Engine problems force Saga Sapphire to abandon maiden cruise

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Saga-Sapphire.jpgEngine problems have forced cruise ship Saga Sapphire to abandon its maiden voyage. The vessel is in harbour at Valencia, Spain, awaiting repairs and passengers will be flown home to the UK on Monday.
The new flagship of Saga Cruises’ fleet should have been returning to Southampton next Wednesday (April 18) at the end of an inaugural cruise which was delayed by a week because its multi-million pound refit overran, but passengers due to join the next voyage have now been told they will be flown to Marseille on April 25.
Plans for a gala welcome in Lisbon tomorrow (Sunday) have been abandoned and will be re-scheduled for May 3 when it is expected Sapphire will be in the port together with sister ships Saga Ruby and Saga Pearl II.
Saga announced in November 2010 that they were buying Bleu de France – originally built 30 years ago as Europa – and in March last year confirmed it would be re-named Saga Sapphire. They took delivery in November 2010 and the ship spent four months at the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Sicily for an extensive refit.
Strikes among workers concerned about redundancies were blamed for the delay in completing the work, which included reducing the number of cabins – cutting passenger capacity from 752 to 706 – and creating new restaurants and bars.
The work was also expected to include an overhaul of the main engines, and maintenance of the tailshaft, rudder and propellers.
A spokesman for Saga confirmed that a problem had been encountered with one of the ship’s two main engines when Captain Alastair McLundie realised it was not operating properly. While it would have been possible to continue to run the ship on only one engine, a decision was taken to cut the cruise short for repairs to be carried out.
Replacement parts are being flown to Valencia and the company is carrying out what it describes as a “forensic engineering inspection” to discover the cause of the problem.
Passengers will receive a full refund for the cost of their abbreviated cruise, plus a discount for a future booking. They are also being entertained royally while they remain on board – hotel director Horst Pint has already had to send out for emergency replacement supplies of champagne.
Original fares for the 23-night maiden voyage ranged from about £3,500 to more than £10,000. Passengers booked on the next voyage will miss two of the planned ports of call, and will receive a 50 per cent discount on the fare paid.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:50+00:00 14 April 2012|Cruise News, Cruise Ships|19 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.

19 Comments

  1. Carol 14 April 2012 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    My parents are on the ship and have nothing but praise for Saga and their staff saying that everyone had bent over backwards to make sure the passengers enjoyed themselves.
    They have thoroughly enjoyed the cruise saying that Saga Sapphire is a beautiful ship and they have enjoyed all the ports visited even if they were unexpected. They are happy with the treatment they have received from Saga and will be booking another cruise with them soon.

  2. Margaret 14 April 2012 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Hi – we have had changes to so many saga holidays we just look forward to the refunds! We feel we have always been treated well. Spirit of Adventure breaking down led to our best cruise ever to the Arctic on Ruby, Christmas Markets changes on Pearl meant we were hardly ever sober with the free-flowing wine! We are booked on the next Sapphire cruise. I’ll let you know if there are any more changes

  3. James the Chauffeur 15 April 2012 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    We do a lot of transfers for Saga into Southampton and Dover as well as their long-haul flyers into Heathrow. Never hear complaints from the passengers and Saga treat us suppliers well (although their rates are meagre)and keep us informed as to issues such as this. Looking forward to hearing the passengers stories tomorrow.

  4. Bill Filmer 17 April 2012 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    My wife and I are passengers on the next Sapphire cruise due to leave Marseille on 25th April. We have suffered considerable inconvenience as a result of having to travel to Marseille to join the ship and we have lost one week of our holiday. However, I am particularly concerned over the safety of passengers on this ship as many are usually infirm. Having read the reports on this site, it is clear that there are many safety deficiencies which need rectifying and I think as new passengers we should see at least two life boats lowered to sea level during the pre-departure boat-drill and these should be selected randomly possibly by a passenger to ensure that those selected to be lowered were not known in advance.
    It would be better still if all the lifeboats were lowered to sea level so that we know that all lifeboat crews know how to perform the drill. Additionally, it would be reassuring if extra fire drills were carried out during our cruise even if it is inconvenient to passengers.
    As life long cruisers my wife and I have experienced many problems including running aground off Africa, running on one engine from Darwin to Sydney and complete loss of power and light in the China Sea. We hope that no new experiences await us on our upcoming Sapphire Cruise.

