Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2023

77 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 Unescolisted 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.” Spirit of the Douro will join Saga’s river fleet in March 2024 and sail voyages on its namesake river, calling at destinations along the Iberian Peninsula INTERVIEW