Saga Cruises

Saga Sapphire

Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Saga Cruises
Cruise StylePremium
Ship SizeMidsize

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.Read More

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.

  • 10 passenger decks
  • 1 specialty restaurant
  • 1 dining room
  • buffet
  • Safe
  • refrigerator
  • DVD
  • 2 pools
  • Gym
  • hot tubs
  • sauna
  • spa
  • 5 bars
  • library
  • show room
  • Laundry service
  • Internet terminal
  • Wi-Fi

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Pros
Cons
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
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

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Cabins
Bathrooms
Accessibility

There are a total of 65 balcony cabins among the 625 available accommodations. All are air-conditioned. Amenities include flat-screen TV, DVD player, direct-dial telephone, personal safe, mini-refrigerator, and hairdryer. Some twin beds can be converted into a king-size bed upon request.

En suite bathrooms are the norm for all cabins with baths, showers, or both depending on price category.

Passengers with limited mobility are welcome onboard. There are six wheelchair-accessible cabins.

Food & Drink

Food

Whether you’re in the mood for fish and chips, grilled steak, or Thai and Indian curries, the Saga Sapphire offers a variety of quality meals to please the most finicky and famished. The ship’s main restaurant Pole-to-Pole with a seven-continents theme hosts breakfast, lunch, and dinner in open but fixed-time seatings. Arrive early for dinner as there is only a single sitting between 7 and 9 pm. Watch chefs sear seafood and steaks in the open kitchen of The Grill, a casual eatery. The Verandah serves light meals and barbecues alfresco. Exotic flavors of Sri Lanka and Thailand are served in the 64-seat East to West restaurant.

Entertainment

Some of the funniest British comedy acts are performed live at Cooper’s, a popular bar on board. The main Britannia Lounge provides a repertoire of talented musicians and cabaret shows nightly. During the day the same venue hosts afternoon teas, dance lessons, and expert-led lectures as part of an adult enrichment program. Head to the vintage Aviator’s Bar for socializing while sipping a refreshing beverage. Bridge enthusiasts head to the card room.

Spa & Fitness

Deck 4 is the place to be for pampering. The cozy spa features four treatment rooms, indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool, and small fitness room with workout machines and weights. Another pool is aft with teak lounge chairs, perfect for napping or basking in the sun.

QUICK FACTS

SHIP STATS
Entered Service
1982
Number of Cabins
625
Passenger Capacity
752
Crew Members
406
Passengers to Crew Ratio
1.85
Gross Tons
37300
Width
95 feet
Length
658 feet
CRUISE LINE INFO
0800/096–0079 or (44)1303/771–111

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