Our tenth and final port would be Lisbon and the day started without a cloud in the sky. The tour offered was a city tour, which included a visit to the maritime museum. As I’d previously experienced both, I decided to head into town and do my own thing. I’m not a huge fan of Lisbon, but as I hadn’t ventured into town the last time I was there, I thought I’d have a walk and see if I could find some interesting items I could give as gifts for Christmas. I wasn’t ashore long and in the end I didn’t actually do any Xmas shopping, but I did have time to grab a Pastel De Nata each for my friend and I – which is obligatory in any Portuguese port as far as I am concerned. I returned to ship, had lunch and then sat in the sun for a few hours before readying myself for the evenings pre-sailaway surprise; an impressive firework display that went down very well with passengers. It was a lovely way to finish our days of port exploration – we knew by this time that our next destination was likely to be Southampton.
All the crew on Saga Sapphire were excellent, but those that organised the shore excursions and the debarkation for those excursions, I really take my hat off to you as the organisation was EXCELLENT! People often wonder how tours work on a mystery cruise, so I am going to tell you. On this voyage, we were all offered 1 included tour in every port and it was entirely up to you whether you joined it or not. The tours (aside from the one in Tangier) were staggered either by cabin number or the first letter of your surname, so roughly half of the passengers were leaving at the same time – half in the morning and half in the afternoon. It was so swift and efficient. I think the longest I waited to leave the ship was 15 minutes! In Tangier, the entire ship went on tour at the same time and even this went smoothly. I actually think the 15-minute wait that I spoke about above was that morning. Everything was planned very well and then executed seamlessly. You all did a superb job!
‘Captain Rentell’s Final Mystery Cruise’ was in fact my first mystery cruise and I would do it again in an instant. There was so much suspense and excitement. Every day was quite literally a surprise, as we had no idea where we were going until we got there. Like any other cruise, we received a daily paper in our cabins each evening for the following day, but even if we were in a port, the paper didn’t tell us which port it was, nor did it disclose what the included tour would be. We didn’t find out anything until we had docked. Even the Captain’s announcements were full of mystery and surprise – and the occasional deliberate interference! I observed Captain Rentell walking around the decks carrying various books, including those about the Caribbean, Canary Islands, Croatia and Pompeii – all were ways of throwing us off our own courses, I’m sure. This lead to all sorts of chatter among the Saganauts with regards to where we thought we could be going. I did hear one lady tell the Captain that “he better not be going north again”, luckily for us all, he went south!
As we had to be kept in the dark (not literally, of course), we couldn’t even have simple things feature on the daily paper, such as the weather forecast. It may sound silly, but I’m sure if we were told the air temperature every day or the sunrise and sunset times, we would soon work out to some degree which way we were heading. To give you an example, these were just some of the “weather forecasts” that we had during the cruise:
Wind: Blowing South, West, East and North | Sky: Twinkling | Temp: Sizzling
Wind: Gone With The | Sky: Up | Temp: 90C
Wind: Windy | Sky: Present and Correct | Temp: El Scorcho
Wind: Breezy | Sky: Chance of Snow | Temp: 24C
Wind: Blow Dry | Sky: Wet Rain | Temp: Gas Mark 7
There were various entertainment options available during the 24-nights onboard, including lectures from Terry Waite CBE, International Affairs Speaker; Peter Sissons, News Broadcaster; Captain Tim Orchard, Concorde Pilot; and Lt Ben Moloney, Royal Navy. We also had live music from Harry the Piano, Jazz Legends, The Tiffany String Quartet, and high-energy musicals from the Explosive Productions cast.
One thing I haven’t mentioned in huge detail is the food, and that’s because I am going to do a separate set of blogs that focus solely on the delicious culinary options that are available with Saga Cruises. I will tell you, however, that the food onboard was excellent, as always! The menu had changed slightly in East to West (Saga Sapphire’s specialty restaurant), so it was nice to sample some new and tasty options in there, and the range of dishes available at both lunchtime and in the evening (in Pole to Pole and The Verandah) was varied. I tried a variety of new things during the cruise, including frogs’ legs, Barramundi, and beetroot – the latter of which I am now addicted to. In fact, it became a running joke, with several passengers passing me at various lunchtimes and saying “I thought you were laying off the beetroot today!”. Until my food blog arrives, here’s a Biryani to help the taste buds get ready 😉
The cruise was excellent and I am once again having Saga Sapphire post-cruise blues. Her crew and the friends we made during our time onboard really made the cruise something special. I always feel like we are one big family on Saga – there’s a real sense of camaraderie among guests and crew, and it certainly feels like home.
Where will my next Saga adventure take me? Watch this space…
If you have any questions about the mystery cruise, then please drop a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible 🙂