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kentchris

Cruise Critic review of Spirit of Discovery

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At the time of writing there aren't any CC member reviews of Spirit of Discovery in the Reviews section of the site. I don't think I've seen any reference to CC's own review which people may find helpful: it covers the ship's various facilities and the onboard experience in a systematic way, and so fills in quite a few of the gaps in Saga's own marketing bumpf. 

 

https://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/reviews/review.cfm?ShipID=861

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I saw this and couldn't understand why they only awarded fitness and recreation a 3.

Is it because there is no rock climbing wall, flow rider and ice skating rink?

The ship has an indoor pool, gym and the usual deck games, the score seems on the low side to me.

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I’ve just read the review and was very surprised that the MDR only opens at 6.45 pm. No wonder there was a queue!   I know your average older Brit probably doesn't eat as early as Floridians, who sometimes stand in line by 5.00 pm for their dinner on US cruises, but 6.45 does seem a bit late to start. 

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40 minutes ago, cinnamon said:

I’ve just read the review and was very surprised that the MDR only opens at 6.45 pm. No wonder there was a queue!   I know your average older Brit probably doesn't eat as early as Floridians, who sometimes stand in line by 5.00 pm for their dinner on US cruises, but 6.45 does seem a bit late to start. 

Another example of Saga doing things their own way. Our first ever cruise was on Sapphire four years ago when both Afternoon Tea and Dinner were 15 minutes later than they are on Spirit of Discovery.

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Dinner on Sapphire and Pearl has always been from 6.45 (to 9, or occasionally 7 to 9) when we have been on board, and although there might be a few going in at that time, it was usually more staggered and civilised.  I suppose when all drinks are included people are more inclined to linger in the bar!  It suits us very well, any earlier would mess up the day, and we do prefer to go in by about 7.30, which is starting time on some lines.  And if you opt for your own table each evening, of course you just go straight in and it is available all evening.   Most are thoughtful enough not to arrive at 8.45, thinking of the staff.  I certainly would not like to go into dinner at 5.  

 

I feel that it is likely that because this was the first cruise people were anxious about space and numbers.  

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7 hours ago, cinnamon said:

I’ve just read the review and was very surprised that the MDR only opens at 6.45 pm. No wonder there was a queue!   I know your average older Brit probably doesn't eat as early as Floridians, who sometimes stand in line by 5.00 pm for their dinner on US cruises, but 6.45 does seem a bit late to start. 

 

The cruise booklet gives the different restaurant meal times.

 

MDR:  Breakfast 8-9.30am, lunch 12-1.30pm, afternoon tea 4-4.45pm, dinner 6.45pm-9pm

Coast to Coast and East to West both 7-9.30pm dinner

The Grill: Early risers 6.30-7.30am, breakfast 7.30-10am, lunch 12-2pm, afternoon tea 4-4.45pm, dinner 6.45-9.30pm

 

Seems a bit harsh that the latest you can have breakfast is 10am, especially with lunch not starting until 12.  It's a cruise, what happened to being able to eat all day?!

 

The one which surprised me is the Club by Jools which gives opening hours as, "9.30pm, bar open 6pm til late".  I'm thinking perhaps it's a typo.  Surely it isn't a single sitting at 9.30pm, take it or leave it?

 

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When we were on a Holland America Alaska cruise last September, I was surprised how early most of the Americans were eating dinner. We Brits and Australians opted to eat around 7.30ish, but the Americans were in the MDR before 5.30. They were nowhere to be seen later in the evenings either.

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I have added a review to the Cruise Critic site for the Spirit of Discovery.  This is what I said....

 

Gourmet Spain

 

My husband and I are both in our seventies and we have never considered a cruise with Saga before. The last five cruises we have have taken have been with Azamara or Oceania, but we were attracted by the idea of sailing on the Spirit of Discovery as she seemed to incorporate all that we like about a cruise ship.

 

We were absolutely delighted with the 14 day cruise around the Iberian peninsular. The weather was wonderful and everything about the ship lived up to expectations.  We were collected from our home and driven to Dover, where embarkation was swift and we were shown to our standard twin cabin, which was very near the stern of C deck.  I was a bit concerned that being so far aft might not be ideal, but the ship is so quiet and smooth it was not a problem at all.  The balcony was a good size and was furnished with two upright chairs with cushions and a small low table.

We wondered if there would be enough drawer space in the cabin, but there is so much room in the wardrobe we just hung most things up, as there were fifty hangers. Anything we didn’t have room for in the drawers stayed in our suitcases as there was lots of room under the bed for those.  The bed was extremely comfortable with good quality sheets etc. It was nice to have a USB port next to each side of the bed and also a good reading light.

