Saga is making headlines left, right and centre. First was the news that its first new-build ship Spirit of Discovery had completed its conveyance cruise, quickly followed by the keel laying for the second, Spirit of Adventure.
No time to sit still and relax, however, as the line has just revealed that the Duchess of Cornwall will serve as godmother to Spirit of Discovery. Attention now turns to the 20 June, when the line will officially take delivery of the ship, before welcoming guests to the naming ceremony on 5 July, in Dover.
These major milestones all add up to a “fantastic opportunity”, Saga Travel CEO Robin Shaw tells Cruise Trade News, as the line seeks to become “the best cruise line operating out of the UK, bar none”.
Why is the Duchess of Cornwall the right godmother for Spirit of Discovery?
We have unashamedly focused on the fact we are a British cruise line. We have designed the new ships with a focus on British contemporary design so it makes sense to reinforce that with a very prestigious godmother. We are very proud and privileged she has accepted.
How are preparations for the grand unveiling of Spirit of Discovery?
Everything is on schedule and we are very confident that we will take delivery of the ship on 20 June. She will arrive into Dover on the 28 June and then we get ready for the naming on 5 July. There is still lots of work to do, as is always the case, but we are very pleased with progress.
How do you intend to keep this momentum going?
Spirit of Discovery was three and a half years in the making and then we’re going to get another ship just 14 months after that (Spirit of Adventure launches summer 2020). However, that’s one part of the journey. The next stage is the guest experience – that’s going to be the most important piece of this.
We have set ourselves the challenge of raising the bar in every single way – service, dining, excursions. Now it is about delivering. We think we will be the best cruise line operating out of the UK, bar none. That’s our objective with the new ships.
In regards to the design of the ships, is it fair to say you are taking a slightly new direction for Saga?
I think there is a perception that the older generation is stuck in a time warp – that is not the case. Our guests have aspirations to do things and see things. The 70-year-old of today is so, so different to the 70-year-old of 20 years ago.
With the design, we think we have hit the mark with boutique cruising. The design is not what you get with a cookie-cutter approach; it is meant to be individual. While we are ecstatic with the design of Spirit of Discovery, we took a decision to give Spirit of Adventure a very different look and feel. The idea is that whatever public space guests are in, they will know what ship they are on.
Could we expect a third new build in the future?
We have enough on our plate at the moment with Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure. That’s utmost on our agenda. We have a fantastic opportunity and ultimately, if the demand is there, then the rest will follow.