The over-50s specialist will christen its first new-build, Spirit of Discovery, in Dover tomorrow (5 July) and welcome its sister ship, Spirit of Adventure, to its fleet in August 2020.
Shaw, chief executive of Saga Travel, told TTG the company had “seen the light” with the benefits of having new vessels – praising operational aspects such as improved sustainability and fuel efficiency.
He called Spirit of Discovery’s completion and upcoming launch as “transformational” for the brand and “the most significant event” in Saga Cruises’ history since the line’s creation.
“There are no new cruise ships of this size or of this quality being built for the UK,” Shaw said. “The platform we have created with this ship will set a new standard in the small-ship, ex-UK market.”
He was speaking onboard Discovery during a two-night preview sailing for around 700 travel agents.
Despite Saga currently not having an option in place for a third new-build, Shaw said: “If at some point we find that we are consistently filling these ships at the required rate then, of course, we would look [at expansion] but we have a long way to go before we are in that position.”
Asked if Saga would favour growing its capacity through purchasing second-hand tonnage, Shaw assessed that approach would be “doubtful”, with the line opting instead to continue to build its own.
“A timeframe for that will be dependent on the demand that we create with Discovery and Adventure. You get a lot of visibility on that about two years ahead of launch, so in about 18 months we’ll be in a suitable position to see how demand is doing,” he said.
As part of the trade showcase, Spirit of Discovery had been due to sail from Dover to Bruges on Tuesday (2 July) but due to technical issues the call was cancelled.
The ship instead sailed along the Kent coast yesterday (3 July).
Shaw explained how, due to a need to “reboot some electrical programmes onboard”, some of the ship’s officers were unable to have sufficient rest in order to sail.
“The most important thing is the safe operation of the ship and we had the issue and, in dealing with it, crew were up longer than expected. Therefore we couldn’t jeopardise those hours of rest and so that’s the reason we didn’t sail to Bruges.”
However Shaw and Iain Powell, Saga Travel’s head of trade sales, said the itinerary change had allowed agents to see more of the ship.
“It works out well in a way because we want them to take away as many memories of the ship as possible,” said Shaw.
Powell added: “I think some people may have been slightly disappointed but the majority of feedback has been really positive and a lot of people have said they were happy, as it actually gave them more time onboard to get to know the ship.”
(Picture credit: Chris Ison)
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