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Spirit of Discovery blog

A Mediterranean Anniversary Celebration

16th October, 2021

29th September Departure Southampton

As we said goodbye for now to some guests, we welcomed new and familiar faces on board for Saga’s 70th Anniversary, and as a company there was a buzz about the ship.

Newcomers eager to experience the Saga way of cruising…. (A good afternoon nap in the library for some after their journey).

As the day came to a close and the sail away party was in full swing, we slipped our lines and headed off!

Whilst heading down Southampton waterways both guests and crew where able to experience a remarkable display of fireworks from a barge off the portside.


Spirit of Discovery continued under pilotage down towards the Isle of White where we would eventually drop off the pilot at the west of the Nab tower and be full away to our first port of call Cadiz, Spain.

30th September At Sea

First day of our 70th Anniversary Cruise to the Mediterranean,

Spirit of Discovery is now underway down to the Mediterranean, where the weather is certainly a lot warmer than the Costa Del Solent.

Making her way through the English Channel before making the turn to port and heading SW for the next 24 hours across the Bay of Biscay towards Finisterre Traffic Separation Scheme.

During World War 2 the German U-boat men often referred to the Bay of Biscay as the Valley of Death as more than 70 German subs were sunk in its waters by the Royal Air Force.

Nautical Nugget: “Three Sheets to the Wind!” - This expression meant that one did not have control of the vessel because one had lost control of the sheets or lines. Today the expression is more commonly used to refer to someone who is inebriated.

1st October At Sea

The morning started with our guests having the opportunity to have a Q&A with our Saga Cruises CEO, Mr Nigel Blanks and Mr Horst Pint, Hotel Operations Director.

The guests seem to be enjoying the onboard activities such a deck quoits, craft classes, line dancing with some of our Spirit of Discovery show cast, and also the warmer weather as we head South down the coast of Northern Spain and Portugal. With the sun setting on a fantastic day of fun, pampering, and entertainment the lights come down and it’s SHOW TIME with Spirit of Discovery’s very own onboard talent bringing SWING, SWING, SWING to the mix

Nautical Nugget: “Sky Scraper” - This word is most commonly used to describe a tall building. It originates from the term for a small, triangular-shaped sail that was set above the other sails on the old square-rigged vessels. They were so tall they seemed to scrape the sky.

2nd October At sea/ Lisbon

Spirits are very high on Spirit of Discovery as we embark on our 3rd sea day down the Portuguese coast where we met a number of pilot whales, and dolphins coming to play with our ship as she steamed along.

With a very quick pit stop into Lisbon, where we were able to stick our nose in up the river and have a little gander at the River Tagus which is one of the longest rivers on the Iberian Peninsula.

The River originates at Sierra de Albarracín, Eastern Spain, at a point about 90 miles from the Mediterranean coast, and flows westward across Spain and Portugal for 626 miles to empty into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon. Its drainage basin of 31,505 square miles is only exceeded on the peninsula by that of the Ebro River, to the northeast. The Tagus covers the heart of Portugal and Spain and has been of vital importance to the modern economic development of the two nations. Our peek at the Tagus was an enjoyable break from the magical view of nothing but water around the vessel, and enough excitement for the team navigating the narrow stretch of water!

We continue down to our first actual port of call Cadiz, Spain.

Nautical nugget for the day: “As the Crow Flies” The most direct route from one place to another without detours. Before modern navigational systems existed, British vessels customarily carried a cage of crows. These birds fly straight to the nearest land when released at sea, thus indicating where the nearest land was.

3rd October Cadiz

Coming up to the Cadiz pilot station our skilled navigators on the bridge, Chief Officer Bradley and 3rd Officer Adam, had confirmed with the pilot 2 hours prior to our arrival at 0700 local time (GMT+2 or CEST).

Berthing was planned for 0800 local time where the Spirit of Discovery had all lines out on Alfonso XIII berth portside to...

Cádiz is a city with a rich history. The Phoenicians called it ‘Gadir‘, which means ‘walled stronghold’. Meanwhile, the Berbers changed the word into ‘Agadir’ or ‘walls’. According to Greek legend, Hercules founded the city after his tenth labour and named it ‘Gadeira’. The Moors called the city ‘Qadis’ when they ruled for 500 years!

Although being the ‘walled stronghold’, Cadiz was attacked many times by English Pirates for almost 200 years.

For many of England’s famous marine adventurers, Cádiz was their favourite city to attack. In 1587 Sir Francis Drake made his mark by destroying and capturing many ships, which apparently delayed the Spanish Armada by a year. Then in 1596, Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite, the Earl of Essex, burned the city to the ground.

A wonderful assortment of tours setting out around Cadiz throughout the day, as well as some of our guests going up to the wonderful city of Jerez for a spot of sherry tasting. (That’s my kind of tour!)

