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Mattsudds

When I get older... - Spirit of Discovery review

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I’m not old enough for a Saga cruise. And I’m in no rush to age any quicker than nature intends. But naturally as a regular cruisers and someone interested in ships, I always intrigued by a different cruise product and a new generation of ships. And this past week I got to sail with Saga, in the company of family who did pass the stringent age limits. The family concerned are not regular cruisers and it was especially interesting to see the Saga product through the eyes of the target market. 

Spirit of Discovery was built by Meyer Werft and entered service this month after being named by the Duchess of Cornwall. She is designed to carry 999 passengers, and has the profile common to many of the current ‘boutique’ ships like Viking Ocean, Oceania and Azamara, with layouts which are not dissimilar. Spirit of Discovery wears a royal blue hull topped by a gold stripe, together with Saga’s traditional yellow funnel. Onboard she offers a muted, Art Deco inspired, hotel style fit out with a layout similar to many ships in this market segment. But Saga in general seem to have taken the best ideas from many of the others and produced a rather lovely vessel. 

Embarkation is usually at Deck 5 which brings passengers in to the based of the atrium and the living room space. The atrium stretches up through 4 decks and includes a vast mural ‘this sceptred isle’, which includes images of many things from around the UK. A staircase for the formal night Grande Descente, together with a baby grand piano all make for an upmarket hotel ambience. There is an adjacent lounge and bar called the living room, which carries the similar food items to those available elsewhere for breakfast and afternoon tea together with an ice cream bar and a bar. This deck contains the spa and shop forwards, with the reception desk and excursion desk off to the port side before the entrance to the Grand Dining room. The Grand Dining Room is a space which has a very traditional feel and the centre is double height with a two level mirror at the aft end. The Grand Dining Room is an anytime dining venue and tables range from 2 to 6 mostly, with the Captain’s table and a couple of others being larger. The menu changes daily and is regular, upmarket cruise food. It is especially well presented and served with Saga paying attention to many things that other lines do badly - very fresh, daily changing bread selections, hot plates for hot dishes etc. This and all venues aboard the ship also serve a stunning cheese course with a daily changing selection of about a dozen cheeses. 

The balcony and seating above the Grand Dining Room is for the Steakhouse which on this ship is ‘The Club inspired by Jools’ with artistes performing each evening purportedly chosen by Jools Holland. The Club has a glass walled show kitchen and serves a standard menu of steakhouse items. Either side of the Club are promenades carrying passengers to the aft most restaurants on Deck 6 which are a pair of , included in the fare, speciality restaurants. Coast to Coast serves a fresh fish and seafood menu, and East to West is an Asian restaurant. It is interesting that Saga have effectively tried to bring back the shipboard layout with twin promenades. For my money this doesn’t quite work because it has dead ends with each restaurant and the end result is that they are slightly odd to find. 

Further forward on Deck 6 is the South Cape bar. With a colour scheme of wood, and pale greyish brown, it is elegantly simple in design and indeed that is the theme throughout the ship. Further forward is a small gallery before entering the Playhouse theatre. With steeply tiered seats, this can accommodate half the passengers at once. Spirit of Discovery has an extraordinarily wide, 3/4 around promenade on this deck (technically is goes all the way around but the bit at the front is enclosed). 

Further passenger spaces are on Deck 12 with the buffet aft, a Lido pool midships and the Britannia lounge forwards. The Britannia lounge is for me the standout favourite of the ship. A vast lounge with double height ceiling forwards, a forward viewing balcony and another delightful and elegant bar, this space excels as a lounge and cabaret entertainment venue. In places the walls are adorned by art by Kate Jackson depicting the ship and its construction. This is in a style with a design reminiscent of 1930s railway paintings. Out on the forward viewing balcony are a quartet of sculptures, and the music from inside the lounge is also played out here in the evening. The Britannia lounge is also the ballroom of the ship and each evening the Saga Gentlemen hosts earn their money by escorting a variety of ladies around the dance floor. Some of the ladies do get quite in to this, and I did wonder if during the ‘Twist’, at least one of the hosts might be entitled to danger money.

Ironically the biggest misstep of the ship’s design is on the same deck, in my view. And that is the buffet. The space is designed as a large H shape with the serveries in the cross bar of the H (hope that makes sense). The food area itself is fresh and clean lined, and there is a decent selection. But the whole seating area has been arranged with full height visual barriers between seating and serving areas. This makes it the most confused buffet layout I have yet seen, and if there is one thing you should not design into a ship catering to elderly passengers, it is confusion. Indeed I did witness slightly distressed lovelies having to be escorted around the buffet areas to find their table mates again after exiting in the wrong direction. I did wonder whether this had been due to a design intention to use the buffet as a further alternative dining venue in the evenings, in which case hiding the servers might have been expected. Whatever the reason, this space is unnecessarily confusing. 

