We woke to glorious sunshine today and beautifully calm seas which meant our visit to St Peter Port in Guernsey looked promising. We were not able to dock alongside, so today MV Saga Sapphire spent the day at anchor and we used the ship’s tenders to transport passengers ashore. Guernsey is the second largest of the Channel Islands and has a splendid mix of French and English culture. St Peter Port is the Island’s bustling capital and for those passengers who were not booked on an organised excursion, they were able to venture ashore at their leisure and explore this lovely town independently.
The tours today included ‘Leisurely Sark’ which travelled to a tiny island of just over 2 square miles and a population of just 600. On the ‘Fortified Guernsey Tour ‘, passengers learnt about the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II. There was also an Island Panoramic Tour which gave passengers a good overall insight into this charming island.
The weather stayed fine throughout the day and passengers made the most of their final port of call for this cruise. Our guests will now enjoy their final few hours on board as tomorrow we dock in Dover, marking the end of this twelve day cruise around the British Isles.
I had flown down to join the ship yesterday and stayed overnight in Folkestone. As we approached Dover by taxi, the Saga Sapphire was lying resplendent alongside Cruise Terminal 1 on a glorious hot sunny day. As we pulled up in the taxi and walked onboard, I was welcomed back by all the crew which is a lovely feeling. It's always hard to leave home and family but being welcomed back by my second family was very pleasing and helps me ease back into the job.
After Captain Philip and I carried out the usual administrative tasks and he had legally handed over the ship to me, I was ready for the tour of duty. Whilst I unpacked and familiarised myself with the impending voyage, everyone else worked hard to get the ship ready for the next cruise. Embarkation began at 1pm today and passengers received a warm welcome from the ship’s staff as they made their way up the gangway. Passengers were shown to their cabins and began to unpack and settle into their new home for the next week or so. Once we had finished loading our supplies for the upcoming cruise and all passengers and their luggage were on board, we made our final preparations to set sail and embark on this nine day voyage to Norway, aptly named ‘Nordic Notes’. This cruise has an opera theme to it, and the entertainment programme has been specially designed with the opera theme in mind with a selection of performers and lecturers to enhance the programme.
Just before sailing, we carried out the Emergency Lifeboat drill for passengers and once this was concluded we set sail.
We had a special surprise for our passengers as we sailed away but I am not going to disclose until next cruise, as I do not wish to spoil any future surprises, but let's say it was a great surprise and a great way to start the cruise. It was a beautiful afternoon and evening as we sailed from Dover and headed up the East coast of England on our way to Norway.
Passengers settled into their cabins and were made to feel welcome in the Dining Room for their first dinner on board. This evening the Cruise Director Matthew Shaw began our Welcome Aboard Showtime by giving a brief introduction to the ship and allowing a few members of the ship’s staff to introduce themselves. This was followed by the Explosive Production Singers & Dancers who performed their ‘Hollywood Nights’ show. Tomorrow we will spend the day at sea allowing passengers to relax into their holiday. I’m sure there will be a packed programme of entertainment to keep passengers occupied, not to mention the Welcome Cocktail Party tomorrow evening.
Passengers enjoyed the first day of the cruise at sea as we sailed towards Norway. There was a busy entertainment programme including a variety of lectures on our upcoming ports of call and Shore Excursions and also Barry Stewart gave a presentation on The Royal Opera House. Our Classical Trio performed their first recital in the Drawing Room entitled ‘Romantic Rhapsodies’. It was also a formal night and we hosted the welcome cocktail party where the ship’s Senior Officers were introduced on stage.
We docked in Bergen at 8:00am this morning and passengers were up early and ready to go ashore. There were several shore excursions on offer today and many passengers had booked on them. The selection included ‘Iconic Norway’ which was a comprehensive full day tour taking passengers into the heart of Norway passing valleys, rivers, waterfalls and mountains along the way. There was also a ‘Highlights’ and a ‘Panoramic’ tour of Bergen allowing passengers to get a good insight into the city of Bergen, and passengers on the ‘Highlights’ tour were able to see the spectacular scenery as they took the cable car ride.
The weather today was beautiful. The day began with a cloudy start, however by mid-morning the clouds had cleared and Bergen looked beautiful in the dazzling sunshine. There is a saying that it always rains in Bergen but I have to say, coming here for so many years this is not always the case and certainly today was also an exception.
