Change Afoot for Saga With Two ‘New’ Ships Underway

May 9, 2012
(7:15 a.m. EDT) -- Saga Cruises' Saga Sapphire has finally embarked on a much-delayed maiden voyage –- if it can still be called that -- after two previous attempts at an inaugural cruise had to be scrapped due to engine trouble.

The 706-passenger, 33,819-ton ship left Southampton on Sunday, bound for the Baltic, after emergency repairs had to be carried out in Valencia in April. The original maiden voyage was cut short and passengers flown home when an engine failed, and the revised second itinerary was cancelled when repairs took longer than expected.

The inauguration of Saga Sapphire isn't the only change for the company. The ship that arrived in Southampton at the weekend as the 446-passenger, 18,591-ton Saga Pearl II was rapidly converted into Quest for Adventure, its new name painted onto the ship's dark blue hull before the vessel embarked on Sunday on a round-Britain and Ireland voyage.

Quest for Adventure replaces the old Spirit of Adventure, a smaller, aging ship that, after six years of service for Saga, has been sold to a German company. Both vessels are the side of Saga's cruising product it calls ‘Adventure Cruising' (as opposed to the ‘Classic Cruising' offered by Saga Sapphire and Saga Ruby).

Quest differs slightly from the ‘Classic' ships in that the minimum age for passengers is 21, not 50, and a selection of shore excursions, which varies according to the length of cruise, is included in the price. Many of the crew from Spirit have transferred to Quest, including the captains, cruise director and some hotel staff. But essentially, it's Saga Pearl II with a new name and new itineraries; we haven't heard of any plans for changing the interiors, and in any case, the ship underwent a £14 million refurbishment when Saga acquired it in 2009.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor