Spirit of Discovery ship tour
Saga cruises are a British brand aimed largely at UK passengers over 50 (if you are between 40 and 50 you can accompany someone aged over 50) and currently have two ships in operation. Since neither of us are 50 yet this is not a brand we have ever considered, but as we rapidly approach this age they have started to appear on the edge of our radar, especially with the news of their latest addition to the fleet, the Spirit of Discovery. Rather spookily Saga must have got wind of our upcoming ‘significant’ birthdays and subsequent interest in their brand, prompting them to invite us to the Spirit of Discovery’s naming ceremony in Dover on July 5th 2019.
So it was that we arrived at Dover cruise terminal on a very sunny Friday morning ready to board the latest addition to the Saga fleet. We had arrived a little early but were quickly checked in and allowed to board the Spirit of Discovery for our 24 hour stay. We boarded on deck five, the main deck, entering the ship in the main atrium and the area known as the Living room. This is an open space with a large drinks and ice cream bar with a variety of seating from comfy sofas to tables and chair, for guests to watch the world go by whilst enjoying cup of tea/coffee (or something a little stronger if the fancy takes them) and a light snack. It’s also perfectly located for picking up a drink to take ashore with you before you leave the ship, or refresh upon returning. The focal point of this area is the beautiful sweeping staircase with a double height mural adorning the back wall and a grand piano at the foot of the stairs to entertain guests in either the Living room or the South Cape bar on the deck above.
This central area of the main deck is also the location of the reception desk, the shore excursions desk, the two shops and the hair salon. The salon is located at the entrance of the Spa located forward of the Living room area. The Spa not only houses the usual treatment rooms and relaxation room but also a very inviting hydrotherapy area with hot stone beds, a large hydrotherapy pool and some loungers for relaxing. Alongside the pool area is a corridor housing a large steam room and two large saunas, one hot and one more temperate one. This area is completely complimentary for all passengers and we could imagine this being very enticing on cold weather voyages.
To the aft of deck five is the aptly named Grand Dining room, the main restaurant on board, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as afternoon tea. This is a large, full width, double height room with a mezzanine gallery flanking the sides of the room and a variety of different table sizes to suit passenger tastes. The back wall of the room is decorated with a double height mural and the double height central area is decorated with large circular chandeliers. The burnt red and cream decor is wonderfully enhanced by the lighting coming from the numerous other contemporary chandeliers adorning the mezzanine ceilings.
Back to the Living room and climbing the sweeping blue carpeted staircase up to deck six, the Promenade deck, and the afore-mentioned South Cape bar, a small bar area overlooking the main atrium. This is a perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink or an end of the day night cap. From this central area moving towards the front of the ship, through the small art gallery, is the large theatre, known as the Playhouse. This is a traditional style theatre with tiered plush dusky blue seating curved around the rounded stage, with no pillars or obstructions to hamper the views wherever you choose to sit.
Back through the atrium are the three speciality restaurants, The Club (a steakhouse restaurant with live music) which is located on the mezzanine gallery of the Grand Dining room, East to West (an Asian inspired restaurant) and Coast to Coast (a seafood restaurant). All of the speciality restaurants are only open in the evenings and are complimentary to all passengers simply by making a table reservation. All of these restaurant offer easy access to the wonderfully wide and full promenade deck, perfect for lazing on one of the many loungers enjoying the sea views as the ship sails along for an evening stroll round the decks after dinner.
Moving up to deck seven (E deck), the centre section of the ship houses the library, craft room and card room to keep passengers busy on sea days. There is a self-service tea/coffee station and lots of well-lit, comfortable reading chairs with shelves stacked with books. The front and aft of this deck is taken up by passenger cabins as are decks eight, nine, ten and eleven. There are no inside cabins on the Spirit of Discovery with all cabins having balconies. We were in a standard balcony cabin which was beautifully decorated with lovely dark woods tastefully set off with burnt orange, greens and blues to add a touch of colour. The bathrooms are relatively large and bright with a large mirror adding an extra dimension. The shower is large and has a proper glass door and the towels were amazing - proper full size bath and hand towels, and ultra soft too. There are larger cabins than the one we had and a few suites with a sitting area and larger bathroom, but we found the cabin we were in perfectly adequate and loved the little touches, such as a set of binoculars; the wonderful back-lit mirrors at the dressing table and in the bathroom; the super soft, full size towels, the large range of toiletries and the British plug sockets and USB points by the bed.
As our cabin was located at the aft of the ship we loved that we could simply walk down to the end of the corridor and we were outside on the back terrace. The back of the ship is raked with a terrace on each deck and stairs to access all of the other decks. Each terrace has some lovely little seating areas with deck six, seven and twelve having larger open expanses to sit and enjoy the wake view. Deck 12 is the Lido deck which unsurprisingly houses the only pool and two jacuzzis located at the centre of the ship. The design of the pool area is quite retro with a 1950’s feel about it, so much so that I did feel sometimes that I had accidentally walked into the set of The Love Boat! Whilst I’m sure this is an intentional move by Saga which definitely makes a statement, we did find the area a little claustrophobic because of the large, white funnel wall looming at one end of the pool. However we did love the inclusion of a stage at one end of the pool to accommodate for deck parties, which we love.
Moving towards the aft of the ship is the informal buffet style restaurant, The Grill. This is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and on formal nights serves the same menu as the Grand Dining room so those that choose not to dress up can enjoy their meal in a more relaxed setting. There are also plenty of tables and chairs on the large terrace at the rear of The Grill for alfresco dining.
At the front of deck twelve is the wonderful Britannia lounge which has to be my favourite public area on the entire ship. It’s a large living room style lounge with an expansive bar and dance floor. It has a panoramic, double height glass frontage which lets in lots of natural and gives the room a wonderful, open feel. It is decorated with a rather Nordic feel in lovely blues, greys, whites and creams with the furniture picking up the colours of the sky through the large windows, almost making it feel like the outdoors is coming into the room. Whoever was responsible for the interior design in this room should be applauded, its beautiful!
Hidden at the entrance to the Britannia lounge (in fact so well hidden you almost feel they don’t want you to find it) is a staircase that leads up the gym which overlooks the Britannia lounge. This is a relatively large gym with a range of aerobic equipment and a separate studio, plenty big enough for exercise classes and using free weights.
There is also an outdoor games area located at the front of the Sun deck with the usual deck games and some nice seating for guest choosing to observe rather than partake. For those more active guests there is also a sports court located on the deck above. Both the Sun deck and the Observation deck above provide plenty of sun-loungers for guests who would rather avoid the pool area.
Our overall first impressions of this ship were very positive indeed. There were lots of things we loved, such as the cabins, the complimentary spa and speciality restaurants, the contemporary design throughout and the plentiful public lounges and outdoor areas. We were only on board for 24 hours but found the staff friendly and the service excellent, liking it to the standards of a Cunard ship. Saga, you have our attention and when we meet your booking criteria (in the not too distant future) you will definitely be on our list of ‘ships to try’!
Thank you to Saga for inviting us to stay on The Spirit of Discovery and inviting us to be part of her naming ceremony.
If you would like to know more about The Spirit of Discovery’s naming ceremony please visit our Spirit of Discovery Naming Ceremony blog post .