Travel writer David Powell takes a cruise on Saga’s new luxury boutique ship
There’s something rather special about cruising on a new ship and there’s something rather special about Spirit of Discovery. Imagine one of the finest boutique hotels in the world offering indulgent luxury, fine dining, personal space and first class service … now put it on the sea and you have Spirit of Discovery!
Having been honoured to have been invited by Saga Cruises to Spirit of Discovery’s naming ceremony at Dover last July I couldn’t wait to sail on this fabulous ship. My wife and I were booked on the ‘Dance to France’ cruise from Dover calling at Le Havre, Saint-Malo and Cherbourg.
Dover is just a 30-minute car ride for us and with plenty of car parking space and a large and comfortable terminal lounge embarkation was a breeze. Although I chose to drive, every Saga cruise includes a private chauffeur service to the port for up to 250 miles.
Our cabin was situated on B deck, cabin 022, with a private balcony; in fact all cabins on Spirit of Discovery boast a balcony. Our boutique cabin was stunning, so much thought has gone into the design of the cabins and indeed the whole ship. There was 215 sq feet of accommodation, a walk-in wardrobe, a really comfy bed, flat screen TV with free movie channel and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Other facilities included 24 hour room service, tea and coffee making facilities, a small refrigerator, mineral water and fruit basket, binoculars, a sensibly located and easy to operate safe, a nightly turndown service and a spacious bathroom with shower and luxury toiletries. This made for a perfect haven to rest and relax on our cruise. I made a short review video of our cabin that you can view on my YouTube channel and the link is at the end.
The Grill and Verandah Restaurant is up on Lido deck, the Grill being inside with the Verandah being an outside dining option when the weather is fine, and it was here we enjoyed a welcome onboard lunch and glass of wine. Soon it was time for sail away and with a glass of bubbly in hand we watched as Captain Julian Burgess and his team gently steered Spirit of Discovery away from her berth.
Gathering speed and heading out into the English Channel we stood and watched as the iconic white cliffs faded into the distance. Then it was time to unpack before making our way to the South Cape Bar for pre-dinner drinks. Being a formal night, everyone was looking rather elegant.
Fine dining and speciality restaurants
We all know that food is a high priority on a cruise and on Spirit of Discovery you can expect sensational dining, a smiling first class service from staff with all the little touches included and speciality dining venues at no extra charge! The Grand Dining Room (and it really is grand) is the main restaurant with open seating as standard serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Speciality restaurants are Coast to Coast, sophisticated and intimate where you can enjoy the very best of British and locally sourced fish. East to West offers Eastern cuisine from classic favourites to those with a contemporary twist.
If it’s a steak you’re after then The Club by Jools is definitely the place to be! This restaurant has been created with Jools Holland OBE and combines wonderful cocktails and dining with live music along the lines of famous music lounges of the 1950’s. My favourite was the special Jools’ New York steak cooked to perfection and accompanied by a choice of wines. So good we visited this venue twice on our cruise!
The following day after a wonderful breakfast it was time to explore at our first port of call, Le Havre. This is France’s second largest port which was mainly re-built following World War II which has earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Saga offered an amazing amount of excursions for this 4 night cruise and for Le Havre my wife and I chose the 4 hour ‘Glimpse of Honfleur’ tour.
Just a short coach journey from the ship this small Normandy port has a glorious past and is a major centre for arts. A guided walking tour through the picturesque narrow streets of half-timbered houses and the quayside was followed by free time before returning to the ship in time for lunch.
That evening was the Captain’s Cocktail Party and Captain Julian Burgess introduced us to his senior team in the Britannia Lounge which is the venue for afternoon tea and the main evening entertainment – the Musical Motown Show followed by Rocking All Over The World – a lively set of classic songs which got most guests on the floor dancing.
A 10.00am arrival at Saint-Malo on the Saturday gave us a chance to see the emerald coast as we approached and anchored just off the town. Continuous tender craft are in operation all day to the town and back. Again Saga offered some exceptional excursions but on this occasion we decided to explore on our own as the town was just a short walk from the tender.
The cobbled lanes and alleys were lined with bustling cafes and boutique shops, the kind my wife likes, and I’m pleased to say she supported the local retail economy very well! We had ‘elevenses’ of coffee and freshly made crépes near the harbour which afforded a great view of Spirit of Discovery at anchor. We walked to the cathedral which dominates the old town’s cityscape before returning to the ship.
