The Discovery Lounge, situated forward on the Promenade Deck, doubles as the ship's theatre. With room to seat all passengers on the ship, it has rows of cream and blue chairs, with banquette seating at either side of the room, and tables for drinks. Though it predominantly serves as a lounge, the area leading to the stage is not steeply raked. However, large flat-screen TV screens are dotted around the walls of the space, which means everyone can get a close-up view of the action onstage.
The entertainment is very much "old school" singing and dancing, with small troupe of five dancing girls -- and one dancing boy -- from Explosive Showtime Productions staging shows such as "I Got Rhythm", based on the tunes of Irvin Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, and "Cool Britannia", with hits from the 60s. Some shows also feature the Diablo String Quartet, an accomplished group of classical musicians. In addition to the ship's resident entertainers, cruises also feature visiting performers. On our cruise this was a group of West End artistes who staged "Beyond the Barricade", a programme of songs from popular musicals culminating in "Les Miserables"; a cruise highlight resulting in a standing ovation. During the shows waiters take drink orders from passengers at the back of the lounge, and bring them to their tables, but do not take orders from tables during the show to avoid disturbing audience members. It is also frowned upon to talk during the shows, and offenders can expect reproachful glares.
There's a daily programme of hosted and individual activities, with the accent on retro-style cruising fun, such as shuffleboard on deck and beetle drives. The entertainment manager hosts golf putting, carpet bowls, darts, giant dominoes, team trivia and, if needed, can help setup play for card games. Passengers can pick up the daily crossword, Sudoku and daily quiz from the library. (Answers are provided the following day.)
The 20-seat cinema, which is also used for exercise classes and quizzes, typically screens two films a day in the morning and evening. The cinema is free, with seats available on a first-come first-served basis and shows popular recently released films, which on our cruise included "Star Wars: The Force Awakens".
Visiting guest lecturers come onboard during longer cruises, and there is a daily port talk from a member of the in-house entertainment team on the highlights of each destination being visited during the itinerary. The timing of lectures are shown in the daily programme, and are also broadcast live on in-cabin TVs.
Free bridge visits are offered during some cruises.
Daily activities and times are listed in the ship's Today newsletter.
The focus of the nightly entertainment is the Discovery Lounge show, which typically starts at 9:30 p.m. Afterwards there is music for dancing with the Saga Orchestra, which appeals to couples who enjoy ballroom dancing. Two dapper gentlemen hosts are always available to dance with single ladies, or those with non-dancing partners.
From 10:15 p.m. until late there's a more lively after-dinner scene in Shackleton's Bar, on the Promenade Deck, with a mix of live music from the resident pianist and recorded pop music, mainly focused on the 50s, 60s and 70s. It has a fun atmosphere, and members of the entertainment team often come along to chat to passengers and join them on the dance floor.
There are three bars on the ship, each with its own distinctive character. Keeping things nice and simple, the bar menu is the same in all venues and prices are reasonable, with no automatic gratuity added to the bill. Cocktails, such as Harvey Wallbanger, Tom Collins, Dry Martini and Sidecar and other favourites, are all priced at £4.75, with nonalcoholic mocktails for £2.95. There is a featured daily cocktail and mocktail, and the bartender can also mix any drinks not shown on the list. Wine is priced from £3.70 for a glass of Semillon chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet sauvignon rose (or £13.50 per bottle. Fizz is £3.70 for a glass of prosecco, £8.10 for a glass of Champagne (£36.75 per bottle). Beer starts at £1.65 for half a pint of Spitfire Bitter to £3.40 for a pint of Heineken, 500ml can of Guinness or 500ml bottle of Newcastle Brown. Rather quaintly, the bar menu also lists cigarettes, all £4.90 for a packet of 20, and cigars and tobacco are available on request.
Shackleton's Bar (Promenade Deck): Saga Pearl II's main bar is situated midship on the Promenade Deck, flanked by the library on one side and a corridor on the other. Decorated in a blue and cream colour scheme, with dark wood pillars and maritime decorations such as globes and seafaring pictures, there is a semi-circular bar surrounded with cream stools, comfortable chairs and tables, a small stage and dance floor. In keeping with the rest of the ship, service is impeccable and instinctive, with bar staff quickly getting to know your favourite drink and always willing to spend time with passengers if they want to have a chat. The bar is open from 10 a.m. until late.
