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Ship Visit to Saga Pearl II
Saga Cruises
Southampton - 7th December 2011

Report and Photos ©2011 Frank Allan
Additional Photos ©2011 Arthur Clark



SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011  Arthur Clark
SAGA PEARL II arriving late at Southampton before the OLS visit - Photo: ©2011 Arthur Clark


   

2011 Visit Reports
Revisited ships will not be reported unless significantly revised since our previous visit

Athena

Crystal Serenity

Rotterdam

Saga Pearl II

Saga Ruby

 
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Arthur Clarke
SAGA PEARL II arriving late at Southampton before the OLS visit - Photo: ©2011 Arthur Clark

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

My wife Marie and I joined the Ocean Liner Society’s visit to Saga Pearl II at the City Cruise Terminal in Southampton. This was our second visit with the OLS, the first having been to Saga Ruby at Dover in August, so we make the occasional comparison with Saga Pearl II’s fleet mate.

Built in 1981 by Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft, the Saga Pearl II was originally named the Astoria. A small ship by current standards, at 18591 gross tons, 539 feet in length and beam of 74 feet, accommodating 446 passengers, with 252 crew.

She was bought by Saga in 2009, and given a refit in Swansea, emerging in March 2010, after expenditure of £20m according to Shiptechnology.com. This was money well spent, as all the public and private areas were elegant and spotlessly clean. Lots of rosewood panelling was in evidence, with thick, attractive carpets in neutral colours.

The Saga Pearl II is clearly a different generation from the Saga Ruby (built 1973 to the design of her 1965 sister then named Sagafjord), with funnel and engines astern of the centre line, and no sheer or camber on her decks. Compared with newer ships she has few cabins with balconies (11%). On the plus side, however, for the increasing number of solo travellers there is a good proportion (24%) of single cabins.

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

The Saga Pearl II was delayed inbound from Lisbon due to bad weather. This meant that, although there was some waiting around, we had the bonus of seeing her approach just after 11 am. Her profile is quite attractive with a tall yellow multi-flued funnel with a dark blue band at the top, matching the dark blue hull. Time was a little tight as the ship was to sail full on schedule at 5pm on a Christmas Markets cruise, and we had to be ashore by about 3pm. The running order of the visit was changed to start with lunch followed by a shortened tour of the public rooms and cabins.

The patient Ocean Liner Society members boarded around 12.15, having been divided into three groups for the accompanied tour, and were escorted to the main restaurant. We shared a table for a very pleasant lunch with three generations of the Sudders family. The most senior Mr Sudders is eligible almost twice over for a Saga cruise! The dining room seemed to be more spacious than that of the Saga Ruby, with ample space around the tables which were for four, six and eight. The service as on our previous Saga visit was excellent.

Saga Pearl II has eight decks with public access. The lowest is deck C which has the sauna, gym, medical centre and, like the Saga Ruby, an indoor swimming pool in the traditional location deep in the ship. The main accommodation decks are B and A. B deck also has the beauty salon, a small cinema, and a laundrette far forward.

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

The majority of public rooms are on the Promenade Deck. The suitably named Dining Room where we lunched occupies the full width of the ship. We were in the middle of the room, which large sea view windows and a pleasant ambience. The Discovery Lounge, where afternoon tea was being laid, is spacious. The tea looked delicious and was very attractively presented, with an ice sculpture as a centre piece. As it was so near Christmas, there were a number of poinsettias dotted around, but sadly no Christmas trees. The Discovery Lounge is the main venue for entertainment in the evening with a wooden dance floor. There is no tiered seating. The furniture looked most comfortable, as it did in all the public rooms. We are not sure how easy it will be to find a vacant seat when the ship is full of Saganauts!

Shackleton’s, the stylish bar and lounge in the centre of the ship is also spacious and comfortable. A portrait photograph of the explorer is a feature on the wall. Coincidentally I had seen a similar one just a few weeks before on a visit to Edinburgh when I had stayed at Channings Hotel, which had been the Shackleton family home.

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

One of the features of the Saga Pearl II is its excellent 3400-volume library, also on Promenade Deck. This is in a prime location with armchairs and ocean views.

There are other smaller public rooms on the Promenade Deck – including the Chart Room, and the Card Room.

The Boat Deck has 20 of the higher grade cabins, mostly with balconies. Towards the aft there is the Verandah Restaurant which was not open on our visit, but is a more casual alternative to the main Dining Room. The open air pool and teak-decked Verandah area is aft.

The Bridge Deck has the most luxurious accommodation. There are 18 cabins, some with balconies, the others with “French balconies”, featuring doors which open onto a walk-way below the ship’s boats. There is also the attractive Sundowner Bar, opening to the sundeck and barbeque area aft.

The absence of a casino and slot machines is a plus point for us.

We were able to visit a number of cabins, ranging from a standard single inside (no. 517) on B Deck to a two bed superior outside (no. 17) on Bridge Deck. All of these were immaculately clean, and featured generous bottles of Moulton Brown toiletries, rather than the small travel sizes offered by many cruise ships and hotels. The colour scheme was a nautical blue and white, which in our opinion made the cabins seem fresher and brighter than those on Saga Ruby. The wardrobes, cupboards, and drawers were well-designed and fitted, with sufficient storage space. A nice touch was that there were binoculars in every cabin.

It was easy to move around the ship. The main staircases were functional rather than grand, with open blue-carpeted treads and moderate rises. The smallish lifts were busy with the luggage of embarking passengers.

There are changes imminent in the Saga fleet in 2012. The Saga Sapphire (ex-Bleu de France) will join the fleet in March. The Saga Pearl II will transfer to Saga’s Spirit of Adventure brand, and will be renamed Quest for Adventure on 6th May, but no changes are expected to its excellent facilities.

Many thanks to Peter Godliman and Matt Sudders of the Society and to Saga for organising and hosting a most enjoyable visit.


Frank Allan
16 January 2012


SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan
SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011 Frank Allan

SAGA PEARL II - Photo: ©2011  Arthur Clark
SAGA PEARL II at Southampton before the OLS visit - Photo: ©2011 Arthur Clark





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