The other surprise on this deck was that the pool area did not have a retractable roof. Visually it is better for it, but quite how practical that is would remain to be seen. For a ship catering to elderly passengers it also does not have one of those chairs to lift people with restricted mobility into the water which again seems a surprising omission. 

In a couple of other areas, the design is also a missed opportunity too. The South Cape bar is a lovely space but it faces entirely inwards, away from the stunning atrium and mural just adjacent. In fact it very firmly turns its back on that space with a fixed sofa facing away from it and a glass sound barrier too. With the atrium being the centre of the ship, it just feels like the Viking Ocean ships have managed to do something similar but ever so slightly better. 

There are some lively and innovative design touches around the vessel. The South Cape bar has a marble entrance way which carries the name and Est 2019 - simple but nice touch. For orientation around the ship Saga have introduced a style of deckplan I have never seen before. It’s kind of like a tube map with dots for the stops and connections. It works quite well but would be better if it were written bigger and had an indicative bow/ stern for the ship. In general the signage aboard the ship isn’t as obvious as it might be, and the lifts are particularly sparse, having only deck numbers in them but nothing next to the numbers indicating which facilities are where. Overall its slightly as if Saga’s designer did a good job at ‘boutique hotel’ but ever so slightly less at remembering to make stuff easy to find. 

So whilst the ship isn’t perfect, it really is very very nice indeed. And with a Britannia lounge, a wraparound promenade and some good food and service, one can forgive almost anything else. Service on Saga was really warm and friendly, noticeably more so than on many other ships. And there is clearly a long serving crew, familiar with many of the passengers. As you would expect, Saga attract an elderly crowd and quite a lot of things are explained in that tone one might adopt with an elderly relative you care about. But it’s not overbearing, its kind of warm. 

 I would never wish my life away in order to be old enough to be a Saga regular. But I am glad to know that when I do eventually get there, there is a decent product on a rather nice ship where one might well be looked after, really quite well indeed.

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Great to have a first, very informative, report on Discovery.  Thanks.  Quite a  few posters and readers here on CC have been looking forward to one.

 

You did not mention cabins- dare I ask what you thought of the cabins and in particular balconies, size and furnishings?  The actual cabins look fairly spacious and certainly attractive, but there is virtually nothing I can find out about the balconies.

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My party had a single cabin and a standard balcony cabin on D deck - deck 8. The cabins all had double beds, spacious bathrooms. The double had 2 chairs and a coffee table, the single had 1 chair. On the balcony there was a single chair (not a sun Lounger) and table or 2 chairs and a table on the double. There was room to walk around the chair and table to get past it - this meant that the balconies were bigger than on some modern ships.

 

The cabins had some nice touches - there were plenty of electrical sockets, usb for charging things. Tea and coffee making. A fridge in the shelving area near the door. There as a desk do chair as well. I thought the metal woodpeckers in the bedside lights were a quirky, fun touch. 

 

Wirth noting that that the cabin key is inserted in the slot when you enter - this makes the power and air con really come to life. There are buttons to indicate if you want cabin service or do not disturb. Many singles have connecting doors but nothing was heard through them. 

 

Only one problem - which was quickly fixed. The rubber seal around the balcony door is very easily dislodged by the locking mechanism. If you don’t get this fixed, there is a tremendous whistling noise from an improperly sealed door. We reported this to reception and the people were there before we got back to the cabin. It is obviously a known issue because we didn’t even have to finish explaining the problem. The window seals in the Britannia lounge keep falling down too - I am sure a snagging person will fix these under guarantee soon. 

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Thanks again. To me it is a pity that balconies do not have 'comfy'chairs on,  but there you are.

 

One point I do like is the idea of being able to make your own tea and coffee when you feel like it.  Saga room service is quick and good, but sometimes you just feel like making your own, especially first thing in the morning!

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Although we probably won't be doing any sunbathing on our trip to Norway can you tell me whether or not the sun beds have a soft mattress on top of the base?

On the artists mock ups they appear to have but on photos it doesn't seem to be the case.

I agree a retractable roof would have been sensible, bearing in mind the ship has a strengthened hull presumably for forays to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Thanks for your report 🙂

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17 minutes ago, lincslady said:

Thanks again. To me it is a pity that balconies do not have 'comfy'chairs on,  but there you are.....

 

Maybe you could take one of the cabin chairs out onto the balcony for more comfort? They don't look very heavy.

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20 minutes ago, Glenndale said:

Although we probably won't be doing any sunbathing on our trip to Norway can you tell me whether or not the sun beds have a soft mattress on top of the base?

