Who was it who said “I vant to be alone” in a European accent before retiring to her chamber. Garbo? That might have been okay for her but the truth is, I hadn’t exactly chosen to be alone on this cruise. But no matter.
Feeling more than a little apprehensive about going solo on Saga Sapphire, I was sat on my suitcase by the front window at home, waiting for the chauffeur to arrive. Yes – a chauffeur! I hoped the neighbours were watching.
He arrived right on time (thorough planning is a Saga trademark, I was soon to discover) and before long we were whizzing our way to Southampton. Check-in at the port was a breeze, and within moments I was having my bags carried to my cabin by a super-smiley member of staff (another Saga trademark).
Related: 8 benefits of going on a singles holiday.
The cabin and ship
So yes, the cabin. If you imagine ship accommodation to be all poky and portholes, you’d be in for a surprise on this ship. It was incredibly spacious, a well-equipped bathroom by the door, a double bed and two built-in wardrobes, a desk, flat-screen TV and minibar. More than enough room to swing a cat, in fact, I’ve stayed in many hotel rooms far smaller than this. And this was a single cabin too!
Venturing outside, the ship was a hubbub of activity: porters whistling, waiters with chinking cups of tea and coffee, and chambermaids carrying stacks of fresh linen and fluffy towels. Being a smaller ship, it was so easy to find my way around. Armed with my trusty Today programme, listing all the events for the day, I soon found myself in the midst of the welcome cocktail party out on deck. The fizz was flowing, and in my excitement I was soon chatting away to my fellow seafarers – a real mix of couples, groups of friends, and yes – those going it alone just like me.
Related: Discover the Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl II
At dinner, I struck up a conversation with the couple next to me, who had sailed with all the other cruise lines before selecting on Saga as the best. “They just can’t do enough for you!” they said in unison, tucking into the first delicious course. We shared a very similar sense of humour, and soon became firm friends.
I met them for dinner each night after that, offering our day’s adventures and laughing at the laid-back fun of it all. “The food is so good, he doesn’t want to go back home to my McCain oven chips!” was another classic comment that kept me laughing.
Related: What makes a cruise with Saga so special?
Entertainment-wise, it was a real mix of ‘something for everyone’. There were really good cabaret shows, a party band, classical ensembles and opera singers, even a stand up comedian on some nights. As a film buff, I was excited to discover a choice of films to watch in the cinema or in my cabin – some of them were still in the multiplexes back home!
Waking up the following morning, breakfast was however I fancied it. I ate outside on the Verandah when the sun was shining, sometimes in the main restaurant, and even had a full English brought to my door one morning. (Yes it was the night after a certain amount of overindulgence at the Captain’s cocktail party!)
The excursions that I joined were varied and well planned. Although we followed an itinerary, there was always free time to do my own thing – like finding a café to enjoy lunch and do a little shopping. I never once felt ‘herded around’, which, if you know me, is a good thing.
In some ports though, it was so easy to simply hop on the free shuttle bus and venture into the nearest city or town. If you didn’t want to go it alone it was easy to arrange to meet other singles by the gangway and go ashore in a little group.
Related: What to expect from shore excursions.
Back on board, there was so much to enjoy, and I think the itinerary had just the right mix of days at sea with time ashore. I loved those sea days actually – free to do as much or as little as I liked. I’d catch up with emails and Facebook – free Wi-Fi is included in most public areas of the ship. This is a real bonus. Some other cruise lines charge around £30 a day to access it!
After stretching my legs around the deck, attending a talk or craft class, it was time for a bit of lunch in the Beach Club – I got quite addicted to the free fish, chips and mushy peas, although grilled salmon was on the menu for the more health conscious.
The library on board is really something, packed with amazing coffee table and fiction books and a collection of DVDs. It was great to research the next port of call, and just to relax. In the evenings the nearby Drawing Room really comes into its own as an alternative entertainment venue – one night it was transformed into a New Orleans jazz club!
Just for those of us going it alone, there was also a ‘Singles Mingle’, which was nowhere near as scary as it sounds! It was basically a cocktail party and lunch, and was a fab ice breaker. I instantly got to know who the other singles were, and from then on it was easy to socialise and meet up. In fact, another good thing about being on a smaller ship is you tend to bump into people more often – it really does make things friendlier and more easygoing.
Related: Activities to expect on a cruise.
Before long my wonderful adventure was coming to an end. As we returned to the sunny port of Southampton, I was out on deck with a handful of other guests, watching the shores of Blighty coming into view. To the side of the ship was a gigantic 4000+ capacity superliner, towering high above us. “Look at it,” the lady next to me remarked, “wild horses couldn’t drag me onto that block of flats”. And you know what? I have to agree. When it comes to cruising on your own, Saga is proof that smaller is definitely better.
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