Saga’s senior captain, Philip Rentell, is one of 13 recipients of the new Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service, awarded for “exemplary service and devotion to duty.”
Philip, who addresses his intrepid passengers as “Saganauts” and is due to retire next year, has been at sea since 1969.
He will be at the helm of Saga Sapphire in November for a 24-night mystery cruise – only he and his senior officers know the itinerary, and passengers will have to guess whether to pack for warm or cold weather.
On a previous mystery cruise, he brought along a friend who flew a hot-air balloon from the deck of the ship while at anchor in the Norwegian fjords.
Commenting on his medal, he said: “I feel very honoured to be one of only 13 chosen this year to be given the award. Anything that raises the profile of the Merchant Navy in the eyes of the general public, and potential future young officers in particular, must be considered very worthwhile for our very special profession.”
Minister for Shipping John Hayes said: “Merchant Navy seafarers provide a tremendous service to our island nation and it is only right that they are recognised for the vital roles they play, often in difficult and dangerous conditions.”
Until this year, the order has been known simply as the Merchant Navy Medal. Previous recipients have included Cunard’s Commodore Ron Warwick and Captains Kevin Oprey and Chris Wells; Cunard hotel manager John Duffy; and Captain Trevor Bailey of the Hebridean Princess.
Captain Rentell’s farewell cruise is an 8-night voyage next May to the Norwegian fjords, on Saga Pearl II. There won’t be a dry eye in the house when the ship returns to Dover on May 28.