  5. Bill Filmer 17 April 2012 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    My wife and I are passengers on the next Sapphire cruise due to leave Marseille on 25th April. We have suffered considerable inconvenience as a result of having to travel to Marseille to join the ship and we have lost one week of our holiday. However, I am particularly concerned over the safety of passengers on this ship as many are usually infirm. Having read the reports on this site, it is clear that there are many safety deficiencies which need rectifying and I think as new passengers we should see at least two life boats lowered to sea level during the pre-departure boat-drill and these should be selected randomly possibly by a passenger to ensure that those selected to be lowered were not known in advance.
    It would be better still if all the lifeboats were lowered to sea level so that we know that all lifeboat crews know how to perform the drill. Additionally, it would be reassuring if extra fire drills were carried out during our cruise even if it is inconvenient to passengers.
    As life long cruisers my wife and I have experienced many problems including running aground off Africa, running on one engine from Darwin to Sydney and complete loss of power and light in the China Sea. We hope that no new experiences await us on our upcoming Sapphire Cruise.

  6. Bill Filmer 17 April 2012 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    My wife and I are passengers on the next Sapphire cruise due to leave Marseille on 25th April. We have suffered considerable inconvenience as a result of having to travel to Marseille to join the ship and we have lost one week of our holiday. However, I am particularly concerned over the safety of passengers on this ship as many are usually infirm. Having read the reports on this site, it is clear that there are many safety deficiencies which need rectifying and I think as new passengers we should see at least two life boats lowered to sea level during the pre-departure boat-drill and these should be selected randomly possibly by a passenger to ensure that those selected to be lowered were not known in advance.
    It would be better still if all the lifeboats were lowered to sea level so that we know that all lifeboat crews know how to perform the drill. Additionally, it would be reassuring if extra fire drills were carried out during our cruise even if it is inconvenient to passengers.
    As life long cruisers my wife and I have experienced many problems including running aground off Africa, running on one engine from Darwin to Sydney and complete loss of power and light in the China Sea. We hope that no new experiences await us on our upcoming Sapphire Cruise.

  7. Bill Filmer 17 April 2012 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    My wife and I are passengers on the next Sapphire cruise due to leave Marseille on 25th April. We have suffered considerable inconvenience as a result of having to travel to Marseille to join the ship and we have lost one week of our holiday. However, I am particularly concerned over the safety of passengers on this ship as many are usually infirm. Having read the reports on this site, it is clear that there are many safety deficiencies which need rectifying and I think as new passengers we should see at least two life boats lowered to sea level during the pre-departure boat-drill and these should be selected randomly possibly by a passenger to ensure that those selected to be lowered were not known in advance.
    It would be better still if all the lifeboats were lowered to sea level so that we know that all lifeboat crews know how to perform the drill. Additionally, it would be reassuring if extra fire drills were carried out during our cruise even if it is inconvenient to passengers.
    As life long cruisers my wife and I have experienced many problems including running aground off Africa, running on one engine from Darwin to Sydney and complete loss of power and light in the China Sea. We hope that no new experiences await us on our upcoming Sapphire Cruise.

  8. A S Cockle 20 April 2012 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    We have now been informed that the Cruise has now been cancelled.
    No sensible further comment is possible due to so much dissapointment…

  9. D Glover 24 April 2012 at 10:16 am - Reply

    After booking a year ahead, when I rang SAGA on Saturday 21st April I was told that our cruise had been cancelled completely. They said they would refund and offer 50% off another cruise taken this year. I assumed it meant on top of any discount being offered on cabins at the time, as if you book early enough you get 35% anyway. Plus they were offering a further 5% for paying in full, which they have now withdrawn. Because we had already booked off 3 weeks from work we wanted to book 2 shorter cruises, but no. They will only apply the discount to one cruise. So all in all I think passengers on the 2nd Sapphire cruise have been treated disgracefully.

  10. S Stewart 28 June 2012 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Saga Saphire strikes again. We have just returned from the third voyage of this ill fated ship, which again suffered engine troubles and missed 2 of its destinations completely. What have Saga offered us in compensation? 20% of our money back, or 40% as a discount on another holiday with them. Hardly compensation for ruining our ‘holiday of a life time’

  11. P Douce 29 June 2012 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    We to were on this trip to the North Cape. In fact we missed 4 ports of call although one new one was added to replace Svolvaer.
    The compensation letter was already at home when we arrived yesterday. Why are we offered 20% when the first trip had a full refund and the second trip 50% when they would only miss 2 planned ports of call?

  12. P Douce 29 June 2012 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    We to were on this trip to the North Cape. In fact we missed 4 ports of call although one new one was added to replace Svolvaer.
    The compensation letter was already at home when we arrived yesterday. Why are we offered 20% when the first trip had a full refund and the second trip 50% when they would only miss 2 planned ports of call?

