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Live From.....Home. Summing Up

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My Blog appears to have been taken over so I’ve decided to post separately the end of my experiences and the reasons why I did not continue onboard, other than answering specific questions from ‘followers’. 

 

I went to the Choir rehearsal at 3.00. In total, we only met up 3 times but it was such FUN. Robbie, the lead singer organised the whole thing in such a relaxed and amusing way. All 4 singers from the company helped out, especially when we were taught some brief 4 part harmony. Steven with the basses, Robbie the tenors, Abbie the altos and Sabrina the sopranos, or Sobrinos as our small group became named. On this last practice we ‘learned’ a new song, Hallelujah. We were asked to wear black, white or a mixture of those for the performance. We then met up at 5.00, watched the rest of the show and sang last.

One of the acts was Captain Sutherland, with Michelle the CD trying to get us to guess what his talent was. I won’t spoil that surprise for any future cruisers but suffice to say he was very good at what he did. 

 

Between rehearsal and performance I nipped down to the Hydrotherapy pool to try it out, at the invitation of a friend. Apparently he and his wife had used this area a lot when it was very quiet. Well, not so at 4.00 pm on our last day. The pool was fairly busy but I gather that numbers are monitored to ensure it never gets too crowded. You hand in your cruise card at reception and get it back on leaving. There are plenty of lockers but the keys don’t have any way of being attached to your swimsuit so have to be left at the pool side loose, with your provided large towel. There are supposed to be robes available too but there were none when I got there. The floor to the pool can of course be wet and slippy and I recommend you wear flip flops or similar. I did try the pool, it is really like a large jacuzzi, too small to swim and no jets to swim against. I didn’t try the steam or sauna rooms as time was pressing. 

Unfortunately there are no individual changing cubicles, only two showers and and one toilet. The communal changing area was crowded by the time I came out and I’ll admit that I’m not keen on stripping off in public, even when it is women only. My hang-up perhaps as the other women seemed happy to do so. 

 

After the talent show we finished our packing and I phoned down to Explore Ashore, enquiring as to why I had not received a response. I originally made a complaint on Monday morning to which I did not receive a reply. I saw a staff member that Morning, Wednesday, and still heard no more. The lady on the phone around 6.00 pm said someone would call me back. About 15 minutes later I got that call and was told a letter had been issued at 1.00 pm and she blamed Housekeeping for not delivering it. 😏. She told me that our account had been credited with £15.00. (When we got our final bill it actually showed the tour charged as £54.00 each, rather than £69.00 charged with a £15.00 credit, a different sort of accounting). Whilst we had enjoyed most of the tour, we missed what we had most wanted to do, the Fjord centre. It was the ship’s fault we left 30 minutes later, due to inefficient tendering. We left our cabins at 2.35. The first toilet properly available was at the closed centre at 6.00 pm. That’s why we needed to use the chemical toilet on the bus with no water or sanitiser afterwards. With so much emphasis on sanitising onboard, which is essential for us all, it seems to me that this was poor recompense. This was our only ship’s tour and I would reluctant to book another in future unless this organisation improves. 

 

We chose to go to dinner a little earlier than on previous days to avoid being stuck again on table 55 in the corner by the kitchen entrance. It was about 6.50 when we asked for a table for two and were accommodated with such. Unfortunately the menu that night was poor. Roast Turkey, fried Cod or Veal Tenderloin in creamy mushroom sauce. I chose the latter. It was certainly not tender and I cannot understand a chef who puts beetroot purée next to mushroom sauce. The flavours were horrible together. 

We took part in our first Quiz of the whole cruise. We normally love quizzes but somehow the timings had never worked for us. None in the mornings, just 2.00 pm and 8.45 pm. That evening one was too early for us as we usually were still at dinner. The lady asking the questions had a very strong accent and it was extremely difficult to understand her pronunciation. Our scratch team got 10 out of 20, which didn’t seem good to to us but apparently we were second. 

 

Our final show in the theatre was Mike Sterling presents Tenor at the Movies. I really enjoyed his choice of songs, especially one of my favourites, Windmills of your Mind. However, there was too much amplification and Reverb. Just very loud.  

As this is now a ridiculously long read I’ll post separately about my interaction with Captain Sutherland. 

Edited by cinnamon

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After the choir rehearsal and pool dip I returned to the cabin to find a letter addressed from the Captain, asking to meet with me. I debated ignoring it but didn’t and spoke to him in a quiet spot in the Britannia Lounge before the talent show, as arranged on the phone by a staff member. 

He or someone in his office had obviously been monitoring my blog. The first thing he did was to apologise if his remarks at the Cocktail Party had offended me. I accepted his apology. Then he took me to task that I had compared his captaincy to Captain Carl on Azamara. I realised he had been offended by my remarks and apologised to him.

 

In retrospect I agree that my words were perhaps a bit too personal.  However, reading back, I told the truth about my observations.

He said I didn’t know him. Actually we had met on several occasions and of course I had heard him speak a lot over the PA. 

 

Now it did seem very odd to me that after all this happened there was a post on the blog from Lorraine, Guest Experiences & Quality Manager at the Saga Office, which was very positive, thanking me for my in depth review ..........and then it was removed. 

I have a copy of that post and she did mention FB which CC don’t like to be promoted so I don’t know if it was the moderators or Saga who removed it. 

 

I have a feeling this will now get discussed further.......or removed. 😉

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Thank you very much for taking the trouble to write such an interesting and informative blog.  We were on board less than a month ago and it was lovely to read about the ship from someone else’s point of view.  I suppose my question is.... will you be booking with Saga again (we will, all being well) or returning to Azamara?  

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Thank you for your very readable blog Cinnamon.  Your opinions were very similar to ours on lots of things.  So would you cruise with Saga again?

We feel that on balance we probably will but that we won’t rush to book straight away.  The itinerary will have to really appeal.  The most disappointing thing for us was the food.  It was good but nowhere near the spectacular that we were expecting from previous posters and that we are used to on Oceania cruises.  I feel Saga need to change a little to entice us baby boomers.  

Will look out for you in Longacres!

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Actual Summing Up. 

 

Ship, beautiful, best I’ve been on and that’s over 30. Lots of space and light. Dining rooms elegant. Seats in theatre could be slightly comfier. 

 

Cabin, great, despite being the cheapest category. Very spacious seating area. Would just have preferred that to be 6-12 inches narrower and the space between the bed and wardrobe that bit wider. Bathroom has no drying line in the shower. Most if not all other ships do. We had adequate storage but two people on a 3 week voyage needing warm and cool clothes would have struggled. 

 

Entertainment, very enjoyable and I gather a longer cruise would have some variety, not just music. 

 

Lectures. Port speaker very good, old military chap did not appeal to us, especially after we met him on our tour. I hadn’t realised that the lady talking about walking was a guest speaker and I missed that. My bad, as they say. 

 

Food. Specialty  restaurants very good, assuming you can get in. The Seafood Platter in Coast to Coast was exceptional. The other food was mostly good but not varied enough for our tastes. Too British I guess. Plus, the buffet was always crowded. In a ship with so much space this seemed odd. Longer opening hours, as on other lines, would have helped. 

 

We did miss having crew from all around the world with their nationality on their name tags, as on other lines. The mostly Filipino staff seemed to be very well trained for those passengers who needed assistance in all sorts of ways. 

 

Would we cruise Saga again?  Yes, if the price was right on an itinerary that appealed to us....and lots of the unusual ones do. However we still fly regularly and wouldn’t want to pay for lots of seas days to reach the Mediterranean for instance. In a few years when we too may be less able I’m sure we’ll be very grateful that Saga exist. We also have annual travel insurance. I understand that for those who can’t get insurance due to age or expensive medical conditions are very pleased to continue travelling, thanks to Saga. I’m sure we would be the same. 

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19 minutes ago, hermioneb said:

Thank you very much for taking the trouble to write such an interesting and informative blog.  We were on board less than a month ago and it was lovely to read about the ship from someone else’s point of view.  I suppose my question is.... will you be booking with Saga again (we will, all being well) or returning to Azamara?  

We are already booked on Azamara in March/April next year. We have a window cabin on a Dubai to Athens cruise. If we find another with them at a price we can afford we’ll continue to be Azamarans. Their prices are a big IF though 

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21 minutes ago, sweep said:

Thank you for your very readable blog Cinnamon.  Your opinions were very similar to ours on lots of things.  So would you cruise with Saga again?

We feel that on balance we probably will but that we won’t rush to book straight away.  The itinerary will have to really appeal.  The most disappointing thing for us was the food.  It was good but nowhere near the spectacular that we were expecting from previous posters and that we are used to on Oceania cruises.  I feel Saga need to change a little to entice us baby boomers.  

Will look out for you in Longacres!

Funnily enough we’ll be in Windsor on Tuesday. American cruise friends are spending 2 nights at the Christopher Wren (bigger budget than ours) and we’ll be tour guides. 😀

We actually live in Windlesham. 

