Engine room repairs cut Saga Ruby’s final world cruise to just 66 days

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ruby_two.jpgWork to repair that grand old lady Saga Ruby – which will be retired at the end of the year – is going to take longer than expected. I understand Saga Cruises has now decided her farewell world cruise cannot now depart until February 20, more than six weeks behind schedule.
A team of customer care staff is contacting all those affected. The ship carries up to 661 passengers; some of them were booked on the entire 109-night trip which should have left Southampton on January 7, while others would have been joining for shorter stretches.
The revised itinerary of 66 nights still includes the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa, but a substantial chunk of the voyage – around Cape Horn and across the south Pacific via Easter Island and Pitcairn Island to New Zealand and Australia – will now be omitted.
The loyal over-50s Saganauts and the ship’s crew, led by Captain Alistair McLundie, will be particularly disappointed at the curtailment of what was to have been Saga’s first circumnavigation of the southern hemisphere in a decade. Now Ruby’s cruise will call at just 20 ports.
When the full voyage of 33,467 nautical miles was put on sale in 2011, fares for the best suites were as high as £76,000 (discounted to £50,000), though the 22-night leg from Cape Town to Southampton was available for less than £5,000 in an inside cabin.
The ship, built on Tyneside and launched in 1973, is currently in Southampton where engineers have been assessing the work needed to repair a damaged crankshaft and engine bearings. It had initially been hoped the work could be completed within a week to 10 days, but a Saga spokesman tells me that in order to have the necessary spare parts manufactured, and to give time for sea trials, it was decided to commit to the new departure date of February 20.
The revised route still includes visits to Tenerife and Porto Grande in the Cape Verde islands. The call at Rio de Janeiro has been extended to two days and passengers will be treated to a samba night ashore.
Despite diplomatic problems experienced by other cruise lines, Saga is still expecting Ruby to visit the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, where a tango night is promised before the ship leaves for Port Stanley in the Falklands.
Crossing the Atlantic, passengers will get a rare glimpse of the remote island of Tristan da Cunha; if the weather allows, they may even be able to go ashore by tender.
Once in Cape Town they will be given a night at the opera to see the opening night of a production of Verdi’s Otello. The ship will then return to the UK via Namibia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
Saga is reluctant to provide details of the compensation it will be offering to passengers, at least until the team has been able to contact everyone affected. From previous experience – of which there has been an unfortunate amount recently – I would expect it to be generous.
The company will also be going out of its way to make the voyage as special as possible to allay any disappointment; as well as the extra treats being arranged ashore, additional entertainers will be flown to the ship and there will no doubt be some special gala dinners hosted by Captain McLundie and the hard-working hotel director, Horst Pint.
The Saga spokesman assured me (possibly with fingers crossed) that the engine repairs and the expected delay are not expected to have any impact on remainder of the ship’s farewell season, which includes a number of cruises to the Baltic, the Norwegian fjords, Iceland, the Canaries and the Mediterranean.
Ruby’s grand farewell will be a 31-night voyage to the Caribbean, leaving Southampton on December 17 and returning to a tearful paying-off on January 7, 2014. There won’t be a dry eye on the ship.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:39+00:00 15 January 2013|Cruise news, Cruise ships|23 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.

23 Comments

  1. Ray 15 January 2013 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Such a shame, a lovely old ship, she deserves some dignity on her final world cruise. She holds fond memories. That’s where we met the late Steve Read, still missed

  2. Patricia 15 January 2013 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    So sad. My heart breaks for little Rubes and I hope she can make it to the end of the season. I was looking forward to seeing her in Fremantle in March 🙁

  3. Neill 15 January 2013 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    It’s so sad she has to bow out in such a fashion. Such a beautiful ship.

  4. David 16 January 2013 at 9:02 am - Reply

    I was booked on the whole trip. Saga have been appalling cancelled 50 minutes before I was due to be picked up then no information. Got more information from the BBC website. Then told yesterday only 66 days cruise with 20% discount which is less than the 35% they advertise for early booking. Saga are dreadful so I suggest nobody goes near them.

  5. Keith Wise 16 January 2013 at 10:53 am - Reply

    I freely admit a great love for Saga Ruby
    A fine ship the last of her tribe and a reminder of more gracious days.
    She deserves a better fate and it is hard to resist the thought that she is stamping her feet.
    My deepest sympathy for those booked on the affected cruise it must be hard to cope with the disappointment.
    Dave’s realistic posting reflects my experience with Saga management.
    That comment excludes the mainly Philipino crew and cabin staff who work their socks off to give Saga cruisers a memorable holiday.

  6. Allen 16 January 2013 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Re. David’s comments:
    The cost of the 66 day cruise has been calculated by taking the original charge (at whatever discount you were given – 35%?) dividing it by 109 to get the daily cost, then multiplying that by 66 for the nights of the new cruise, and then taking off an additional 20% discount.
    So SAGA are giving 20% on the original 35%, which to us seems reasonable.
    Allen

  7. Allen 16 January 2013 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Re David’s comments:
    The cost for the 66 night cruise has been worked out by taking the daily rate for the original 109 night cruise (including your discount), and then multiplying that by 66 for the new cruise. SAGA are then giving and additional 20% on top of that cost – so it is 20% in addition to the original 35%.
    Allen

  8. Hi, I’m from Saga’s Customer Relations Team and I just wanted to reassure people (in response to David’s comment) that the 20% compensation for those who booked a full round the world cruise is in addition to any early booking discounts.
    In addition there is a pro-rata refund for the cruise being for 66 rather than 109 nights. We are calling customers now and also have a free-phone number 0800 015 4305.

