If there was an extra rustling among the trees and a whoosh of air in the breeze earlier this evening, it was probably the collective sigh of relief coming from the South Coast. It started on the quayside at Southampton, continued down through the Solent, and spread as far as Saga head office 140 miles away in Folkestone.
Passengers, crew, and backroom office staff could relax as Saga Ruby finally set off for what should have been her final world voyage but which has instead been curtailed to a mere 66 nights to Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope.
A broken crankshaft in the 40-year-old ship’s engine caused the last-minute cancellation of her scheduled departure on January 7, necessitating extensive repairs and a wholesale re-write of the itinerary.
By today, the ship’s passengers should have been going ashore at the South Pacific island of Tahiti, after more than six weeks cruising round the coastline of South America and including a brief stop at Port Stanley in the Falklands.
Instead, they have been twiddling their thumbs at home while the ship remained in Southampton as engineers crafted the replacement spare parts needed to get her on the move again. The repair work was completed last week and after sea trials over the weekend proved satisfactory, everything is back on track for the abbreviated journey. Some of the passengers had to give it a miss, however.
The ship’s passenger capacity is 660 but there were were 391 on board as she slipped her moorings just after 9.00 pm and glided into Southampton Water under a barrage of fireworks.
Robin Shaw, chief executive of Saga Cruising, was delighted to see Ruby on her way. He said: ” The vast majority of World Cruise passengers decided to take this special journey which offers the perfect chance to visit many of their best loved ports of call while cruising on the last cruise ship ever built in the UK.
“This will be Ruby’s final long-voyage of her career and over the next 66 nights will offer passengers the rare opportunity to explore some of the world’s most intriguing destinations from South America to the African continent. We have planned overnight stays in Rio De Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Cape Town plus a host of included activities.”
Ruby will be back in Southampton on April 27. On December 17 she will set out for her final cruise before retirement – a 39-night Christmas trip to the Canaries.