The latest member of the Cruise118.com team to hop on-board a ship is Scott Perry. He paid a quick visit to Saga Group’s Saga Pearl: a stylish and intimate cruise ship known for sailing to little islands and lesser-known ports.

Take a look at what Scott thought of Saga’s small but perfectly formed vessel.

First impressions

Saga Pearl cruise ship docked in-port

My first impression of Saga Pearl was great. The embarkation process was incredibly smooth – in fact, I was out of the car and onto the ship in minutes, with no queues or lengthy waits. There was, however, a 20 minute wait in the reception before the tour commenced, and my group had to find our own way to the reception desk. After this, everything ran pretty smoothly.

Décor and accommodation

Deck of the Saga Pearl looking out to British port

The décor on-board Saga Pearl is very low key and traditional. As the cruise lines target market is the over 70s, I can see why they don’t want to glamourize the ship in such an ‘in your face’ way. That said, the ship did come across as a little outdated for the prices their customers tend to pay.

I would agree that a facelift is necessary: a refurbishment would definitely send passengers home happy.

Entertainment

Sophisticated restaurant on-board Saga Pearl cruise ship

Though my group didn’t get to observe Saga Pearls entertainment itself, we did receive a tour of the venues and learned a lot from the tour guides about the entertainment. It is all adult specific, as this ship is targeted specifically at passengers over the age of 50.

Saga Pearl has one main entertainment venue. This is probably the biggest room on the ship bar the main dining room: very nicely decorated and well-spaced out. It has a main stage with a piano for traditional music events, plus another piano one deck above. This is situated in the bar so passengers can enjoy a smaller and more intimate entertainment experience.

Rows of chairs in Saga Pearl's intimate cinema

Along with the main venue, there is also a small cinema for passengers to enjoy. It is very compact and intimate: not like your standard modern cinema.

Food and drink

Elegant tables and chairs in Saga Pearls dining area

There is only the one dining area on-board Saga Pearl. We couldn’t observe the evening meal, only lunch, but it was very laid back and casual while retaining a classy feel.

Passengers are free to come in and enjoy breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and their evening meal in the main dining room. For meals before dinner, passengers have access to a buffet- style sweets stand complete with muffins and cakes.

Roast dinner with gravy on the Saga Pearl cruise ship

The standard of food itself was exceptional. I enjoyed a seafood starter, Sunday roast dinner and a rice pudding desert, all of which were undoubtedly satisfactory. We could not fault the service, as our drinks arrived minutes after ordering, and we were waiting just 10 – 15 minutes between each course – fast to say I was seated at a table of six! The waiters couldn’t be happier to attend to water refills and condiment requests, while the ordering process was seamless.

There doesn’t seem to be a theme variation for food. The extras needing to be paid, like most cruise lines, lie within the speciality drinks on board. Drinks on-board Saga Pearl seem exceptionally priced: a pint of lager at just £2, and a glass of the house wine for around £3. These are complimentary at meal times anyway, so it is only in the bars they need purchasing.

On-board package

Diners seated with menus on-board Saga Pearl cruise ship

On Saga all-inclusive ocean cruises, you can enjoy selected wines at lunch and dinner, Saga house-branded spirits with mixers or as cocktails, draught beer and lager, and all soft drinks. Saga cruises are also completely gratuity free, which is what I think is a key factor in their passengers’ return rate.

Final verdict

Swimming pool on-board the Saga Pearl cruise ship

Despite the fact that it is a smaller ship catering to just 602 passengers, Saga Pearl was very spacious. The Saga representative who sat with us at lunch said they always ‘sell out’ even before they have reached their maximum occupancy, because they know their clientele would not like to feel overwhelmed after paying good money. Passengers often get the choice to either mingle with others and make new friends, or keep themselves to themselves.

Overall, Saga portrays a very relaxed feel. The staff all around the ship (from cabin crew, bartenders and chefs to waiters and receptionists) were all very talkative and seemed happy to see and greet you. I would recommend the brand to customers no younger than 70, who are seeking a low key break away without too much fuss. I would only really recommend Saga to British passengers, too.

The branded tower on a Saga cruises ship

I think the perfect customer in Saga’s eyes would be a couple in their 70s or 80s wanting to enjoy an anniversary or to celebrate retirement, or even just get away. Saga doesn’t come as cheap as the likes of P&O, Cruise & Maritime and Fred Olsen, so I would definitely recommend this ship for a special occasion.

Overall, I wouldn’t pay to sail with Saga myself as I am far too young to enjoy what they have to offer. I would be more suited to a fun and lively ship with younger people on-board, but that said, the dining on-board Saga Pearl was faultless and I’m sure the accommodation would be satisfactory.

Saga is classy, relaxed, low key and caring. Although the ship needs a slight refurb, it still retains a luxurious feel.

Would you like to experience the care-free lifestyle and complete relaxation on-board Saga Pearl? Take a look at the scenic itineraries in our collection of Saga cruise deals, and call our Cruise Concierge on 0207 980 2847 to discuss your requirements.

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Charlotte Varela

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