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6 Saga Cruises Europe Cruise Reviews

Saga Cruises have been on my radar for a while now. I have visited Saga Sapphire and overnighted on Saga Pearl II but my friend and I both felt we weren’t ready for the Saga experience at the time. However, the launch of the first of ... Read More
Saga Cruises have been on my radar for a while now. I have visited Saga Sapphire and overnighted on Saga Pearl II but my friend and I both felt we weren’t ready for the Saga experience at the time. However, the launch of the first of their two brand new ships, coupled with some health issues that forced the cancellation of a very long cruise earlier in the year, saw me booking a 10 night cruise on Spirit of Discovery around the Bay of Biscay Ports – yes, I know – a risky venture in October. Embarkation: One of the best things about Saga Cruises is the included transport to the port and return home. My shared car arrived 10 minutes early (the driver would have waited but I was ready). It was a smart leather-seated Mercedes people-carrier. Once I was settled and my luggage loaded, the driver checked I had my passport, gave me a bottle of water and explained we could stop anywhere for any reason should I request it. We set off to pick up another couple since I was outside the 75 mile limit in which you get a private driver/car. After a brief stop at Fleet Service (where the driver bought us coffee and cake) we arrived at Dover just over 4 hours later. I had booked a guarantee cabin so hadn’t received a cabin number but a lady with a clipboard was issuing these and marked up my luggage labels while I went into the small, charming cruise terminal. I had booked assisted embarkation so was shown where to sit and a lady came over to check me in. I got given my cruise card and deck plan as with other cruise lines, and after a very short wait, a man came with a wheelchair to talk me on board via a long zig-zag airbridge. Once on the ship I abandoned the chair and waited in a short line for a steward to take my hand luggage and show me to the cabin – just like my early Cunard cruises. So far so very good. It was around 2pm. Cabin: I had booked a standard single cabin on guarantee and ended up with a standard twin on E Deck. This is an all-balcony ship and I was impressed, with a few minor niggles. The beds were set up as a kingsize – it was huge! Bedside tables were good with two drawers, a middle shelf and the top surface. There was a bedside light plus a directable reading light plus a USB port for charging phone set. Being in this position meant you could still use your phone or table while it was charging. The wardrobe was reasonable with full length hanging on one side, with a slated shoe rack at the bottom, and half-length on the other side with two large drawers and the safe. The safe had a light and was huge – easily large enough for a laptop. In the wardrobe were the lifejackets, a lap blanket for use on the balcony, a golf umbrella and a basket with long-handled shoe horn, clothes brush, hair dryer, laundry bags for him and her and a pair of Olympus binoculars. The other furniture consisted of two comfy chairs, a coffee table, standard lamp and dressing table with illuminated mirror, kettle, teas and coffees, two shallow drawers and two deep drawers. A huge TV was at the food of the bed and offered Freeview channels, some films on demand, port lectures and, best of all, the shows in the theatre were broadcast live to your cabin. The bathroom was a good size with glass-doored shower, good-height toilet and basin. Under the basin were two large cupboards with shelves. The light around the mirror stays alight at a low level to provide a nightlight should you need the bathroom at night. There was also a very narrow fridge with a carton of UHT milk. The balcony had two rattan chairs and a small table. One minor niggle – no washing line in the shower but I understand this is being rectified. The cabin steward introduced himself and asked which fresh fruit I would like in the cabin. The apples and red grapes that arrived later were perfect and just ripe enough. Food: I usually ate breakfast in The Grill (buffet). You were shown to a table, each of which had number on. This was in case you ordered a hot dish cooked to order or for those few passengers who got lost! The tables were fully laid with milk and preserves. There was waiter service for teas, coffees and toast and, if asked they were happy to get you anything else too. The choice was very good with fresh and tinned fruits, meats, smoked salmon, cereals etc. As well as tea and coffee, fruit juice was available all day as was ice cream (either self-serve on Lido Deck or from The Living Room). In the main dining room breakfast was a mixture of buffet and menu items as was lunch. I had opted for the equivalent of Freedom/anytime dining but, as a solo, I could have had a dedicated table. Waiters offered you an arm as you were escorted to the table. Sizes varied from 2 to 10. Wine and beer at lunch and dinner was included (the ships will be all inclusive