Saga Sapphire & Spirit of Discovery in Dover

The 4th July 2019 had the former Saga flagship meeting the new one in their only time in either of their homeports before Sapphire leaves the fleet in May 2020.

Since I had seen Sapphire and Ruby on the same date in 2013 and the final joint departure of Sapphire and Pearl eleven months earlier, I headed to Dover to see this occasion.

Discovery had sailed on her showcase at lunchtime a day late on the 3rd and returned for 9pm after sailing past Saga HQ and tootled about. Sapphire arrived at 1am on the 4th and sailed almost three hours late.

Discovery is being named by The Duchess of Cambridge on the 5th but, unlike other ceremonies worldwide, there will be no fireworks and she’s already had what is usuallt the press jolly.

Instead she will sail on another showcase on the 8th followed by the fireworks at 9.45pm as she sets out on her maiden voyage on the 10th.

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New Visitor Centre Plans at Greenock

Plans have been approved for an iconic building on the banks of the Clyde at Greenock to welcome cruise ship passengers.

The plans, approved today (03.04.19) by Inverclyde planning board, are for a new visitor centre, restaurant and gallery at Greenock Ocean Terminal.

The overall project, led by Inverclyde Council, is part of the Glasgow City Region City Deal and aims to provide a new berthing facility and visitor centre to boost cruise ship passengers welcomed to Scotland through the Greenock facility operated by Peel Ports.

Now a key milestone, planning permission, has been granted.

In addition to the state of the art visitor centre welcoming cruise ship passengers from across the world, the plans also include a purpose built gallery celebrating the work of Inverclyde resident and artist George Wyllie (1921-2012) and a new restaurant with panoramic views across the Clyde.

As part of the outline business case published by Inverclyde Council, it is estimated that over 150,000 passengers could pass through Greenock Ocean Terminal delivering £26m in annual visitor and crew spend to the Scottish economy.

Inverclyde Council Leader Councillor Stephen McCabe said: “Planning application approval is an important milestone in the delivery of this project as part of the Glasgow City Region City Deal. The aim of the project is to boost the capacity at Greenock Ocean Terminal for cruise ships.  The addition of a restaurant and Wyllie Gallery will help to provide a year round attraction for visitors to Greenock and Inverclyde at this iconic building on the banks of Clyde.

“As a key City Deal project, the new visitor centre at Greenock Ocean Terminal aims to make a significant contribution to economic growth and international tourism across the wider city region area.”

Councillor David Wilson, Inverclyde planning board convener, welcomed the approval of the planning application. He said: “This is a welcome application and one the board where wholehearted in their approval. Inverclyde has a great deal to offer the visitor whether coming to Scotland by cruise ship from all over the world or visiting from other parts of the United Kingdom.  The new visitor centre, gallery and restaurant will enhance the offer to domestic and overseas visitors. The economic value of the cruise ship sector to Scotland is a key part of this project and its value to the country, particularly with the potential to substantially grow in future years, should not be underestimated.”

The proposal for a new Wyllie Gallery showcasing the life and work of the artist will also stage important exhibitions and events celebrating contemporary artists from across Scotland and further afield.

When the planning application was submitted, artist George Wyllie’s elder daughter, Louise Wyllie, said: “Inverclyde Council’s vision in realising this complex project is to be applauded.

“It has always been an ambition of The George Wyllie Foundation to celebrate and mark my father’s life and work in Inverclyde; an area which he loved and which was the lifeblood of all his art works.

“This exciting development at Ocean Terminal in Greenock marks a sea-change in the Foundation’s on-going voyage to mark his legacy as a ground-breaking artist and to make more people aware of his life’s work.

“Although making and creating art – be it music, plays or sculpture – was always a big part of his life, my father worked as a Customs and Excise officer for many years in this very spot. I know he would be thrilled that an world-class art space, designed by award-winning architect, Richard Murphy, was going to be part of a bigger picture which aims to inject new life into this area of Greenock.

Louise, who is also a trustee of the George Wyllie Foundation, added: “Giving access to arts for all was always part of my father’s approach to creativity and we can’t wait to get started on a host of exciting arts-for-all projects.”

The Greenock Ocean Terminal project to create a visitor centre and berthing facility is expected to cost £14.7m as part of the £1bn Glasgow City Region City Deal which is funded equally by the Scottish and UK governments.

The proposal for a new visitor centre landmark building for Greenock is being developed by Richard Murphy Architects, one of Scotland’s most celebrated architect firms. The company has won an unprecedented 22 RIBA Awards.

The visitor centre is scheduled for completion in 2020.

This link will take you to a digital fly through of the proposed new visitor centre.

The Glasgow City Region City Deal is an agreement between the UK Government, the Scottish Government and eight local authorities across Glasgow and the Clyde Valley. It will fund major infrastructure projects, create thousands of new jobs and assist thousands of unemployed people back to work, as well as improving public transport and connectivity, driving business innovation and growth and generating billions of pounds of private sector investment. The eight Scottish local authorities in the Glasgow City Region City Deal are: East Dunbartonshire Council; East Renfrewshire Council;  Glasgow City Council; Inverclyde Council; North Lanarkshire Council; Renfrewshire Council; South Lanarkshire Council and West Dunbartonshire Council.

