Spirit of Discovery would next call to Portland and it was a hot and sunny day, perfect for my Jurassic Coastline excursion, or so I thought. Our first stop was at Charmouth to admire the incredible coastline. It looked like something you’d only ever see in a movie, it was spectacular, I’m only sorry that my photograph does it absolutely no justice. This hadn’t been our planned stop, but there was something going on at White Bay that made it impossible for us to visit and our guide said he thought Charmouth was prettier. I was quite happy either way, but I was disappointed that we never went searching for fossils – I’d really been looking forward to that.
We then made our way to Lyme Regis where we had just under 2 hours of free time to enjoy the beach, take a walk through the pretty town or just sit and people watch with an ice cream. This tour was marked as moderate, but I found it quite a trek, especially as it was so hot. I walked from the coach park to the beach, which was all downhill and very steep in places, but still pleasant. It’s a typical seaside town and it was packed with people enjoying the glorious weather. I walked along the front, stopping to look at some of the fossils on the market stalls, and then made my way into the town. I knew the walk back up was going to be almost vertical, so I decided to go via the road instead of back along the seafront, which also meant I was out of the sun. I paced myself through the village before hiking back to the coach park. By the time I got there, I was exhausted. I’d stopped at a shop on the way to buy a cold drink and bar of chocolate, so I sat beneath a tree and enjoyed those while waiting for everyone else to return to the coach.
Spirit of Discovery dropped anchor off St Peter Port in Guernsey before 9am and the tenders were lowered shortly after. It was another gorgeous day and I spent a lot of it enjoying more of the ships space and sadly, starting my packing. I hadn’t booked myself on any tours, I just wanted to take the day as it came. Once most passengers had left, I ventured down to the tender pontoon to catch a ride ashore. It was great fun, there were dozens of other small crafts out on the water. As we tied up in the harbour I realised I hadn’t picked up my purse. I took that as a sign to go back ‘home’ and enjoy being on the ship, so, that’s what I did. I had the tender to myself on the way back, which meant it took approx 0.05 seconds to scan my cruise card and make it back to my cabin. I ordered chicken korma on room service for lunch, put a movie on in the background and started adding more clothes to my case. One thing I can never stop myself from doing on a SAGA ship is eating, everything is so delicious, and I mean everything.
Southampton was our final port of call and I was up early for a drive to Portsmouth to see the Mary Rose and HMS Victory. The Mary Rose was astonishing, she really was. I was gobsmacked by her preservation and the extent of the items that had also been recovered with her. The search for her began in 1965, but it wasn’t until 1971 that divers were sure they’d found her. Excavation began in 1979 and in 1982 they began to raise the hull. King henry VIII’s flagship had sat at the bottom of the Solent for more than 400 years! I don’t want to say too much because there’s an entire exhibition you can enjoy on site and it’s bursting with information, facts and figures. All I will say is that you’ll be truly blown away when you see her.
HMS Victory was also a pretty impressive sight. Did you know she’s the oldest naval ship in the world that’s still in commission? She’s given 241 years of service so far. She’s just as magnificent as the Mary Rose, but for different reasons. First of all, look at her, she’s incredible! If you think of the battles she’s seen since she launched in 1765, it’s hard to comprehend. She was, after all, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. There’s not a lot left of her interior that’s original, but she’s still worth exploring. Her decks are incredibly low, I walked hunched over for almost all of my time inside, which made me go through at a quicker rate than I would have liked, and the stairs are also very steep, some almost vertical, so please bear this in mind when planning your visit.
Before we knew it, we were back where we had started, Dover. The inaugural cruise had come to an end and it was time to bid farewell to this lovely ship, until the next adventure.
So, all this talk of ports, but what about Spirit of Discovery? Well, I was somewhat apprehensive when I first saw her. When I boarded (before her naming ceremony) I felt quite emotional. She was absolutely stunning, there was no doubt about that, but in some ways, she wasn’t what I’d come to know of SAGA over the years and I couldn’t help but compare her to Saga Sapphire. I think I was somewhat overwhelmed by the difference. I’ve so many wonderful memories from SAGA cruises and the change felt heavy. It also hadn’t helped seeing Saga Sapphire just a few days earlier.
By the time she sailed from Dover on the evening of July 10, things were beginning to change. I’d bumped into many people whom I’d met on previous cruises and I was starting to feel the ships heartbeat. I know that sounds odd, but that’s the only way I can describe it. The trade and media events were finished, and she was now filled with loyal Saganauts (and a few new ones) who were emitting a massive amount of energy and excitement. She was now what I remembered, but in a fancy new form. It was then I realised that had been the key piece of the puzzle I’d been missing, SAGA passengers. Now, I was settling into the ship and beginning to feel that SAGA experience come through in these unfamiliar areas. By the end of the cruise, I had been charmed and would walk around her decks with a permanent smile – everything was pleasing to me. I was sad to leave, but I’m joining her again on Saturday for her ‘Natural Scandinavia’ cruise. Following that sailing, I’m going to share with you EVERY aspect of her, so until then, let me show you some of the spaces that I enjoy the most.
The LIDO Deck, I just love it. It’s a great place to relax in the day and at night, it’s the number one choice for a deck party if the weather is good. It’s nice to finally have that outdoor space on a SAGA ship where everyone can get together and enjoy the atmosphere.
The Britannia Lounge is a stunning space. There’s not too much going on in there during port days, so if you’re having a peaceful day onboard, it’s a great place to take your book. The evening brings a different story, as the room comes alive with various musical performances until the early morning hours. The glass windows, high ceilings and gorgeous décor made this one of my favourite areas onboard as soon as I walked in.
East to West is also another beautiful space and the new menu is very impressive. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the food, but first the decor. It still retains that dark wood and Eastern vibe, but the space is lightened by brightly coloured chairs, huge pieces of art and large picture windows. The menu offers everything from soft shell crab to beef, and you must try it.
As I said, I’ll be back very soon with a real inside look at Spirit of Discovery from top to bottom, but if you can’t wait for my blog for all the updates, then follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for live posts from the Gulf of Bothnia.