Saga's Spirit of Discovery Naming Ceremony and Celebrations
Saga is a British based travel company that was established in the 1950’s offering holidays specifically for the over 50’s (you can cruise with them if you are between 40 and 50 and accompanying someone aged over 50) The cruise arm of the brand is aimed largely at UK passengers and currently has two ships in operation. Since neither of us are 50 yet this was not a brand we really knew much about but with us rapidly approach the minimum booking age we were delighted when they invited us to attend the naming ceremony of their brand new ship, the Spirit of Discovery in Dover on July 5th 2019.
With the Saga brand having been birthed in Folkestone and its headquarters still based there the decision had been take to honour their heritage and have the naming ceremony in the historic port of Dover. So it was that we travelled down to Kent on a very sunny Friday morning ready to board the latest addition to the Saga fleet. We arrived a little bit early but the marvellous staff at Dover cruise terminal were ready for us and processed our arrival swiftly, allowing us to board the ship early and be one of the first few passengers on board, thus allowing us a couple of hours to explore the ship and take in all of the public areas.
At midday an announcement was made that a light lunch was being served in The Grill restaurant so we quickly found our cabin and dropped off our luggage before making our way up to deck twelve to get some lunch. By now the ship had filled up and there was a bit of a queue for the buffet lunch. Despite having to queue to get food there were plenty of tables free and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch overlooking the dock area which was looking amazing as it was being prepared for the afternoon events.
The ceremony was due to commence at 1.30pm, starting with a very British garden party on the dockside, so after lunch we made our way back to the cabin to get changed and ready ourselves for the main event. Suited and booted (with hats for the ladies) we made our way off of the ship to the dock side which had been transformed into an amazing lawned garden with a large marque, real grass and outdoor tables and chairs. We were greeted with a glass of champagne, which never seemed to get empty, and tempted with the most amazing afternoon tea fare throughout (I slight regretted my decision to even have lunch!). After a couple of hours enjoying this quintessential British garden party, admiring all the beautiful hats and dresses and socialising with our fellow guests we were all asked to make our way to the tiered seating at the end of the lawn in preparation for the actual naming ceremony.
The ceremony was hosted by the wonderful John Parton (who will be one the ships cruise directors) and kicked off with a rousing performance form the band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood. This was followed by a trio of speeches from the Captain, Julian Burgess; the CEO of Saga Travel, Robin Shaw; and the CEO of Saga Plc, Lance Batchelor. Speeches over we were treated to another musical delight, this time from the Morriston Orpheus Choir, a male voice choir from Swansea, before the Right Reverend Trevor Wilmott and the Venerable Archdeacon Arthur Hawes blessed the ship.
Then it was time for HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to actually christen the ship. She gave a short speech about the Silverline charity set up by Dame Esther Ransom (who was also at the event) of which she is a patron and Saga supports. Then all to quickly HRH christened the ship with a bottle of Balfour from the Hush Heath estate in Kent smashed on the ships hull as confetti reigned down on us spectators. With the formalities finished we were treated to one last performance from the marching band before making our way back to the ship to get ready for the evenings entertainment.
The dress code for the evening was ‘formal’ so after a brief rest we changed into our formal attire and made our way to the cocktail reception being held in the beautiful Britannia lounge where we were entertained by a marvellous string trio whilst enjoying our pre-dinner drinks. By 7.30 we were ready for our evening meal so headed down to the Grand Dining room where we enjoyed a delicious four cruise gala dinner.
This evenings entertainment, taking place in the Playhouse theatre, was courtesy of Jools Holland and his R&B Orchestra. With guest performances from Pauline Black and Arthur Hendrickson from Selector as well as the magnificent Ruby Turner; Jools Holland playing on the piano and guitar; and the 15 piece band supported by two backing vocalists it was impossible to pick a highlight from the show. The whole theatre was rocking with people dancing in front of the stage and no one wanting the evening to end. But end it must and to be honest we needed our beds after such an exciting and exhausting day (though we understand from those with more stamina with us that the entertainment continued in the ships bars until the wee small hours!).