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Carnival Comes to Southampton!

Finally, after having Carnival UK & pkc based in the city, the port of Southampton finally gets to see another Carnival ship after Fascination in 1994!

When they have sailed from the UK in the past, Dover has been their base. They return there briefly in June 2020 with Carnival Legend.

But three months later, on the 9th September, their newest ship, Mardi Gras, visits the home of Carnival UK!

A sister to Iona for P&O, she will no doubt berth in Ocean Terminal, which is currently undergoing phase 1 of a million pound upgrade to welcome Iona in May 2020, paid for in part by Carnival.

After a 9 night inaugural cruise from Denmark, she sets sail from Southampton on a 14 night trip across to New York.

I look forward to seeing the whale tail over the port!

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Inaugural

Mardi Gras Crossing

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ABP Southampton & Carnival Revamp Ocean Terminal

ABP have announced Ocean Terminal will be expanded to accommodate larger ships, including P&O’s new Iona, which enters service in May 2020. All ships scheduled to use that berth after Queen Mary 2 on the 4th November 2018 have been moved to another.


A £12 million package of investment to support further growth in the cruise sector is due to begin in October at the Port of Southampton.

The Ocean Terminal is being upgraded to accommodate the growing demand from cruise lines for ever larger ships to call at Southampton. This work, which will take just over a year to complete, will further strengthen the port’s position as Northern Europe’s leading cruise port.

This project, being carried out in partnership with Southampton-based Carnival UK, will enable P&O Cruises’ newest flagship to home port in Southampton from Spring 2020. Iona will be the next generation of P&O Cruises ships, and is the first British cruise ship to be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas), paving the way for the future of cruising. Iona is currently being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg and will be launched in May 2020.

ABP Southampton director Alastair Welch, said: “We continually invest in the port to adapt and develop to meet our customers’ growing needs, and we are committed to ensuring that this growth happens in the most environmentally sustainable way. We are very supportive of cruise lines embracing LNG power for their vessels.”

Carnival UK VP port & shore operations, Steven Young said: “Bigger ships introduce greater operational complexity and we are pleased to be working alongside ABP and our port community on this series of improvements to the terminal ahead of welcoming Iona in 2020.”

Iona is the first of two new vessels of this class for P&O Cruises, with the next ship on order to be delivered in 2022. The additional work to accommodate these new vessels, each of them with a capacity of 5,200 guests, will increase the passenger capacity at the terminal by 50%.

Along with infrastructure improvements to the quayside and within the terminal itself, the existing 2,000 roof-mounted solar panel facility will be expanded, further improving the port’s environmental credentials.

The Port of Southampton currently welcomes over 2 million passengers each year on more than 500 cruise calls. Each visit to the port generates around £2 million for the local economy. 

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Porto Sold For Scrap – Updated

Sad news breaking about this beautiful classic liner, whose luck ran out when Classic International Cruises went bust in 2012.

A baby at just 5,888gt, she began life in 1965 as Istra. Several owners and names followed until she was well known in modern times as Arion for CIC from 1999. In 2012 she, along with Princess Danae and Athena, were arrested.

Hope beckoned when Portuscale Cruises not only bought those three, but also rescued Funchal with the intention of either running them or chartering (Princess Daphne was sold for scrap). Arion was renamed Porto and had her dry dock, awaiting a charter. She waited and waited and waited, lasting 3 years longer than Lisboa (ex-Princess Danae) but sadly no offers came.

In June 2013, I was in Lisbon on the maiden voyage of the new Royal Princess and met up with Luis Miguel Correia, who took me to see her, as well as Lisboa and Funchal.

With Lisboa (ex-Princess Danae) 19th June 2013

19th June 2013

19th June 2013

19th June 2013

19th June 2013

The last time I saw her was when I was over for the three Cunard Queens and she looked just as glorious laid up alongside Lisboa.

6th May 2014

Rumours had been rife Portuscale ran into money troubles quite early on. Only Azores (ex-Athena, currently Astoria) was getting work. Even Funchal had no offers.

Porto was sold to Turkish breakers on the 13th September and is expected to be towed to Aliaga around the 15th October 2018. Another classic gone. 😥

28th October 2013

Update 21st October 2018: Porto departed from Lisbon on her final journey.

Update 5th November 2018: Porto beached in Aliaga.

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Port of Dover To Name Spirit of Discovery

Saga Logo

Saga has today announced that the official naming ceremony of Saga Cruises’ first new-build ship Spirit of Discovery will be held at the Port of Dover on July 5, 2019 – the first ship to be named at Dover following the completion of stages 1& 2 of the £250m redevelopment of Dover Western Docks.

