A Christmas cruise on the Saga Sapphire
Have you ever wondered what it would be like on a Christmas cruise holiday? Saga Magazine's art director Paul Hayes-Watkins finds out what goes on above and below the decks of the Saga Sapphire at Christmas.
a christmas cruise on the saga sapphire
Passengers are treated to complimentary champagne cocktails as the Sapphire leaves the port of Dover.
As the ship sets sail, Cruise Director John Parton briefs his team, including entertainers, speakers and shore excursion personnel.
Below deck, the vast store-rooms heave with the huge quantities of provisions that will feed the passengers enroute to the Canary Islands.
It’s hot work in the galley, with extra care and skill needed to cook whilst compensating for a rolling ship.
The ship’s main console in the engine control room (ECR). The ECR is the hub that monitors and controls the ship’s machinery throughout the vessel. Those on duty use it as the base for operations – for planning and for safety meetings.
After days of rehearsal, Sapphire’s dance troupe Explosive Productions limber up backstage before their first show.
The crew laundry room, where uniforms, sheets and table cloths are cleaned, pressed, repaired and stored.
Giant gingerbread houses are assembled and decorated below deck; they’ll make their way above deck on Christmas Eve.
Then-Captain Alistair McLundie takes a quiet moment in his cabin to open cards from his family back on dry land.
Sherille Gabain is just one of the attendants racing around the ship on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts and a card from the captain to every cabin. Proof, finally, that there is no Father Christmas.
The crew never take their eyes off the job. Second officer Peter Holbrook checks Sapphire’s course across the seas to the Canaries at midnight.
As dawn breaks on Christmas day, the view from the bridge reveals a fine day and calm seas.
In the captain’s cabin, and Christmas hat – complete with rank insignia – is unpacked and readied for a splendid day on board the Sapphire.
The Ship’s Doctor, Wim Brits, takes a moment next to the Christmas tree to read a message from a loved one back on shore.
Maitre D’Hotel, Abram Santonil briefs his army of Christmas day waiters before passengers start arriving for their lunch. They’ll all work during the day – and then enjoy a Chistmas celebration of their own, when the officers become waiters.
Executive chef George Streeter (right) with a tray of hand-prepared mince pies. Over the Christmas weekend the galley will bake several thousand, made from scratch – the kitchens smell heavenly.
A surprise delivery on mince pies, glasses of champagne and eggnog. That’s how to usher in Christmas Day!
A surprise visit from Father Christmas. Passenger Ray Halford packed a complete Father Christmas outfit to wear for the amusement of fellow cruise-goers. Accompanied by hostess Pamela Johnson (also suitably attired), he heads to the drawing room for his appearance.
As Father Christmas arrives, he is promptly mobbed by laughing women insisting on sitting on his knee. Ho, ho, ho, indeed!
On Christmas day, passengers get a choice of traditional turkey, steak, fish or vegetarian. Here, the first waiter appears in the galley – and the first order of the day is…
Nearly 600 people were served with their choice of meal – from vegetarian options to, of course, turkey – and it all appeared on the table piping hot and beautifully cooked.
The waiters ‘plate up’ and head to the tables at double-quick speed.
On Christmas Day alone, some 300kg (660lb) of turkey was cooked, along with 380 Christmas puddings. And, of course, thousands of sprouts...
Pastry chef Markus Gustav Hettmer casts a professional eye over dozens of desserts. Everything is freshly prepared in readiness for the orders which are minutes away.
Chief engineer Steve Hare (on the left) in Sapphire’s mighty engine room, where he will spend nearly all his time keeping her ‘steady as she goes’.
Even amid the mealtime rush – there’s still time for this crew member to prepare an ornate pineapple table decoration.
The ships crew have their own choir – on hand to perform all the classic Christmas carols.
The cruise is full of unexpected extra treats. During the evening entertainment in Sapphire’s drawing room, Santa’s little helpers hand out sweets to passengers. Just the thing to offset a drink or two.
In a quiet corner of the pastry galley, this crew-member carefully decorates two huge Christmas cakes.
Ever-cheerful Sapphire waiters welcome passengers to the Christmas cocktail party in the Britannia Lounge.
All photographs are by Paul Hayes-Watkins and were taken on board the Saga Sapphire, Christmas 2014.
For more on Saga cruise holidays, see our selection ocean cruises.
Discover Wadswick Green. A vibrant new community for the over 60s, just eight miles from Bath, with luxury apartments and first-class facilities including a swimming pool, gym, spa, restaurant and bar. With all this available on your doorstep, you can experience the luxury of cruising all year round. For more information visit Wadswick Green
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.