from Nov 2019) and was reasonable quality – mostly new world Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot. Good for me as I prefer Chilean or South African wines. There was red, white or rose. There is also a wine list if you want to pay for something else and again prices were very reasonable from around £12 a bottle. Spirits in the bars were £2.90, cocktails around £3.70. I found the food excellent quality and always very hot. One gala meal offered caviar on blini and roast venison that melted in the mouth. I gather the chefs are given full rein to develop dishes and fresh local food is brought on board – crates of fresh strawberries and peaches were waiting by the gangway in Bordeaux. As well as the main restaurant, there were three alternative restaurants – The Club (a steakhouse), Coast to Coast (seafood) and East to west (Asian fusion). All are included in the cruise price, but need to be booked. Plus the buffet. All except The Club and MDR have outdoor terraces should the weather be kind. Room service is free and in the evening you can choose from the MDR menu. Other passengers: I feel Saga has an image problem! Before I went I got the usual jokes about what SAGA stands for, don’t want to sail on a ship full of elderly people etc. However, I found fewer people with wheelchairs, scooters and mobility aids than on P&O (I should add I use a walker so am not discriminating here). Yes you need to be aged over 50 to travel (unless accompanying an older person as a carer) but tours generally catered for active and curious people. One tour was led by a celebrity chef (Daniel Galmiche) to a French market to choose foods to cook on board, others included hiking and cycling. Most were well-travelled, interesting to converse with and passionate advocates for Saga Cruises! Hand gel was well-used and well-policed! Entertainment: This was probably less than on other lines I have sailed with but since we only had two sea days may not have been typical of a longer voyage. Spirit of Discovery has a large theatre plus a show lounge. Shows were usually at 9.30pm and another performance – singer, magician etc – in the Britannia Lounge about 9.45. What I didn’t like was that the theatre doors are shut as soon as the show starts and you are not allowed in. As well as not disturbing the audience, this is also due ti health and safety as they don’t want people falling down the steps. This is where the live broadcast to the cabin comes in handy sometimes. There were port talks, free craft lessons, bridge, putting, table tennis, golf, quoits, shuffleboard, ring toss, darts, free bridge visits, cookery demos and quizzes. I attended four parties (with canapes and plentiful alcohol) – a welcome aboard, farewell, newcomers (to Saga) and a midday day one for solo travellers. A nice touch at the latter was waiters going round taking bookings for the other restaurants and making up solo tables – a nice way to meet others. Decks: There was plenty of open deck space with lots of sunbeds and garden style rattan chairs and sofas. Deck towels and blankets were available from lockers. All decks can be accessed by lift and automatic doors. A row of jars near the Grill offered free boiled sweets all day. Tours: I only did two tours. These were much as any other company except that as we returned on the coach, the Saga tour escort came round offering Werthers butterscotch sweets and hot or cold flannels sprayed with eucalyptus. The escorts also stayed at the back of groups to check no-one got left behind or lost. Disembarkation: Again I had booked assisted disembarkation so went to my allocated area to wait. Sensibly (and unlike P&O) people were taken off in tag order, not the order in which we arrived in the venue. We had all be allocated a number between 2 and 16) which went on luggage. Luggage had to be out from 9pm till retiring the last night). Crates were filled with luggage with the same numbered tags and stayed in this crates until shortly before that number was called to disembark. As well as a man with a wheelchair to take me off, I was given a crew member to carry all my hand luggage until we arrived in the baggage hall and a porter took over. Because some luggage was still in crates when I arrived, it was quick and easy to locate my case. My driver was waiting outside and soon I was on my way home. Would I travel with Saga again – absolutely. The new ships are a perfect size for me and offer all you need. The décor is subtle but classy. There is none of the hard sell other lines practise. For example, I had a manicure but that was it – no selling of products and no gratuity added either. I love the forward observation deck, unobstructed by tinted glass. Minor niggle – the decks are composite, not teak. The service was exemplary but subtle. You stood to pull a chair in and a waiter would appear behind you to help. Yes, the upfront cost appears on the high side, but it is a quality product with a lots of undefinable extras thrown in that would be charged for on other lines.I am now looking forward my cruise on her sister ship next year. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