 

After the safety drill, which for us took place in the Club, we went to make our bookings at the speciality restaurants. (It is also possible to book these by telephone at certain times during the cruise). There seemed to be no problem getting a table for two at each of the three restaurants.  We enjoyed all three dinners very much, but perhaps we liked Coast to Coast, the seafood restaurant, the most.  All the other evenings we ate in the Grand Dining Room on Deck 5, where the food was also excellent.  We were able to have a table for two every night except one, when we sat at a table of 10.  Breakfasts was either in the Grand Dining Room or, when we were in more of a hurry, in the Grill or the Verandah.  The food was the same in both locations, and was very good.  When the weather became very hot we tended to have lunch in the grill, where there was a delicious choice of salads as well as all the hot food which was also available in the dining room.  We managed to resist afternoon tea except on a couple of occasions, but it was delightfully served every day in the dining room with a choice of teas and a glass of sparkling wine, as well as sandwiches, cakes and scones.  It was also available in the Grill.

 

We didn’t see all the entertainment, but we did see all three shows performed by the Spirit of Discovery Show Company; we thought they were very good indeed, with superb sets.  We also saw two different shows done by the Opera Boys, and one evening when Jools Holland performed - all marvellous.  The Playhouse is a beautiful theatre with room for over 400 people; the only thing that worried me was that there were a lot of people on board who had walking difficulties and they struggled with the steps in the theatre;  perhaps space should be reserved for them in the back few rows.  We did attend the very good destination talks by Alistair Guthrie, wine tasting with Oz Clarke, talks by cookery writer Jennifer Deeprose and talks by coroner Dr Peter Dean.  The ORCA team gave a presentation about the whales and dolphins we might see and then they were on the observation deck during the days we were at sea.

 

We had three sea days at the start of the cruise which gave us a good chance to explore the ship.  The spa is beautiful;  although we didn’t have any treatments we did use the lovely hydrotherapy pool.  One of our favourite places to sit and read was the Terrace, which is at the stern on the Promenade deck.  You can chose to be in the sun or shade there, and there are machines to help yourself to coffee or fruit juice.  The identical coffee machine is also to be found in the Grill and in the Library.  I have never had such good coffee from a machine before! The Library is a nice place to sit, and so are the Living Room and the Britannia Lounge.  In fact, there is a huge amount of space, both inside and out, with masses of chairs and loungers on deck, in both the sun and shade.

 

Our ports of call were Gibraltar, Cartagena, Sete, Barcelona, Alicante and Lisbon.  All very enjoyable, but hot!

 

We were interested to hear that the vast majority of passengers on board were all long time Saga enthusiasts and I now understand why.  The crew are fantastic and look after one superbly.  We very much hope to sail on this ship again in the near future; it really is lovely.

 

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hermioneb

 

Thank you for your detailed review 😊.    In 2 weeks I will be on Discovery myself and you've given me so much information, and at the right time for me to start getting excited.

 

I'm jealous that you had Jools Holland on your cruise.  Peter Dean was on my QM2 crossing earlier this year and I thought he was an excellent speaker, the right mix of informative and entertaining. 

 

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Thanks so much for your report - it is what I hoped (and expected) to read.  I am sure you will also have answered many of the questions people have posed about Discovery.

 

Glad to read you had such a good time on board.

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Thank you for this excellent review. We are also boarding in two weeks’ time and my excitement is building. We’ve been Azamara fans too and this is also our first Saga trip of any sort so it seems like a good comparison. 

I’ll be writing a ‘Live From’ blog here on CC for those to want to ask questions that may be answered best whilst onboard. 

In the meantime, your info has been invaluable. 😀🚢 🛳 

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2 hours ago, hermioneb said:

I am very jealous of all you who are boarding in two weeks time!

That is a good recommendation in itself 😀😀😀

 

Thank you so much for your very informative review.

We are hoping it will compare favourably with Oceania Riviera and Marina and from your review it sounds as if it will 🙂

 

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The Spirit of Discovery compares very well to Oceania’s Riviera and Marina, both of which I think are lovely ships.  Firstly, the enrichment talks and quizzes are geared more towards British passengers. The port talks gave more information about the history of the places, rather than the shopping.  I liked the fact that you could choose from a cheese trolley each night, with a constantly changing selection of about a dozen cheeses (including many unusual British ones).  There seemed to be more places to sit without feeling you had to buy a drink.  I loved the tiered stern, where you can sit and gaze at the wake; there are chairs on decks 7 to 11 as well as on the terrace and verandah.  I particularly like the fact that the promenade deck goes the whole way round the deck.  Most important  is the crew: Saga have a wonderful crew, mostly Filipino, who are so kind and helpful to the passengers.  They have a very nice outside seating area of their own on the observation deck, and all seem very happy.  I like the fact that the captain is British and is seen around the ship a great deal of the time; he is fun but at the same time is very much in command.  Above all, there is a friendly atmosphere.

