Sacre Bleu! Saga line up a third ship

//Sacre Bleu! Saga line up a third ship

bleudefrance.jpgThis sounds too good to be true, and maybe it’s just a dream, but I have been hearing whispers that there might be a surprising addition to the ships sailing for UK cruise lines. If my information is correct, Saga – who only this year introduced Saga Pearl II as a replacement for the much-loved Saga Rose – are lining up a third ship to join their fleet.
They are about to announce the acquisition of Bleu de France (above), a 37,000-ton ship which has had a chequered history since it was built in 1982 as Europa for the German company, Hapag-Lloyd. It became Superstar Europe for a while, and was later Superstar Aries, cruising in the Far East. In 2004 it was bought by Spanish cruise line Pullmantur, a division of Royal Caribbean, and four years later was given a £25 million refit before being transferred to subsidiary Croisieres de France.
Pullmantur does not usually keep its ships sailing in the Mediterranean during the winter, and this week, Bleu de France began a season of South American cruises for the Brazilian tour operator, CVC, Members of UK-based Ocean Liner Society sailed on a seven-night cruise aboard the ship from Marseille to Palermo, Malta and Ibiza in June.
I understand that if the Saga purchase goes through, the ship will be leased back to complete a season of cruises for its current owners next year, before undergoing another refit. It would be ready to sail under its new colours in early 2012.
Even with a reduced capacity of 700 passengers, it will be a huge leap in passenger numbers for Saga. The combined capacity of Ruby and Pearl II is 1,100, although before Rose retired they could carry a total of about 1,240.
According to Douglas Ward’s Berliz Guide for Cruising and Cruise Ships, Bleu de France has “a wide range of good-sized public rooms” including a casino, library and internet centre, karaoke room and children’s play centre. Not sure about the casino, but both of the latter would probably be converted to other uses for her new clientele. There are two outdoor swimming pools – one of them under a sliding glass roof – and a large indoor pool.
Cabins are spacious, but it is likely that the refit will include the removal of the third beds from many of them, and the probable conversion of others to provide accommodation for solo travellers. There are currently only six balcony cabins, and I would expect that number to be increased.
Saga’s only response so far is: “We are not making any comment about possible future additions to the Saga fleet.” I have not yet been able to get a reply from Pullmantur – it must still be siesta time.
If it happens, it will be a significant coup for Saga, which includes Susan Hooper and Robin Shaw – both former executives at Royal Caribbean – among their senior management team.
And it could open the way for Saga Pearl II to be transferred to become the second ship in the Spirit of Adventure fleet, which was the original intention for her before she was drafted into Saga’s colours

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:17+00:00 10 November 2010|Cruise News|2 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.


  1. C Harvey 11 November 2010 at 12:44 am - Reply

    This is certainly very interesting news and it would be good to see the former Europa returned to a more up market sphere of operation.
    I have heard rumours more recently that imply Saga wants to dispose of the Saga Ruby. Could it be that the arrival of the former Europa will hasten Saga Ruby’s departure from the fleet? I certainly hope not but she is 38 years old and by the time the former Europa joins the Saga fleet the Ruby will be 40 years old.
    There are rumours that HAPAG are looking to replace their present Europa with a new ship. So, how about this scenario;
    former Europa becomes the new Saga Rose in 2012 and sails as fleet mate to Saga Pearl II.
    Saga disposes of Saga Ruby ex Vistafjord.
    HAPAG sells the present Europa to Saga (replacing her with a new ship)
    and in 2013 the present Europa becomes the new Saga Ruby.
    At this time Saga Pearl II transfers to Spirit of Adventure with the present Spirit of Adventure being sold.

  2. Jonathan 11 November 2010 at 12:47 am - Reply

    Saga have had their eye on this ship for quite some time and about a year ago were rumoured to have concluded a deal to acquire the ship. The company at the time flatly denied they were buying the ship, although this is a frequent response from shipping companies until signatures are on the sale & purchase contract.
    Maybe they have gone ahead now because financing is more easier to obtain than it was a year ago. Anyway, I hope it is true because she is a good ship and deserves a good home rather than enduring a nomadic existence like some unwanted kid being shifted from foster home to foster home.

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