We had chosen this cruise so that we could (hopefully) see the Northern Lights after sailing to Norway on the North Sea. This was coupled with having the attraction of overnight stays in both Alta and in Tromsø.
On our abandoned Northern Lights cruise on P&O Aurora, in 2020, we had booked a shore excursion to go inland at Alta to see the Lights. I planned to do the same for this cruise and had booked another private excursion in the evening.
Our planned ports were Bergen, Tromso (plus an overnight), Honingsvag, Alta (plus 2 overnights), and finally Alesund.
Taking a Saga cruise was new to us and thankfully booking the cruise direct had been very easy. The call centre staff were very helpful and especially when I discovered that I had booked excursions in Alta on both evenings there. I had had to ring to cancel the one for the first evening to make room for our private excursion.
Day 1: Saturday 18th February: Portsmouth
Our taxi, to the port, arrived right on schedule. This was another first for us, a personal taxi provided by cruise company to take us to the port. Ours turned out to be a VW people carrier, and we were the only passengers. Our driver avoided the M3 and took us via the A3 to Portsmouth.
Leaving on a cruise from Portsmouth was the next first for us. After arriving at the ferry port the taxi first stopped after the ferry barriers for our cases to be offloaded.
Next, we were driven through to a holding area by the ferry terminal.
Our destination was ‘next door’, to what look like a large tent. In there we were directed to one of the desks where our vaccination papers, passports etc were all checked and our photos taken.
In the other half of the tent we went through security. This was a very relaxed procedure, unlike all our recent experiences at the cruise terminals in Southampton.
After security, we walked back outside and caught a bus that took us around the dock area to the ship itself. Spirit of Discovery was docked at one side of the pier with a large car ferry on the other.
Onboard Spirit of Discovery
We had been warned about what would happen once we were on the ship by friends. After scanning our boarding cards, we were asked to follow a crew member who was to escort us to our cabin. But first, we were directed to one of the restrooms in order to go inside and wash our hands – exactly as predicted by our friends.
After dumping our carry-on bags, we headed upstairs to the Grill on Deck 12.
Our next pleasant surprise was being ‘asked’ to wash our hands before entering the buffet. Clearly onboard handwashing was not an option.
We enjoyed a relaxing lunch and chatted to other passengers on nearby tables. The wine of the day was excellent too!
Reluctantly, we left the buffet and headed back to our cabin to watch the safety video and to begin unpacking and making the cabin ‘ours’. We had our usual complement of magnets and for this cruise we had added string lights. (See below)
Through the PA system we were asked to attend our designated muster station. This was done by deck and avoided all the crush that could have happened on the stairs.
Our friends were now on board and we joined them in the Britannia lounge.
There we watched the loading of the next door ferry. Across the dock we could see a ship loaded with propellers for an offshore wind farm.
After leaving the dock, we had to pass the Naval dockyard. Unfortunately, HMS Queen Elizabeth was out of her dock.
We did pass other Royal Navy ships as Spirit of Discovery slowly passed the Naval dockyard.
Our cabin was much larger than we had anticipated with lots of storage space. Plus it had a large spacious bathroom.
The lights were held up by small magnetic hooks and our extra coats etc were on extra powerful magnetic hooks. Our bedisde lights had a USB socket – and both worked on this ship. The UK plugs were on the desk.
Another prediction from our friends was that the first evening meal would be at a designated restaurant. This was the only time this would happen. We were assigned to the Grill on Deck 12 and just as at lunch we had an excellent meal accompanied by wine. We did spend rather too much time over dinner and skipped going to see the show in the theatre.
Our evening finished with a return to the Britannia Lounge to listen to the ships house band – Viva.