Saga Sapphire – First impressions

A preview of Saga’s sparkling new gem after its recent multi-million pound makeover.

The ship was originally built to accommodate 804 passengers but was adapted during the refit to host just 706. This extra space is one of the most noticeable things about Saga Sapphire. It is uncrowded, corridors are wide cabins are larger than average and the multi-deck atrium has a bright, airy feel. According to Carl Catterall from Saga Travel passengers find this ship the perfect size as it fosters a friendliness that is the hallmark of Saga cruises

The Saga Sapphire

The Saga Sapphire

Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

Drawing Room 2

The Drawing Room

The European Section of the Pole to Pole restaurant

The European section of the Pole to Pole restaurant

Table Setting in The Verandah

Table setting in The Verandah

The Beautifully Decorated East Meets West

The beautifully decorated East Meets West

Coopers Bar

Cooper's Bar

The Aviators Bar

The Aviators' Bar

The Beach Club on Deck

The Beach Club on Deck

The Pool Area

The Pool Area

The Aqua Spa

The Aqua Spa

The Britannia Lounge

The Britannia Lounge

Here is a round-up of the accommodation and facilities

Drawing Room
Panoramic views and stylish comfy chairs make this a great place to relax. The ship’s theme is travel and nostalgia and this is illustrated by a wealth of eclectic pieces of art – a Chinese statue here, a plaster bust there and lots of interesting little pictures and ceramics scattered around. Just the sort of souvenirs you might collect on your travels.

If you want to occupy your mind while watching the sea go by, there’s some 2300 books to choose from in the very comprehensive library as well as games, puzzles and DVDs. And there’s a Larder where you can help yourself to tea and coffee and homemade treats to make it feel even more like home.

Dining Rooms
The main dining room, Pole to Pole, is a vast space that has been cleverly divided into smaller areas themed on different continents. This gives a greater degree of intimacy and the imaginative decorations provide plenty of variety. With free seating you can try a different part of the world every evening although if you find a place your particularly like you can also reserve a table. Both the food and the service in the restaurant is exemplary.

The Grill and Verandah
Serving the same food as the main dining room, this is a smaller restaurant with a quieter and more intimate atmosphere. There’s an open plan kitchen where you can watch your food being prepared and if the weather is warm you can eat al fresco on the Verandah.

For something completely different there is East to West, a fusion restaurant serving mouth-watering Indian, Sri Lankan and Thai cuisine that is cooked in a separate kitchen. It has a warm feel with beautiful lighting and décor. There is no supplement to dine here but with only sixty seats a reservation is essential. And so that every one gets a turn, you can only make one booking for each week of your trip.

Bars
Cooper’s Bar is dedicated to Tommy Cooper and other great British comedians. Tommy’s jokes are on cushions scattered around the room and there are lots of black and white photos of British comedy greats. A pianist plays here every evening and the bar has a very cosy, relaxed atmosphere.

The Aviators’ Bar is a tribute to travel in bygone years, decorated with lots of memorabilia such as old aircraft models and posters and photos of flying legends such as Biggles and BOAC.

While on the subject of bars the drinks prices are very reasonable with a pre-prandial gin and tonic or a pint of beer coming in comfortably under £3.

Britannia Lounge
Guests head to this large theatre cum lounge for a sumptuous traditional afternoon tea. This is the place to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey, dainty sandwiches and home made pastries while a harpist provides soothing background music.

After dinner it becomes the venue for cabaret style entertainment with singers, dancers and comedians. There’s a dance floor where everyone struts their staff and the night we were on board Beatle mania had taken over and everyone was 18 again.

Swimming Pool and Decks
Around the swimming pool the holiday theme is the English seaside with blue striped chairs, beach huts serving sweets out of old-fashioned jars, an ice cream shop where you can help yourself and fish and chips served in newspaper every lunchtime. And there’s no extra charge for any of these treats.

