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Saga Cruises: Saga Sapphire

  • Saga Group Limited
  • Saga Group Limited
  • Saga Group Limited

Saga Sapphire Review

If you are at least 50 and like quirkiness on an older, mid-sized ship, the Saga Sapphire may be your perfect nautical getaway. The 12 decks of the streamlined Saga Sapphire house an eclectic interior with bold colors, an assorted blend of styles, funky decorations

one might find at an oddity shop, and "crazy golf." The pure British flavor runs deep throughout dining choices, funny entertainment programming, and friendly service. Afternoon tea and the pub-like atmosphere in bars marry with spacious modern cabins for a traditional full cruising experience. A hive of activity buzzes around the poolside Beach Club for snacks and sweets. Do six circuits around the promenade deck—you will have walked a mile! Do your homework before taking the ship: the Saga Sapphire had a recent spate of engine trouble with breakdowns at sea.

Originally built in 1981 for German-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and named MS Europa, the ship was sold to Star Cruises in 1999 and called the MS SuperStar Europe and later MS SuperStar Aries. Pullmantur Cruises bought her and she sailed under the name of MS Holiday Dream. After having a French identity as Bleu de France under the ownership of CDF Croisieres de France in 2008, she finally received her current name, transferring to Saga Cruises in 2011. A series of refits and refurbishments added new cabins and balconies, updated interior decor, overhauled machinery, and repaired and repainted the hull. A key feature in the boat’s construction keeps cabins in the front, farthest away from engine noise, and ceilings higher than standard heights. Details like soundproofed walls, a domed pool, and illuminated closets improve the ship’s more recently inconsistent standing as a seaworthy vessel.

Indoor pool. Outdoor pool. Spa. Casino. Bars. The Saga Sapphire has everything one might expect from a traditional cruise ship and more. Head to the St. Andrew’s Deck for a round of “crazy golf” with its twisting miniature greens. Read or be connected on an iPad in the library. The child-free, adult-exclusive ship offers 5- to 35-night cruises departing from Southampton or Dover. Expect British, international, and Asian fusion flavors with a choice of self-service buffet or sit-down waiter service. The Beach Club is the casual meeting point to evoke a British seaside resort. Play a game of table tennis at the Clubhouse or watch a feature film in the brisk air at the outdoor cinema. A magnificent contemporary sculpture adorns the triple-level atrium lobby. From modern to classic, the Saga Sapphire appeals to all tastes.

Saga Holidays, a U.K.-based travel and tour company, was founded in 1951 to offer vacation packages to mature travelers. It's cruise program started in 1975 with charter sailings. Saga purchased its first ship in 1996, the venerable Sagafjord, and renamed it Saga Rose. Following the success of Saga Rose, her former sister ship Vistafjord was acquired in 2004 and sails as Saga Ruby, though that ship will be retired in 2014. Itineraries brim with longer sailings to far-flung corners of the globe, making Saga voyages destination oriented.

Classic cruisers in every sense of the word, Saga’s passengers are travelers who expect inspiring itineraries coupled with traditional onboard amenities and comfortable surroundings. In the style of Saga Holidays’ land-based tours, Saga Cruises takes care of the details that discerning passengers don’t wish to leave to chance—from providing insurance and arranging visas to placing fruit and water in every cabin. For passengers embarking in U.K. ports (and almost all passengers are British), round-trip private car transfers are offered, or if a passenger lives more than 250 km from the port of embarkation, domestic U.K. flights. But passengers can also get rail travel or parking if they wish to travel more independently.

Activities and entertainment range from dance lessons to presentations of West End–style productions, from Internet lessons to lectures on wide-ranging topics. Wine tasting, deck game competitions, classical concerts, and even Bingo are found on the daily programs. Both ships have card rooms, but you won’t find casinos. With numerous accommodations designed for solo cruisers, Saga Cruises are particularly friendly for senior singles. Especially convenient on lengthy sailings, each ship features complimentary self-service launderettes and ironing facilities. In port, the line offers complimentary shuttle transfers to the town center from the cruise pier.

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What You Should Know

Pros

  • Asian-fusion restaurant and open-kitchen grill add variety to run-of-the-mill buffet
  • All dining venues are included in cruise fare
  • The Academy Resource Center has a library, iPads, and Wi-Fi service

Cons

  • Decor has no central theme and is a mishmash of styles
  • The ship has had engine problems at sea
  • Rather expensive pricing overall for what you get
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 406
  • Entered Service 1982
  • Gross Tons 37,300
  • Length 658 feet
  • Number of Cabins 625
  • Passenger Capacity 752
  • Width 95 feet

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