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11 Saga Cruises Cruise Reviews

It didn't start off well, we flew into Gatwick from a middle of the night start at Newcastle - only milkmen and bakers call 4AM morning. Flybe arrived at Gatwick early but our driver, SAGA was providing a car to Dover, was nowhere to ... Read More
It didn't start off well, we flew into Gatwick from a middle of the night start at Newcastle - only milkmen and bakers call 4AM morning. Flybe arrived at Gatwick early but our driver, SAGA was providing a car to Dover, was nowhere to be seen. He said he was there but he was not! We eventually traipsed off to the SAGA meeting point in the North Terminal but again no one there. Phoned the Duty Officer at SAGA and eventually our driver phoned and informed me that he had been waiting for us at the arrivals gate at the South Terminal and would we please return there!! Oh dear how did I miss someone holding up a big board with my name on it and how did he miss our obvious SAGA luggage labels !!!! One of us needs to go to Specsavers and I was there last month! Our driver came over to the North terminal to collect us but we had to traipse back to the South terminal with all our luggage as he had left the car parked over there. Eventually arrived in Dover just after midday - could have flown to Florida quicker. Not a good start and frankly I don't need that kind of hassle on holiday. Boarding was quick and courteous and our cabin was roomy and comfortable with plain decor, nice roomy bathroom with a shower. Noticed a nasty smell of raw sewage in the corridor as we boarded and this seemed to pervade different parts of the ship at different times although it became less obtrusive as the cruise progressed. Lets get the bad bits over with first then we can concentrate on the good things. The cabin air conditioning did not cool and the first couple of days were fairly warm. Reported the problem twice to reception but no action was apparent so eventually escalated to the Hotel Director on board who promised a solution. The room thermostat was changed but by then the weather had cooled down so the matter became less urgent and anyway my wife was in no mood for a cabin change. Never received any promised feedback from the Hotel Director on any other issues I had raised at our meeting including noise from slamming doors (until 2 AM) in the crew quarters on deck 4, we were above on deck 5 so not exactly very restful. There seemed to be quite a few issues with heating and cooling in the cabins all over the ship and some cabins were provided with fan heaters because they were too cold. It was kind of obvious that things needed to be bedded down on this ship, in places it looked as if the makeover had been hasty with evidence of poor finishing and inadequate attention to detail and testing. Door closers needed to be adjusted as doors up on deck constantly slammed, the on board clocks did'nt work and WI-FI coverage was patchy and slow and very costly. The good things were very good. What a great crew from the captain downwards, always smiling and helpful. The food was first class and probably some of the best we have had on a cruise ship so you won't starve. Free room service is a bonus and service was fast with a huge menu choice or anything you fancied. For a gourmet treat the East to West restaurant is a must at least once on the cruise. On board entertainment was really good and intimate with a decent resident band and an on-board troupe of energetic and talented young dancers and vocalists. Guest artistes were aboard at different times and generally we enjoyed the entertainment. The theme of this particular cruise was "Dancing with the Stars" but our "stars" (from Strictly Come dancing) failed to make it to the ship until about day ten and despite their credentials we though their display dancing was a bit lacklustre and unglamourous compared to their TV performances. We failed to make a stop a Helsinki, port engine failure at Stockholm delayed our departure and therefore our whole schedule. So Helsinki was missed to get us to St. Petersburg on time. As someone commented on buying a second hand ship "would you buy a second hand French Car then take it to Italy to be serviced"? What makes this ship is the people, crew and passengers. Everyone talks to one and other and the atmosphere on board, apart from the smells, is great. A few things need to be sorted out but in the end I think Sapphire will be a great ship for SAGA. But please SAGA don't try and cram 700 passengers on her, it was about right with the 400 odd when we were aboard so maybe about 550 is right but any more and it would feel distinctly crowded. I cannot imagine the Britannia Lounge with 600 odd people trying to get a seat to see a star entertainer!! Disembarkation was good, well organised and I'm glad to say our car and driver were waiting to take us to Gatwick. We're back on Sapphire next February for a Northern Lights cruise so let's hope the problems have been resolved by then, or should I maybe check out other cruises just in case! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
