My wife and I decided to do this short cruise in order to experience Sagaís cruising style. Saga have some interesting itineraries listed in their brochures, but their ships are older than most we have sailed on and given their 50+ age policy would fellow passengers be too old for us?
We paid £391 each for Cabin 282, which is a lowest J grade twin cabin. The beds were arranged in an L shape. There was ample hanging space with two closets, but only four small drawers. One closet housed the safe. A fridge complete with chilled glasses provided the appropriate accompaniment to the free bottle of champagne that greeted us. The cabin dťcor was a restful mix of beigeís and browns. The bathroom included a combined bath and shower and was tiled floor to ceiling like any expensive hotel bathroom rather than the modular fibreglass units on modern ships.
In summary we felt that Saga offer a quality premium product albeit in an older ship that involves many compromises compared to the accommodation offered on newer ones. We enjoyed the cruise but it reinforced the fact that we do prefer larger, newer ships and passengers from a wider age range. The following notes provide more detail.
At first glance Sagaís prices seem more expensive than most, but they include many things others charge for. As this cruise departed from Southampton but returned to Dover their free private car transfer (limit 75 miles each way or 150 miles in total) was exceptionally useful. Alternatively you can choose free rail tickets or free parking. We had opted out of the free travel insurance and taken the discount as we have our own annual policy. Gratuities on board are included and they had also paid the gratuities for the two taxi drivers and the porters at both ports. Other items also included were the sail away drinks, premium coffees such as Latteís, shuttle buses in ports, room service, a fresh fruit bowl in the cabin, dining in the alternative restaurant The View, borrowing CDís and DVDís from the library and use of the launderette, including free detergent. While small many of these items mount up. Drinks prices are also very modest. Wine prices started at £8.25 a bottle or £1.50 per glass for the enjoyable house wines, soft drinks start at 50 pence, sherry and spirits start at £1.50. In fact prices were so low that it was a challenge to spend our on board credit of £25 each. In fact we wouldnít have spent up if we hadnít found some temptations in the shop!
The food quality and selection in the dining room and Lido buffet was excellent.
The food in The View alternative restaurant was outstanding, quite the equal of any expensive restaurant I have eaten in anywhere in the world, and at no extra charge, though a reservation is essential.
The daily afternoon tea was to die for! Quite the best we have ever experienced.
The public rooms were refurbished to an excellent standard a year ago when Saga acquired the ship from Cunard. The expanded Lido buffet and the new View Bar and The View alternative restaurant above it have been exquisitely done in a contrasting contemporary style. The overall impression is of a quality, premium environment.
The cabin had a combined flat screen LCD TV and DVD player and even a set of binoculars.
The entertainment was enjoyable, with two production shows, comedian Mick Miller and a classical pianist who we didnít see. The separate cinema showed a number of current films and we enjoyed seeing the March of the Penguins.
Most modern ships have modular cabins where even the lowest grade inside can have the beds arranged as twins or a queen. On Saga Ruby, like many older ships, unless you are willing to pay for a higher-grade cabin there are few cabins that have double or queen beds. We prefer to cruise more often rather than spend more on a better cabin so it looks as if we will have to stick to cruising on newer ships to enjoy a reasonably sized cabin with a double bed.
The average age of passengers on our cruise was probably in the 70ís.
Even in slight seas the ship seemed to pitch and roll more than we are used to on larger ships.
The Filipino dining room waiters were efficient but very reserved making the service feel very impersonal. Is this Saga style because Filipino staff on American cruise ships are very friendly and keen to build a rapport with guests? Our Filipino cabin steward was much friendlier and helpful.
There seemed to be no obvious smoking policy such as smoking only on the port or starboard side on the outside decks. As a result it seemed very difficult to find a smoke free area on the outside decks. We have never been on a ship with so many pipe smokers. The ventilation system inside also didnít seem able to keep smoke from drifting into non-smoking sections of bars and lounges.
Embarkation took forever due to a gangway problem. We were waiting 1 hour 40 minutes in the lounge and because of the delay we sailed an hour late.
Disembarkation was very slow given that the ship only carries 655 passengers. We disembarked as predicted at 11.20am, which was 3 hours after it started, and we werenít last! By comparison on our previous cruise which had three times as many passengers we were some of the last off after only an hour and thirty minutes.
It didnít affect us but I wouldnít say that this ship is very disabled friendly. Because of its age there are many doors with tall lips and the elevators are very small and only able to carry one wheelchair. The two swimming pools, one inside and one out, both lack disabled lifts, which is surprising given Saga Ruby, had a major overhaul only a year ago.
This was a port intensive itinerary visiting Guernsey, Brest and St Malo and as a result no days at sea. We have been to Guernsey previously so we did our own thing. In Brest and St Malo we took half-day shipís tours to see more of Brittany than just the two cities. The highlight was the visit to Mont St Michel on the tour from St Malo.
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