The Food & Beverage Department put on a delightful Strawberry Afternoon Tea to welcome passengers back on board after their busy day in port.
We boarded 2 Norwegian Pilots who will stay with us for the foreseeable time. Again they were familiar faces to us and it's always pleasant to see pilots you have sailed with before. We were reminiscing about this year's Northern Lights cruise that I did in February and March of this year. After the sailaway, this evening’s entertainment began with a pre-dinner classical concert performed by The Arku Trio. This evening’s Production Showtime featured the Explosive Singers & Dancers in their performance of Music Legends.
Today we docked in the Norwegian port of Kristiansund where there has been a town since the 18th century, built from the successful fishing community. During the second World War, Kristiansund was completely destroyed and has since been re-built and today it appears to be a modern and attractive town. The town is very close to the port, and in order to reach the berth we had to transit through a very narrow channel to get to the port basin. However the effort was worth it as the berth is right in the centre of the city and affords easy access for our passengers to walk into the city. It was a beautiful day today so passengers who had not booked on one of the organised shore excursions were able to stroll ashore at their leisure and explore the town.
The shore excursions team had organised several tours for the passengers to enjoy today including a Sight Seeing Tour of Kristiansund, a boat trip to the Island of Grip where they visited a medieval church dating back to 1470. The Norway in Miniature’ tour gave an insight into the Country’s main industries including fishing and farming. Today the Shore Excursions offered an excursion to Kristiansund Opera House which is included as part of the cruise. There were two groups, with one departing at 2.00pm and the other at 5.00pm. Passengers on this tour visited Norway’s oldest Opera House. It was completed in 1941 and the art nouveau style is arguably one of the most beautiful of its kind. Once at the Opera House, passengers enjoyed a special performance of Opera and ballet by local singers and dancers. This afternoon excursion was a delight to experience and many passengers returned to the ship exhilarated after seeing such a wonderful performance.
We remained alongside in Kristiansund until 11pm and it was a lovely mild weather. This evening the Cruise Department hosted a deck party featuring the Explosive Singers, with party songs for passengers to dance the night away under the stars. However, Arku also performed a classical recital in the Britannia Lounge for those passengers who enjoy classical music.
At 8am this morning we docked at the port of Molde and were surrounded by breath-taking scenery. The town sprawls along the banks of the River Moldeeva and is protected by mountains and sheltered from winds from the north and the west allowing the fragrant flowers and plants, for which it is famous, to bloom. Molde is populated with traditional wooden houses and lovingly tended gardens and it has a tranquil atmosphere which lured the famous Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen to move here.
Lots of passengers had booked to go on one of our organised shore excursions today and there were plenty to choose from. There was a full day tour which took passengers along the dramatic Trollstigen Canyon Road which ascends 2,800 feet into the mountains and passes 11 hairpin bends. The Atlantic Ocean Road’ tour was very popular and a remarkable feat of engineering. The five mile stretch of bridges and embankments jump from islet to islet across the boundless ocean, connecting Averøy with the mainland. The Town of Roses’ took passengers on a panoramic tour of Molde and they also visited the Romsdal Open Air Museum. Passengers also enjoyed a performance of local folk dancing with the dancers wearing colourful national costume.
All aboard time was 4.30pm today and once all were back on board we set sail for our next port of call, Geiranger.
Tonight we hosted our Britannia Club Cocktail Party for our 275 members who are sailing with us this cruise. This evening’s Cabaret Showtime featured a group called Opera Interludes who performed a selection of operatic pieces. This was followed by a late night cabaret in the Drawing Room showcasing the talent of Cruise Director Matthew Shaw.
Geiranger is located in the innermost part of Geirangerfjord, one of Norway’s most renowned fjords, which is a branch of the Storfjord and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 due to its outstanding archetypical scenic fjord landscapes. The small village of Geiranger has approximately 250 inhabitants and is one of Norway’s most famous tourist resorts.
We started our transit of the fjords at 0130 this morning as we passed the City of Alesund in order to enter the spectacular scenery of the fjords. We weaved our way through the towering mountains on a calm morning and we approached the anchorage at 0700. We had to drop our starboard anchor and then reverse towards the shore where we ran lines aft to the shore bollard, so when finished we were attached to the seabed by the anchor and to aft by the lines to keep us in a steady position. Passengers were transported ashore by the ship’s tenders. But even for those passengers who didn’t go ashore, they were still able to enjoy the breath-taking scenery of Geirangerfjord, encircled by majestic snow-capped mountains, towering 3,000 and 5,000 feet high.