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Hermione, food on Oceania is hard to beat but Saga food on Sapphire was good. 

So Cinnamon is it a possible alternative to your favourite Azamara? 

Thank you Cinnamon for your excellent blog, pleased that Kentchris has picked up the baton

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8 minutes ago, Glenndale said:

Hermione, food on Oceania is hard to beat but Saga food on Sapphire was good. 

So Cinnamon is it a possible alternative to your favourite Azamara? 

Thank you Cinnamon for your excellent blog, pleased that Kentchris has picked up the baton

Yes, I would agree that the food on Oceania is my favourite, so far.  Unfortunately, unless the dollar exchange rate improves it seems that both Oceania and Azamara, our previous favourite lines, are becoming too expensive for us.  As that is the case, we are delighted to have found that we liked the SoD very much, too, though I hope that one of the Saga ships will do fly cruises in the future, leaving the other one for those who don't want to fly.  Lovely to have another option, and one which we enjoyed very much.  Thank you again, Cinnamon.

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Cinnamon

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your experiences on the SoD

We are long time cruisers, over 1000 days on Silversea and Regent but are looking elsewhere as Silversea now actively promote special fares for children and Regent have become very expensive

We booked the SoD a while ago for next March but if we had seen your reports first we would not have booked

I feel very uneasy about the standard of food and lack of variety,

The crowds in the Grill,

The problems of being able to sit on your own,

The timings of meals especially breakfast,

Announcements coming directly into your cabin

The arrangements for booking speciality restaurants,

The length of time to disembark at the end of the cruise

I also feel that we are second class citizens as we booked through an agent and not direct and we can only contact Saga through our agent, They do not recognize our booking reference and will only deal with us through our agent

Once again many thanks Cinnamon for your reports

 

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I think some of your concerns will need to be met by Saga.

Certainly the announcements in the cabin probably have already. Don’t forget she’s only a few cruises old. Nobody else has been writing extensively. I suspect ‘They’ didn’t realise it was happening. 

Specialty restaurant booking is a work in progress for sure.

The crowded buffet could be alleviated by longer opening hours. 

 

Saga have never ever had more than 600 passengers before. It’s a steep learning curve and the disembarkation has to improve. 

We’ve not sailed with Viking but friends have. Perhaps they would meet your needs in future?  Very similar sized ships. 

I do hope that once you've been on the SOD you’ll report back. 

Saga had forums of passed Saganauts to give advice about the new ships. Maybe they should have consulted passengers from the other lines they’re trying to tempt......like us. 

Edited by cinnamon

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Forgot to add how much we love the aft design of SOD. Having those terrace areas to sit, even when the wind caused by forward movement makes the Prom or Lido deck less comfortable. Also, if the sun is on the opposite side of the ship to your balcony, it’s a good alternative. Plus, in places like the fjords you get the perspective, seeing Port and Starboard views.  

 

On the subject of age. We were well aware that we would be cruising with people who were mostly older than us. Yes, there was a bit of ‘It’s not like Pearl and Sapphire’. But, the couple with whom we shared our transport were both 92. They were fantastic for their age. If Saga means I can still cruise well into my 80s, if I’m spared, I’ll be thrilled. 

 

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Thank you Cinnamon for all the useful info you've provided. It's greatly appreciated. It sounds as if I'll have to choose my time carefully to visit the spa area; maybe your fellow guests had found it by the end of the cruise. It's disappointing to hear that drying lines haven't been retro-fitted into bathrooms; this was raised on FB a few weeks ago and it sounded likely that Saga would add them. As we've got 3 bookings on this ship, I do hope we enjoy the first cruise, which isn't far off now. It would be lovely to cruise on Azamara again, but I fear that we are priced out. I recently visited the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, and got quite emotional when I  saw Azamara Journey alongside.

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Hi Wacktie,

I went to the Spa 4 times.  Twice when no one at all was there.  Once a lady was on one of the warm stone beds, and once when two men were in the pool but they got out after about 2 minutes and went to the steam room after telling me which was the strongest bubble area.

Cinnamon went on the last sea day at about 4 and I went after I saw the choir and various members of the crew sing, so about 5.45.  Not a soul there apart from a cleaner.  I found a robe after opening a couple of lockers but all had fresh very large towels in.  I thought it was lovely.  Most people didn't even know about it, and some of course would not have been able to get down the not very steep steps.

On Viking they also provide rubber slip on shoes.  On Saga I did see some in a bin outside the sauna since they warned that the floor was hot but not in the changing rooms.

This area was really not promoted at all.