For the more active there is crazy golf, shuffleboard and deck quoits and on a higher deck a hot tub. After dark, open-air movies are shown under the stars with hot chocolate and blankets to keep you warm.

Cabins
The standard cabins are the largest you will find on any cruise ship at 18 sq m. They are light and bright with plenty of wardrobe space and very comfortable beds. The outside balcony is a bit on the small side but plenty big enough to sit down, read a book and catch the sun’s rays. All cabins have either a large shower or bath. Tea and coffee would have been a welcome addition but there’s always room service at no extra charge.

Solo Travellers
There are 46 single cabins and when they are fully booked, passengers are offered double cabins with no single supplements. Solo travellers are made to feel at home with a welcome reception and gentlemen hosts mean that ladies are never without a dance partner. Those travelling alone are also encouraged to meet up at the departure for port excursions so that they have some company to go ashore with. And there’s no awkwardness about where to sit in the restaurant as The Maitre D clearly understands his clientele very well and makes sure that he sits solo passengers on tables where he thinks they will comfortably fit in.

The Passengers
68 per cent of passengers are repeat customers, which speaks volumes about the quality of the ship and the service. 98 per cent are British and only English is spoken. The atmosphere on board is very British and wherever you happen to be in the world there will always be a Sunday roast.

Staff
Staff are mainly Philippino except officers who are British and with a crew of 432 you are sure to be well looked after. While onboard we were impressed by the friendliness and efficiency of the crew

Mind and Body
There is a well-equipped gym where you can help yourself to chilled bottled water and regular keep fit classes will help burn of some of those inevitable calories from the cruise cuisine.

The Aqua Spa is operated by Saga staff that has been trained by Decleor. There is an extensive range of treatments on offer together with hairdressing facilities, steam room, sauna, swimming pool and hot tub.

A Medical centre is staffed by two doctors and three nurses. Passengers can be reassured by the extent of medical procedures available at the onboard hospital that include scans and x-rays.

The Academy
Here passengers can learn skills such as basic computing. For example you could get to grips with everyday technology such as Photoshop, social media, emailing, uploading photos and browsing the internet. There are also presentations and talks by guest lecturers on a wide range of topics. If you just want to use a computer, there are plenty and you can even borrow an iPad.

And what’s more…
When you travel with Saga you get a complete package not just the cruise. Saga clearly pride themselves on well-trained staff with excellent knowledge of the ships. This means that members of staff will advise you on the ship that is most suitable for your requirements and this is particularly helpful if you have a disability or other special needs.

If you live within a 250-mile radius, a chauffeur driven car will take you from your home to the port (and return of course). This completely free service means you can start to relax from the minute your luggage is whisked away on your doorstep.

At each port of call there is a free shuttle bus to the town centre

Cancellation and Medical insurance is included in the cruise price and importantly existing medical conditions are covered provided they are declared.

All staff on Saga Sapphire are paid a salary which means that gratuities are neither necessary nor expected.

Guests are offered a ten per cent discount if they book on board.

When the brochure is published early bookers are offered a substantial discount. It is guaranteed that, even if the same grade of cabin is sold at a cheaper price later, the difference will be refunded. Usually the cost of the cruise goes up the nearer it gets to the departure date.

The Cultural Voyager Verdict
The Saga Sapphire is a very comfortable ship that is spacious with lots of attractive facilities but is small enough to foster a friendly atmosphere. Add to this the free Chauffeur Service, inclusive comprehensive insurance and price guarantee and it becomes an unbeatable package.

Culture
Many of the Saga cruises feature cultural highlights with opportunities to visit places like St Petersburg, Pompeii and Herculaneum, the UNESCO listed Bergen waterfront and the WW1 battlefields. You can also hear about the history of the Cold War from experts like Dame Stella Rimington, former Director General of MI5, and former BBC foreign correspondent Martin Sixsmith.

For more information about all the Saga cruise ships go to http://travel.saga.co.uk/holidays/ocean-cruises.aspx

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