For passengers who had not booked on an organised shore excursion Geiranger is the perfect place to take a stroll. It’s not too far a climb to a nearby waterfall and beautiful little church which gives splendid views over the fjord and Sapphire at anchor.
There was a selection of organised shore excursions for passengers to take part in today. The first was a trip to Mount Dalsnibba which took passengers 5,000 feet above sea level. The Herdal Summerfarm trip took passengers to a 300 year old mountain farm which is located in a truly spectacular setting. The farm produces Goats Cheese and passengers enjoyed a guided tour of the farm and learnt how the cheese is made and, of course, were able to sample this delicious cheese. Many passengers visited the Norwegian Fjord Centre to learn about the traditional Norwegian way of life which presents interesting aspects of the region’s nature, culture and history including fjord boats and farming implements.
The weather today was lovely and mild and although it was a little bit cloudy, it stayed dry and mild throughout the day. Once all of the tours had returned we prepared to set sail. As we manoeuvred back through Geirangerfjord, passengers were out on deck enjoying the spectacular views. The Arku Trio performed a classical recital out on the Verandah Deck as we sailed through this amazing fjord, passing the famous seven sisters waterfalls.
This evening’s after-dinner showtime featured the Explosive Singers & Dancers with their performance of ‘Music Legends’.
MV Saga Sapphire docked in Norway’s most Westerly town, Florø at 8:00am this morning. Florø was originally established as a base for the herring industry, fishing and boat building are still an integral part of life.
The shore excursions team had organised several tours for passengers to enjoy today and there was quite a selection to choose from. The ‘Coastal Contrasts and Black Friday Museum’ tour began with a short sightseeing tour of Florø followed by a scenic drive along the fjord taking in some wonderful scenery. The Black Friday Museum documents the dogfight fought out in the skies over Norway during World War II. The ‘Florø and Surroundings’ tour began with a visit to the Coastal Museum which depicted life from days gone by with ancient boats and fishing equipment. Passengers on this tour also enjoyed visiting a viewpoint some 750 feet above sea level with 360 degree sweeping views of Florø and the surrounding landscape. On the ‘Island of Kinn’ tour, passengers were transported to the lush green island of Kinn by boat, where they began a walking tour of the island. They visited the Romanesque Kinn church which has been in use since the 12th century and is believed to have been built by the Celts fleeing religious persecution. It is surrounded by spectacular scenery, overlooking the ocean and the mountain cleft of Kinnaklova to the west. The final tour on offer was something a little bit different and was called ‘Superfast Seafood’. Passengers embarked on a high speed journey on a rigid inflatable boat to the small fishing community of Kalvåg. Here, passengers visited the old herring salting houses and stopped to sample the excellent seafood in a local restaurant.
This afternoon, our classical trio The Arku Trio performed during Afternoon Tea in the Britannia Lounge which was full whilst passengers enjoyed the delicious food and beautiful music. After tea, many passengers went outside to the open deck to watch the ship sail away from this lovely port. We will now make our way to the last of our Norwegian ports for this cruise.
This evening’s entertainment featured the second performance by Opera Interludes. This performance was just as popular as the first. After showtime, the Sapphire Orchestra performed a late night jazz session upstairs in the intimate setting of the Drawing Room allowing them to really showcase their talents.
Stavanger overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and flourished in the early 19th century as a centre for the fishing trade. Stavanger has managed to keep its economy booming by diversifying, first into shipbuilding and now into oil. The historic city was just a short walk from the quayside along quaint cobbled streets. The impressive Cathedral dates back to 1125 and is the only cathedral in Norway to retain its original features.
The tours on offer included ‘Stavanger City and Cathedral Tour’ which took passengers to the residential area located on a number of small islands where passengers could enjoy lovely views of the fjord and city. Passengers on this tour also visited ‘Swords in Rock’ monument to learn how the Viking King Harald I defeated the last of the regional princes and started the unification of Norway. The ‘Occupation of Stavanger Tour’ gave passengers an opportunity to learn more about life in Stavanger during the Second World War after it was occupied by German Soldiers. Passengers on this tour visited the Rogaland War Museum which is housed in the small part of what remains of a huge military garrison constructed by the Germans during the War. They also visited the Sola Aviation Museum which is situated in an authentic German aircraft hanger built in 1942. The ‘Lysefjord Boat Trip’ was a popular tour and took passengers on a scenic boat ride along Lysefjord. They visited Pulpit Rock which is one of Southwest Norway’s most popular tourist attractions. It towers 1800ft above the fjord and is a flat mountain plateau. Passengers on this trip stopped in the heart of the fjord, surrounded by beautiful scenery in a log cabin for coffee and traditional Norwegian waffles.