The Captain did mention the lack of drying lines as well as complaints about the hairdryers.  Also they will change the rather confusing current dual number and letter for each level (ie Deck E was Deck 7).  Plus the poor lighting inside the lift where many could not see the deck levels without close inspection.    He also mentioned that the new ship will have a rather different layout with a ceiling being put completely over the MDR whereas on Spirit there is a large opening up to the Club area.  I think that is to do with noise levels as we could certainly hear celebrations from the MDR whilst in the club.

All in all an enjoyable cruise with exceptional weather.

Back to Azamara next June where we will be the "old buffers" rather than the "spring chickens"

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Thank you Mrs Miggins. All that sounds very encouraging. All our bookings on on the current ship, not Adventure. We took advantage of the registration and early booking discounts. In fact, we booked our 2019 cruise over 2 years ago. Prices do seem to have risen, so hopefully it was a wise decision. Maybe our paths will cross one day, and with Cinnamon, unless they already have on Azamara. (Our last Azamara cruise was the 2016 LCV voyage in the Middle East.) I have a feeling that you've also been on Royal Clipper?

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Thanks again, Cinnamon, for your very useful blog.

It was invaluable to get the up to date, on board reports you have provided.

Like any review, it is up to the reader to differentiate between what is of direct personal interest to them, and what isn’t, and the most important factor is that you have provided a wealth of information for us to sift through, and decide whether a Saga cruise is likely to be a good fit.

So far, the ship itself sounds lovely, with suitably spacious cabins and decent bathrooms. A major plus for us, as we do like to escape for some peace and quiet.

 

The smoking policy was a very big factor for us, having suffered the irritation of large no go areas of ships because of the smell. I was very excited at the thought of daily walks round the promenade deck, without one half of the deck being rendered very unpleasant by sometimes only one or two smokers, using a stupidly positioned area upwind on the deck!

I shall be very put off if the efforts to provide a more user friendly area for smokers, result in a negative impact on other areas of the ship. This needs to be carefully thought out, with contributions from both smokers and non smokers, to ensure that those who smoke can do so comfortably without impacting on the enjoyment of other passengers.

 

The food offerings are also still causing concern. It does sound regimented and restricted, and not particularly conducive to a relaxing holiday if one has to clock watch, or risk going hungry.

the room service and lido menus look like good fall backs if needed. Having identical menus in both MDR and the buffet does seem bizarre to me. A very poor restriction in choice. One of several things I didn’t like on P and O, was the themed evenings in the buffet. At least you had a choice if you didn’t like the MDR offerings, but woe betide you if you were not a fan of tonight’s theme. Mexican or Seafood meant exclusively that and virtually nothing else.

I was going to say that the cruise sounds a bit like a P and O experience at Azamara prices, which is a real shame, as the itineraries look varied and interesting, and a great opportunity to draw in repeat cruisers. I have shortlisted at least three cruises I’d like to do next year, if Saga can deliver an acceptable experience on board.

it does appear that we may need to make our own travel arrangements though, as it sounds as if the Saga offering is very unlike my expectation of a chauffeur transfer!

 

Sorry for such a long post, and thanks for your patience if you got to the end of it!

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Have thoroughly enjoyed your blog Cinnamon and have found it very informative.  Thank you,.  We are Oceania regulars but are finding the prices becoming more than our budget.  We were attracted to the new Saga ships and have booked a Norway cruise for next August on SOD.  Many of the points you raised have made us doubt our decision (we are active mid 70s) but hopefully a few of the niggles may have been ironed out by then.  If not, it is only 7 days, Norway is beautiful and, whatever, it will be better than being at home!

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Thanks once again and most of the things you pointed  out,we agree with.

We are off on a Oceania cruise in November for a week,We got a good discount,lots of onboard credit as we were treated bad on a 16 night South Pacific cruise, in the last 4 days in a premier suite.(another story).Something we saved hard for as two special occasions. Will be interesting to compare after our SOD cruise.

We are about to sign up again, with SAGAS early discount offer for cruises in 2021.We got  a good deal doing this before for our 2020 cruise.35%. (Not 40% as someone said on another blog).

Honestly ,we would prefer SOD and possibly SOA, to Oceania and Regent and Cunard now.Regent and Oceania are too expensive and Cunard has so many ‘add ons’ to pay for.( May possibly do Clippers again though😉).

We had a good chat with the Captain on our cruise and it sounds like some of the things we pointed out that were negatives,are being changed.

I am pleased, Cinnamon that  he took time to speak to you.He obviously has a passion to get things right on his ship.

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