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5th August, 2012


After a leisurely evening and night at sea, this morning Saga Sapphire anchored off the capital and main port of the remote, yet beautiful Shetland Islands - Lerwick.

This is an old hant for me as it was in this port, back in 1997, when I was in command of an oil rig supply vessel, that I got a phone call from the then MD of Saga, asking would I like to join. Having just been out at the rig, in treacherous conditions, fighting to keep the ship a few feet off the legs of the platform structure, delivering vital supplies, and then sitting in Leriwck as winter approached, the vision of golden sands, sunshine, good food and me swanning around in my tropical uniform suddenly became very appealing!!. And 15 years later, I have never looked back.

But they say the world of the Merchant Navy is a small one. As the North Link ferry approached the harbour, I called it up just to exchange arrival manoeuvres with it, and a very distinct voice came back and it turned out to be one of the Captains I sailed with many moons ago on supply ships, A Captain Willy Mackay, so it was good to catch up briefly before we arrived.

We anchored very close to the town's main quayside so the tender run was short. Our tender operation ran smoothly with calm seas and by late morning we had seen all of our scheduled excursions off. Passengers had the choice of three fascinating tours to participate in; ‘Spectacular Northmavine’ which introduced the dramatic and rugged side of the island, heading to the northernmost point of mainland Shetland. ‘Scenic Shetland’ began with a short tour of Lerwick heading south passing through ancient settlements to Sumburgh Head, a cliff that is home to a colony of roughly 5000 birds, a perfect location for viewing puffins! The ‘Castles and Crafts’ excursion explored Shetland's 5000-year history, from the ancient town of Scalloway, its castle and museum to Shetland’s largest tree plantation and Shetland Jewellery where traditional jewellery is created to Celtic and Norse designs.

For those not on tours, the small town was pleasant to walk around, although most shops were closed due to our call being on a Sunday.

We sailed from Lerwick at 5.00pm and headed north for our first port of call in Iceland, Seydisfjordur. At 5.30pm Captain Les Evans gave an insightful and well attended early evening lecture ‘The Magic of Concorde’ in the Britannia Lounge.

Our ever popular production team ‘Explosive’ entertained guests in the Britannia Lounge after dinner with ‘Let’s Swing’ - a journey through the greatest hits both old and modern from legendary swing artists such as Frank Sinatra.

Those who weren’t downstairs were delighted by the fabulous voice of Social Hostess Donna Fraser as she performed a selection of her favourite songs in the Drawing Room.

As always passengers could head to The Verandah for a late night snack or a mug of Horlicks, whilst others could make their way to Cooper’s bar for a night cap as cocktail pianist Martin tinkled his ivories until late.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.