My husband and I have sailed several times on Saga Ruby and this was our first cruise on Sapphire. The layout of Sapphire is easy to learn as all the cabins are in the front half of the ship and the public rooms are in the rear, apart from ... Read More
My husband and I have sailed several times on Saga Ruby and this was our first cruise on Sapphire. The layout of Sapphire is easy to learn as all the cabins are in the front half of the ship and the public rooms are in the rear, apart from the Drawing Room which is at the front. The cabins was enormous with plenty of hanging space, a good-sized table and sofa, plus armchair. The bathroom was a reasonable size and the layout including the shower was good - with pleasant toiletries. The cabin was well insulated so you couldn't hear your neighbours. However, we did not like the main dining room - too noisy and too rushed. We preferred to eat in the Grill Restaurant which was more relaxed, but as it had doors to the outer decks, could be chilly. Access to the outer decks was limited - Deck 8 was only down the sides of the ships and at the rear (not linked, then deck 11 (Beach Club) and the only place you could walk right round was Deck 12. The location of the Crazy Golf was wasted - right at the front of the ship on Deck 12, so as it was the windiest place, could only be used when in port. If the weather is poor, the amount of seating space is severely restricted as the Ballroom was often in sue for lectures. The pools could not be used unless the sea was dead calm, as the water was prone to throwing itself across the decks. The ship does NOT travel well in rough seas - we had a force 11/12 gale after leaving Lisbon and the ship suffered extensive damage, having to seek shelter in Vigo overnight. However, all the staff on board provided excellent care and service all the time and as a smallish ship, you do get to be known by the crew, cruise staff and officers. When we encountered the rough weather, all meals were provided as room service only for safety and the crew all checked passengers to ensure that they were OK and happy to sit down and talk to any who were worried or distressed. The Beach Club is enjoyable, especially the fish and chip bar and the ice cream, but hardly anyone used the sweet shop. There was a good selection of onboard activities and certainly all the deck games sessions were always well attended. All in all a good cruise, and the Sapphire is a nice ship, but some of the quirky features take away from the ambience of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
A friend and I are considering a cruise next year to the Fjords, we'd like to sail from the UK, so when this offer of one night in Southampton on Saga Sapphire came up I decided to try it. I had been a few years ago on a RCCL ship in ... Read More
A friend and I are considering a cruise next year to the Fjords, we'd like to sail from the UK, so when this offer of one night in Southampton on Saga Sapphire came up I decided to try it. I had been a few years ago on a RCCL ship in the Caribbean. I travelled with my partner who had never been on a cruise ship before. I cannot help but compare Sapphire to Serenade of the Seas, which is the only other ship I have been on. Some negative but many positive. Embarkation: As we were only staying one night we drove to Southampton and found the car park easily with instructions sent by Saga. There were a lot of staff to direct us to the ship and give us instructions. All were friendly and courteous. We had been advised just to take hand luggage. We had to wait just a short while in the terminal before embarking. It was a very long walk along the covered bridges to get to the ship. First impressions: A funny little old fashioned ship. But staff were delightful and ship very clean. Cabin: Very clean, comfortable beds and pillows, good quality bed linen. Fairly small and not that well planned, especially the wardrobe area which was right alongside one of the beds, thereby making it difficult for two people to access it. Bedside lights were not well-planned and would disturb your partners sleep. Balcony was very narrow. Only room for two chairs and no table. Bathroom was huge, bath with shower over. Lots of room for personal toiletries. Large bottles of complimentary toiletries supplied. Lots of grab rails and a rubber bath mat, ideal of older people. Shower was a bit complicated to operate but OK when you got the hang of it. Tea and coffee making facilities supplied and also a hairdryer. We had afternoon tea on arrival, very pleasant but they seem to use UHT milk as opposed to fresh. Then a tour of the ship, one of the directors was our tour guide, very pleasant man but tour not well planned