That evening we experience The Club By Jools for the first time, take in the Playhouse Theatre show ‘We Are The Champions’ by the Spirit of Discovery Show Company and, continuing the dance to France theme, party on in the Britannia Lounge for ‘As The Beat Goes On’ with the talented Mix Party Band.
Sunday and our arrival at Cherbourg, famous as a stop between Southampton and Cobh for the ill fated Titanic (281 passengers boarded at Cherbourg and 24 disembarked) and for the month-long ‘Battle of Cherbourg’ which followed the nearby Normandy beach landings on D-Day.
Here we could reflect on the bravery and sacrifice made by the 132,000 Allied troops who landed on 6th June 1944 and were crucial in ending World War II. Organised excursions from the ship were understandably very popular which is why it’s always a good idea to book excursions prior to your cruise.
My wife and I headed off to Utah beach and the Airborne Troops Museum. This was an excellent tour taking in the beach where the Americans landed in World War II followed by the museum tour at St Mere-Eglise which was the first French town liberated by the Allies.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and our group were enthralled by the story of the American paratrooper John Steel who was caught on the spire of the town church where he hung limply for over two hours observing the fighting below him and pretending to be dead until the Germans spotted him and took him prisoner. Today a replica of John Steel and his parachute hangs from the spire. I made a short video of this tour and a link is at the end to my YouTube channel.
Back onboard and it’s time for our visit to the Spa. It’s the perfect setting – a lovely hydrotherapy pool, infrared sauna and steam room. Treatments range from a hot stone massage to facials, manicures and hairdressing.
Farewell for now
It was ‘Farewell Final Fling’ night onboard with favourite party hits to keep the dance floor buzzing as the ship headed back to her home port of Dover and we said goodbye to newly made friends.
Spirit of Discovery has 544 all balcony cabins including over 100 balcony single cabins, she’s luxurious and spacious. With a capacity of just 999 people there’s fabulous restaurants, comfortable bars and lounges throughout, an observation deck, a state of the art theatre, library and craft/card rooms. You will also discover a fully wraparound promenade deck, Lido pool, a gym, shop and outdoor games area and exquisite artworks throughout the ship.
Our cruise on Spirit of Discovery was fantastic and both my wife and I can’t rate this ship highly enough. First class service and great itineraries, we can’t wait to sail with Saga Cruises again! The decision to build a new ship from scratch was one of the biggest in Saga’s history and they’ve really excelled and there’s more to come.
Sister ship Spirit of Adventure launches later this year and a new river cruise ship, Spirit of the Rhine, is currently under construction due to enter service in the Spring of next year. Exciting times ahead for Saga!
If you’re looking to sample life on board Spirit of Discovery, there’s a four-night mini cruise coming up, Escape to the Continent, which is just the ticket. Saga has lined up two destinations on this cruise from Dover. Begin with the classic seaside resort of Great Yarmouth which is justly proud of its ample seaside attractions and long history. From here you can enjoy a regal day out at the Queen’s private residence, Sandringham.
Next up is the Netherlands’ cosmopolitan capital, Amsterdam. You won’t feel rushed to see the iconic sights thanks to an overnight mooring which also allows you time to soak up the intoxicating vibe of the city’s heady nightlife. If you prefer things of a more sedate nature, Saga has arranged a magical night-time cruise drifting along the historic canals. There will also be the opportunity to explore the surrounding countryside further on two more memorable shore excursions.
See the colourful Keukenhof Gardens during spring, the perfect time to visit. On another, experience the traditional side of life in quaint Zaanse Schans and Edam, famous for its waxed cheese. Three fun-filled days spent sightseeing will be complemented by spirited nights on board with bands playing dance music or, if you prefer, there are plenty of places to relax and recount the day’s adventures.
Includes: Chauffeur service up to 250 miles, all meals on board, including 24-hour room service, all on-board gratuities, optional travel insurance, entertainment and activities, welcome cocktail party and Captain’s dinner, all port taxes and visas. Price from £1117pp departing Dover 19/04/2020.
Contact: For more information on this cruise or any Saga cruises call 0800 505030 or visit travel.saga.co.uk/cruises.
Cabin and Utah Beach review: you can see David’s videos on his YouTube channel at YouTube.co.uk/yourholidaytv.