Delightful France cruise on Saga Pearl II featuring Honfleur & Caen – Part 1
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After a safe chauffeured-drive
from home to Dover we were greeted by a sea fret. The town enveloped in a fine
grey mist. But fret we didn't and as we approached the cruise terminal the sun
came out and the familiar welcoming shape of our ship with its distinctive
newly painted bright yellow funnel came into view.
everything SAGA do, embarkation was painless and efficient. Before I could
mutter the words ‘SAGA Pearl II cruise code P2208 Delightful France
featuring Honfleur and Caen’, we were on board. Welcome to the happiest ship
Escorted to your
cabin and having hand luggage carried for you does add to the experience. This
gorgeous intimate ship had, back in late February 2017 taken us to the top of Norway. And we were rewarded
with a cruise culminating in seeing the Aurora Borealis on four
consecutive nights. This had been the most successful SAGA cruise ever to see the Northern Lights. Even saying their name
still warms the heart and puts a tingle down the spine. Visual Prozac- magnetic
particles of pure joy. The trip had been so good that when we heard that Pearl
II was leaving service in 2019 we had booked this short 4-day trip to France.
One last time to savour small ship cruising. A short cruise is ideal for cruise
virgins too. By the end of a trip travellers will know whether or not cruising
is for them.
SAGA Pearl II has
a snug as a bug feeling, cosy and warm. Sail with her and you get the services
of award-winning staff. It is the crew that can make or break a holiday afloat.
SAGA always delivers consistently excellent service. 5-star service from 5-star
people. Nothing is ever too much trouble and going the extra nautical mile is
their mantra. Pearl II is perfectly formed. A maximum of 449 guests are catered
for by a crew of 252 - a ratio that puts most cruise lines to shame. 99.6% of
holidaymakers rate the ship and cruise as either excellent or good. And the
superb experience results in repeat bookings that are almost the best in the
business. Complimentary chauffeur driven to and from the port is a winning
touch. The holiday begins at your doorstep enabling you to arrive in comfort
feeling fully refreshed.
On our last
searching for the Northern Lights cruise we were superbly looked after by Head Waiter
Vinnie. On our first night aboard, this time he recognised us and made a point
of coming over to welcome us back on board. He even remembered our names and
which cruise we had been on. Amazing! Throughout the four nights his service
was impeccable with great attention to detail and a smile and personality that
can melt even the sternest person. Like Vinnie many of the crew have worked for
SAGA for many years citing their caring attitude. They feel appreciated and
that is nice to know. Keep your staff happy and the rest of the business
becomes much easier. Simple.
stand for Send A Grandparent Abroad. True many on board have reached an age
where it is impossible to find a malt whisky older than themselves. And OMG now
stands for "Oh my gout". But there are many 50-60-year-olds on board
too. My wise lovely nanna Fay used to say 50 is the old age of youth and over
60 the youth of old age. But this melting pot of ages, heights and girths adds
to the cruise mix. All on board have one goal - an eagerness to discover the
world. Adventure not dementia. Interesting people with equally interesting
tales to exchange. Cruising is designed to feed body and soul and this ship is
the perfect companion in which to achieve this. Have fun, see the world (well
France on this trip) in comfort before there are no more wishes at the wishing
Cabin 110 was
exactly what we expected from such a first-class company. Spotless, large and
beautifully appointed. Light and airy and easily big enough to swing lots of
cats. Plenty of wardrobe space and masses of drawers - almost as many as IKEA.
Two very comfortable single beds and a double sofa too. A good size TV and DVD
player- DVDs can be hired from the excellent library.
I get annoyed
with hotels that provide piddling little towels that don't even cover your
confusion. OK for a 6st beanpole but nobody bigger and most people end up
larger at the end of a cruise. We were supplied with luxury white soft
towels that cover even the fullest of figures. And talking of quality all
toiletries are provided by a wonderfully named Distant Shores range. It was
nice to have a bath which filled in seconds with piping hot water - no need to
wait minutes as you often do on other cruise lines. Dressing gowns and fresh
fruit were nice extras too. Randy our cabin steward was excellent. He had been
with SAGA for 14 years which again says something good about the company. SAGA
- large enough to matter yet small enough still to care.
Food is life and
food on board can be summed up in 2 words- always superb. Executive chef John
McCerery and his team produced exquisite food, time and time again. Eat as much
or as little as you wish. It's your choice - no pressure. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon
tea, a 5/6 course dinner and canapes late in the evening. Still feeling
peckish? Try room service available 24/7. A tip; do expect to put on weight and
bring clothes with elasticated waists. Afternoon tea is oh so British.
Crustless sandwiches, scones, puddings, and lashings of tea and coffee. A
pianist adds to the charm.
Having your cake
and eating it is one of life's greatest pleasures. And there is plenty of cake
on board. Pastry chef Ace is so aptly named. His sugar free diabetic friendly
pud hit the right spot. So good that I had two. Gluten free? No bother - a
great choice daily. Free Wi-Fi and all on board gratuities are included in the
price too. As is a good choice of wines with lunch and dinner. Plus, unlimited
tea, coffee and fruit juices. No hidden extras!
life jacket drill went without incident. Many took the event much too seriously
though, arriving in the lounge dressed in winter outfits. Fleeces coats and bob
caps! In August? In summer? A dash of orange provided by the life jackets
firmly attached. One lady brought her medication along for the walk - in a
large carrier bag. Must be on plenty of drugs. She didn't look ill so maybe the
drugs are working? Not sure what she thought might happen in the less than 50
yards from cabin to lifeboat station on a ship sitting on flat as a pancake
water firmly secured in Dover's harbour. But it was fun to watch.
Just before we
set sail the clouds moved slowly out of the way and Dover basked in brilliant
sunshine. Slightly breezy with crisp and clear air. A glass of bubbly in hand
and a chance to meet crew and fellow passengers. An excitable and expectant
mood too. What could be better?
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