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23rd May, 2014


Hallo readers. I am Captain Kees Spekman.

On 19 May, Dover, I took over command of Saga Sapphire from Captain Philip Rentell, who went from here on a well-deserved leave. A day of hand over of command is always a very hectic one. Meetings to be attended, authorities to be met, the master to master exchange of information, etc. As the passengers of the past trip disembark and the new passengers embark the ship itself is a hive of activities. Cabins to be prepared, stores, fuel, potable water etc. to be loaded, contractors carrying out essential maintenance and repaired to be assisted. All this to be ready to sail for the new cruise at 4 pm the same day. All this was achieved and we departed the port as per schedule. The weather was glorious, so a wonderful sail away with a back ground of a retreating Dover and of course the white cliffs. Soon we crossed over to the mainland side of the English Channel and proceeded along the French, Belgian, Dutch and German coast to the entrance of the Kiel Canal. The weather was very nice during this sailing with clear skies and light winds.

Time at sea sees lots of activities organised by the cruise staff, lecturers, instructors, and other personnel starting after breakfast. These take place all through the day. On 20th May we arrived at the Elbe pilot at 2:00pm. Here we boarded the river pilot who guided us to the entrance of the Kiel Canal. During this transit we were informed that our slot for the entrance lock would not be until 8:00pm that evening. The reason was high traffic and maintenance work taking place, which reduced the availability of all the locks. When we arrived near the entrance we were advised to go at anchor at the roads just near the entrance and await our turn. During this waiting we experienced several short partial power cuts, which did not affect the passengers, but made me very cautious about making a transit through very narrow waters. For this reason the Chief Engineer had to thoroughly investigate what CAUSED THIS. He found the cause, corrected the faults and at 11:00pm informed me that we were ready to sail again. We informed the local authorities that we were ready. The river police had other ideas. They insisted on a survey by an independent inspector to ensure that all was ready as the ship stated. So an independent surveyor was found who attended early in the morning, carried out the inspection and found all in good order. By this time we had lost our slot and several ships had a spot ahead of us. At midday on 21st May we were allowed into the first locks. Again the weather was beautiful with clear skies and light winds, the perfect weather to make the transit. We sailed stately through the Canal with a speed of about 7 to 7.5 miles an hour, which made the experience magical. We arrived at the other end in the dark at 11:00pm. At this time our way was lit and made it all another experience. After leaving the exit lock we proceeded to the pilots station and were soon on our way to Stockholm. Due to the delay we could not follow the itinerary as published, but we were able plan a good stop in Stockholm and Helsinki.

But first we had a relaxing day at sea at sea. This day had the sea-day activities. After breakfast the dance, arts and craft, bridge and fitness instructors, Lecturers and cruise staff organised and hosted the nay activities. The evening started with the welcome cocktail party followed by a formal dinner.

After dinner the Britannia Lounge hosted after dinner dancing followed by a performance of Explosive productions presenting “Come On Over To My Place. This was followed by music for dancing by The Perfect Mood Duo in the Drawing Room and late night musical melodies by Lloyd Hulme at the piano in the Cooper’s Bar.

The ship arrived at Stockholm pilot station on 23 May at 7:00am under a clear sky and light winds. The passengers were informed the night before about the treat of seeing the ship navigate through the island on her way to the port. The decks were full of people enjoying this experience. The ship arrived at the berth at 11:00am.

Stockholm, only seven centuries old, is the capital of Sweden, the seat of the national parliament, the country’s financial and business centre. Stockholm began at “Gamla Stan, the old Town, originally three islands. It has now spread outwards over 14 islands, which are connected by 40 bridges. The different islands create the illusion of a series of miniature cities, only distantly connected. Soon after arrival the authorities had cleared the ship and the passengers were free to go ashore. The shore excursions today were.

Drottningholm Palace. The palace, located on an island in Lake Malaren to the west of Stockholm, was as immaculately created as Versailles or Nymphenburg, with formal baroque gardensfilled with statues, fountains and flower beds and resplendent interiors. It is the first Swedish site placed on the World Heritage List and the permanent home of the King and Queen of Sweden.

Modern & Historic Stockholm. Stockholm, located at the point where Lake Malaren meets the Baltic Sea, was founded as a fort in the 13th Century. With expansion it spread over more than 12 islands and onto the main land. The city encompasses five unique districts, each with its own special character. This tour shows you around these. Some of the sights are Fjalgaten ( a popular hill with a splendid view over the city), Sergels Square, the national museum, Riddarholmen ( the Islands of the Knights), Riddarholmen church (Final resting place of Sweden’s kings and Stockholm’s only preserved medieval monastic church), Gamla Stan Stockholm’s oldest quarter), Coronation church ( location of numerous royal weddings and state occasions), the great square and the former Stock Exchange. Waterways of Stockholm. The best way to appreciate the splendour of Stockholm and its many outlying islands is by boat. As you glide along the many waterways, you can enjoy the city from a different perspective and sail past the national park of Djurgarden. A simple and most enjoyable way to acquaint yourself with the “city that floats on water”.

Stockholm Panoramic Tour. This is the opportunity to enjoy a moving panorama of sights, described above, from the comfort of your coach during this tour of Stockholm.

For the passengers who wished to explore independently there was a shuttle bus to the town centre. Alternatively one could walk there in about 15 minutes.

For the passengers on board the cruise staff had organised and hosted several activities.

All aboard was 4:00pm today. Soon after all passengers were accounted for we left the beautiful port and town of Stockholm retracing our courses we followed in the morning through the flat calm waters of the archipelago to the pilot station. After disembarking the pilot we set course for Helsinki. The evening started with cocktails and music in the Drawing Room and the Cooper’s Bar followed by dinner. After dinner the Britannia Lounge hosted after dinner dancing followed by a performance of Opera Singer Kate Dowman and Comedian and Magician Adam Heppenstall. This was followed by music for dancing by The Perfect Mood Duo and a performance by Explosive Productions Vocalist Gareth Evans in the Drawing Room and late night musical melodies by Lloyd Hulme at the piano in the Cooper’s Bar.

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.