk to Reception, the Aviators bar, and the Pole to Pole restaurant. We sailed at 4.00 ... Read More
Best of the Baltic cruise, Saga Sapphire, 8th - 23rd September, 2016 Checked in at 3.15 in Dover. A very nice outside cabin, 7038, and just a short walk to Reception, the Aviators bar, and the Pole to Pole restaurant. We sailed at 4.00 and, not long after clearing Dover harbour, we were treated by Saga to a 15 minute flying display by two Spitfire fighter aircraft from Biggin Hill. Amazing! This was our third voyage on Saga Sapphire in 2 years, and it was rather nice to see familiar faces amongst the staff and to be greeted by name. Our prior (excellent) experiences were repeated on this 15 day voyage.....excellent service, good food and quality complimentary wines. If you wished, you could order wines from the standard wine list, with a £10 per bottle discount,but the complimentary wines were so good that this would only be necessary for celebrating a very special occasion. We visited seven ports, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallin, Ventspils, Gdansk and Wismar.....all interesting destinations although Ventspils is probably still climbing the learning curve for tourism. It was our second visit there and my wife and quite like its quirkiness (especially the bovine street art!) We were also impressed with the flower displays all around town. With calm seas and slight winds for the whole voyage, we could not have wished for better on this cruise holiday. Just a few spots of rain for 20 minutes in St Petersburg, and that was the totally of 'bad' weather. I have to mention the efforts of the catering staff and the hard work they put in for lunchtime events outdoors on the Verandah terrace, and for the fabulous Russian Buffet that was put in place in the Pole to Pole restaurant on our overnight stop in St Petersburg. The entertainment was of high quality. We enjoyed the Greek classical guitarist, Dimitris Davakallis, and the Polish violinist. Michael Bacala who each gave two excellent performances. Also aboard were the Think Pink Duo (Marta and Gabi Onali) from Rumania and, along with many other guests, enjoyed dancing to their music late at night in the Drawing Room. They very kindly burnt us a CD of some of their recordings so that we can continue enjoying their music post-cruise. This was a truly enjoyable holiday. Thankyou Saga.y kindly burnt us a CD of some of their recordings so that we can continue enjoying their music post-cruise. This was a truly enjoyable holiday. Thankyou Saga. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Never judge a book by its cover. The mere mention of ‘Saga’ conjures up elderly, ‘Countdown’ watching cruisers who totter around the Med or the Caribbean clutching their gin and tonics. Yes, everyone is over 50 and I was possibly ... Read More
Never judge a book by its cover. The mere mention of ‘Saga’ conjures up elderly, ‘Countdown’ watching cruisers who totter around the Med or the Caribbean clutching their gin and tonics. Yes, everyone is over 50 and I was possibly the youngest passenger but to be honest by the end of the first night’s dinner, the scales had been shed from my prejudiced eyes. This is the Ulysses Generation who have amassed adventures and experiences to match anyone half their age. All I knew is that I wanted to be like them. Everyone is made to feel welcome regardless of age, disability or single/married and what I liked was the happy family community atmosphere. I could recommend this ship for anyone who is single and doesn’t want to feel lost in one of those monster cruise ships with their thousands of passengers and sense of anonymity. Within a week, we had made friends and there was always someone to talk to. The ‘Grand Caribbean Adventure’ was a 6 week all-inclusive cruise that joined up all the island dots in the Caribbean in a fest of exploration. You are pampered from the minute that your chauffeur arrives to take you to the ship, to the speedy check in and they start with Afternoon Tea. You get the picture very quickly. A Saga cruise is about indulgence and it takes enormous restraint to ignore the heaving but delicately arranged feast. The evening meal, which is after a welcome glass or two of champagne, measures up to all the hype in their advertising and they offer 6 courses. Every night. It’s the same high standard at lunchtime whether it is the restaurant or BBQ. And if you didn’t fancy the cuisine offered, then we found that we could order a steak or something more simple and it was no problem. For a 6 week cruise you don’t need as much as I packed (there is a free laundry) but here is a typical run down of what I would pack when we do it again Nightwear x 1 (they provide a dressing gown) One week’s underwear 2 long dresses / one DJ suit 2 cocktail dresses / 3 smart shirts 4 smart casual outfits eg smart tops with skirts or leggings/trousers 4 t-shirts max 2 swimming costumes Aqua shoes for excursions Plimsolls or trainers for excursions Jeans x 2 4 jumpers as it gets cold on the way over the Atlantic Pashminas Sun hat, suncream, sunglasses, flipflops, waterproof Evening shoes Camera, chargers, underwater camera and batteries Ipad and charger Basic medication (they provide sea sickness tablets if necessary) There is free wifi but it is dependent on the weather and satellites and certain sites are blocked eg YouTube as it takes up too much bandwidth. We took our own ipads as did most of the other passengers. At every port, you have a choice: go on a planned and sometimes expensive excursion or just get off and do your own thing. We did a mixture of the two and one of the best unplanned trip was at Barbados where we walked to the local beach, paid $20 each to get admission into ‘The Boatyard’ bar which gave us beach loungers, umbrellas, one free drink, non-motorised watersports and one trip to swim with the turtles on the next bay. A bargain. The alternative would have been £74 to swim with turtles on a planned excursion. However the other best excursion that we took was in Tobago where we took the full day Island Girl catamaran for £114 each and saw dolphins, swam in lovely clear warm seas and had an on board fish BBQ. The staff onboard the Saga Pearl 2 are well trained, attentive and always smiling. In one sense, if they weren’t, the whole cruise would have lacked the personality that it had and that was most obvious in the impromptu beach BBQs and the Crew Show they put on in the last week. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
The wife and I travelled for the first time with Saga on its Northern Lights Adventure cruise for the first two weeks of March 2017. It was a fabulous cruise, and we were INCREDIBLY lucky with the weather, which gave us wonderful ... Read More
The wife and I travelled for the first time with Saga on its Northern Lights Adventure cruise for the first two weeks of March 2017. It was a fabulous cruise, and we were INCREDIBLY lucky with the weather, which gave us wonderful sunshine for all our shore excursions, and the best night of the Northern Lights themselves (7th March) for ten years. I cannot speak highly enough of Saga. They understand their market (over 50s, with a preponderance in their 60s and 70s) very well, and provide faultlessly for it. Your adventure starts in being picked up from your home by a car or minibus and driven to the ship. No stress. No anxiety. On arrival at your UK port (ours was Southampton) your bags are unloaded from the car and spirited away by a crew member. You’re invited to step aboard, check in, find your cabin, and go for a luscious tea in the Discovery Lounge, after which, “newbies” like us are given a tour of the ship so that one knows where to go for the numerous activities on board. Most Brits of a certain age require three essential things; good food, good service, and good value for money. They get these things in bucketloads from Saga. The food was of a very high standard. Michelin star quality, I’d say. Wine or beer provided free at lunch and dinner. There’s a rough ratio of two crew to three passengers. That’s a lot of service! And it’s NOT provided by “slave labour”. Virtually all the crew are Filipinos, but whereas with some other cruise lines they depend on tips for their income, Saga’s are well paid and very well looked after. This of course results in a lot of happy people, and you feel that happiness radiating from them. Watching them glide around the dining room is awe-inspiring. My wife could manage only liquids, and was provided with two bowls of specially-prepared soup for lunch and dinner without any fuss. The crew is extraordinary at recognising their guests and identifying any individual requirements. On days at sea, Saga provides many on-board games and activities, and on visits to ports, a selection of (optional) shore excursions. And they don’t rip you off in the bar. A post-prandial cognac costs £3.75 and a G&T £4.15. And when you arrive back, there’s a car or minibus waiting to take you home! Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
It was my friend's first time on Saga we had a great time. The door-to-door pick-up was excellent even as we left Norfolk early in the morning to reach Kent. Certainly of all the cruise lines, Saga look after their passengers the ... Read More
It was my friend's first time on Saga we had a great time. The door-to-door pick-up was excellent even as we left Norfolk early in the morning to reach Kent. Certainly of all the cruise lines, Saga look after their passengers the best. They are rightly famous for their food and their was no disappointments here, with sumptuous afternoon teas being a particular highlight. Only a short 6 days cruise but were trated to some high quality entertainment. For example, I believe I am right in thinking a brand new cast joined the same day as us. For a new team, some of whom were experienced but some new, it was thrilling to watch even though they only performed 2 shows. For my wife's friend who loves ABBA it was such a thrill to see their show. Also praise for the 'orchestra' working every night backing all sorts of material in the week. There was something for everyone on board. As well as the great entertainment, there is also a library as well as a spa, more than adequate for the size of the ship. We had 2 sea days whcih were filled with lectures and activities and flew by. And although the weather wasn't great at the start of the cruise you couldnt feel a thing. Overall highly recommended and will cruise again. Thank you Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
This was our first cruise with Saga .What a wonderful time we had.every aspect of the cruise was great from the time we shut our front door until we arrived back home it was so well organised . The cabin was nice .the food was first class ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Saga .What a wonderful time we had.every aspect of the cruise was great from the time we shut our front door until we arrived back home it was so well organised . The cabin was nice .the food was first class a great selection to choose from.the entertainment was most enjoyable. Best of all were the STAFF on board from the cabin attendants right up to the Captain they were all so nice We will cruise with saga again in the future . sadly we were unable to go to Guernsey due to the high winds but we went to Boulogne-sur-mer instead which was interesting Rouen was a nice place to visit as was Falmouth .I would say to anyone thinking about cruising with Saga just do it . a great time is waiting to be had .I must add the booking staff at the Saga center are also very good . Read Less
Sail Date April 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
Sail Date June 2017
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