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19th November, 2013



We had a fairly breezy journey towards Melilla as we were following a Low Pressure area that had unfortunately drenched Sardinia. We had pretty spectacular thunder and lightning all night but as we sailed into the shelter of the mainland, the wind eased a little. The port is quite small on the Spanish side and the Pilot boarded just outside the breakwaters in the dark. We started to approach and with a stiff breeze blowing I was happy that the port makes it compulsory to take a tug. However, when I saw the size I felt he was not going to be that much use so I had him “standing by” if required. I brought the ship into the harbour and had to turn to starboard quite quickly as the water shallows quickly. Once I was near the berth, I manoeuvred the ship with the bowthruster and engines to make for a parallel park. As we were coming closer to the berth and into position I noticed that the two large port cranes on the berth and our pier were slightly slewed out over our space. As a result when I got closer it became apparent that the crane hooks would fold our lifeboats and aerials. I sent a man down with a radio and we positioned the ship meticulously so that the hooks were inboard of the ship but not touching anything. We tied the ship up and waited for the crane operators to turn the cranes away. Our manoeuvre was quite safe and meant we did not delay our guests. We were all fast by 0740.

I was busy manoeuvring as the sun started to rise. As we saw each other’s faces, the Pilot suddenly asked me if I had been Captain on Saga Pearl II when I took her to Seville, which I was. He said he recognised me as he was the Pilot and then the penny dropped for me, same guy!


We were greeted by tourist information people on the quayside in Melilla. The city of Melilla is a window from which you can see two continents. The charm of its ancient citadel walls to the explosion of colour of its modernist architecture Melilla is truly a wonderful place for those who enjoy exploring works by different architects. There are over 900 modernist and art deco buildings, including the Plaza de Espana and a round plaza in front of the Palacio Municipal.

With the all aboard time being 1230, shore excursions weren’t available today, however the local port authorities supplied a complimentary shuttle bus service. This of course is always fully appreciated by our guests, many of whom chose to use it as a small tour.

The wind again was fresh so I decided to turn the ship right around to point outwards through the entrance. This way I didn’t stray into the shallow waters which were all around us. As we sailed out, I noticed on the other dock a very familiar shaped looking ferry. It was the sister ship to the ill-fated “Herald of Free Enterprise” that’s obviously got a new lease of life in these parts. Once clear we set course for Tunis. The cruise is exciting because over the past few days we’ve been having presentations from the very flamboyant celebrity chef, Brendan Lynch. The theme of this Western Mediterranean cruise is of course the ‘Great British Bake Off at Sea’. Brendan’s beautiful baking came to public view through the 2012 series of Great British Bake Off, in which he of course reached the final. Brendan Lynch over the past 12 months has been giving talks and demonstrations at venues throughout the UK and Ireland, and now we’re delighted to have him here on Saga Sapphire. Attendances for the presentations have been fantastic as predicted. Tips have also been fully appreciated by the guests here onboard. Many have taken the opportunity to ask Brendan questions directly throughout the talks.


Upon embarking, our guests submitted recipes and photos for a bake off competition here on Saga Sapphire. The recipes were of course then handed in to our celebrity chef, Brendan Lynch and our Executive Chef, George Streeter who would then judge them. With only 4 entries, it’s such a fantastic opportunity for guests to learn skills from some of the best. Baking their recipes down in the galley has been quite an experience for our entrants, and I must admit we’ve all enjoyed sampling the creations down at afternoon tea. We are now down to the finalists where the bakers are now required to do a technical challenge which will help to decide the overall winner. The technical challenge which we’re all eager to watch will in fact be held in the Britannia Lounge at 1430 tomorrow. With the great success of the program I think it was inevitable this theme was going to be thoroughly enjoyed by all. I’m extremely excited to watch the final which I believe is being filmed by the photography team onboard, for a separate DVD. I’ve been watching the presentations on the in-cabin television, and I am of course reluctant to tell my wife this in case she expects me to bake some glorious creations.

Out on deck this afternoon the cruise team joined many guests as they started the mini Olympic tournament, the 1st of the three being deck quoits. Luckily enough the tournament was just before the winds started to pick up this afternoon. With a slight chill in the air the temperature was still nice enough to sit by the pool and enjoy a few fish and chips.

Main show time this evening was the fantastically talented ‘Divertimento Trio’ who I’ve had the pleasure of listening to several times whilst working for Saga. Shortly after the main show time our Explosive Productions vocalist Ru Cadell performed his cabaret up in the Drawing Room. On this cruise our late night venue has proven to be very popular. Many have danced the night away to sounds from the versatile Perfect Mood Duo. With almost as many new comers as Britannia Club members, it has been lovely seeing familiar faces as well as many new faces on this Western Mediterranean Explorer cruise.    

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.