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Saga Cruises

A new era of luxury, smaller-ship cruising has dawned

For sea-lovers aged over 50 who wish to mix with travellers of their own age without fear of having to negotiate their path around children and grandchildren, then Saga Cruises could well be the answer.

A new era of luxury, smaller-ship cruising has dawned for the company, which launched in 1997 with Saga Rose and is now steering a new course with the arrival of its first new, boutique ship, Spirit of Discovery, in July 2019.

Spirit of Discovery
Spirit of Discovery launches a new era of boutique cruising for Saga

The christening by the Duchess of Cornwall on 5 July celebrated the start of a significant change of direction for Saga Cruises, the only remaining British registered, independent, cruise company, whose headquarters are in Folkestone.

Spirit of Discovery will be sailing alongside Saga Sapphire, a luxurious state of the art ship when she originally set sail for Hapag-Lloyd as Europa in 1981, undergoing various major refits before joining Saga in 2012.

Robin Shaw, the line’s chief executive, was ecstatic in October 2017 as he charted the line’s new course, codenamed Olympic, with first details of Spirit of Discovery.

And change of direction it certainly has proved for a cruise line that, for 30 years, has taken veteran ships, tarted them up and eventually moved them on, replacing them with newer ships, albeit with plenty of years on the clock.

Shaw’s dream was to have a fleet of new ships. “People wondered if I had lost my marbles,” he said.

He hadn’t and he eventually got his way, heralding Spirit of Discovery as “a uniquely different ship for the UK market. Nobody is building small ships for the luxury boutique market.”

The word he wanted to stress was “boutique”. The SMC design team was tasked to visit the boutique hotels of London and create an onboard experience that reflected what they found.

“The style is not nautical,” Shaw explained. “We want guests to feel as though they are walking into something unique.

“We are changing the view of Saga and what over-50s want to do with their time. Retirement is not what it used to be. It is now a time of real opportunity.”

Spirit of Discovery replaces Saga Pearl II, and a second Olympic-class ship, Spirit of Adventure, will replace Saga Sapphire in 2020.

Are the ships twin sisters? “Not exactly,“David Pickett, Saga’s new build director, told SeaView. “Visually they will be identical, but on the inside there will be some subtle differences in tones and colours and what they offer. But nothing too dramatic.”

There is no dramatic U-turn in Saga’s philosophy, either. Says Shaw: “The Saga DNA does not change. We have always put the guests first and will continue to do so. We are committed to quality in everything we do. Our ships will be new, but how we treat our guests won’t change. That’s why we have a 99 per cent satisfaction rate.”

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