Many (MANY) months ago I promised to take you along on my trip on Saga Sapphire for Captain Rentell’s final mystery cruise. Well, that was last December last year, but never the less, I’d still love to share it with you. Before I went, I tried to research about the previous trips but didn’t find much to give me a clue, so I hope that this can help someone else in the future considering this sort of cruise.
In case you’ve not noticed, I’m a couple of decades too young to officially be allowed to board a Saga ship, so would firstly like to mention that I was only on this cruise thanks to being invited along as my dear friend CruiseMiss‘s plus one – she’s blogged our trip in great detail, so head over there if you want to learn much more, and also for any of your cruise needs, she knows her stuff!
Soooo… in short, the trip was 24 nights, the literary was – anyone’s guess! Only the captain and a few key crew members knew. You only find out where you are from the captain’s morning announcement – or recognising your surroundings/receiving a mobile signal if you arrive first. Every port there was one trip included, and a space for everyone on the ship should they want to attend. And that’s pretty much it in brief!
I’ll quickly share with you a little bit about Saga Sapphire, and why Saga is my favourite cruise line, the take you on a whistle-stop summary of the cruise, I’ll not go into to detail as we could be here for days. I do however intend to do some travel guides at some point.
Saga, oh saga, I just love to cruise with you. For a few years, I was quite a regular cruiser with P&O, and although I always enjoyed myself, but noticed each time I went that they were clearly trying to make cuts. Nothing that would be noticed by a new passenger, as everything is perfectly acceptable, but it’s the little things that they stopped doing, which was a bit sad really. So, stepping on board a Saga ship was a breath of fresh air, as for them, the little things are what stand them apart from other cruise lines. If you’re going on tour, they’ll give you water, sometimes a packed lunch if it’s a long day, and before you return back from tour there’s always a Werther’s original handed out, and eucalyptus flannels too. If you’re going it alone, the shuttles are included, grab an umbrella from the gangway if it looks like rain… anyway you get the gist, they’ve thought of it all. The other thing that makes Saga great is the food. My day job is food, so I like to think I know a bit, and the food on Saga is fantastic, the variety is great, the ingredients are fresh, bought locally to wherever the ship is that day, and tremendous care and attention is paid to every dish served on board. When I step on board a Saga ship, I am in foodie heaven.
The trip went like this…..
Day 1 – Embarkation, Southampton UK
We boarded the ship in Southampton and sailed away whilst being treated to a beautiful sunset across my hometown.
Day 2 – at sea
As expected, it was a sea day. Unless we were heading north (in November, no thank you, not likely) anywhere else we were expecting to go would be heading southwards for the time being. We ate dinner at East to West, their select dining venue (no charge).
Day 3 – at sea
Day 4 – at sea
Day 5 – Cadiz, Spain
Land Ahoy! After 3 days at sea, we’re in Spain and today’s trip is to Gonzalez Byass, at first I wasn’t particularly excited but I actually rather enjoyed it, it was a beautiful destination, some wonderful smells in the barrel stores, and tastings of some rather large glasses of sherry! Followed by a horse show (not my thing, but impressive none the less).
Day 6 – Motril, Spain
The trip today was flamenco and wine tasting, we opted out as we’re not big on wine, and we had done similar the day before. We went for a walk, but I remember nothing else at all about Motril, it was that exciting. There was, however, an epic deck BBQ for dinner that night. The stop at Motril gave us the opinion that we were heading into the Med, which would be nice, Italy and Greece perhaps?
Day 7 – Tangier, Morocco
Oh, hang on, no, not going to the med, we turned around! Hello Morocco. Through no fault of the organisers, the tour this day was a disaster. Taken to a hotel where there were drummers that came, and left, and came, and left, we were crammed into a room and fed pastries and mint tea. We went outside for a horse show where the riders were clearly inexperienced and were abusive towards the horses, and a late arriving flamenco dancer on the middle of the horse field with no shoes. There was a cute stray kitten we made friends with though. We went to the medina, but didn’t get time to browse or buy, sadly.
Day 8 – at sea
By now our dreams of possibly heading to the Caribbean had gone, there was no way we could get there and back now, but it made the mystery a little more lively, where were we heading?
Day 9 – Arrecife, Lanzarote
I love Lanzarote, it isn’t ‘Lanzagrotty’ by any stretch. I had visited on a cruise a couple of years earlier and even in that time a lot of work had clearly gone into the infrastructure, it is a clean, lovely island. The tour was ‘unknown Lanzarote’, we visited the Bodega at La Geria, but the highlight of the day was the view at the Mirador del Rio which was simply stunning.
Day 10 – Puerto del Rolasio, Fuerteventura
The tour was ‘undercover Fuerteventura’ which took us to a few places on the island, I’d never visited the island before, but it was utterly beautiful. We went up and down some nail-biting windy roads in the mist and sometimes rain, we could feel the temperature dropping as we got higher, today I was grateful for not having the window seat! The absolute highlight of the day, however, was visiting an aloe vera farm and learning all about the amazing plant.
Day 11 – sea day
Day 12 – sea day
Day 13 – sea day
Day 14 – Porto Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde
Before the opportunity of going on this mystery cruise came up, we had originally planned to do a Cape Verde (or Capo Verde) trip, so stopping here was a result! The trip was ‘the African roots’ which took us into the old town and Banana Street which is a UNESCO heritage sight. Then onto a place where local foods, crafts and cultures were shown to us, I got to drink and eat a yummy coconut.
Day 15 – Porto Grande, São Vicente, Cape Verde
We skipped the trip as effectively it was just a coach tour, instead, we spent the morning shopping, buying various African art (beware, there is one good shop, the rest try to rip you off!), then we went to the beach! I’d been lusting for a beach, but sadly the water was rough, cold and sharp underfoot, but the shells we collected there were great!
Day 16 – sea day
We’re heading north again, and are officially on our way home.
Day 17 – sea day
So choppy, I was so grateful for the free sea-sickness tablets from reception and ginger ale from the bar!
Day 18 – Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Back in the canary islands, this was unexpected but a wonderfully enjoyable day. We toured in the morning; Esperanza Forest, Guimar pyramids and Candaleria. The tour was ok, quite interesting learning about some dude who made a boat and crossed an ocean. The best bit, we went shopping, it was the day before black Friday, so I filled my boots with deals and indulged in lots of retail therapy! Also gave in and bought an aloe vera plant!
Day 19 – Funchal, Madeira (over night)
We arrived early afternoon, a nice surprise as no one was expecting to be in port today.
Day 20 – Funchal, Madeira
I don’t remember what the tour was this day, but we’d both visited before (it was likely cable car and the gardens at the top), so we went for a wander around town including the markets, then relaxed on deck in the sun in the afternoon.
Day 21 – sea day
Day 22 – Lisbon, Portugal
We again took a walk into town, but got fed up pretty quickly after being offered drugs multiple times! Fireworks in the evening before we sailed and some great photo opportunites as we sailed out.
Day 23 – sea day
Sad days of packing and more packing…
Day 24 – sea day
Day 25 – Disembark, Southampton, UK
Okay the itinerary wasn’t great, many of us couldn’t understand that the captain, given the opportunity to go anywhere in the world (well, as far as possible in 24 nights), he chose only went to Spain, North Africa, the Canary Islands and Madeira. Never the less, I love sailing with Saga that much that if we’d just bobbed around the Atlantic for 24 nights, I would have been contented. We had good food, good service, good company, we couldn’t ask for more. I really hope I get the opportunity to sail with them again (before I’m 50).