A mini cruise on Saga Sapphire proved the perfect introduction to Saga’s unique brand of boutique cruising
Short and sweet. That’s the promise of a mini cruise. A perfect taster for newbies and a pleasant break away for regular cruisers.
And while usually when I cruise I’m onboard for at least two weeks, my recent trip to Belgium and Holland was a 4-night mini-cruise with Saga Cruises aboard Saga Sapphire.
Once onboard, there was only one place on my must-visit agenda and that was the Britannia Lounge for afternoon tea.
There were cakes as far as the eye could see, vol-au-vents, sandwiches, sausage rolls and so much more.
You can also find a rather impressive gluten-free section and sugar-free options at every afternoon tea.
It’s quite a spectacle and it’s always accompanied by live music from the resident pianist.
We sailed on a very blustery Friday evening, but it didn’t stop people enjoying a delicious dinner and then venturing into the various onboard lounges for some evening entertainment.
The average passenger age was lower than what I’d been met with on previous cruises, there was a wide variety of people all with different expectations.
I met those that had never stepped foot on a cruise ship before and a few others that spend upwards of four months every year at sea.
It was a wonderful mish-mash of interesting conversations.
Saga Sapphire’s first port of call was Zeebrugge for tours to Bruges. I spent the day onboard and relished in the feeling of having the ship entirely to myself.
I explored the areas remembered fondly on this ship before stopping in the Drawing Room to warm up with a peppermint tea. It was still windy outside and very grey, so I was quite happy to cocoon myself in a chair and watch the port traffic roll by.
Cooper’s is my favourite public lounge onboard and it’s one of the best places to enjoy evening music – the pianist is always good – so that’s where I took up residence on most evenings.
The bar is a homage to the late Tommy Cooper and can comfortably fit around 30 people. It’s very cosy but it’s also one of the liveliest places onboard, especially as the midnight hour approaches.
Holland, our second and final port of call was yet another blustery one. But as this is my favourite European city, after a delicious lunch onboard at the Beach Club of fish and chips, it was time to stretch my legs and head ashore.
I could walk around the canals of Amsterdam for days and not get bored. Sometimes the best way to experience this city is by having no plan at all. Just start walking and see what happens.
Although it has a seedy reputation in many respects, it is one of the safest places in Europe, and I’ve never felt intimidated on any of my visits.
I walked down Zeedijk, Damrak, through the Red-Light district, back towards Zeedijk and then down Oudezijds Kolk where the wind hit me in my face.
I was cold and convinced it was going to pour with rain at any moment, so I snapped the last of my beloved Amsterdam pictures and began the walk back to Saga Sapphire.
Once onboard, I decided to start a jigsaw puzzle in the Drawing Room. I grabbed a cookie and a warm tea and just as I settled myself, the heavens opened. I was quite content being onboard, spending my Sunday afternoon relaxing and listening to the rain hit the windows.
We sailed from Amsterdam early the next morning and we spent the remainder of the day at sea.
In the evening, I dined in East to West, the onboard speciality restaurant that is offered without any additional charge.
The food was delicious, I can highly recommend the six spice grilled Angus beef fillet with an oriental herb sauce and side of Jasmine rice.
All guests are encouraged to try East to West at least once per sailing.
One thing I always rave about with Saga is the food. I do a lot of cruising, and on various ships, but the food on Saga is by far some of the best at sea. They also offer a much wider variation of dishes for those with special dietary requests compared to other cruise lines.
The way I experienced the mini cruise is a great example of how you can include and exclude as much or as little as you like.
For many people, it was their first-time cruising, so they explored ashore and they enjoyed the ship.
For others, it was their first-time cruising with Saga and they’d previously visited the destinations offered, so they spent most of their time as I did, enjoying the comforts of the Saga experience.
It was a varied mix of needs and desires and it worked perfectly for fulfilling the expectations of everyone.
One thing that stood out for me, being a seasoned traveller with Saga Cruises, was how nothing about the experience differed between the 4-night cruise and much longer sailings I’d previously embarked upon.
Nothing was held back, corners were not cut. What was offered was the true Saga experience.
Saga Sapphire will be leaving the fleet in 2020, she will be replaced by a brand-new ship named Spirit of Adventure, but until then, there are still numerous itinerary options available for you to enjoy on this fabulous ship. She will be missed.