Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 385 out of 500
Accommodation: 144 out of 200
Food: 274 out of 400
Service: 289 out of 400
Entertainment: 71 out of 100
Cruise: 284 out of 400
Overall Score: 1447 out of 2000
Saga Sapphire Statistics
Size: Small Ship
Cruise Line: Saga Cruises
Former Names: Bleu de France, Holiday Dream, SuperStar Aries, SuperStar Europe, Europa
IMO Number: 7822457
Builder: Bremer Vulkan (Germany)
Original Cost: $120 million
Entered Service: Jan 1982/Mar 2012
Registry: The Bahamas
Length (ft/m): 654.9/199.6
Beam (ft/m): 93.8/28.6
Draft (ft/m): 27.6/8.4
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (21,270kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 415
Passengers (lower beds): 706
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 49.6
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 1.7
Cabins (total): 374
Size Range (sq ft/m): 161.4-678.1/15.0-63.0
Cabins (for one person): 56
Cabins (with private balcony): 19
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 2
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): No
Slot Machines: No
Swimming Pools: 2
Hot Tubs (on deck): 3
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: UK£
This is an elegant ship for British cruisers over 50
Overview. Saga Sapphire is best suited to couples and single travelers, almost all British, seeking a holiday afloat in spacious, classy surroundings, and provides decent accommodation, good food, and friendly service, plus interesting itineraries and destinations. Passengers must be over 50, but spouses and partners can be as young as 45.
The Ship. Saga Sapphire was originally built as the fifth incarnation of Europa for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and was for many years the pride of the German cruise industry. It was originally to have twin side-by-side funnels, but the idea was dropped in favor of a single funnel. The ship is in remarkably fine shape, despite the fact that it is now just over 30 years old. Saga Cruises tailored the ship to British tastes when it took delivery in April 2012.
It has a deep blue hull and white upper structure, and a sponson stern, a kind of ‘skirt’ added in order to comply with the latest stability regulations. But it still maintains its moderately handsome, balanced profile. There is a really decent amount of open outdoor deck space. The ship has both outdoor and outdoor/indoor pools. While there is no walk-around outdoors promenade deck, there are half-length teak port and starboard promenades.
The interior focal point is a three-deck high lobby, which has a ‘floating’ fish sculpture (I counted over 1,000 fish, including one red herring!). There is a good range of good-size public rooms - most of which have high ceilings, and wide interior stairways create a feeling of spaciousness on a grand - but human - scale. Contemporary yet restful colors have been applied to many public rooms and cabins, and subtle, hidden lighting is used throughout, particularly on the stairways. The public rooms are positioned aft in a ‘cake-layer’ stacking, with all the accommodation located forward, thus separating potentially noisy areas from quieter ones.
Facilities include a delightful observation lounge (The Drawing Room), and an integral, extensive library plus several Internet-connected computer stations (iPads can also be provided), chess and draught tables; light entertainment is presented here in the evenings, and yummy Lavazza coffees are available here at almost any time, with delightful cakes in mid-morning (free). Quirky table lamps are made from old clarinets and fishing rods.
For a delightful, neat hideaway, head to Cooper’s, named after the famed British comedy-magician Tommy Cooper (there are numerous black and white photos on the wall of some of the UK’s best-known comedians of yesteryear and today, including Spike Milligna - the well-known typing error; the table lamps are topped by Tommy Cooper’s trademark - a fez). Then there’s Aviators - a cute little pre-dining room bar with models of those splendid Spitfire aircraft (from World War II), with, of course, Spitfire draft beer as the featured bar beverage.
The ship, which has some rather amusing and quirky artwork, provides an informal, relaxed, yet elegant setting, with many public rooms that have a high ceiling. Saga Cruises includes many things other UK-based operators charge extra for - that’s why its cruises may appear to cost more - such as private car transfers to the ship (check brochure for details), all gratuities, shuttle buses in ports of call where possible, and newspapers in the library in each port of call, when available. Saga also provides excellent user-friendly port and shore excursion information booklets.
Accommodation. There is a wide range of suites and cabins (including many for singles), in a multitude of price grades. All of the original cabins are quite spacious, and have illuminated closets, dark wood cabinetry with rounded edges, full-length mirrors, color TV/DVD player, minibar/refrigerator, personal safe, hairdryer, and good cabin insulation. They are also laid out in a very practical design. Some suites/cabins have table lamps made from old cameras like the Kodak Brownie and similar ‘box’ cameras - delightfully quirky!
Most of the bathrooms (163 to be precise) have deep tubs (cabins without a bathtub have a large shower enclosure), a three-head shower unit, two deep washbasins (not all cabins), large toiletries cabinet, and handsome toiletries - Citrus - created exclusively for Saga Cruises by Clarity, an organization that provides employment for blind persons.
The largest living spaces are the suites. However, because of their location - they were created from former bridge officers’ cabins in a 1999 refit - they have lifeboat-obstructed views. Six other suites had private balconies added, and all provide generous living spaces. There is a separate bedroom with either a queen-size or twin beds, illuminated closets, and a vanity/writing desk. The lounge includes a wet bar with refrigerator and glass cabinets and large audio-visual center complete with large-screen TV set and DVD player. The marble-clad bathroom has a large shower enclosure, with retractable clothesline.
Even the standard, lower-priced cabins are very comfortable, the ship having been designed for long voyages.
Dining. Pole to Pole, the main restaurant, seats 620 diners and has ocean-view windows on two sides, yet still manages to have an intimate, clubby feel thanks to different areas styled to the theme of four continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Both self-serve buffet and full-service meals are provided. There is open seating, so you can dine wherever you choose. For dinner, a number of tables can be reserved for fixed dining times when you book.
Other dining options. The Grill and Verandah, an indoor/outdoor venue, provides lighter, healthier grilled meals, with food cooked to order in a show kitchen. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and relaxed dinner. The ‘spider’s web’ alcove seating partitions are novel (I didn’t find any big spiders yet!). One neat feature is a slicing machine to produce cold cuts of meat - so you know it’s fresh and has taste.
Asian-fusion cuisine (Indian, Sri Lankan, and Thai) is served in the intimate 64-seat East to West restaurant, whose decor includes traditional wood carvings, reflecting the mood of the East. Adjacent is The Grill, specializing in steaks and seafood, in a room with an open kitchen.
The Beach, adjacent to the indoor/outdoor pool, provides fish and chips and other light British fare, traditional desserts, and ice cream (the machine is inside a blue-white striped beach hut - there are jars and jars of boiled sweets in a second beach hut - all very British and a pleasant throwback to yesteryear.
Entertainment. The Britannia Lounge is the venue for major social events and shows. The sight lines are mostly good, although some thin pillars present problems from some seats - the room was originally built more for use as a single-level concert salon than a room for shows - but the setting is elegant. The shows consist of a small troupe of female dancers, plus a number of cabaret acts. There is live music for listening or dancing in various bars and lounges. Male dance hosts are aboard each cruise for the many single women passengers.
Spa/Fitness. An area of about 8,611 sq ft (800 sq m) is host to a rather nice, homely retreat - an indoor wellness center. It includes an indoor swimming pool (few ships have them today). Adjacent facilities include sauna and steam room, a fitness/exercise area, several treatment rooms, and a beauty salon. Sporting facilities include St Andrews, a crazy-golf course located outdoors atop ship in what was a former FKK - nude - sunbathing spot.