We are coming to the close of an extremely hectic three week dry dock period where Saga Sapphire has not only had her ‘bottom cleaned’, but literally hundreds more technical jobs which have required over twenty holes to be cut into the shell plating to let access for various services, equipment and men. (The holes have been welded closed now, I checked!)
During the period we have had around 450 people living on board which has included crew and contractors. In addition a few more hundred men from the dry dock company have been clambering all over the ship every day fixing this or that, and leaving their mark in the process. But never fear, all of our superb furnishings, carpets and furniture have been protected, there is a certain brand of flame retardant plastic protection just about everywhere, the name for ever etched on my memory.
Saga are spending a great deal of money to ensure our ship can continue for many years, and much of where the money is going will actually not be seen by passengers, but our regular guests will notice some subtle ‘atmospheric’ changes, along with soft furnishings up grade, well over a thousand yards of new carpet and, perhaps the most important of all to some, a brand new passenger laundrette. A team of Greek contractors finished it yesterday and one of our laundry crew was set to work to test every machine, no doubt doing his ‘smalls’ at the same time. The main galley is coming together with a huge brand new dish washer, tilting pans, larder fridges, the chef is very impressed.
So tomorrow it is the intention to flood the dock, test all the sea valves and eventually return to our natural environment. It does seem strange to have been living on board while all the time being ‘high and dry’. We shall proceed out into the river in order to conduct engine trials for approximately four hours, then go alongside a lay by berth in order to take fuel…..there is hardly a drop left on board. If all goes well we shall be crossing the channel during Saturday and be back alongside in Dover later in the day, ready to embark passengers on Sunday for the Christmas cruise. I have to praise our crew who have remained on board during this time; this is, of course, part of the sailors’ life and work, but they have been marvellous. I am optimistic that our return to service will be seamless; an impressive amount of work has been carried out professionally and on time.