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12th May, 2016

Blohm + Voss yard, Hamburg

We bade a fond farewell to Captain Rentell who is now enjoying a well-earned leave with Mrs R – in his absence I was left to "man the fort" so to speak.

And quite a fort she is at the moment –our “Sparking Gem of a Ship” is not as sparkly as she usually is.

We’re into the middle phase of the operation now. We’ve torn down ceiling panels, ripped up carpets and even cut a huge hole in the ship’s side. We made the incision along the scar of an old wound that was sustained during our last Dry Dock in 2014 for the very same reason. Shiny new Galley equipment was placed into baskets and lifted to the ship’s side by one of the cranes that tower over the vessel –it was then positioned into place with some beautifully choreographed lifting and shifting and, dare I say, sprinkles of those quintessential condiments to success –brute force and ignorance!

Elsewhere on the ship we’re concentrating on the structure –it’s a rare opportunity to strip the vessel down to the bare bones, to see the very same pieces of steel that were skillfully assembled at a ship yard not far from here some 35 years ago. We’re replacing parts that have suffered from wear and tear over the years and, at the same time, planning ahead to ensure that the vessel is in the best shape for the foreseeable future.

If you were to ask my colleagues where I was on Tuesday and Wednesday, they’d probably tell you I was given a “night off”. The Chief Engineer, Hotel Director and myself were flown to Saga Pearl II in Stockholm for the six-monthly Senior Officer’s conference. It was a great opportunity to get everyone together from both ships, and Head Office, to discuss important issues such as safety, day-to-day operations and to cast our inquisitive eyes over the preliminary design of the new vessel.

I’m sure you’d be disappointed if I were to report that it was all work and no play…the F&B team put on a great spread for us and, as such, we were able to follow-up a day of productive meetings with a delicious meal, an after-dinner speech by Andrew Strong our Chief Executive, Travel and to end with a song to wish our Chief Operating Officer Stuart McQuaker a very Happy Birthday.

Stuart wasn’t the only one celebrating a birthday this week - I almost forgot to give a nod to Hamburg Harbour, it turned 827 last weekend. The locals put on a fantastic show to mark the festivities. Hundreds of vessels –all shapes and sizes, made their way up and down the river all weekend and the adorning banks were a hub of activity, packed with revellers enjoying the celebrations. I have to say, she’s looking remarkably well for it –she doesn’t look a day over 780!

Alex Downes

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.