Saga Sapphire is one of my favourite ships, she ticks all the right boxes and a few extras. She’s a home-from-home for many people and that was evident on my recent cruise, when I disembarked in Southampton and over 100 other people stayed onboard to sail to the Canaries.
I’m used to spending at least 2 weeks aboard Saga Sapphire and exploring each corner of every port she visits, but my recent trip was a short 4-night mini-cruise option and because of that, I decided my time would be best spent reacquainting myself with this wonderful ship and finding out what other people onboard thought of her and what was offered – approx. 40% of passengers were new to cruising and new to Saga.
The average age for the sailing was the lowest I’ve seen, in fact, many people didn’t look like they were old enough to be onboard. I know, I’m one of those people, but the regular Saganauts are used to seeing me floating around. For those of you that don’t know, to travel with Saga you must be over 50, but you can accompany someone over the age of 50 if you are over 40.
The Saga cruise experience is one of the best. They do everything exceptionally well and I am yet to come across someone that hasn’t enjoyed their time onboard. The cabins are spacious and very comfortable, all dining options (including speciality) are included, the shore excursion choices are varied to suit all tastes and abilities and the food, well, the food is simply incredible. I could talk about it without coming up for air, that’s how much I enjoy cruising with Saga, and even though it had been 16 months since my last cruise on Saga Sapphire, almost everything was exactly as I’d expected it to be. I was sad to see that the mini-golf course had been removed from the forward end of Deck 12. My friend and I used to enjoy going up there in the howling wind and pouring rain because it was ‘fun’. To sweeten my memories of those rather exciting times – battling with a vertical dolphin in blizzard-like conditions and trying to direct a ball that would go everywhere on the deck but where I wanted it to go – I stopped and helped myself to a boiled sweet from the Beach Club – they’re free!
I spent a lot of time chatting with other passengers and I was surprised by how many of them had never cruised with Saga before, but had utilised many of their other services, including land tours. Were they impressed with the ocean aspect? I think that’s an understatement. Even those that were completely new to Saga seemed to be hooked from day one. On the flip side of the coin, I also came across a couple that spend up to (if not more than) six months of the year on Sapphire every year.
So, what did I do during my time on the cruise? Well, let me tell you about. I’ll start with Cooper’s.
Cooper’s is a small and very intimate bar located on the starboard side of Deck 8 (just outside the Britannia Lounge). It’s my all-time favourite space on any ship and only big enough to comfortably fit around 30 people. During the day, it’s quiet and you can often watch old comedies on the flat-screen TV, but in the evening, especially after the show in the Britannia Lounge, it comes alive! It’s the place for late night music, laughs, drinks and dancing. I’ve always enjoyed this space, but I like the fact that many people don’t even realise it’s there, it’s almost like a secret club. As people enter the Britannia Lounge, they are set solely on finding a good spot to watch the show, they don’t observe what’s really going on around them, so they completely miss Cooper’s. You’ll often see the same faces for several nights and then suddenly a new crowd will start to trickle in, and that’s all because for the first time, when leaving the lounge, they looked up and realised there’s a door. I’m sure those of you that have sailed on Saga Sapphire will relate to what I’m saying.
I didn’t go ashore in Belgium, I decided to stay onboard and take advantage of a quiet ship and some down time. This was when I discovered the mini-golf course had been removed. I walked all the outer decks and then made my way through the inside of the ship and the memories of good times came flooding back.
Food is not something I can claim to “do”. I’m not a chef or expert critic, I actually can’t stand cooking, but I like to eat and I know good quality ingredients when I taste them, and you’ll get nothing but the best on any Saga ship. Our Executive Chef for this cruise was George Streeter. He and I have met on several sailings, so I knew the food was going to be an issue for me (by issue I mean I wouldn’t be able to stop eating it) and that proved to be the case. I had curry, steak, lobster tail, fish and chips, and so much more.
During my final evening onboard, I dined in East to West with Captain Horne and several others. East to West is the ships speciality restaurant and every guest is welcome to try it, free of charge, at least once per sailing. The menu was new for me this time, so I was looking forward to demolishing some unfamiliar dishes, and as I can’t do anything by halves, I asked to sample several. To start, I combined the pan-fried chilli-ginger scallops with satay chicken and lemon grass skewers. To follow, I ordered green tea marinated XL king prawns and combined that with a taste of the six spice grilled Angus beef with an oriental herb sauce. The entire meal was exquisite; one of the best I’ve had in East to West and as you can see, the prawns were enormous!
I spent more time in the Drawing Room during this cruise than I had on previous sailings. It’s located on Deck 11 forward and offers lovely panoramic views. The design is like that of a living room, so it’s warm, cosy and it turned out to be the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon. I went ashore in Amsterdam, it’s one of my favourite places, but it was so incredibly cold and windy, I just wanted to get back to the warmth and comfort of Saga Sapphire. I took my friend to a few places that she’d not visited during her last trip to the Dutch city and then we headed back “home”. We plonked ourselves down in the Drawing Room (just as the rain began to fall) with a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, cup of tea each and some biscuits. It was the ideal way to spend a grey and damp Sunday afternoon and I loved it. The only thing that could have made it better was being there in my pyjamas.
Saga Sapphire is a ship for everyone and she’s been one of my favourites since we first met. I always feel so comfortable onboard, I meet interesting people and I know if I ever needed anything, her crew would be there in an instant to help. Although she will be leaving the Saga fleet in 2020, I will be cruising on her again before then and on that note, if there’s one ship you think about trying next year, please make it Saga Sapphire. Let her leave you with the incredible memories of fascinating adventures, just like the ones she’s going to be leaving with me.