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Hermioneb,

Did you have to queue separately for each speciality restaurant to make your reservation or could you book them all at a central desk?

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I too would like to know a bit more about the speciality restaurants, booking and how the food was, please.

 

I had forgotten about the cheese trolley - also at lunchtime, with a smaller selection but all cheeses in good condition; you don't  often find this on an American ship, in my experience.

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26 minutes ago, Glenndale said:

Hermioneb,

Did you have to queue separately for each speciality restaurant to make your reservation or could you book them all at a central desk?

We had to go  to each one separately between the hours of 2 to 4 and from 6 to 6.30pm on the day of boarding.  After that you could ring between 9.30 and 10.30 am and from 5.30 to 6.30pm.  on sea days and from 5.30 to 6.30pm on days when the ship is in port.  They make sure everyone has a chance to eat in each speciality restaurant before taking second bookings, which seems very fair.  At breakfast one morning the Maitre'd of The Club came round saying he had spaces for dinner that night if anyone wanted a second visit.  There was no space left for us to have a second visit to Coast to Coast, which was our favourite.

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3 minutes ago, lincslady said:

I too would like to know a bit more about the speciality restaurants, booking and how the food was, please.

 

I had forgotten about the cheese trolley - also at lunchtime, with a smaller selection but all cheeses in good condition; you don't  often find this on an American ship, in my experience.

The food was delicious in each one of the three restaurants.  In the seafood one we both had scallops and then I had Dover sole and my husband had lobster.  We both had fillet steak in The Club.  East to West gave us both scallops and then some delicious crispy duck.  All very good indeed.

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Many thanks - the Asian restaurant on Sapphire is excellent also.

 

The only problem I envisage for the 'specials' is that on short cruises, with possibly well over 900 on board, I don't imagine that everyone can go to every restaurant in 7 days, say, and certainly not in 4!

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Thanks for a fabulous review - certainly sounds like it might tempt us away from Viking at some point.  Could you tell me more about what people (women) wore on formal evenings?  And is there an option to not dress formally on those nights, and maybe eat in the buffet?

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1 hour ago, lincslady said:

Many thanks - the Asian restaurant on Sapphire is excellent also.

 

The only problem I envisage for the 'specials' is that on short cruises, with possibly well over 900 on board, I don't imagine that everyone can go to every restaurant in 7 days, say, and certainly not in 4!

I sincerely hope that armed with the great information on here that we can book for each of the Specialty restaurants. We only have 7 nights to do it so it may be a challenge. 

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31 minutes ago, Jammy Bun said:

Thanks for a fabulous review - certainly sounds like it might tempt us away from Viking at some point.  Could you tell me more about what people (women) wore on formal evenings?  And is there an option to not dress formally on those nights, and maybe eat in the buffet?

There was a big variety of clothes worn on the formal nights, but everyone made an effort without looking over the top!  Everyone on the ship was expected to conform to the dress code in all public rooms after 6pm, even in the buffet.

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Were there any men in sports coat, with tie?    That is definitely allowed on Sapphire, though there were more in a dj or suit.  I do think for women it is all a lot more flexible, and a nice silky shirt with smart trousers would do fine, especially if the OH is in sports jacket.  

 

I agree that in time Saga will go the way of Seabourn and Regent, who do not insist on anything dressier than a jacket for men on formal nights (and will even provide you with one to walk into the dining room!)

 

But for now,  bite the bullet in order to enjoy Discovery, or wait for maybe quite some time for the style to change.

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The large majority of men wore dinner jackets; several white dinner jackets were around, too.  The rest wore suits; I didn’t notice anyone in sports coat and tie.  The dress code given in the daily information paper says “Formal attire Gentlemen: Tuxedo, dinner jacket or dark lounge suit & tie. Formal attire Ladies: Long or short evening dress, or other elegant outfit”. 

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39 minutes ago, lincslady said:

The only problem I envisage for the 'specials' is that on short cruises, with possibly well over 900 on board, I don't imagine that everyone can go to every restaurant in 7 days, say, and certainly not in 4!

The Club, East to West, and Coast to Coast seat 250 between them which allows a far higher proportion of the passengers to 'dine out' on any evening than on Sapphire with 64 seats in East to West. Booking a particular restaurant for a particular evening would be difficult on a shorter cruise but I'd still fancy my chances of trying all three alternatives during a week.

 

We managed East to West twice on a twelve day cruise on Sapphire, when we asked the maître d' for the second go he was happy to allow it as bookings dropped off after the initial rush. 

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