Saga’s ocean cruises must rate as the most inclusive of all cruise line offerings. Your holiday starts when you are picked up from your front door. As well as door-to-door transport (or free parking if you choose to drive yourself) the fare also includes insurance, high-speed internet access via Starlink, drinks, unlimited speciality dining, 24-hour room service, gratuities and some shore excursions. Saga even offers complementary shuttle services at each port of call.
Food is also a major feature. As well as the main dining room and the buffet which, on some evenings, transformed into a relaxing table service restaurant, there are three speciality restaurants. Amalfi, as its name implies, is an Italian restaurant serving both traditional favourites and more unusual dishes. The Supper Club is an intimate location with musical entertainment offering some of the best steaks I have ever tasted. Guests can also pop by for a drink at the bar and enjoy the entertainment. However, my favourite was Khukuri House, a Nepalese restaurant with a great ambience and an enticing range of food. All three speciality restaurants are included in the fare.
I joined Saga’s Spirit of Adventure in the port of Funchal on the mountainous island of Madeira, famous for its cake, fortified wine, hazardous airport and spectacular mountainous landscape. The neighbouring marina was full of small boats and surrounded by gorgeous scenery. On the dockside there’s even a statue of the island’s famous son, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, and a museum dedicated to him.
After a day enjoying walks and great views in the warm winter weather, Spirit of Adventure set off overnight for Santa Cruz, La Palma, where we arrived early the next morning. It was Sunday and the town was full of people strolling along the pedestrian main street, sitting outside with drinks, enjoying ice creams, and checking out shops which were full of inexpensive but stylish and unusual items, such a contrast to the ubiquitous high streets in the UK.
After a relaxing day, a little light shopping and a swim in the ship’s pool, another overnight sail took us to La Gomera, one of the smaller Canary Islands. Its tiny capital, San Sebastian, has a pedestrianised centre next to the marina and is easily explored on foot for some gentle exercise in the sunshine.
When the Portuguese first came to Cape Verde in the 15th century the 10 islands were uninhabited. Shortage of water and barren landscapes made for a difficult way of life, but things have progressed since then.
Our first port of call was the island of Santiago, home to Praia, the country’s capital. It boasts three universities and the national library. It has a number of colonial buildings and is very much the country’s commercial and cultural hub. With more rainfall than the other islands, the interior has a greater diversity of flora and fauna and there are plenty of trees, unlike the holiday island of Sal where the ‘trees’ are mainly mobile phone masts in disguise. Santiago also has an airport, although the one on Sal handles international holiday flights from the UK and Portugal.
Another overnight sailing found us in busy Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente. Heavy traffic, crowded streets, fishermen selling their catches and multiple shops and bars give it a metropolitan feel with a strong African vibe, its focus being on island rather than tourist trade. The town beach proved popular with locals and just a few visitors.
Then it was a two day sail back to the Canaries. I popped up to the top deck to chat to one of the four people on board from ORCA, the charity that carries out whale and dolphin sightings. The three decades of data they have gathered has led to better protection for whales and dolphins, and Saga supports this activity by offering places to members on certain cruises.
Our next port of call was Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital and originally capital of all the Canary Islands. Since 1927 it has shared this honour with Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. Although a major business hub, Santa Cruz is an elegant and relaxed city with a large marina crammed with yachts. Again, the shops were filled with stylish and attractive items we don’t see at home.
Returning to the ship and my final night on board Spirit of Adventure, sailing to Lanzarote. The next morning I enjoyed my final buffet breakfast before my journey home.
Tel: +44 (0)808 258 0836
Number of Facilities on Board: Five restaurants, five bars, theatre, swimming pool, spa, gym, library, craft room, card room, high-speed internet access, two free-to-use laundry rooms including washing powder.
Number of Cabins: 554 balcony cabins of which 100 are designed for single occupancy; maximum 999 passengers.
Price Band: Medium to high but this is offset by the many items that are included which would incur extra charge on other cruise lines.
Insider Tip: For a unique dining experience try the Nepalese restaurant Khukuri House.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Mike Pickup is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer who covers all forms of travel including ocean and river cruising for UK national newspapers and magazines.
Photographs by Mike Pickup