Shipyard strikes blamed for delay to Saga Sapphire’s maiden voyage

//Shipyard strikes blamed for delay to Saga Sapphire’s maiden voyage

SagaSapphire.jpgThere’s good news and bad news for Saga Cruises and passengers looking forward to embarking on the maiden voyage of the company’s newest ship next week.
The good news is that the vessel is on its way to Southampton after a multi-million pound, four-month refit which has transformed the former Bleu de France into Saga Sapphire. The bad news is that, largely due to a series of strikes by shipyard workers at the Fincantieri yard in Palermo, the work over-ran.
The new jewel in Saga’s crown may be glistening, but she will have to delay her maiden voyage, which will now be cut from 23 nights to 16. The ship will be arriving in Southampton next Monday (March 26) on the day it should have been setting out in a blaze of fireworks for a cruise to Venice.
Over the following seven days, final work such as fitting soft furnishings will have to be completed before Sapphire can enter service. The maiden voyage will now depart on April 2, with an abbreviated itinerary
A Saga spokesman told me that the shipyard in Sicily where work was being carried out had been involved in strike action completely outside Saga’s control. “We had built in generous time for contingencies and have had a team of designers, fitters and technicians working around the clock to make up the time that has been lost but unfortunately, the strikes have meant that the ship has been late leaving Italy and this is going to have an impact on the start date of the inaugural cruise.
Saga has contacted all passengers booked on the maiden voyage. “Clearly there has been disappointment – which we understand and share, said the spokesman, “but there has also been great understanding that the issues that arose were beyond our control and the decision to delay was taken with the best interests of customers in mind. We want them to have the best possible experience on their holiday.
“We have tried to keep as much of the original cruise as possible and minimise the disruption – so we have kept the end date intact and will delay the start offering a revised itinerary. This has been carefully arranged to make sure that we can make the most of a variety of interesting ports of call whilst reducing the cruise from 23 nights to 16 nights.”
The revised itinerary is not yet clear. The original schedule included calls at El Ferrol and Cartagena in Spain; Palma, Majorca; Valletta, Malta; Dubrovnik, Sibenik and Hvar, Croatia; Venice, Corfu, Rome, Gibraltar and Lisbon. Sapphire will be back in Southampton on April 18.
A reception on board the ship this Friday, with actor Nigel Havers as guest of honour, has been cancelled.
Saga Sapphire, described in the company’s 2012 brochure as “a timeless ship with a modern twist” will carry 706 passengers. Originally built in 1982 as Europa for Hapag Lloyd, it was most recently operated by CDF Croisieres de France with a capacity of 752.
As well as removing and upgrading cabins, the work Saga has carried out has included installing a multi-level atrium and fitting out new restaurants and galleys.
â–ºConstruction of Oceania Cruises’ Riviera was also affected by striking Fincantieri workers. Its launch has been delayed from April 24 to May 14.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:52+00:00 21 March 2012|Cruise News|6 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. Old Salt 22 March 2012 at 9:24 am - Reply

    It is disappointing that the maiden voyage has been cut short, especially as it means we will not now get as far as the Adriatic. Having said that, I am sure the ship will be a splendid addition to Saga and my wife and I are looking forward to the maiden voyage even though we do get an unexpected extra week at home first. Like a lot of Saga passengers we have travelled widely in recent years. It’s the ship that matters and where we go is almost an irrelevance.

  2. SKI Sunday 22 March 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Yes, a week at home and in the garden when I was expecting to be out on deck braving whatever the Bay of Biscay had to throw at me. But at least I can use the refund from Saga to offset what George Osborne took away from me in yesterday’s budget

  3. Felix Kelly 22 March 2012 at 11:03 am - Reply

    re:comment by ‘Old Salt’ To my wife and me the destination is of most importance in the voyage. Could it be that ‘Old Salt is associated with the crew to make such a stupid comment. Incidentally, all passengers were not contacted by 21st – I received my contact at 10.30 this morning (22nd). Hope the PR staff can get their act together before any further inconvenience to passengers paying high prices which should warrant better service.

  4. Sally Elves 22 March 2012 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    I agree with Felix Kelly. I am extremely angry that the customer service “executive” who was going to contact me “shortly” still hasn’t. Indeed, the destination is the most important part of the cruise, and the revised cruise is a very expensive alternative, particularly as it doesn’t take in any of the places for which we had specifically chosen the original cruise, and now goes only to places which have little appeal. Saga need to get their act together and make some form of good will gesture before they lose a lot of their, hitherto, loyal customers.

  5. Rodney de Cani 26 March 2012 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Monday morning sitting at my Laptop instead of travelling down to Southampton.
    I have been praising Saga for many years now at the Tarvin Bus Stop with the other OAP’s all taking advantage of their free bus passes. I may even have been the catalyst for some of them changing their cruise line, but this morning when asked why I was taking the bus to Chester and not the car to Southampton I had to come clean.
    We had no idea that the cruise was to be delayed having had regular bloggs from Saga on how well the refit was going and what wonderful carpets and decor’ etc we were to enjoy on our cruise. No mention of delays or labour problems with the refit. We weren’t priviledged to this information until we received the phone call a few days ago. How does it affect us?
    1.My wifes birthday (No 70) was to be celebrated onboard on the 27th.
    2.We arranged for money for 3 weeks not 2 weeks
    3.We arranged for garden care whilst we are away.
    4.We obtain clothes etc for 3 weeks not 2 weeks
    5.We purchased guides for places no longer included on the cruise.
    6.We ran down the food cupboard and refrigerator. We have had to do additional shopping for the further week at home.
    The knowledge of the delay in comleting the refit doesn’t happen overnight and the managers of the project would have been able to forcast a revised completion date. This information should have been passed on to the passengers. If we had known of the possibility of a delay we would have had a different approach to our preparations with less expense.
    How ever after all this moaning we are still looking forward to the cruise but hope that there will be no further surprises before next Monday and will be saying good things to the bus queue on our return to Tarvin.

  6. Cbird 7 April 2012 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    My parents are aboard and I agree ports are very important!! They chose this cruise because it was visiting places they had never been and it took in their diamond wedding anniversary. A special trip has been spoiled, the compensation offered is totally unacceptable, a large gesture of goodwill is deserved and should be forthcoming without further excuses, as it would be from other cruise lines.

Leave A Comment