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20th May, 2017


After a 3 week busy leave with lots of house renovating (+ 2 rounds of golf!!) I returned to Saga Sapphire in Dover on 19th May. This was the day Captain Philip Rentell was finally “hanging up his hat” after 13 years with Saga and 47 years at sea – what a career.

At 1100 I put my cap on and escorted Captain Philip and Mrs Helen Rentell towards the gangway. At the top of the gangway Staff Captain Tom Schoefield met us and we then followed close behind the lovely couple as they made their farewell journey down the ship's gangway and towards the terminal.

Once in the terminal they were greeted by 100’s of waving crew who started singing “for he’s a jolly good fellow”. We arranged a lectern with the ship's articles for his final sign off, before heading to the awaiting chauffeur. Amongst the many well-wishers were Senior Management from Saga HQ. Philip and Helen slipped into the waiting Mercedes and quickly “popped” the cork on a fine bottle of Dom Perignon. As they speed away the ship's whistle was sounded as a final mark or respect.

With Captain Rentell’s farewell successfully executed it was time to focus on a Travel Agent trade event planned for the same evening. With 350 Travel Agents boarding for the evening it was our chance to showcase the Saga product and demonstrate our high level of service and outstanding crew. It was a very successful visit and they all went away with a very positive feel about Cruising’s “best kept secret”.

With an overnight in port, Saturday was the start of our 20 year Anniversary cruise. On the May 20th 1997, Saga's first cruise ship, Saga Rose sailed on her inaugural cruise to the Mediterranean from the Port of Dover.

What a great start to our 20 year anniversary with a special Cocktail party hosted by Chief Operating Officer Stuart McQuaker and myself. At 8.30 we set sail with a swift pirouette in the harbour, then an exchange of salutes with Saga Pearl II before we cleared the breakwater to hold position ¼ mile off the harbour entrance for a magnificent fireworks display. Saga Pearl II sailed shortly after us and held position close on our portside – what a spectacle this was, as can be seen from some of the photos.

At 9.45 with the fireworks complete we headed off on a Sw’ly course for our 17 night voyage to the Mediterranean, re-visiting ports that featured during the 1997 inaugural cruise on Saga Rose.

Captain Julian Burgess

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