Discovery Lounge (Promenade Deck): The lounge is open for waiter service coffee and drinks from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. A pot of tea (Twinings English Breakfast, Earl Grey. Darjeeling, green tea, chamomile, peppermint or lemon and ginger), along with cappuccino, latte, Americano, mocha and espresso coffee, are all refreshingly priced at 95p.
Sundowner Bar (Bridge Deck): This intimate bar, tucked away aft, was our favourite place for a pre- or after-dinner tipple. The wood-panelled, horseshoe shaped bar has cream stools set around the bar and tables with cream banquettes and chairs. Decorated with lovely models of yachts and sailing photos, it remained relatively undiscovered during our cruise and was never overly busy. Accessible from the inside of the Bridge Deck and the outer Sun Deck, the floor-to-ceiling windows offer fantastic views over the stern of the ship and, as the name implies, it's a great spot to be at sunset. It is open from 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Saga Pearl II has two small but deep pools filled with filtered seawater. The outdoor pool at the aft of the ship on the Boat Deck is surrounded by protective railings on three sides and accessed via a wooden decking area via a pair of ladders. The indoor pool is situated in between the spa treatment rooms and gym on the lower C Deck, also surrounded by railings and accessed by a ladder. Towels are provided. There is no lifeguard on duty at either pool.
There is traditional shuffleboard on the Sun Deck, where passengers can play by themselves or take part in tutored sessions. The former short tennis area situated midship on the Sun Deck was recently converted into a general outdoor recreation area with table tennis, darts and an area for putting.
There are nice spots to while away time and enjoy the fresh air on sunny, and not so sunny days. The busiest place is the deck outside the Verandah Restaurant at the aft of the ship on the Boat Deck, where there are plenty of tables and mesh chairs around the restaurant area, with loungers, interspersed with small wooden tables, arranged around the outer area and overlooking the stern. More chairs, including squishy rattan lounging sofas, can be found immediately above on the Bridge Deck, accessed via stairs at each side of the Boat Deck.
A quiet area to read and snooze is on the Promenade Deck, where padded modern-day steamer chairs with arm rests are arranged along the deck. A towel is provided on each lounger at the beginning of the day, and thoughtful touch for chillier days is the pile of cosy rugs, available for passengers to help themselves. Depending on the position of the sun, this can also be a pleasant shady area since the chairs are beneath the overhang of the deck above.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in cabins and throughout the ship (satellite reception permitting). There are computers in the library and adjoining Briefing Room, on the Promenade Deck, which passengers can use free of charge. Each day, usually from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the ship's IT expert is available in the Briefing Room to help passengers who need any help with their own devices, or assistance getting connected to the Wi-Fi or general help with using the ship's computers.
Saga Pearl II's library is outstanding. Situated on the port side of the Promenade Deck, the light and airy space has panoramic windows and is divided into several different areas with ample seating. It contains more than 3,000 volumes, including popular and classic novels, all manner of nonfiction ranging from biographies to glossy travel, history and geography books, plus large-print books. All books can be borrowed free of charge for the duration of the cruise. There is also a large magazine rack in the centre of library, with seating around the edge, where passengers can browse through a large number of current magazines, including women’s titles, hobbies and sport.
A large selection of DVDs are available free of charge from the DVD library in the Briefing Room, and can be played on the DVD players found in every cabin.
Next to the library, situated starboard, is the card room, which is well-stocked with cards, board games and jigsaws. A larger table for jigsaws is set out next to the card room. Tip: If you want to read a book or do a jigsaw in almost complete privacy, head to the "secret corridor" on the port side of the Bridge Deck, close to the entrance to the Sundowner Bar. There are two small tables and chairs situated in the corridor, which the majority of passengers never find.
The small sales desk for future cruises is in the library, tucked away in the area behind Shackleton's Bar.