This afternoon, many passengers were out on deck as we sailed away from our final port of call for this cruise. They enjoyed the last views of Norway as we left this stunning country behind and sailed towards Dover.
Tonight was formal night and we hosted our Farwell Cocktail Party in the Britannia Lounge. During the Cocktail Party we also gave our Employee of the Month Presentation which is a lovely chance for individuals in our hard-working crew to be recognised. After the party, passengers enjoyed yet another sumptuous feast in the restaurant before our after-dinner Cabaret Showtime featuring the extremely talented Pianist ‘Harry’.
We will now spend one day at sea before our arrival in Dover on Thursday.
MV Saga Sapphire docked in Dover this morning, marking the end of our eleven night cruise to Norway. I must admit, this being the last call to Dover always makes me feel a bit sad, as the Pilots over the years have become good friends and they are extremely professional in helping to bring us into this busy little port. Our Pilot Nick boarded and brought us in, and handed the ship back to me for manoeuvring. I have been bringing the ships into Dover since 2000 with Saga Rose, and the Mark for Saga Rose was, until a few months ago, still painted on the quayside to give us an idea where to “park” the ship.
Anyway berthing was straightforward and we were soon all fast just before 0800. Once all the passengers had disembarked, the ship's company set to work to prepare the ship for our next cruise. Embarkation began at 1pm and new passengers started to arrive.
Once we had finished loading our supplies for the upcoming cruise and all passengers and their luggage were on board, we made our final preparations to set sail and embark on this nineteen day voyage to the Mediterranean.
We carried out our obligatory and necessary Lifeboat drill before sailing. The wind had picked up to a very fresh breeze so I used tugs to help us turn the ship and sail out.
Passengers settled into their cabins and were made to feel welcome in the Dining Room for their first dinner on board. This evening the Cruise Director Matthew Shaw began our Welcome Aboard Showtime by giving a brief introduction to the ship and allowing a few members of the ship’s staff to introduce themselves. This was followed by the Explosive Production Singers & Dancers who performed an opening number, giving a flavour of what’s in store for the upcoming cruise, followed by music for dancing with the Sapphire Orchestra.
We will spend the next two days at sea as we make our way south to our first port of call, Lisbon, on Sunday.
We approached our berth in Lisbon with a few challenging conditions. The wind was rather fresh blowing us onto the quay, and we had about a 3 knot current from ahead so I had to move the ship slowly and carefully as, with these factors, they could push the ship onto the quayside with some force. However we are trained for this and through experience I berthed the ship onto the fenders with great help from my colleagues on the bridge and fore and aft.
We docked at 12noon today in the capital city of Portugal. It was a glorious morning and many passengers were out on deck watching the beautiful views as we sailed along the River Tagus towards our berth in Lisbon. The temperature is getting warmer, reaching 23⁰C.
Once the ship had been cleared by the local immigration officials, passengers were able to go ashore either independently or as part of an organised tour. There were three tours for passengers to take part in today including ‘Lisbon Panoramic’, ‘Estufa Fria and Lisbon Overview’ which took passengers to an authentic living museum which, when translated, means ‘cold greenhouse’ and gets its name from the fact that no imported heat source is used at the site. The ‘Palace of Ajuda and Lisbon Overview’ took passengers on a relaxing drive around Lisbon to see the main sights such as Jeronimos Monastery, the Monument of Discoveries and the 16th century Belem Tower. They also visited the Ajuda National Palace which is a neo-classical building dating from the first half of the 19th century and was the residence of the Portuguese royal family from the reign of King Luis I until the abolition of the Monarchy in 1910. The Palace was opened as a museum to the public in 1968.
For those passengers who were not on tour there was a complimentary shuttle bus service taking passengers from the ship to the city centre, where they could explore the city at their leisure.
All were aboard by 6pm and we set sail for our next port of call. This evening’s entertainment featured Comedy Entertainer Adrian Walsh and after this the Sapphire Orchestra performed a Late Night Jazz session in the Drawing Room allowing them to really showcase their talents.