On the artists mock ups they appear to have but on photos it doesn't seem to be the case.

I agree a retractable roof would have been sensible, bearing in mind the ship has a strengthened hull presumably for forays to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Thanks for your report 🙂

The sunloungers don’t have a soft mattress. The reason they look like the might is probably the colours. The frame is dark whilst the area where a mattress would be is beige.  The balcony chair is perfectly comfy - you just don’t lie down in it. If sunbathing is your thing, there is an awful lot of open deck sunbathing space available. Hope the weather makes that viable for your trip. 

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5 minutes ago, Mattsudds said:

The sunloungers don’t have a soft mattress. The reason they look like the might is probably the colours. The frame is dark whilst the area where a mattress would be is beige.  The balcony chair is perfectly comfy - you just don’t lie down in it. If sunbathing is your thing, there is an awful lot of open deck sunbathing space available. Hope the weather makes that viable for your trip. 

Thanks for that.

Sunbathing not my thing, prefer the shade, but if I decide to lounge on one of the decks, undercover, would prefer to do so in comfort.

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Last time for banging on about balconies - getting boring, I know - but I still feel they should be large enough to have lounging type chairs on, as they are on the small 'luxury' lines which Saga is, I think, becoming like with things like all inclusive drinks etc.  Promise not to mention it again.

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1 hour ago, Mattsudds said:

The sunloungers don’t have a soft mattress. The reason they look like the might is probably the colours. The frame is dark whilst the area where a mattress would be is beige.  The balcony chair is perfectly comfy - you just don’t lie down in it. If sunbathing is your thing, there is an awful lot of open deck sunbathing space available. Hope the weather makes that viable for your trip. 

The image is from the online guide from Saga about Discovery. 

Most definitely showing a mattress.

Do you have any pictures from your cruise you would like to share?

F937F01F-FB49-42EC-8656-D5B82216DFF2.png

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Thank you very much for your very interesting review, which makes me even more excited to be boarding the Spirit of Discovery this time next week for the Gourmet Spain cruise.  

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36 minutes ago, lincslady said:

Last time for banging on about balconies - getting boring, I know - but I still feel they should be large enough to have lounging type chairs on, as they are on the small 'luxury' lines which Saga is, I think, becoming like with things like all inclusive drinks etc.  Promise not to mention it again.

I will give them a try in September and let you know 😀

For me I think they should have a mattress on the sun loungers.

 

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, hermioneb said:

Thank you very much for your very interesting review, which makes me even more excited to be boarding the Spirit of Discovery this time next week for the Gourmet Spain cruise.  

Maybe you can give your opinion on the balcony chairs and sun loungers? 😀

Enjoy your trip and come back and let us have your thoughts please.

I think a drinks menu would be welcomed.

Edited by Glenndale

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If this works, it shows the sunloungers. It is taken in an evening and so 2 things are missing. Firstly the rolled up towel, and secondly anyone sunbathing. 

 

The other different from the artists impressions is that there is no headrest. 

 

I checked my daytime pics and there is no mattress added then - just checking it wasn’t put away at night.

FB758F57-4FF9-4479-8DB8-5E05A6687496.jpeg

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When Azamara Pursuit did her first cruise, there were no pads on the sunloungers. They only arrived a few weeks later. I sincerely hope that Saga will have pads eventually as it makes a huge difference to comfort levels, especially for ‘older’ bones. 

I think the ‘luxury’ cruise level requires them. 

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I like the fact that there are some upright chairs and tables under cover for those who don’t like sun loungers.  I will certainly test a variety of loungers and chairs for you,  Glenndale!  I can’t promise to write such an informative review as Mattsudds, but will hope to photograph a drinks menu. 

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Mmmm... those two contrasting photographs of the poolside loungers are very interesting, no?  Glenndale,  I agree that the on deck loungers need cushioning.  Although I much prefer Seabourn to Regent, at least the latter have proper mattresses on the  deck  loungers.  On close inspection, they are not actually the same basic loungers - look at the arm rests.

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Thank you very much for this review, we are considering a cruise in November, we usually sail Cunard, Azamara or Celebrity so it’s good to have such a detailed review. To inform our decision. 

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What a good and informative review. We are trying our first Saga cruise on this ship for Xmas and New year and are really looking forward to it. We have been on many other lines but they all seem to be getting too big! also we don't fly any more so this ship seems to tick all the boxes. Can any one tell me if I can have a glass of wine at the bars as part of the all inclusive package or is it just at lunch and dinner. also are the mixers branded or do they use a pump?

thanks in anticipation.

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Yes, you can have wine, and the mixers are from cans or possibly bottles.  Just bear in mind that the spirits are Saga's own brand choice, so no Gordon's or Bombay Sapphire for instance included.  You can always sign for a special drink if you want to, of course.   

