Jane Kolowski, Branch manager at our Bournemouth Travel Agents, recently enjoyed a cruise to the Canary Islands and Madeira with Saga. Here are the highlights from her trip…
Destination: Madeira & Canaries
Operator/Host: Saga Cruises
(Hotel names/Ship name): Saga Sapphire
Duration: 7 nights
We sailed out from Southampton and flew back from Gran Canaria to Gatwick with Thomsonfly. It was a standard charter flight with 3-3 configuration, which are always a little squashed if you’re sitting in the middle of the three seats which I was, but the flight was on time.
There were thirteen agents on the trip and I was one of the lucky ones that was allocated a cabin to myself - it was a standard outside on deck seven. My cabin was in the mid-forward position close to the main restaurant and a bar, so it was very convenient indeed. It was a very good size and well-equipped. The fact that there were no tea and coffee making facilities was slightly disappointing but 24-hour room service meant I could have a cup of tea whenever I liked.
The bed was very comfortable and I had a bath with a shower over it. The cabin was well-maintained and included satellite TV with English channels. All of the announcements on board were just in English and the crew were almost all Filipino apart from the officers who were mostly European. The plugs in the cabin are English three-pin so there’s no need for adaptors needed.
Without a doubt, the best thing about the cruise was the food. The choices available on all menus from breakfast to dinner were varied and delicious. The 'East to West' speciality restaurant was a particular favourite with dishes that were absolutely out of this world.
Our particular cruise was all-inclusive and included wines and spirits. As is the norm, premium spirits and champagne have to be paid for but the prices were very reasonable. All the staff on board were very attentive with no agenda as tips and gratuities are included in the cruise cost. Wi-Fi was also included but obviously a little patchy when out at sea.
Another huge plus was the free transportation to and from the Saga ships. A private chauffeur is offered for anyone travelling from up to 75 miles away and those arriving from between 76 and 250 miles away could take advantage of the shared chauffeur service. This is a fantastic extra benefit.
We enjoyed shore excursions in all of the ports of call. In Madeira, we went in 4 x 4s through the hills behind Funchal which was interesting and great fun. For our visit to Tenerife, we were taken on a trip to Mount Teide, which was stunning. In La Gomera we did a rather more sedate island tour, stopping off at some gardens and a cafe and learning all about how the locals still use the traditional 'whistling' technique to communicate across this hilly island.
The food on board was so good and was definitely my favourite part of the trip. The menus were varied, sometimes with a country theme. One night the option were all French, with starters such as paté or onion soup, mains like beef bourguignon or chateaubriand and desserts such as profiteroles, apple tart and a huge selection of cheeses.
I also loved to visit the piano bar after our evening meal. A very talented young pianist by the name of Ben was able to play almost any song you could name from Rat pack to opera and musicals to current chart music - a great way to round off the evening.
The evening shows on board were a bit lacklustre. This is a shame as the entertainment crew were trying really hard.
I would definitely recommend Saga to anyone who enjoys small-ship cruising. The maximum capacity of this ship was 720 and I would guess the average age was around 70-75.
The accommodation is great, the food is excellent and everything is included apart from shore excursions.
I can thoroughly recommend a tour of the galley. It makes you appreciate what a brilliant job the chefs do in such a small space.
Please note, when sailing with Saga, the lead passenger needs to be at least 50 years of age and (if travelling with someone else) the second needs to be at least 40 years of age.
Must see? The Galley
Must do? 4x4 Excursion in Funchal
Must try? The menu in the East is West restaurant
If you would like to experience a Saga Cruise like the one that Jane enjoyed, drop by your local branch of Fred. Olsen Travel to speak to a member of our team. We have travel agents in Norwich, Ipswich, elsewhere in East Anglia and along the south coast.