Four cruise experts recall their personal favourite ocean-going moments with Saga

11 June 2019

From close encounters with polar bears to awesome astral gazing – and a cheeseboard to envy the world over - these cruising experiences are ones to remember...



Saga’s state-of-the-art cruise ship Spirit of Discovery is just weeks away from her naming ceremony at Dover on 5 July, with an inaugural cruise five days later. In anticipation of the occasion, four cruise experts recall their personal favourite ocean-going moments with Saga Holidays, from close encounters with polar bears to awesome astral gazing -– and a cheeseboard to envy the world over! 

Caroline Hendrie

Cruise writer, The Mail on Sunday

The cruise In Search of the Northern Lights cruise to Norway

The ship Saga Sapphire

Ports of call Bergen, Andalsnes, Tromsø, Alta, Stavanger

High points on board

When the Fourth Officer’s voice filled the Pole to Pole restaurant during dinner, telling us that a flicker in the sky was gaining strength on the starboard side. I joined the dash for the door and out on the deck I could see a curl of pale green light sweeping down, twisting and drifting across the dark sky. The Northern Lights were every bit as mysterious and magical as I had hoped.

High points on land

Being pulled on a sled by yelping huskies across wide expanses of snow and through a silent, skeletal birch forest.

My top cruising tip

Meet your fellow passengers by joining in on-board activities such as deck quoits or the crafts class. I heard all about adventures in Africa and the Himalayas while making myself a Liberty-print brooch. But for the real gossip, hang out round the washers and dryers in the laundry.

Favourite spot on the ship

On this cruise it has to be a two-spot draw. On the forward top deck with the hardy and hawk-eyed team of ORCA wildlife experts who helped me spot a pod of leaping killer whales and blows from a fin whale through my binoculars just before it breached. Then straight down to Deck 2 to warm up in the sauna and hot tub beside the indoor pool.

My next port of call?

I can’t wait to sail on Spirit of Discovery. And I can’t think of a more delicious way to explore the Iberian Peninsula than on the Gourmet Spain cruise this August, with Jools Holland performing while I tuck into Cornish crab cakes, tomahawk steak and Arctic soufflé.

A 15-night Norway’s Night Skies cruise on Spirit of Discovery departs Southampton on 16 Feb 2020. From £4,018pp

Tempted by an ocean cruise to Norway and Scandinavia? Find out more here

EXCITING NEWS: The countdown is on for the arrival of our second new ship, Spirit of Adventure, who will take to the oceans this summer! Find out more about cruising aboard our newest ship…


Sara Macefield

Cruise writer, The Times

The cruise Expedition to the North Cape

The ship Quest for Adventure, which is now Saga Pearl II

Ports of call This round-trip Dover sailing called at Stavanger, Brønnøysund (Norway), Lofoten Islands, Longyearbyen (Spitsbergen), Ny-Alesund (Spitsbergen), Magdalena Bay (Spitsbergen), Tromsø, Molde, Geiranger, Bergen (Norway)

High points on board

Definitely the evening entertainment led by our very amusing livewire cruise director who had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand during hilarious quizzes and musical challenges.

High points on land

No question, it was the exciting sight of a polar bear, which suddenly appeared amid the pristine surroundings of spectacular Magdalena Bay. Passengers had been ferried ashore during the morning, but the sudden appearance of the shaggy gate-crasher prompted crew members to hastily usher all the guests away into tenders. Armed rangers were forced to fire live shots over the bear’s head to scare it away as the intruder seemed very reluctant to leave and could be seen sniffing the air – no doubt tempted by the pervasive aroma from the ship’s open-deck barbecue.

My top cruising tip

Go with an open mind to make friends, as everyone is extremely sociable and mealtimes are the perfect occasion for striking up conversation on shared tables. If you want some peace and quiet, make sure you take time to browse the impressive collection of books in the library. You can help to fill in a few gaps in the communal jigsaw, which can prove to be rather addictive, and is also another good spot to start a conversation.

