A retired Devon farmer and his wife went on their first Saga cruise shortly before Covid sank our holiday plans. They left Southampton around 6pm, amid much rejoicing.
‘After about three hours, I noticed we were heading back in the opposite direction,’ says the farmer. ‘Nevertheless it wasn’t until the following morning that the captain explained a passenger had been taken ailing and the most effective plan of action was to return to Southampton.’
There was no have to dock; a vessel got here to fulfill the ship and carried the poorly passenger back to shore. ‘What struck me was the way it was all so seamless. Most passengers weren’t even aware of what was happening.’
Mark Palmer climbs aboard Saga’s newest ship, Spirit Of Adventure, in Southampton for a cruise across the Norwegian fjords. Above is the Sunnylvsfjorden fjord near the gorgeous village of Geiranger, which features on his tour
We feel something similar over and once again on our trip to the Norwegian fjords on board Saga’s newest ship, Spirit Of Adventure. It starts with a automotive and driver showing up at our London home (every passenger is obtainable this service so long as they live inside 250 miles of the embarkation port) and continues with our being whisked through the check-in process at Southampton after which noticing how our bags one way or the other make it to the cabin before we do.
Competition between cruise firms is intense for the time being. Private transfers is certainly one of Saga’s big selling points, as is the best way various excursions are included in the value and travel insurance is built-in. There’s no embarrassing kerfuffle around tipping, either.
The three ‘speciality restaurants’ on board don’t have any added charges. One in every of these is Amalfi, an Italian; one other is Khukuri House, the primary Nepalese restaurant at sea. My wife, Joanna, would eat curry every night of the week if she could, so we dine here thrice during our nine-night sailing.
Various excursions are included in the value of a Saga cruise, and travel insurance is built-in, Mark reveals
But our favourite is The Supper Club, primarily because — and particularly so with the most important dining room — the lighting is more subdued. Here, you eat while a jazz band plays unobtrusively.
All Saga cruises start within the UK, which suggests our first two days are spent at sea, heading north towards Geiranger, a reasonably village 200 miles south of Bergen.
It serves as a jumping off point for strenuous activities or, as in our case, a scenic two-hour bus ride, which supplies us some idea of the vast area the fjords occupy.
Spirit Of Adventure has the texture of a up to date hotel, with a fake art deco vibe and splashings of color. But what you don’t get in a hotel is a programme of events that seems to cover every hour of the day: beginners’ bridge, golf, watercolour classes, carpet bowls, IT seminars, line dancing, a book club, darts competitions. Boredom has no berth on this ship.
Despite the fact that it’s October, Mark spies some guests swimming lengths within the outdoor pool (above)
Mark’s favourite restaurant on board is The Supper Club, pictured. ‘Here, you eat while a jazz band plays unobtrusively,’ he reveals
Nor does frostiness. The staff are unfailingly polite and a spirit of congeniality is inspired amongst guests; within the most important dining room we’re repeatedly asked if we’d like a ‘sharing table’ and are embarrassed to repeatedly decline.
We’re struck, too, by the best way those on their very own are given loads of opportunities to hobnob with others, including at ‘Solo Travellers’ Socials’ most nights. And greater than 20 per cent of the cabins are held for single bookings.
Despite the fact that it’s October, some are swimming lengths within the outdoor pool, while others repair to the super-swanky spa, with its hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room. Here, Joanna has a top-notch facial and I enjoy an hour’s massage that stretches to a splendidly relaxing 90 minutes.
This sets me up nicely for a ride the following day on the Loen Skylift at Olden — the world’s steepest cablecar — followed by a ramble in champagne air along gravel paths, with sensational views over snow-capped mountains and down into the inky-blue water of the fjords.
Mark enjoys an hour’s massage that stretches to a ‘splendidly relaxing’ 90 minutes on the ‘super-swanky’ spa
Mark’s final stop is Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway. Above are painted wood cottages in town
Mark travelled with Saga on its nine-night Majestic Fjordland itinerary. Saga’s all-inclusive cruises to the Norwegian fjords start from £2,025 pp based on two sharing (saga.co.uk/cruises).
I bump into the Croatian captain one morning and ask him if special skills are required for navigating the fjords at night. He tells me that at various points he picks up local ‘pilots’, whose expert knowledge of the region is required by law.
‘But I’m in charge,’ he says.
Arriving in Maloy, on the island of Vagsoy, just as dawn breaks is special. The white clapperboard houses, offset by a couple of traditional crimson ones, cling to a hill topped by granite.
That is distant Norway at its cinematic best, with ‘a few of the worst weather in Europe’, says our perky guide on the tour bus.
We admire the famous Kannesteinen rock in Oppedal, which over centuries of often brutal weather has assumed a fabulously delicate mushroom shape.
Our final stop is Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway. We dock within the old town, dangerously near a market — and Joanna is off.
‘Shopping is the one thing that’s not included,’ I tell her. Nevertheless it’s too late. ‘We want some reminders of our joyful cruise,’ she says. And it seems churlish to disagree.