Farewell Saga, Hello Spirit of Adventure

April 20, 2011
(12:20 p.m. EDT) -- Over-50s specialist Saga Holidays has revealed details of a shake-up of its cruise fleet, about which we speculated last week. We'd spotted a mysterious “Farewell Voyage" for the 446-passenger, 18,591-ton-Saga Pearl II -- a ship that only recently joined the fleet -- on the Saga Cruises website.

The line has confirmed in a press statement that, sure enough, Saga Pearl II will transfer out of the Saga fleet next May, but the good news is it won't go far. Under a new name, Quest for Adventure, the current Saga Pearl II will head over to the Spirit of Adventure brand, which is, of course, part of the Saga family. Its place in the Saga fleet will be taken by the new Saga Sapphire, which joins the fleet on March 26.

Spirit of Adventure, which currently has one small, 352-passenger ship of the same name, has always been marketed as a separate brand from its big sister, following off-the-beaten-track itineraries and sold to cruisers over the age of 21 (compared to Saga's over-50s), although both lines belong to parent company Acromas Holdings. But with its new ship, Spirit of Adventure is set to become more Saga-like. For a start, Quest for Adventure is more luxurious than the ageing Spirit, boasting balcony cabins. It also has a posher spa and a smarter look and feel, having had £14 million lavished on it only a year ago.

Another similarity: Passengers will get the same extras on their Quest for Adventure cruises as those travelling on Saga's ships: namely travel insurance included and a taxi service to and from the airport. Neither is currently included in Spirit's pricing. But what are going are the free excursions that are part of the “adventure" in Spirit of Adventure; at the moment, most days, there's a choice of excursions at no extra charge. On Quest for Adventure, passengers will only get two shore excursions each, per seven days of cruising.

Figuring out whether this is a better deal for fans of the Spirit of Adventure is difficult as there is no pricing beyond May 2012 on the Spirit website yet. We're told, however, that the new Quest for Adventure will operate an inaugural eight-night cruise from Southampton, followed by six voyages from Dover before heading to the east coast of the U.S. and on to Central America and the Caribbean.

As for the current Spirit of Adventure – no plans have yet been announced for the ageing ship.

--By Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor