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.