Cruise Ship Review: Saga Cruises, Spirit of Discovery – Baltic Myths and Legends
As a middle aged “Cruise Virgins” couple, my wife and I wondered if cruising with Saga Cruises would be a wise decision. After experiencing the Baltic Myths and Legends cruise on Saga’s Spirit of Discovery cruise, we are thrilled and already looking forward to our next trip which will definitely be with Saga. This is the reason:
Myths and legends of the Baltic Sea spread for 15 days in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia and Denmark. The course is much like the course of the Baltic Sea, but Spirit of Discovery is anything but ordinary.
Saga’s new Spirit of Discovery is aimed at 50 year olds (with partners over 40). Solo travelers are well catered for as more than 100 staterooms are designed for one occupancy and priced not to take advantage of the solo traveler. All cruisers can have as much or as little company as they like.
Your cabin or suite
The rooms are elegant and luxurious, but they are elegant and luxurious. Everything from the furniture to the linens, towels and bath products feels really high quality.
We had booked the Mid Ship Suite, which offers a separate sitting area, walk-in closet, bathroom with bathtub and separate shower and free minibar with butler service.
Single cabins have more than enough space for two, and the deluxe cabin has a walk-in closet, a large living room and a 50% larger balcony than the Standard cabin. The feeling of space also overshadows the Mid Ship Suite thanks to its open design.
Each stateroom on the Spirit of Discovery has a balcony with large French doors. We thought they would be underused in the Baltic in September, but they turned out to be real sun traps and the temperature on the balcony allowed us to sit outside in our bathing suits, relaxing in our rattan armchairs with a chilled glass. Of something, even though the actual temperature outside had just hit double digits.
Food and drink
I’d often heard that cruises were the ultimate food-eater’s paradise, and while that’s true, Saga carefully researched food and drink to avoid an all-you-can mentality.
Dining in specialty restaurants is exceptionally included in the price of Saga and offers a wide variety: Coast to Coast offers fish menus; From east to west, Pan-Asia; The Club is a meeting point for surf and music enthusiasts, while the Grill Room and Main Dining Room both offer traditional set menu and buffet options. The quality of the food in each restaurant is always excellent (we’ve tasted them all) and the wine is well chosen.
It’s worth noting that if you’re a cheese lover, you’ll be in heaven. Almost every restaurant has a sensational cheese cart with at least a dozen ever-changing options (for one night there were two carts side-by-side in the main dining room, each with a very different selection).
The lounges and bars offer after-hours dining with pastries, sandwiches, ice cream and fruit, as well as soft drinks and other beverages. You can also take advantage of room service in your cabin, which is included in the price, so you never go hungry.
There is a dress code that everyone seems to follow. The evening is elegantly casual, men in shirts and slacks and women in slacks or dresses. There are some formal evenings when most gentlemen dress in tuxedos – or something similar – and women in long dresses or cocktail dresses. It may sound a bit “stiff” but it’s actually nice because it really brings a sense of occasion to the night.
The Lido’s outdoor pool is kept at a very pleasant temperature, but perhaps the Baltic Sea in September is not the optimal time for many, even if there were invariably few users.
The gym is full of state-of-the-art equipment and is located next to a large gym and offers a variety of classes.
The Promenade, which wraps around the ship, was most often used by people walking the quarter-mile loop at their own pace.
Near the gymnasium was the ship’s golf course and firing range; both clearly electronic. Golf – on the extremely smart “virtual course” was surprisingly challenging.
Discovery’s golf course instantly transforms into a shooting range with laser rifles and pistols to test your skills against a variety of targets.
The library has thousands of books, dozens of puzzles and a 10-table game room and a well-equipped craft room for those who want to make their own souvenirs.
The ship’s spa offers various treatments for an additional fee. The staff is very knowledgeable and both my wife and I enjoyed – she a facial with a five-layer skin analysis and I a seaweed wrap followed by a hot stone massage – so relaxing I must have fallen asleep.
There is also a large and excellent hydrotherapy pool, two saunas, a steam room, and my wife’s favorite, a relaxation room where you can lie by the windows and watch the world go by.
There is a full excursion program. Everywhere except St. Petersburg, where visas limit you to organized tours, there are free shuttle services that take you to the port and back to the city center.
The tours were generally excellent – we loved the St. Petersburg metro tour with its amazing platforms.
Back on board, we were treated to a wonderful late night Russian meal of vodka, champagne, caviar and many other specialties, ending the evening on a high note.
The entertainment program on the ship was amazing. Discovery’s theater was constantly running a huge variety of different activities – an excellent program of lectures, classical music, dance music, jazz, magicians, dancers, singers and West End films, but for many it was Dance Supreme, Wayne Sleep that was the main attraction. He packed the 440-seat auditorium, interspersed showbiz stories with dance lessons, and when he wasn’t in action, often toured the ship, stopping to chat cheerfully with other passengers.
There was also music and dancing in the Britannia Lounge, while The Club by Jools (Netherlands) offered relaxed live music late into the night.
Simply put: SAGA makes it so easy for you: to be picked up from home and taken away afterwards; no tips to worry about; comprehensive policy for specialty restaurants; wine included with dinner (drinks also next year), free port transfers; effortless dating when you want it, free room service when you don’t, and so much to do you’ll never be short of entertainment.
Verdict: The beauty of what SAGA has done with Discovery is to create a ship that exudes light, space and calm. It has a relatively small number of passengers, but the additional space due to the lack of interior cabins has been put to good use. Discovery is great in terms of facilities, style and service.
If I had to improve something, it would only be the music – if Saga wants to appeal more to the 50s and 60s, it could be worse than using more Jools Holland influences, if I could listen to the music a little more “lace” it.
The splendor of the Baltic Sea – The spirit of discovery – 14 nights
Your cruise starts in Skagen, Denmark’s northernmost point, where the Skagen artist colony flourished for about 60 years until 1930. For music lovers, a visit to Helsinki offers the opportunity to get to know the city, which has many works by Jean Sibelius. the most famous composer – premiered. St. Petersburg offers the opportunity to visit the famous Hermitage, home to some of the world’s most glittering art treasures, before the elegant and stately architecture contrasts with the historic streets and buildings of Tallinn Estonia.
Your cruise is complete when you return to Denmark at your final port of call in Esbjerg, marked by the ‘Man Meets the Sea’ sculpture: four enigmatic nine meter tall figures look out over the North Sea and watch as you explore the last stop on your journey.