For the time being, here is Saga’s Press release verbatim. Fuller story to follow as soon as possible. Schedule has Saga Pearl II making an 18-night inaugural cruise leaving Southampton on March 15, 2010, after a £14 million re-fit.
Saga Rose the flagship of the Saga cruise fleet has been a firm favourite with Saga cruisers – maintaining a tradition of classic cruising and carrying well over 100,000 people to great destinations across the globe. There has been a series of very special final cruises, which culminate in the farewell cruise departing Southampton on 30th October heading for the Mediterranean.
Finding the right ship to take the Saga fleet forward was never going to be an easy task. We had identified the Astoria as the ideal ship to join our fleet – but just as we were about to conclude the purchase earlier this year the ship’s owners went into receivership. Having found the right ship we did not want to give her up and yesterday our patience and tenacity were rewarded when we heard that we had been successful in purchasing the Astoria at auction in Gibraltar.
The ship will be re-named Saga Pearl II – in homage to the original Saga Pearl, which sailed under the Saga flag until 2004 when she was replaced by Saga Ruby.
Saga Pearl II will match the classic style of Saga Rose and will build on the success of the Saga cruising brand. Her inaugural cruise will be on 15th March 2010 departing Southampton and heading for the magic of the Norwegian cost and the northern lights in the high arctic.
Andrew Goodsell, Executive Chairman, Saga Group commented:
“I am very excited that we at long last have Saga Pearl II. She is a lovely a mid-sized ship true to the Saga tradition and a perfect addition to our fleet. In her traditional Saga livery she will carry no more than 446 passengers. The ship will have an intimate atmosphere and a personal service with the attention to detail that our passengers have come to expect. Regular Saga cruise passengers will find many familiar faces on board, as the officers and crew of Saga Rose will transfer to the new ship.
A multi-million pound refit will ensure that the ship is fabulous throughout. What’s more, there will be many new features including the addition of new balcony cabins. I am sure that Saga Pearl II will win the hearts of Saga cruisers, just as Saga Rose did a decade ago.”
The ship will undergo a comprehensive £14m refit in Europe over the winter. The refit will include the creation of balcony cabins and the superior classical Saga ambiance that our customers enjoy; upgrading the show lounge, spa and two swimming pools; creating one of the best libraries afloat; and, new kitchens to support the gourmet dining experience in the stylish single-sitting dining rooms – including a new elegant Veranda Restaurant.
She will also have a special coating applied to her hull which will enable her to travel with greater ease through the sea and will significantly reduce fuel consumption and lower her carbon footprint.
Saga’s plans to buy the Astoria earlier this year were at the time scuppered when the former owners of the Astoria ran into financial difficulties and she was impounded in Barcelona. The ship was eventually taken to Gibraltar and sold at auction on 4th August.
Saga Pearl II will accommodate 446 passengers in great luxury and they will be served by 269 officers and crew. She is an 18,591 tonne ship which is 539 feet long with a beam of 74 feet and a draft of 20 feet. She was built in Germany in 1981 and was originally launched as the Arkona and later named Astoria.