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After reading about the fracas on P and O recently I looked  up their 'drinks packages'. and they are almost unbelievable - and the full one at £40 a day!  positively encourages binge drinking, as you have to get through 15 drinks per day. to get your 'money's worth'  . There is no doubt the way Saga and the small luxury lines do drinks is a lot more civilised, though I appreciate that those who do not drink are subsidising those who do - plus as someone pointed out, what they  probably put on the cruise cost very much more than covers the cost of the drinks to them.

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Looking at the ship, I am really looking forward to our Baltic Cruise on the Discovery on September 12th. It looks beautiful.

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We just cruised the 4 night cruise with Jools Holland.What a great ship.We are Oceania fans and there was a lot to compare with.

 

We loved the kettle in cabin,the shampoos etc,free fruit in cabin on arrival. But sadly no clock.

Room service 24hrs and food from main dining room when it’s open.

TIP....plug hairdryer into socket by patio doors.It doesn’t work in shower room.

Great ice cream machine by pool and various flavours in lounge, with sprinkles and sauces.

Plenty of sun beds but not enough shade on hot days.Various wind barriers on higher outside decks with small comfortable seating areas.

Free spa facilities were very good.

All the speciality restaurants were excellent.Grill had lovely assortment of meals and the verandah had freshly ordered meals at lunchtimes.No complaints  with any food.Lots of willing to help staff.Verandah chairs are very deep and if you are not tall,you will need a cushion from an empty seat to relax.Also few places to sit when staff and visitors eating there.

Our cruise was inclusive drinks which meant free wine and beer with meals.A lot of people including ourselves,thought it was all inclusive,But what you buy is very cheap so no problem.

The lifts buttons are very badly lit.It is hard to see what button to press.This was a big complaint.

Our biggest complaint and I hope they do something about it,is the design of the Club.It has a big ‘hole’ in the middle to look down into main dining room.This meant that the wonderful young couple on piano and singing were drowned with happy eater noises then cleaning up until 11.30pm.Spirtit of Adventure is the exact same design as Discovery except for 2 details and one of these is the ridiculous design of the Club.It has a floor over the main dining room.We mentioned it to Captain on a day he was wandering around the ship.That evening (and two after)  he had the Staff captain up there with other staff,monitoring it.It was agreed there was a problem.

The cabin was a bit tight but comfortable and kitted out with binoculars and a blanket.Plenty of cushions for the seats on balcony.Kept very clean twice a day.I feel there is a need for towels to not be replaced regularly if hanging up.

Did not try afternoon tea ( always too full) or eat in Main dining room.

A wonderful captain.Probably the happiest captain we have ever encountered.

Tenders were comfortable, being individual seats.

A really great aspect was the amount of British products used.British cheeses,crisps,ice creams and wines,including sparkling wine from Kent.

As said in initial post here about chairlift, we dont need a chairlift for the pool,nor did I see anyone who did.The steps are well designed into the pool and have handrails.Most passengers were quite mobile.The showers are poorly marked so no one used them prior to pool use.

There were those that didn’t cleanse hands at relevant times,coughed into hands then used utensils in buffet and also those that picked at food with hands,but that you get on most ships.(Oceania don’t allow anyone to touch the buffet untensils,they serve for you.As I am used to this,I tended to use a paper serviette when handling them).

Overall we were very pleased with the new ship and did not in any way feel like it was only it’s second sailing.The staff were amazing.

pick up from home was prompt and we picked two other after us.Although  they say half hour maximum,it rather depends on the drivers Sat Nav or Tom Tom.We know we went a very long way to get to next pick up.Coming home, unfortunately we were an hour late getting picked up from ship as problems at Dover.Then Dartford tunnel a nightmare.As we were running late we were late dropping off our first drop then  we had to go out of our way again to swop cars and our driver take next passengers to Dover.So 2 hour trip took nearly 5.Both our drivers were very professional and cars comfortable.

We have booked a second cruise,two weeks on the ship next time.We would like to upgrade to deluxe cabin for the extra room,but the price goes up considerably.

 

 

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We are on board now, on the fourth day of a two week cruise, Gourmet Spain.  I would agree with all that has been said by Janecamebridge. Ship, staff, food all wonderful.  I will write a full review on our return, but having too much fun to do so now! If anyone has any specific questions I will try and answer them over the next few days, but am trying not to look at my Ipad too often.

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Hello hermioneb.  I’m so pleased that you find the ship to your liking.  Are you happy with your cabin? Is the balcony spacious?

We are boarding on 5 September, and we have booked a standard cabin.  Any information on the cabins, or any tips would be so helpful.  Enjoy the rest of your cruise!

Linda

 

 

 

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