We sent journalist Ben Gibson to try out the Saga cruise experience aboard Saga Pearl II, sailing around the Mediterranean. Here’s his honest, no-holds-barred account of what life on board was really like…
New to cruise
‘As a cruise ‘virgin’ I was full of anticipation… Would I feel seasick? Would I get ‘cabin fever’ and tired of the same faces every day? Would I be lonely? Would I just hate each and every minute of it? Thankfully, I needn’t have worried!
I don’t think I really believed that the chauffeur would come, not until I saw him pulling up into the drive. Really? This actually happens? But it did, and all my heavy bags – I packed for every eventuality – from possible Mediterranean snow to a March heatwave – were taken from me and stowed away. Truth is, I hardly saw them again until I unlocked my cabin door and threw myself on the bed, ready for the adventure to begin.
A choice of restaurants
It didn’t take me long to get out and about, and I soon scouted out my favourite places on the ship: the Verandah restaurant, the open deck for barbecues on sea days, and the Sundowner Bar at night, where a small group of us met late each evening to share the day’s adventures. But everyone was different – everyone had their favourite places and routine, everyone free to do their own thing. No one was ‘herded’ around and everyone did exactly as they pleased. It really was the perfect holiday!
I just cannot praise the on-board staff enough: such a genuinely friendly, happy team. They soon get to know your likes and dislikes, and then, magically, everything is just how you like it. And it’s not just brochure spiel either. On day two they already knew my little quirks – that I only drink red wine, never white. That I eat fish but not meat, and I don’t enjoy desserts – just port and cheese, when I’m in the mood. That I always like a cuppa before going to bed – this was brought to me free of charge each night with the included 24-hour room service. I was amazed how they learnt all this, and the efficiency with which it all happened, and always with a smile too.
No more fears!
So what happened to all those ‘cruise fears’ I had? Well, they just sort of… vanished! And within a few days I knew I was hooked. Throwing open those curtains each morning, peering out to another new destination, another adventure, it was incredible! Like the very best parts of a hotel stay – amazing food, fantastic service and private, luxurious accommodation, but with all the advantages of a touring holiday – a brand new place to see every day, a choice of excursions, and a packed schedule of activities. There’s just nothing else like it.
But the one thing I just can’t get across enough is the FUN we all had. There was laughter every minute, such a positive, upbeat bunch of people. It was a riot (in the nicest sense of the word!) And when it was over and time to say our goodbyes, I genuinely didn’t want to leave and go home. I think for a second or two I might even have looked for a quiet nook or cranny to stow myself away in.
So having lost my cruise virginity, so to speak, how do I feel afterwards, now I’m back on terra firma? The honest answeris this – I miss the ship already, and can’t wait to leave all you landlubbers and get back on board! Now, where did I put that Saga brochure…?’
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