The last cruise ship ever built in a British shipyard is determined not to slip quietly away into retirement.
Saga Ruby – built as Vistafjord at Swan Hunter on the Tyne – has thrown a final wobbly on her final cruise, which was to have been a month-long round-trip voyage from the UK to the Caribbean.
One of its generators has failed, which would have left the air-conditioning plant underpowered and the ship uncomfortably steamy.
Arriving in Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife, Captain Krzysztof Majdzinski discovered repairs could not be made until a replacement part was manufactured.
After a series of discussions with Saga’s head office in Folkestone, he decided to cancel the entire Caribbean itinerary. The ship, and its 557 passengers, will instead spend Christmas in the Mediterranean.
Saga Shipping’s managing director Robin Shaw flew to Tenerife last night to inform guests of the changes to their holiday plans.
He told me today: “As soon as it became apparent there was I problem, I flew to the ship so I could personally apologise and let people know what we were doing to ensure the farewell cruise would be memorable for all the right reasons.
“Our focus is on delivering a great cruise experience and we wont compromise passenger comfort and I fully support the Captain’s decision that a Med cruise will be better for our passengers.
“Having spoken to a great many passengers about our revised plans I know that although some are disappointed about not proceeding as planned there is an understanding that this has been beyond our control and it was better to find out now than in the heat of the Caribbean.
“There is also a tangible sense of delight that we can continue on a Christmas and New Year final voyage with Saga Ruby. Spending Christmas Eve in Monte Carlo and seeing in the New Year with a spectacular firework display in Funchal will make this a very special journey. As will being joined by Strictly Come Dancing star’s James and Ola.”
All passengers will receive a 40 per cent refund of their fare. Those who choose to leave the ship will get all their money back and will be flown home.
Shaw added: “One of our passengers said to me ‘In difficult situations Saga always pulls out all the stops and does the right thing, I’m looking forward to the adventure.'”
I understand that only about 20 guests have chosen to leave the ship.
Ruby left Southampton on December 7 and is due to return for the final time on January 7. Saga has agreed to sell the ship to buyers who will operate her as a hotel in Asia.
The revised itinerary now brings Ruby and Saga Sapphire together in Funchal, Madeira, for the New Year’s Eve firework display. Full details: Dec 13 Tenerife; Dec 14, 15 At Sea; Dec 16 Almeria, Spain; Dec 17, 18 At Sea; Dec 19 Valletta, Malta; Dec 19 Messina, Sicily; Dec 20 Naples, Italy; Dec 22 Civitavecchia (for Rome); Dec 23 Livorno (for Florence, Pisa); Dec 24 Monte Carlo; Dec 25 At Sea; Dec 26 Barcelona, Spain; Dec 27 Valencia, Spain; Dec 28 At Sea; Dec 29 Gibraltar; Dec 30, 31 At Sea; Jan 1 Funchal, Madeira; Jan 2 At Sea; Jan 3 Lisbon, Portugal; Jan 4, At Sea; Jan 5 La Coruna; Jan 6 At Sea; Jan 7 Southampton