Saga Pearl II Tour Index
Saga Pearl II returned to Southampton on the 30th October 2014 after her usual summer season operating from Dover and I was about to visit.  I really liked what Saga had done to Saga Sapphire to the point I didn't want to leave, and was sure I'd enjoy this little one too.  Having sailed on ships from 15,271 to 155,873 tonnes, I proudly admit to preferring the smaller ones and at 18,591grt, this met the criteria of pure, unadulterated bias.  However, I had been spoiled by Saga Sapphire so would the reality of Pearl match the dream of cosy, spacious public rooms, lots of very important fabulous deck, wonderful crew and food?

As I had a broken foot, I couldn't go over on the ferry as usual, which was disappointing since she was docked in Ocean Terminal, so Aimee picked me up at West Quay.  Being used to seeing other ships alongside, Pearl was tiny, peeking out above the terminal and taking a fraction of the dockside.  Aimee got our passes then we went up and through security before boarding the ship.  We began on the Sun Deck and just wish there had actually been some in the sky!  At least it wasn't raining.  The decks were wet but there is enough grip on those and steps not to slip.  Down to look at some cabins on Bridge Deck as well as Sundowners Bar.  The bar has outside seating for those glorious sea days.  While Aimee had to do something, I went to find cabin 339 for my friend, Sean Clark.  Back in 1985, when he sailed on the ship as Astor from South Africa to Southampton with his family, it was 439 and a large double family cabin.  Now it's a single so if a lady had it on a long cruise, those wardrobes would be perfect for all the evening dresses.  

Due to still using keys, the cabin doors were easily accessible for a look.  Like Saga Sapphire, the general cabin grades were of similar size, inside and out.  The bathrooms have bath and detachable shower so you have a choice.  Since the tour groups would be ending in the Dining Room on the Promenade Deck, we decided to head there while it was still empty.  I loved this room.  While it's very nice and big on Sapphire, this just had the edge to me.  They use real flowers on the tables.  None of your cheap plastic rubbish for Saga.  Like Sapphire, it is open seating which means you can dine with who you like between 7-9pm.  At either side are two nooks called The Ward Room and The Chart Room where you can dine with an officer if invited.  From here it was the library, which houses over 3500 books.  It's refreshing to see so many in the days of Kindle when major cruise lines are reducing or removing them altogether.  You can also borrow DVDs, which are kept in the Board Room.  

At one entrance to the Library is a bust of William Shakespeare on one of the bookshelves, which was rescued from Saga Rose.  The future cruise sales can be found there while Shackleton's Bar and the Card Room are adjacent to the library.  Again, so much light really makes a difference to a room.  I can imagine how wonderful it would be just sitting there watching the world go by.  The Discovery Lounge is at the forward end of the ship.  One of my favourite rooms on Sapphire is the Drawing Room but I must admit, I preferred this.  It just seemed to fit the character of the ship and the seats were ridiculously comfy.  I could have put my broken foot up and stayed there all day but there were still places to see and lunch to have.  Next it was to C Deck to see the spa and gym.  The gym is next to the pool, which is very useful after an hour on the treadmill.  It's not as large an area as on Sapphire, but then Pearl is only half the size so it doesn't need to be.  

Up one deck and I found a launderette.  Every cruise ship really needs one these these at least.  I prefer washing my own clothes and if you spill something on yourself, it's much quicker to get it clean providing it's open.  This said 7am-7pm.  Lunch up in the Dining Room as time was rapidly running out.  Someone in one of the visiting groups had a birthday, was given a cake and sang at, which was really nice considering it was only a few hours onboard.  During a question and answer session the previous day on Sapphire with the Executive Chef, one response was there were different meals every day, whether it was a 7 or 70 night cruise.  That really is good to know.  There is nothing worse than the same thing but with a sauce or veg variation.  The food offered for lunch was simply amazing.  I have been on many ships (visiting and cruising) and this lunch was one of the best I've had.  I couldn't decide on dessert so had both.  The chocolate and hazelnut pudding with vanilla sauce is just what you need on a cold day.  The chocolate was perfect, you could taste the nuts with each bite and it was light rather than stodgy.  As for the Eton Mess....  Well I've never been a fan of cream, mainly due to the taste, but this was so good you wouldn't know it was.  Sadly it was time to leave and in answer to my question at the beginning, yes the reality did match up to the dream.  Pearl is a little beauty in every way.  She really is a fine ship to continue the Saga tradition.

Thanks to Aimee and everyone at Saga Holidays for their hospitality.  To see photos of Saga Pearl II sailing after this visit, click here.

Sun Deck
Bridge Deck
Promenade Deck
A Deck
B Deck
C Deck

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© Patricia Dempsey 30th October 2014
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