Saga Cruises’ new acquisition is to be named Saga Sapphire when she enters service on 23 March 2012 after a major refit. The 37,301gt ship is currently sailing as Bleu de France for CDF Croisieres de France, a subsidiary of Spain’s Pullmantur, itself owned by Royal Caribbean. The new name topped a poll carried out by the Britannia Club, whose many members are Saga’s repeat passengers. She replaces Saga Pearl II (1981/18,591gt), which leaves the fleet on 6 May 2012 and it is believed will switch to another Saga brand, Spirit of Adventure, replacing the smaller ship Spirit of Adventure (1980/9,570gt).
Built in 1981 as Europa for Hapag Lloyd, Bleu de France was rated as the number one cruise ship in the world by Douglas Ward’s Berlitz Guide for a number of years. She was sold to Star Cruises in 1999 and renamed Superstar Europe briefly and then Superstar Aries. In 2004 she was sold to Pullmantur and, after a lengthy refit, emerged as Holiday Dream, assuming her present name four years later.
Itineraries for Saga Sapphire have not yet been announced, but it is expected she will undertake a similar programme to Saga Ruby (1973/24,492gt) on global itineraries out of Southampton.