Nigel Blanks, CEO of Saga Cruises
The UK-headquartered brand Saga Cruises’ dedication to ‘no-fly cruises’ ensures that all ocean cruise guests can step onboard their ships without having to negotiate airports and flights. And the travel operator is working on making this concept even easier for its cruise guests, says CEO Nigel Blanks.
“We have been prioritising small evolutions in our service recently, to make sure we continue to offer a first-class experience that guests know Saga for,” he explains. “For example, we recently expanded our very popular chauffeur car service for the 2024 season to 300 miles. That means guests are picked up from their front door and we worry about the rest, leaving them to enjoy their trip the minute they leave their homes.”
When Spirit of Adventure and Spirit of Discovery debuted in 2019 and 2021 respectively, Saga Cruises pioneered a commitment to providing balconies for all cabins on its ocean cruise ships, mirroring the access to the outdoors that guests were already experiencing on its river cruise vessels. Intimate travel is further enhanced by the fact that passenger numbers are under 1,000 on the ocean vessels.
Blanks says that 2024 will bring extended itineraries on these ships. “We have noticed a particular demand for longer ocean cruises, which we’ve reflected in our itineraries for next year,” he says. “We have some particularly exciting longer cruises in 2024 that are proving popular with Saga customers. One highlight includes Spirit of Adventure’s 30-night ‘Africa’s Atlantic Cruise’, which has a range of fantastic visits to newer destinations for Saga including Morocco, Senegal and The Gambia.
“Spirit of Discovery will also be setting sail on some longer itineraries with an amazing 26-night ‘Israel and Ancient Egypt’ sailing in September where guests will, amongst other excursions, have the chance to explore the ports of Ashdod, gateway to Jerusalem, and Haifa, with its Unesco-listed gardens.”
The ever-popular Caribbean will remain a staple for the brand too. “Customers can also search for some winter sun on a 30-night cruise to the Caribbean in November, calling at the popular islands of Barbados and St Lucia, as well as the hidden gems of Bequia and Montserrat,” says Blanks.
River cruising is proving to be a popular first step into cruising for new customers, with the company’s records showing 37 per cent more guests pre-registered for 2024 cruises compared to 2023.
“We’ve noticed that many of our river cruises in particular are popular with first-time cruisers,” says Blanks, highlighting that Saga has introduced a range of five-night ‘taster’ cruises for those wanting to try a river sailing.
“Our boutique ships and short itineraries around Europe are proving a great option for those new-to-cruise guests who are keen to try out a different kind of holiday before committing to longer ocean cruise,” adds Blanks, noting that new ship, Spirit of the Douro, will join the river fleet in March 2024. The vessel will operate on its namesake river throughout the full season and like its sister ships, Spirit of the Rhine and Spirit of the Danube, it will boast panoramic views, making it almost impossible for guests to miss the sights.
For all cruise operators, the Covid-19 pandemic was a challenging period, with the adaptability of operators tested to the limit. Blanks is happy with how Saga Cruises navigated the crisis and is upbeat about the future. “Demand for cruising has been high post-Covid, with strong bookings for us for the remainder of this year and into 2024,” he says. “Customer satisfaction is also a really important metric for us. This remains high and is continuing to improve across our ocean and river cruises.”
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.