as we didn't start on one deck and work our way up but dotted from deck 2 to 5 then back to 3 and so on. Parts of the ship were closed for refurbishment including the buffet restaurant. Time to change before the Captains cocktail party, with free champagne, g and ts or fruit punch. Once again staff were very welcoming, with the European officers being much in evidence. Dinner was excellent with free wine. We had a speciality coffee after which was served with flair by the delightful Filipino staff. Onto the show lounge for the entertainment which was Motown with singers and dancers. OK but not first class. They then had a Beatles tribute band which was well received with many people getting up to dance. We finished the evening in Coopers Bar, which was welcoming with a couple of Saga staff socialising with passengers. Thanks James and Mel. Breakfast was menu or self service, but after such a late night I didn't want much. Disembarkation very easy, with lots of staff on hand to wish us a good journey and hope we enjoyed ourselves. To sum up: I loved the British atmosphere of the ship, the reasonable pub prices for drinks, the food and wonderful smiling staff. On a proper cruise there is also the advantage of included insurance, the free car to the port and no extra gratuities. But I felt it lacked the sumptuous decor of the US ships and it also seemed quite crowded in the public areas. My partner was not so enthusiastic as he felt claustrophobic, but to be fair I don't think cruising is his thing. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
My second Canary Christmas cruise started with an early shared transport pick up at home and after 5 hours arrival at Southampton after two short stops.I had immediate boarding and delivery of luggage was quick to a cabin on M grade deck ... Read More
My second Canary Christmas cruise started with an early shared transport pick up at home and after 5 hours arrival at Southampton after two short stops.I had immediate boarding and delivery of luggage was quick to a cabin on M grade deck 5.Ferdinand introduced himself as my cabin steward for this cruise:he was friendly and efficient:I ordered tea each morning and it came despite the rough seas.The ship was full with over 700 passengers with an average age of 76.The captain Phlip Rentell said that the sea down to Lisbon would be "lumpy" although I thought that pretty rough was more appropriate.It turned out to be uncomfortable across the dreaded Bay of Biscay.We were offered sea sickness tablets which I gratefully accepted.The first full day at sea was memorable for the high seas-nothing like the height en route home.The third night was devoid of sleep until dawn and I was grateful for the cruise staff providing a variety of deck games to keep me awake in the morning.Liusbon at last and a walk from the shuttle bus to explore this delightful city and flowers.We had several concerts by the excellent Trinity Trio and the piano playing of Martin soothed the pains of travel,which had already included an ill passenger being helicoptered off the ship to hospital. Sunny in Casablanca and a good walk from the shuttle to the partly restored church with its impressive stained glass.I had been here before so I was soon back on the ship and next day bound for Agadir where I stayed in the ship.Enjoyed the sun of Arrecife Lanzarote and a stroll along the long clean beach. Next day was Christmas Day and the ship looked really good with all the decorations and an excellent formal Christmas lunch:I had this in the Veranda as I have never really enjoyed the main restaurant.The Queen's Speech and a Trivia Quiz completed my day.Boixing Day was at Tenerife and my only booked Saga coach trip:exoensive but a chance to see three lovely gardens in fine warm weather.Next was Gran Canaria and a very short walk to a so-called market and back to the ship for a tour of the Bridge:the ship had been built for a German company as Europa and is 32 years old already.So to La Gomera although it was at a berth in the main town and not as advertised.I enjoyed my 3rd visit here to visit the old keep,two churches and the Columbus house:it was lovely warm weather.We could not leave port that evening due to excessively high winds and we stayed at berth until the morning of the next day.We were on our way to see the fireworks at Funchal across increasingly rough seas and high winds which rolled the ship and also at one stage brought much water from the pool over passengers enjoying the sun and fish & chips.New Year's Eve and calmer waters to berth at Funchal-the programme suggested a tender transfer.I had a visit by service bus to the beautiful Botanic Gardens with superb views over the bay.That evening it was formal again for New Year and the haggis was piped around as a wonderful firework display appeared over the town and surrounding hills of Funchal.Memorable as always.We then sailed for Leixos Portugal