“As the place that Saga’s first cruise ship set sail from more than 20 years ago, Dover was ‘the natural choice”, revealed chief operating officer Nigel Blanks, in London, on 18th September at an exclusive event with Jools Holland – the face of The Club by Jools’ on board Spirit of Discovery, the only small ship currently being built for a British Market.

“With Saga’s Group headquarters based in Kent, we felt it only right that we name our first brand new, purpose-built cruise ship in Kent and what better way to do that than with the iconic White Cliffs of Dover as a backdrop. Spirit of Discovery will be the first cruise ship to be named in the port for more than a decade and the first following the regeneration of the Western Docks. We are already planning a few surprises, and will no doubt add a few more before next year, so save the date, as we christen the first of our new-build fleet” Blanks added.

Spirit of Discovery’s maiden voyage will sail from Dover on July 10, 2019. The 999-guest luxury boutique ship will circumnavigate the British Isles.

“We are really excited about her first cruise as it’s a great way to show-off our first new boutique cruise-ship to the British market as we call in to iconic ports such as Newcastle, Edinburgh, Belfast and Liverpool,” said Blanks.

The inaugural cruise has already sold out and most other 2019 itineraries are well ahead of expectations with the 109 single cabins proving extremely popular. Spirit of Discovery’s destinations throughout summer 2019 include Spain, Scandinavia and the Baltic, as well as a four-night mini-cruise to Holland, Germany and Belgium.

In addition, Saga recently announced the company’s strategic decision to move to all-inclusive cruising as standard from 2020. Nigel Blanks said “the decision to go all-inclusive in 2020 had been made to distance ourselves further from the competition and mass cruise market”. He said: “I firmly believe this will not only sit very well alongside our ‘Boutique Cruising’ proposition but will reaffirm our position as Britain’s niche luxury cruise operator’.

Port of Dover Head of Cruise, Sonia Limbrick said: “It is a great honour, and we are thrilled that Dover Cruise has been chosen as the venue for the momentous naming ceremony of Saga’s new ship ‘Spirit of Discovery’.

“Having first sailed from Dover back in 1997 with the Saga Rose, their magnificent cruise ships have been a welcome feature of the historic Western Docks for over 20 years. With our exciting £250m redevelopment well underway, ‘Dover Western Docks Revival’ will offer a uniquely enhanced experience to the ship when she calls in 2019 and we are greatly looking forward to greeting her in Dover.”

Customers who would like to Sail on Spirit of Discovery during her inaugural season, or register their interest in Spirit of Adventure, can contact Saga on 0800 505030 or


Saga’s first purpose-built cruise ship Spirit of Discovery is the first of two new passenger ships being constructed at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenberg, Germany for Saga Cruises.

Spirit of Discovery will replace Saga Pearl II in July 2019 while the second ship, Spirit of Adventure, is planned to enter service in August 2020. Both ships will host 999 guests and 530 crew members.

The ships will be 58,250 gross ton vessels measuring 774.3ft in length and a maximum beam of 102.4ft.

‘The club by Jools’ is Saga’s first ever endorsed on-board steakhouse and bar. Saga customers will get to experience their own ‘evening with Jools’ during live performances from Jools Holland during our Channel Island Hop, Gourmet Spain and Natural Scandinavia cruises on-board Spirit of Discovery.

Money back guarantee
Saga is so confident that first-time guests will love life on board its award-winning cruise ships that it is offering early flights home and a refund of the cruise fare to anyone who does not enjoy the sailing.

The Saga Cruises Price PromiseWith Saga Cruises it pays to book early. Should we ever cut our prices or bring in a new special offer later on, we’ll work out the difference and pass the value of the saving back to the customer.

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70th Cruise!!!

I can’t believe I’ve done so many, though have slowed down a lot since my 50th on Norwegian Breakaway in 2013. That’s due to work and ongoing health issues over the past couple of years so getting my priorities right since I pay for them myself. No bloggers freebies for me!

It’s hard to believe, when I started with a short trip on the QE2 in 2006, I would ever do so many. My dad certainly thought I’d grow out of it within a couple of years. Yet here he is sharing this milestone with me on what is his second cruise.

And what ship do I celebrate on? The appropriately aged 70 year old Astoria! 😍 It’s only an overnight, booked so my dad could try her while she’s around since, at that time, there were no 2019 cruises. It wasn’t originally the 70th but others kept being added before it so worked out that way.

Some people are sniffy about short cruises, saying it’s not “real cruising”. Tell that to the cruise lines who sell them and add them to your loyalty club points.

For many it’s all they can afford or have time to do due to commitments, while others just enjoy the break away. Three nights on Black Watch after a horrendously stressful year when my mum was dying and I needed surgery, was just what I needed. So don’t knock it, snobby people! A cruise is a cruise whether one night or a thousand.

But back to my milestone as I aim for my 100th. I’m glad it’s on the beautiful Astoria. I have often been asked which is my favourite ship but I like so many I’ve sailed on. It took 34 to finally find it. I cannot explain why she beats the rest but I certainly hope Cruise and Maritime Voyages continue to charter her until she cannot go on any longer.

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