  13. Clive 30 June 2012 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    This was to be my wife’s cruise of a lifetime, what she had always wanted, to see the Norwegian fjords celebrating our 52nd wedding anniversary. Of the ten itinerary calls advertised only six were actually visited due to yet more faults on this ship’s engineering systems. The highlights, Geiranger and Eidfjord were omitted. The cabin corridors smelled of sewage, acknowledged by the captain in writing, and resolved only in the last two days. In compensation for a completely ruined cruise, Saga have offered 40% discount (only on another Saga cruise that we don’t want) or 20% cash discount. We have three Saga holiday bookings in this year and this is our reward for their failure. A disgrace.

  14. Clive 30 June 2012 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    This was to be my wife’s cruise of a lifetime, what she had always wanted, to see the Norwegian fjords celebrating our 52nd wedding anniversary. Of the ten itinerary calls advertised only six were actually visited due to yet more faults on this ship’s engineering systems. The highlights, Geiranger and Eidfjord were omitted. The cabin corridors smelled of sewage, acknowledged by the captain in writing, and resolved only in the last two days. In compensation for a completely ruined cruise, Saga have offered 40% discount (only on another Saga cruise that we don’t want) or 20% cash discount. We have three Saga holiday bookings in this year and this is our reward for their failure. A disgrace.

  15. Nigel 1 July 2012 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    We were so looking forward to our cruise to Norway.We made good friends on board;our cabin was very good; the staff were excellent BUT we came away feeling disgruntled. Why? Well, when you miss so many ports of call the WHOLE PURPOSE of the exercise seems tarnished. We had 2 ship board excursions booked – both of which ended up being cancelled! Our late arrival into Bergen (1 whole day and 3 hours)meant the ICONIC NORWAY trip was impossible. And we also missed out on the beauty of Geiranger and Eidfjord. BUT we were assured SAGA “would look after us”. The 20% Cash refund offer is scandalous and in no way reflects our dissatisfaction.

  16. Norman Lauritsen 4 July 2012 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    We have just received Saga’s revised offer of compensation for the unfortunate problems which beset Sapphire’s Voyage to the North Cape, and I think that it is exceedingly fair. Those voices clamouring for a full refund ignore the fact that we had 16 days of good accommodation, superb food and magnificent service from all the staff on board. In addition we enjoyed complimentary wine from the start of the difficulties. Yes, we were disappointed to miss a significant part of the itinerary, but what we did see was very good and we enjoyed unusually calm sea conditions. Hopefully Saga will soon get to grips with the technical problems which have troubled Sapphire since her maiden voyage, and I look forward to sailing on this lovely ship again.

  17. David Leslie 2 August 2012 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    I have tried to send a message supporting Saga Sapphire following a recent excellent cruise but you have found excuses to reject them!!! And why do you print multiple copies of complaining letters but only singles of supportive ones?
    Blame the Italian shipyard which was supposed to have carried out a refit and overhaul, not Saga and the crew.

  18. Richard Bailey 5 August 2012 at 11:46 am - Reply

    My wife and I booked on the inaugral Sapphire cruise when we on board the Ruby returning from Sydney in March 2011. Naturally we were disappointed with the changes to the plans but always felt confident that Saga would treat us very fairly. Sure enough this happened as we expacted. We had already at that time booked to go on Quest to Iceland and stay on board to Nova Scotia, plus Sapphire to the West Indies in early 2013.
    Since the misfortune we have booked on Ruby next April 2013, Sapphire for September 2013 to visit the Adriatic, as well as using the extra help from the Company for their problems with extra discount by going to the Canaries on Sapphire in November 2012.
    Yes we think Saga are the best and fairest being very honourable in their treatment of Passengers. The crew aloso are so particular in ensuring everything is to your liking-LONG LIVE SAGA.

  19. Richard Bailey 5 August 2012 at 11:48 am - Reply

    My wife and I booked on the inaugral Sapphire cruise when we on board the Ruby returning from Sydney in March 2011. Naturally we were disappointed with the changes to the plans but always felt confident that Saga would treat us very fairly. Sure enough this happened as we expacted. We had already at that time booked to go on Quest to Iceland and stay on board to Nova Scotia, plus Sapphire to the West Indies in early 2013.
    Since the misfortune we have booked on Ruby next April 2013, Sapphire for September 2013 to visit the Adriatic, as well as using the extra help from the Company for their problems with extra discount by going to the Canaries on Sapphire in November 2012.
    Yes we think Saga are the best and fairest being very honourable in their treatment of Passengers. The crew aloso are so particular in ensuring everything is to your liking-LONG LIVE SAGA.

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