in choppy seas again:you woulkd imagine we should be used to these conditions but Mother Nature had a surprise in store.A 4 mile shuttle took us into Porto on the Douro river:I had a river cruise here a few years ago.I enjoyed a red top bus tour before returning to the ship. The next intended stop was La Corunna BUT we were told that we were to miss this for a direct sailing to our home port due to the very low pressure system coming from the Atlantic.We entered the Bay of Biscay during the night and I was thrown out of bed by the very high swell and ship movement:we heard that the two other Saga ships were staying in Lisbon-but we rolled on in seas that became very uncomfortable and resulted in much illness and the hope of Southampton as soon as possible.I had meals in the evening in the cabin.Next morning I managed to get to the restaurant when the ship lurched again and deposited broken crockery and food all over passengers and floor.What a holiday! Saturday and a day away from home port:we had a quieter day and enjoyed the talks,games and quizzes.A sunny Sunday in Southampton:thank goodness that journey was all over-I have even cancelled my Saga cruise next Christmas,although naturally it could be fine. The highlights for me were the excellent friendly crew,the cruise staff who looked after the activities (thank you Jay and Resty),the recitals in both Drawing Room and main Lounge,excellent display at Afternoon Tea with music (Perfect Mood and Martin).   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I have only just found this site or I would have posted this earlier. The details of this voyage are given in a previous post and I would like to add my comments as to the way I was treated by Saga after booking my fourth cruise in 12 ... Read More
I have only just found this site or I would have posted this earlier. The details of this voyage are given in a previous post and I would like to add my comments as to the way I was treated by Saga after booking my fourth cruise in 12 months. This was my first trip on the Sapphire after enjoying lovely times on what was then "Quest for Adventure" (Now Saga Pearl II). I booked very early in 2012 for the Christmas 2013 cruise. This being my first trip on this ship I asked the booking clerk for advice on the best single standard outside cabin available, assuming at that early stage I would be given the best price and a good cabin. Imagine my dismay to be shown into a gloomy cramped cabin on Deck 10 with a lifeboat completely covering the window, and the smallest en suite bathroom I have ever seen. However, I made my way down for afternoon tea and there met up with a friend I had met on previous holidays. She came to look at my cabin and could not believe I had been palmed off with such awful accommodation. She had booked only three months previously and had been allocated a beautiful standard outside cabin on Deck 6, very spacious and light and with a beautiful large en suite bathroom. To add insult to injury she had only paid £3,600 to my £6,200!!! Despite a notice at the (very unhelpful) reception desk I persisted in my request to speak to the officer in charge of guest accommodation who said that the ship was fully booked but he would look into my complaint. He then rang me to say that he could move me when we arrived at Lisbon and an entertainer vacated the cabin. I had no option but to accept this offer and spent three very uncomfortable nights in the high seas and gales described earlier hanging on to the sides of my very small "double" bed.. The en-suite was so tiny that when trying to use the toilet in a lull I was suddenly knocked off my feet and landed in the shower trays there was only a plastic curtain and no proper shower enclosure. I was unable to use the shower at all as there were no safety grab rails at all in that cabin. I asked in reception if I could make an entry in the accident book, and was told that they did not keep a record of accidents - and (!) did I have a witness!!!! Single cabin, toilet - would anyone have had a witness I wonder? I was pleased to be re-homed into a lovely cabin but many issues of pricing policies, fairly patronising bordering on insolent comments by some of the waiters in the main restaurant, and general inequalities of treatment kept cropping up during the 3 awful Bay of Biscay days out and the even worse weather on the return I remember thinking that the waves were taller than my two-storey house and were hitting my window on Deck 5. There were lots of accidents - some quite severe. I couldn't help thinking that Saga with its "Niche Market" boast i.e lots of very elderly, some quite severely disabled, clientele should rethink its policy of selling holidays with winter crossings of the infamous Bay of Biscay. There insistence on not using flights to join the ship is slanted towards the less able, but surely a choice could be offered? And what about the pricing