The 24-hour reception desk, located midship on A Deck, also offers a currency exchange service providing the currency used in the various ports of call. The currency available, exchange rate and opening times for this service are shown in the daily programme. The reception desk also carries a supply of minor first aid items, such as motion sickness tablets and plasters, and sells postcards and stamps. Postcards can also be mailed for passengers at the various ports of call. The shore excursion desk is located next to the reception desk, with opening times listed in the daily programme.
An interdenominational religious service is conducted on Sundays when the ship is at sea, with the time shown in the daily programme.
Open when the ship is sailing, the small shop on the starboard side of the Promenade Deck sells jewellery, perfume, watches, clothing, accessories and everyday necessities.
The photo gallery is located on the starboard side of the Promenade Deck and displays racks of photos taken during the cruise, such as on embarkation day and formal nights, at various times which are shown in the daily newsletter. A service for developing passengers' digital photography is among other services offered.
There are two self-service laundry rooms, each with two washers, a pair of dryers and an ironing board, situated forward on B Deck. These are complimentary and include free sachets of washing powder. There are also two chairs for anyone who wants to sit and wait until their laundry finishes its cycle. The launderettes are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Items for the ship's laundry are collected from the cabin and guaranteed to be returned the following day; although they are often returned on the same day. Charges are very inexpensive, ranging from just 25p for washing and pressing a pair of socks to £6 for dry cleaning and pressing a suit.
The ship has three lifts serving all passenger decks, apart from the topmost Sun Deck, which is accessed by stairs from the Bridge Deck.
Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is restricted to designated tables outside the Sundowners Bar, on the Bridge Deck and is not allowed during mealtimes.
A medical centre is situated aft on C Deck and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Charges apply.
The spa and salon is situated on two levels at the bottom of the ship on B Deck and C Deck. The hair salon is on B Deck, where there is the reception desk for bookings for both the salon and spa. Usually staffed by a team of three, it is small but we didn't have any trouble booking an appointment. The salon contains one basin for washing hair, two hairdressing chairs as well as a manicure table and pedicure station. There are also display cabinets with products for sale. On C Deck, beneath the salon and located next to the indoor pool, are two treatment rooms, men's and women's changing rooms, each with their own shower and sauna, and a small relaxation area with padded bench seats that also double as a meeting place for spa appointments (although most passengers check-in at the salon desk and are taken downstairs by the therapist).
The spa, which uses Decleor products, is an in-house operation and not run by one of the big spa chains that dominate on larger ships. As a result, prices are extremely reasonable and the treatment menu is refreshingly short and sweet. The 85-minute signature massage -- a personalised massage including a full body and scalp massage -- is £89 (or £80 when booked for a port day). The four other treatments include a 25-minute scalp massage for £35, 40-minute intensive leg massage for £47 (or £119 for a course of three) and 55-minute aromatic body massage for £58 (or £37 for a 25-minute treatment focusing on back, neck and shoulders). The small selection of treatments for men includes a 55-minute back massage and facial for £58.
The expert therapists, most of whom have worked for big-name spas on larger ships, are extremely friendly and welcoming and quickly put passengers at ease if they are trying a treatment or massage for the first time. A big plus point is that no automatic gratuity -- the norm on most ships -- is added to the bill or expected. In addition, none of the treatments seemed rushed (mine ran well over the set time) and at the end there is none of the dreaded hard sell of products that is also commonplace on other ships.
The salon offers a range of manicures, starting from £25 for a file and polish, along with pedicures, eyebrow shaping (just £10), eyelash tinting and waxing. Hair styling includes a shampoo and set or blow dry for £29, cut and blow dry from £40, hair up for the evening for £19 and a men's wet cut for £18.
The spa and salon is normally open from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
A small and rather gloomy gym is located next to the indoor pool on C Deck. It has floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which help make the space look slightly bigger than it is, but no windows. It includes three treadmills, two static cycles, a cross-trainer, rowing machine, exercise balls, a ballet-style barre running along two of the walls, free weights and stretching mats. A TV is mounted on the wall in front of the running machines. Towels and water are provided. Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., it was never very busy during our cruise.
There's no running track onboard, although passengers can stretch their legs on the Promenade Deck and take part in games such as table tennis. Additionally, gentle stretching and exercise classes are offered on certain days in the cinema. These are free and timings can be found in the daily newsletter.
The ship is adult-only so there are no facilities for children.