We are seasoned cruisers and chose this 4 night cruise to introduce friends to the joys of cruising. We couldn’t have made a better choice. Like most of our previous cruises, the food was excellent as was the entertainment, but where ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers and chose this 4 night cruise to introduce friends to the joys of cruising. We couldn’t have made a better choice. Like most of our previous cruises, the food was excellent as was the entertainment, but where they differed was for the price - the level of service was first class, you could almost believe there were more waiters than guests in the buffet restaurant! There was an inclusive drinks package, which covered generic spirits and a few cocktails. But they were willing to extend this to a particular named sherry when we pointed out that there was no choice offered of a generic one. This is just an illustration of their “can do” attitude. The cheapest cabin which we had, was the largest one we had seen for the price. The Asian themed restaurant was a gourmet dining experience at no extra charge. We are sorry that the Saga Sapphire is to be replaced soon, but we will be cruising with Saga in the future. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
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
After sailing with Cunard for well over 20 years {Platinum Members} and with Celebrity for around 6 years, the Saga Pearl II Christmas market cruise 2017 was a first for us but it won't be the last vacation we take with Saga. ... Read More
After sailing with Cunard for well over 20 years {Platinum Members} and with Celebrity for around 6 years, the Saga Pearl II Christmas market cruise 2017 was a first for us but it won't be the last vacation we take with Saga. Although Cunard ships and Celebrity ships have the glitz and glamour the ambience on Cunard isn't what it used to be, folks in track suit bottoms, Man U shirts and {can you believe} mothers in pyjama's chasing screaming kids takes the shine from the elegance of the ships, what you see depicted in the brochures isn't what you'll get on-board the ship. Cruising on the Pearl II is more like staying at an elegant / refined Country Club, a relaxed atmosphere for the over 50's, it hardly matters where the ship is going, just that you are on it. A good number of the folks we met on the Pearl had sailed on her 10 or 15 times or more, many were doing back to back cruises, they don't want to get off, we can see why, it's pity we didn't discover Saga cruises years ago. As mentioned the Pearl might not have the glitz and glamour of the QM2, but it doesn't have 2,695 passengers either. The 3:30 line up at the Kings Court buffet on the QM2 sees folks jockeying for position waiting for the tape to go up, it's like the start of the Grand National. It's certainly more like Aintree than what you'd expect {or got years ago} on a Cunard ship, then it's musical chairs trying to find a table. Standards are high on the Pearl, the public areas, the décor, the food, the service from cabin staff to restaurant and bar staff were equal to if not better than any ship we have sailed on in the last 25 years. Unlike Cunard and most other lines on Saga ships the tips are included in the price but the service we had from the cabin staff and others was exceptional so we tipped them to show appreciation for the respect, regard and level of service they gave us and all the passengers on the Pearl. The food in the restaurants was second to none, the presentation on the plate showed that the kitchen staff take pride in their work, the waiters/waitresses were friendly and attentive. I guess it helps that even when the Pearl is fully booked there's less than 500 passengers aboard, the whole experience is more Boutique than Butlin's. Onboard purchases are in £'s rather than US$'s so you know exactly what you are paying without having to calculate the £ vs $ rate, add to that drink prices in the bars aren't extortionate either. The entertainment was excellent, especially The Four D's, they put on a couple of great shows, the enrichment programs were "par for the course" much the same as any ship. Included in the price is Travel Insurance, chauffeur pick up if you live within 250 miles of Southampton, if you live further than that there's a small fee for the extra miles, or if you chose to travel by train the return ticket is provided, what more could you ask for. I could go on to say how the Pearl was equal to {or more often} better in all aspects than the other ships we have sailed on, but I'll leave that for my review of the QM2. We had a great time, made many new friends and learned a lot from them about Saga vacations. All in all we couldn't fault any aspect of the cruise, the next cruise we take will be with Saga, we didn't know what we were missing !!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
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
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
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