policy???? There were those who had booked cheaper inside cabins and claimed always to have been allocated outside cabins and a lady, also on Deck 10 who had paid over £7000 a year earlier for a similar miserable cabin to the one I had complained of. (Lower decks were marginally more comfortable in adverse conditions.) My friend, who had spent most of 2013 cruising with Saga, when asking for an earlier disembarkation as she had a 5-6 hour journey home and was on the last departure time, was told "We have 420 Platinum and Gold passengers on board - YOU are ONLY Silver. Charming when we had received letters advising us that our humble status as regular cruisers had entitled us to priorities also! I did complain to Saga when I returned home only to receive a totally smug and unhelpful reply. I certainly will not be travelling with this company again. Even my journey from ~Suffolk to Southampton was uncomfortable because the vehicle sent for four people only had three comfortable seats. The occupants already installed were elderly and disabled to the extent it took two of us to reseat one lady after a comfort stop, so I ended up on an uncomfortable bench of a seat in the back. We had plenty of time to chat due to our enforced sea days and came to the conclusion that it was better to book late on special offers to get a good price, you never get a refund because they can skew the conditions, and even if you book early and request a specific cabin you probably won't be allowed to book it as not all cabins are available at one specific time, and are released gradually deck. by deck, over time. Bye Bye Saga. You won't be seeing me again even though Saga Sapphire is a lovely vessel.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
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 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
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
Sail Date August 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
Sail Date December 2017
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
Sail Date August 2018
We had actually never heard of Saga until we did an internet search, but this cruise seemed to fit the bill because we wanted an enjoyable way to see the Northern Lights of Norway. Saga made the booking process very difficult for us as ... Read More
We had actually never heard of Saga until we did an internet search, but this cruise seemed to fit the bill because we wanted an enjoyable way to see the Northern Lights of Norway. Saga made the booking process very difficult for us as we live in Australia. We had to use a particular travel agent which meant lots of filling forms and emails back & forth. Then we couldn't use their My Saga application because it wouldn't recognise our postcode. So, more printing out pdfs and emails to book excursions. Very frustrating for us folk who are used to making online reservations. But, we did enjoy the cruise. Firstly, Saga offer a complimentary limo service to the port which was very convenient. Then we found Saga Sapphire to be well laid out and not as ostentatious as some of the ships we've been on. It's small, but our cabin was comparatively large and well equipped. Our only disappointment with the layout was the fitness centre which was small and on a lower deck. Not so good in rough seas. And we couldn't walk around the decks most days because of ice and snow. The food and service were very good, as was the range of entertainment and speakers. The ship only has two main restaurants, both of which serve the same food, so there wasn't a huge variety of flavours on offer. They do, however, turn one section into a specialist restaurant which we had to book. This particular cruise had quite a few problems along the way. We encountered large winter storms which caused us to take a slower route. Plus the ship's propeller was caught in fishing lines. Both of these factors meant we missed two of the scheduled ports. But they tried to make it up to us by adding more entertainment for the passengers. Again, being winter, some of the passengers came down with a bug, but the crew were fastidious about cleanliness and hygiene everywhere on the ship. There were quite a few older passengers who were likely more susceptible. The excursions we went on were well organised and interesting. Unfortunately we didn't see the lights on the evening tours, but did manage to see them from the deck when we were at sea. Artic Norway is stunningly beautiful and we're very glad we chose this time of the year to visit. It was VERY, VERY cold, but Saga provided us with arctic jackets and snow grips for our shoes. And we needed them several times. The Sage Sapphire is in its last season and is to be replaced by a brand new ship. But we really enjoyed the cruise and would certainly consider Sage again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
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