  9. hazel 17 January 2013 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Very disappointed booked cruise 18 months ago which we have prepared for since, then to be told yesterday it will not be following full itinerary and cutting out Pacific and Australia and New Zealand which were main places we wanted especially to visit son in australia.
    to arrive at port on the 7th was horrendous and if we hadnt been told by a porter that ship wouldnt be sailing we would have even unpacked our luggage and driver may have gone.
    We had to go through check in in order to find out we could stay on ship one night or go back home (which we did). There was no need to have gone through security to have been told that , organisation very bad. The ship must have know ahead that there was a major engine problem. Never saga again

  10. hazel 17 January 2013 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Very disappointed. Booked 18 months ago, trip of lifetime. to be told when arrived at port last monday about the major fault. We will never be able to get such a good itinerary for us again, fault should have been picked up before that day. Never Saga again. We have always considered Saga to be reputable company

  11. hazel 17 January 2013 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Very disappointed on what was to be a trip of lifetime for us. The arrival at port badly handled on day. Told yesterday of shortened 66 day from 109 day itinerary. Waited 18 months for this and so much preparation. Engine trouble could have been picked up sooner

  12. Allen 17 January 2013 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Re Hazel’s comments:
    ‘The ship must have know ahead that there was a major engine problem. Never saga again’ and ‘Engine trouble could have been picked up sooner’
    How much ‘ahead of time’ do you know that your car is going to breakdown? Or that you are going to get a puncture? Or that your central heating boiler is going to go wrong?
    Mechanical failures just happen – most of the time with no prior warning. The situation with Ruby may have been the first indication of a potential problem – and better to find it at Southampton than on a long crossing of the Indian Ocean!
    ‘Never again Saga’ – if that attitude was to be taken with every problem, then no-one would ever fly in a Boeing or an Airbus plane – or probably ever fly at all!
    Allen

  13. hazel 17 January 2013 at 11:49 am - Reply

    re allens comments. Was he booked on ship and will he be remarking on all the bd comments

  14. Allen 17 January 2013 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Hazel –
    Yes, my wife and I were booked on the whole 109 night trip – we have been looking forward to ever since the pre-publication ‘phone call from Saga about 2 years ago. It was to be my retirement present – so you can imagine our disappointment to have received the ‘phone call 20 minutes before we were due to be taken to Southampton.
    I totally agree that Saga could have been far more informative over the delay – we were ‘in limbo’ for an unacceptable length of time, and I have sent a letter to Saga expressing my dissatifaction.
    However, I fully appreciate the enormity of the logistic and engineering problems they face, and express my concerns for all those invloved.
    I have experienced far worse communications and compensation for much less significant problems from amny other companies – notably British Airways!
    Allen

  15. eurocruiser 19 January 2013 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    Saga strikes again!
    Sapphire delayed on way back from Canaries and North Africa so now the Spice Islands cruise is delayed by at least 24 hours.
    Saga have seen fit to cancel three advertised ports for “operational reasons”
    Another 600 disappointed passengers?

  16. John Honeywell 20 January 2013 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Saga tell me that Sapphire was held in Vigo to shelter from rough seas in the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay.

  17. John Honeywell 20 January 2013 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Full version of update on Saga website:
    Saga Sapphire encountered some bad weather on her cruise back to the UK from Lisbon on 19 January and had to seek shelter in Vigo, northern Spain.
    Her arrival in Southampton has unfortunately been delayed by a day and will now be on Tuesday, 22 January, when our Caribbean Spice Isles cruise will now commence.
    Customers due to embark are now being notified of the new travel arrangements we are making for them to travel from home to the port on the new day of embarkation.
    A pro rata reduction for the loss of one night will be refunded. New homeward travel is also being rearranged for those onboard.
    [http://travel.saga.co.uk/holidays/latest-travel-updates/saga-sapphire-update-january-19th-2013.aspx]

  18. Sal 21 January 2013 at 10:11 am - Reply

    We were also on the whole World Tour. Although the compensation offered will go towards the money we have paid out to leave the house in the care of others for three months, it cant do anything about the great disappointment felt about missing what may have been a once in a life experience. I understand these things happen and friends had their trip cancelled with another line because of a fire and another friend lost days when a medical emergency meant the ship had to turn round. I do think that the engineers on Ruby would have known that this repair would take a long time and the delay in telling passengers was due to the sales people getting together another package they could sell to passengers rather than cancel the whole trip. We are still in limbo having cancelled many things we normally do such as exercise classes, etc. We have no idea where our luggage is having decided to leave it on the ship and I expect the weather hasnt helped in this. So I am trying to cheer up and look forward to the new voyage although my husband seems to have done this better than I.

  19. Peter 24 January 2013 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Saga are a disgrace. We were due to fly out to Agentina on 27th Jan to join the ship – they only told us of the cancellation today 24th Jan. They even sent us the tickets last week!
    Compensation? “You can have your money back” was what we were told today.

  20. Lesley 27 January 2013 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    re delays to Sapphire when she took shelter in Vigo – this was after she went through force 11/12 winds and very rough seas too that caused extensive damage to the ship both externally and internally. The crew on board were fantastic and did a grand job of keeping passengers informed and happy – even though a lot of them were also feeling the effects of the “male de mer”. For a change, well done Saga

  21. Fernando 4 February 2013 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Shame. I would have liked to se her in Valparaíso, Chile one more time before she was out of the game…she used to visit often as the Vistafjord and the Caronia…

  22. Roger Wall 6 February 2013 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    Saga are closing down its forum they are in trouble with people criticising there cruises & holidays, the hole company must be in a mess, they are cutting back to 2 cruise ships, so watch out if you book with them.

  23. sal 7 February 2013 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    I agree with Roger that Saga closing down its forum pages sounds as if they want to hide something. Perhaps Captain Greybeard should start acting like a journalist and tell us what is going on, rather than being a voice of the cruise companies.

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