Cruise blogger Danielle AKA CruiseMiss recalls her time on Saga Sapphire and tells us why she thinks our little gems are so special...
"I recently spent 18 wonderful nights cruising the Mediterranean aboard Saga Sapphire. I had also spent time aboard Saga Sapphire in May of this year on her 16-night Baltic itinerary and when I was given the chance to return in July I certainly couldn’t say no. She is a wonderful ship and leaving her behind after both cruises has been a sad affair.
A magic moment
We left Dover, beneath the roar of a Spitfire and a scorching, summer sun – it certainly beat a typical cruise ship sail away, with a glass of bubbly and a CD player – and off we sailed towards the Mediterranean. Our ports of call were Gibraltar, Palma, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Barcelona, Valencia and Leixoes.
I have sailed the Mediterranean several times but I always try to do something different and the shore excursion options very much allowed me to do that on this cruise. Two of my favourite tours were the Narrow Gauge Train to Sóller, in Palma and Villa D’Este, in Civitavecchia – they were both options I don’t recall seeing on previous cruises and they were both noted as something different-exactly what I was looking for. The views from Villa D’ Este were absolutely wonderful – apparently on a completely clear day you can see the city of Rome from the villa – and the gardens, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were absolutely stunning.
They still operate in the exact same way as they did 500 years ago, nothing has been changed. The Narrow Gauge Train to Sóller was very enjoyable. We boarded an old wooden rack train and off we went on a journey through the gorgeous Mallorcan countryside. The train is now only used as a tourist attraction, but years ago it was the only way to get to Soller from Palma and vice-versa.
We passed a few disused station platforms before making a stop at one of them to admire the views. Upon our arrival in the town of Sóller we were given some free time to look around. I must admit, it was incredibly hot during our visit to Palma and an excursion like this one was a perfect choice: minimal effort, beautiful scenery and a lovely, cooling breeze when the train was in motion.
An excursion to Gibraltar
The above were two of my favourite tours, but my absolute number 1 was the excursion in Gibraltar. Those few hours were some of the best of my life. I have never seen so many dolphins and so close, all they wanted to do was play with our boat. It was incredible to see and it actually left me with a tear in my eye – they really are such beautiful creatures. The company Saga used for the excursion was Dolphin Adventure and I would highly recommend them. They don’t chase the marine life, they let the marine life come to them and they really do know their stuff! Every question that was asked, the crew of the boat had an answer for. See for yourself, because my words could never truly describe what it was like.
During the cruise we were joined by several of the dancers from BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, including Robin Windsor and Kristina Rihanoff. They held a Q&A session in the ship’s Britannia Lounge and then on our penultimate evening they dazzled with a wonderful stage show. My fellow passengers seemed to very much enjoy it, but I have to admit that I was more excited by the ORCA team that were also onboard. They spent the entire cruise whale and dolphin spotting and I believe that in total over 1000 different cetaceans were recorded during the voyage. The work these people do is absolutely priceless, it really is, and I left Saga Sapphire feeling like I knew a lot more about our ocean friends than I did 2 weeks earlier. If you can spare a pound or two then please make a donation to ORCA and help them continue their incredible work. http://www.orcaweb.org.uk/"
The food onboard is absolutely superb, I have done a lot of cruises with other lines and I will say that the food aboard Saga Sapphire is some of the best I have ever had. The standards are consistent, the choice is incredible and I am definitely weak for the lobster and prawns in East to West, and the daily deck BBQ’s – best cruise ship BBQs by a nautical mile!
I always say that the small touches make the biggest impression and having sailed on Saga Sapphire twice now, I have certainly become used to some of those lasting impressions: the fresh hand towels in the public bathrooms; Werthers Original’s and eucalyptus towels during tours, and the occasional packed lunch; fresh water in the cabin; complimentary self-serve juices, teas and coffees available 24 hours; free specialty restaurant; free Wi-Fi; included chauffeur service to and from the ship; free shuttle bus service in most ports; free room service available 24 hours; longer port calls; free ice cream and sweets; and free cake and coffee, which is available most of the day, every day in the Drawing Room.
Cruise Cuisine: what to expect from food on a cruise.
A concert in a cave
The ship also offered a complimentary Magic Moment in Gibraltar: a unique experience in St Michael’s Cave with a concert by the Gibraltar National Choir. All passengers were extended an invitation. A Magic Moment is usually done once per cruise and is a complimentary excursion that offers something a little special. If you want to go along, all you have to do is fill out the form that is left in your cabin and then drop it in the box at the Tours Office. No hassle!
The onboard accommodations are also very comfortable. I stayed in a superior balcony stateroom on Deck 8 on both sailings and I was more than content. I especially liked the size of the bathroom and the fact I had a porcelain sink and toilet, as opposed to the plastic units you get on a lot of cruise ships these days. It was also nice to step out of the shower and not be instantaneously smacked in the face with the back of the bathroom door – trust me that has happened on other ships! My cabin steward, Felix was worth his weight in gold, nothing was overlooked; I would “arrange” all of my pairs of sandals on the floor every evening before I left for dinner, they weren’t placed with military perfection (usually I had one pair on top of another) but they were tidy. However, every evening when I retired to the cabin, they had been lined up across the floor perfectly and any item of clothing that had been discarded during the dressing process was now hanging up on a hanger on the wardrobe door – it’s those little things!
Another thing I very much like about Saga Cruises is the other passengers. I met some wonderful people onboard during both of my cruises and I was incredibly sad to say goodbye. That is always the worst part of any cruise for me. I genuinely become friends with people and then just as we are all starting to know one another, it’s time to leave. On a happy note, I have already received lovely emails from several of the people that I met onboard and if any of you are reading this, I hope to see you on another Saga cruise in the future – I am already looking forward to it!
Experience Saga Sapphire for yourself on one her many itineraries, coming up in 2016/7