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17th April, 2016


Mrs R, and every other passenger, departed on Monday and by 2 p.m. we were on our way again, completely without any fare paying passengers. A great number of crew have also gone on vacation as we are taking the ship to Hamburg where it will remain at the ship yard of Blohm + Voss for two months.

The run up the North Sea was in clear cruising weather and speed was adjusted to arrive at the Elbe River pilot station for 11 pm on Tuesday, the yard not wanting us off their designated pier until 6 a.m. on Wednesday. In fact that was put back an hour due to the delay on another vessel, so it was a long night for the operational teams. Pilots changed at Cuxhaven and Brunsbuttel during the early hours, then a docking pilot boarded just before 6. With a tug on the stern ‘applying the brakes’in a strong flood tide, we held back until the very large bulk carrier came clear of our spot, then slotted in. All secure by 7:30 a.m., the ship was soon boarded by various B+V personnel so that we could all sit down together and discuss the various requirements and plans for the coming weeks.

The main scope of work lies in the engine room, and this is to ensure Saga Sapphire will go on for a good number of years yet. MAN, the original engine builders, will be on board 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until completion.

With a gracious lady such as ours love and attention is required, not only to keep her to the standard that our Saga passengers expect, but also to remedy the ravages of time, wear and a salt laden atmosphere. Consequently Staff Captain Alex has designated the deck officers and deck crew with various responsibilities. All the lifeboats are ashore next to the ship and a team of guys is busy refurbishing them in relative comfort. Around the decks other teams seem determined to find any sign of rust, and are using tools that make all others realise the seriousness of their intentions.

In crew areas we have a team who are refurbishing cabin shower rooms, and contractors have started to drill holes in order to pass cables for the complete ship coverage of Wi-Fi. The funnel is now completely clad in scaffolding and, once stripped back to bear metal, will be repainted.

Ship yard preparations are just about complete and as from tomorrow, Monday, there will be many more workers on board. While all this will be taking place, our food and beverage teams will keep on top of the requirements of over 200 crew living on board. It is a tough call, but one which they have done many times before over the years. Very different from being in cruising service, but just as important.

I’m off back to ‘school’for some ‘updating’and then shortly after, vacation. Alex and another colleague arriving next month will be ‘Master and Commander’.

Captain Philip Rentell

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.