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Out with old, in with the new (ships, that is) as Saga Cruises plots change in direction

One new ship being built, another on order and, if things go well, then more new ships could be on the cards.

No wonder Robin Shaw, chief executive of Saga Cruises, was on cloud nine as he charted the line’s new course, codenamed Olympic, with details of Spirit of Discovery, its first new build that will arrive in 2019.

Robin Shaw
People thought Robin Shaw, pictured with a model of Spirit of Discovery, had ‘lost his marbles’

Yes, this is certainly a change of direction for a cruise line that, for 20 years, has taken veteran ships, tarted them up and eventually moved them on, replacing them with newer ships, albeit with plenty of years on the clock.

Since taking the helm at Saga Cruises in 2010, Shaw’s dream has been to have a fleet of new ships, but on Wednesday night he told a media gathering in London: “People wondered if I had lost my marbles.”

He hadn’t and he eventually got his way, heralding Spirit of Discovery as “a ship that will be uniquely different for the UK market. Nobody is building small ships for the luxury boutique market.”

The word he wanted to stress was “boutique”. The SMC design team was tasked to visit the boutique hotels of London and create an onboard experience that reflected what they found.

And the elegance and style of artwork providing as first glimpse of the ship interiors certainly suggested they had found what they were after. 

“The style is not nautical,” Shaw explained. “We want guests to feel as though they are walking into something unique.”

Spirit oif Discovery atrium
Spirit of Discovery will have the feel of a boutique hotel

He described the fulfilment of his dream as a “massive moment” at the end of a two-year dealing phase. “We are changing the view of Saga and what over-50s want to do with their time. Retirement is not what it used to be. It is now a time of real opportunity.”

So from 2019 Saga cruises, exclusive to guests aged 50 years or more, will be on board Spirit of Discovery as she replaces Saga Pearl II, and from 2020 on Spirit of Adventure as well, which will replace Saga Sapphire.

Are the ships twin sisters? “Not exactly,“David Pickett, Saga’s new build director, told SeaView. “Visually they will be identical, but on the inside there will be some subtle differences in tones and colours and what they offer. But nothing too dramatic.”

There is no dramatic U-turn in Saga’s philosophy, either. Says Shaw: “The Saga DNA does not change. We have always put the guests first and will continue to do so. We are committed to quality in everything we do. Our ships will be new, but how we treat our guests won’t change. That’s why we have a 99 per cent satisfaction rate.”

And for the one per cent who may have something to gripe about? Well they get a bit of a shock when they receive a phone call from either Shaw or commercial director, Nigel Banks, to try to sort things out. “We answer every complaint personally. If something is wrong, we need to fix it,” Shaw adds.

Posted on 6th October 2017 at 08:16 am in Cruise News | Cruise Lines | Saga Cruises |

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