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22nd December, 2014

Lisbon, Portugal

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 current in the port is always very strong and in order to berth we have to put the ship’s bow into the current. It’s called stemming the current and using the current over the rudder, and the bowthrust, we drifted Saga Sapphire into the quayside. Today, because the current was on the turn, ie was, ebbing (going out) and was now starting to flood, (coming in), I turned Saga Sapphire off the berth and we swung around. Because of the very fresh breeze and the two currents counteracting each other, both of these slowed the ship’s turn so despite plenty of power I asked a tug to give us a little nudge for a few minutes to speed up the turn. We were soon fast alongside.

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 two tours for passengers to take part in today, either ‘Lisbon Panoramic’, or ‘Lisbon City Sightseeing & Maritime Museum’. Passengers on this tour not only enjoyed an informative commentary during a relaxing panoramic drive through Lisbon, but went to the Jeronimos Monastery to visit the famous National Maritime Museum, which occupies one of the wings of the monastery. This important museum traces the history of Portugal’s domination of the seas, and has important collections devoted to the Age of Discovery when Portuguese navigators set off to discover new lands. The oldest exhibit is a wooden statue of the Archangel Raphael that Vasco da Gama took with him on his voyage to India. There are also large numbers of model ships, and full-size vessels that include the magnificent 18th- century Royal Barge, built for Queen Maria I.  This Royal Barge was used for over 200 years and has transported many famous passengers including Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and our own Queen Elizabeth II.

For those passengers who were not on tour, there was a complimentary shuttle bus service taking passengers from Saga Sapphire to the city centre, where they could explore the city at their leisure.

All were aboard by 6:00pm and we set sail. Once I had manoeuvred the ship off the berth I let Dan, our Chief Officer, take us down the River under my supervision as it gave an opportunity for him to gain experience and as expected he did extremely well.  We will now spend two days at sea enjoying the Christmas celebrations, so the evening began with a Christmas Sing-a-long in the Drawing room hosted by the Cruise Team with a special guest appearance from Santa and his helpers!

After dinner, the Christmas celebrations continued in the Britannia Lounge with party music from the Sapphire Orchestra and dancing led by our Instructor Olive. A cabaret performance by Vocal Comedy Entertainer Paul Frederick followed as part of our showtime. After this the Food & Beverage Department served a selection of festive treats including  Gluhwein, Eggnog and Hot Chocolate, along with some delicious mince pies. Whilst our guests enjoyed the food & drink, our classical musicians The Trinity Trio performed their version of the Nutcracker story.

At 11.30pm, we held our Christmas Eve Carol Service. Our Filipino choir opened the service in candle light singing O Holy Night and after this we sang a selection of traditional Christmas Carols to see us into Christmas day. After the service our onboard Chaplain Canon Jane Lloyd led a midnight mass for those who wished to take communion.

It was well past midnight by the time we retired, but the evening had been very enjoyable with still a lot more fun and celebrations to come on Christmas Day.

Captain Alistair McLundie

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.