is a brand with a minimum age; you can't travel with them until you are 50 unless you are over 40 and travelling with someone 50+. So my initial perception was that it was the "waiting for god cruise", a brand where everyone would be tucked up in bed with their Ovaltine by 9pm. I thought it would be boring, very average and a ship that was as old as many of the passengers on board. However after 5 days aboard the Saga Sapphire pretty much every perception of mine was proven to be a misconception.
After boarding our first stop was the Pole to Pole restaurant; the main restaurant on board. Whilst there we discovered our first bit of good news for the modern silver surfers, with Saga you get free wifi for the duration of your cruise in public areas, so you can check on the bills, keep in contact with those at home and keep your friends at home jealous with pictures and tales of your cruise through Facebook. In the travel industry we get to sample great food on various cruise lines but the first meal was beautiful. After lunch we all went off to our cabins; often on these trips you get an inside cabin in the bowels of the ship so when we walked in and saw we had been allocated a deluxe balcony cabin with a full sized bath it gave us an insight into our accommodation for the next few days; and very nice it was too.
This brings me on to my next realisation of travelling with Saga. As a smoker and one of life's social pariahs, I normally have to take a walk to the pool deck to smoke which can be a bit of a pain, most cruise lines, except for the super exclusive 6 star brands, only allow smoking in certain designated locations; with Saga you are permitted to smoke on your balcony. As an agent dealing with numerous products I have lost bookings due to the smoking policies of cruise lines, so this is definitely a great option for some clients.
Most people love to cruise for the food; and Saga customers are no different. On the Sapphire there are three main restaurants, Pole to Pole, the Verandah (the more casual/ buffet option) and the specialty restaurant East to West; my personal favourite which is free and normally available once a week for clients. This was also our dining destination that first evening. On warm days there are two other options; the barbeque at the rear of the Verandah and the Beach Club on the pool deck which serves freshly fried fish and chips with mushy peas; a real favourite of the passengers and a great plus for Saga. Whichever venue you go for the food is out of this world; again having visited some of the best cruise ships on the seas, I would go as far as to say probably the best food I have tried on a cruise ship. And I almost forgot to mention the superb afternoon tea served in the Britannia Lounger at 4.15pm every day; an amazing spread to rival anything other cruise lines offer.
At the Captains Cocktail Party on the Formal Night, the Captain had his audience in stitches with his dry sense of humour. Up until this point our hosts were very conscious of the fact that most of the agents were under the "legal age for Saga" and had at that point our discretion was thrown overboard when the Captain said "we have some travel agents incognito on board to see our little secret, you'll notice these are the people that are about half the age of the rest of you". At this point we could all feel the gaze of the "real passengers" and both our secret and their secrets were out. Honestly though, most of us met real passengers and asked them about their experiences all of which were always incredibly positive, in reality there was not one negative comment at all.
During one breakfast we were sat with a couple in their 60's who said they had been Cunard passengers when they started cruising before sailing with Saga and he told us of why they would never sail with anyone else now. They had booked a cruise and were due to travel on a Thursday, on the Saturday before the cruise one of their elderly parents had sadly passed away. In most circumstances balances are already paid and it would create an insurance claim; however Saga offer their clients their own insurance, he phoned Saga and had said due to the bereavement they wouldn't be able to travel, apparently the agent at Saga said "you need to cancel then, what we will do is cancel this cruise and when you have chosen another sailing we will transfer all of your money towards that cruise". The client also went on to say, there were no forms to fill in, no additional calls required, no documentation necessary; Saga merely moved their funds to their next cruise, no questions asked.
Saga have just released their itineraries for the 2017 season. With a new ship being built for 2019 it looks like an exciting time for a Saga. Not budget, but in my view "you get what you pay for" and as such I think they offer amazing value for money, with that in mind here are just some of the highlights to a Saga cruise.
• The food is sensational and with the East to West specialty restaurant being free of charge, you can't eat better on the seven seas.
• The staff love the brand and the customers; nothing is too much trouble despite no tipping on board.
• The clients are so friendly and welcoming; a great option for those solo sailors.
• The standard of accommodation is bigger and better than most of the ships I have been on and the suites are incredibly popular.
• Booking early gets the best discounts and availability.
• The Sapphire is a beautiful ship and gives that small ship experience with a great level of intimacy and making friends.
• Clear marking of specific foods for dietary issues.
• You can smoke on your balcony.
Would I sail with Saga
again?? Without a doubt, and my countdown of 4 years and 7 days has begun in order to meet their age requirements.