Favourite spot on the ship

Definitely the spa. It might be small but it is perfectly formed, with reasonably priced pampering treatments. There’s also a tempting pool, which was ideal for swimming off the extra calories I consumed during the wonderful nightly five-course fine-dining feasts in the ship’s main restaurant.

My next port of call?

The Caribbean – a balmy escape from the British climate.

A 16-night Arctic Expedition cruise on Spirit of Discovery departs Dover on 7 July 2020. From £3,909pp

Find out what's included on a Saga cruise

EXCITING NEWS: The countdown is on for the arrival of our second new ship, Spirit of Adventure, who will take to the oceans this summer! Find out more about cruising aboard our newest ship…


Lesley Bellew

Cruise columnist, Daily Mail

The cruise Fjords of Tierra del Fuego Cruise, Patagonia

The ship MV Ventus Australis

Ports of call Ushuaia, Ainsworth Bay, Pia Glacier, scenic sailing in Glacier Alley, Wulaia Bay, Cape Horn and Punta Arenas

High points on board

Being off the grid. There’s no Wi-Fi or TV, instead it’s all eyes on the water as every cabin has floor-to-ceiling windows. I also love the dress code – walking boots, waterproof trousers and no dressing for dinner. This ship’s vibe is relaxed.

High points on land

Australis is the only cruise company with a licence to sail on the route from Ushuaia, at the tip of Argentina, to Punta Arenas in Chile, so knowing you are the only humans stepping into the wilderness is a real privilege. Getting up close to giant glaciers, watching them glisten in the sunshine and hearing the ice and snow creak and crash is extraordinary.

My top cruising tip

If you are travelling to board Ventus Australis in Ushuaia, it is best to combine this with a land tour. Saga’s Patagonia – The Ends of the Earth holiday is book-ended by stays in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires and also takes in the national parks of Perito Moreno and Torres del Paine.

Favourite spot on the ship

On deck, sailing around Cape Horn, watching sea lions laze on the rocks and giant petrels glide on the air currents.

Where next?

A British first, Spirit of Discovery’s inaugural cruise.

A 15-night Patagonia – The Ends of the Earth tour plus four-night sailing on the Ventus Australis departs on September 28, 2019. From £6,429pp

Cruising with other cruise lines – discover Saga’s Cruise World portfolio. Find out more here

EXCITING NEWS: The countdown is on for the arrival of our second new ship, Spirit of Adventure, who will take to the oceans this summer! Find out more about cruising aboard our newest ship…


Sue Bryant

Cruise editor of The Sunday Times

The cruise Norwegian Fjords

The ship Saga Sapphire

Ports of call Stavanger, Bergen, Olden, Geiranger

High points on board

Without doubt, the cheeseboard in the Verandah. I’ve never seen such a magnificent selection and I will be eternally grateful to Saga for introducing me to Isle of Wight Blue. And I loved whale- and dolphin-spotting so much I’ve since trained as an ORCA ‘citizen science’ surveyor myself.

High points on land

The scenery of the fjords: towering mountains, some with snowy peaks, ribbons of waterfall plunging into the glassy, green water. We burned off some cheese calories on a long hike in Olden through meadows ablaze with wildflowers, the wind whispering in the pine trees; it was just glorious. I loved Bergen, too; the old wooden buildings of Bryggen, and the artists’ studios behind the colourful facades.

My top cruising tip

You don’t need to be lonely. There was always a big, jolly table for solo cruisers at dinner, and meet-ups for singles who wanted to go ashore together.

Favourite spot on the ship

The Cooper’s Bar for its fez-like lampshades and cushions embroidered with the wit and wisdom of the great comedian.

Where next?

Costa Rica, then the British Isles on Spirit of Discovery.

 A 17-night Summertime in Arctic Norway cruise on Saga Sapphire departs Dover on 30 August 2019. From £2,799pp

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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