Flying over Cadiz

Once all were on board our Staff Captain Andy Makinson was given the opportunity to manoeuvre our extravagant ship Sprit of Discovery in what was a challenging manoeuvre off the berth and out the narrow channel in some rather strong winds.

4th October At Sea

Another stunning sea day after transiting the Gibraltar Straits through the night.

As the link between the Atlantic and Mediterranean and further onto the Suez Canal, Gibraltar is considered to be one of the busiest waterways across the globe. There is a vessel passing through the straits once every five minutes, (over 120,000 ships per year) with countless smaller boats and yachts passing through frequently and is our first big step as we finally make it to the Mediterranean for our Mediterranean Anniversary Celebrations!

Continuing into the Mediterranean, following all the busy Mediterranean trade, Asia trade, and Middle Eastern trade up to our next port of Mahon, Minorca!

Nautical Nugget: “PIPE DOWN!” - This original nautical term was used as an officer’s whistle sound, denoting the completion of an above-deck work shift, and thereby giving permission to go below.

5th October Mahon, Minorca

The long, twisted, very narrow channel up to the port of Mahon in Minorca was skilfully navigated up the waterway by the bridge team with Chief Officer Bradley and 3rd Officer Adam ensuring Spirit of Discovery made it safely between the narrow gaps between rocks, buoys and other land masses.

The bridge team

Today was a great day not only for our guests going ashore on organised excursions, but also a fantastic day for our crew!

In line with Saga’s Covid-19 plan and risk assessments the crew where able to go on a crew tour to a secluded beach around 25 minutes bus ride from the port.

So many happy faces retuning to the ship as many of our crew have not had the chance for over 5 months to step foot ashore in any of the ports due to COVID restrictions and COVID management on board.

Water jet spray

The most fascinating pieces of trivia, about Minorca is that mayonnaise originally came from the island’s capital, Mahon – hence Salsa Mahonesa. During an 18th-century occupation by the French, the famous eggy condiment was taken back to Paris where it was presented at a victory banquet. The rest, as they say, is history.

6th-7th October Toulon

The Pilot was scheduled for 0730 local time… Arriving Starboard side alongside to Mole Nord in La Seyne Sur Mer. (Not our originally planned berth!) This was due to the wind increasing substantially. Spirit of Discovery sat alongside, with one Azi Pod running throughout the day to ensure she would sit comfortably alongside and allow our tour operations to continue seamlessly.

The forecast was for the wind and seas to settle overnight. So, to ensure our guests and crew would have a good night’s sleep and not spill any drinks over dinner, the decision was made to keep the Spirit of Discovery alongside in Toulon with an early afternoon departure the following morning. This still gave us a lovely evening of high winds, but following seas all the way to our next port in Cataluña situated in the North Eastern part of Spain, Barcelona!

Lido pool

8th October Barcelona

Picking up the pilot at 0700 local time (CEST) for the short approach of only 3.4 nautical miles from the pilot station to Berth ‘Moll de Barcelona Terminal Sud’ just off the World Trade Centre, with a quick spin to ensure an easier get-away on departure.

Barcelona is a big hot spot for the ‘big toys’, and one of the world’s largest yachts really stuck out. At 162.5 meters or (531 ft.) it belongs to the owner of Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich, businessman and former governor of Chukotka; Motor Yacht Eclipse is undergoing a wet dock period.

Construction of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s magnum opus Sagrada Familia began in 1882. To this day the basilica remains unfinished, but there has been a completion date set that coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the architect’s death (who is, unsurprisingly, buried inside!). Conversely, Egyptologists estimate that the Great Pyramids of Giza were constructed with ancient tools in the span of 10-20 years. So, as it stands, those siestas are really slowing progress!

Spirit of Discovery arriving in Barcelona

With everyone back on board we brought in our last lines and set sail under the short pilotage with one of the local tugs seeing us off with a water jet spray. To the island of Palma de Mallorca!

Spirit of Discovery arriving in Barcelona

9th October Palma de Majorca

After a speedy arrival into Palma de Mallorca home to Saga’s very own Captain Kim Tanner.

Majorca has an amazing range of cave systems, with the most impressive being the Coves del Drach on the east coast of the island. This underground world is filled with an array of giant stalactites, stalagmites and shimmering underground lakes.

However as some of our guests prefer a more tranquil setting on the island and, instead of discovering the vast underground caves of Palma, there was nothing better than going on a Wine Discovery tour of the island instead! And as I’ve already mentioned, that’s my kind of tour!

Slipping our lines from berth 1a Alineacion del Muelle de Poniente Sur – Terminal 1, the ship was admirably manoeuvred off the berth by our Staff Captain Andy Makinson. Swinging the ship to starboard to drop off the Pilot and underway to our next port of call, Malaga!

10th October At Sea

At sea, cruising through the Mediterranean once again, looking forward to calling at Malaga and Lisbon before our Anniversary cruise comes to a close. What a pleasure it has been to be a part of such celebrations.

Kind Regards
3rd Officer Jack Yeo

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.