SA Cruise News

Saga Pearl II departs on grand farewell roundtrip voyage to South Africa

Saga Pearl II has departed on her final voyage for Saga Cruises, a 54-night grand voyage to South Africa, the country she was originally built for back in the 1980s.

The cruise started off in style with a fireworks send off as she departed Portsmouth and a performance by a 72-piece Welsh male choir aboard.

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Saga Pearl II is now bound for St Helena and ports in Madeira, the Canary Islands and Spain before traveling further south and down Africa’s west coast en route to Cape Town.

Saga Pearl II will also call in Gambia, Namibia and Mozambique, as well as other African countries. See our earlier report on the voyage, her very last, here.

She will return to Portsmouth on April 11th and will likely be sold for scrap. At 28 years of age, and with a gross tonnage of just 18,627, she’s an old, small and therefore unprofitable cruise ship in the modern industry.

Saga Pearl II is tiny by modern cruise ship standards

Carrying just 602 passengers, she’s a relic of a bygone era when cruise ships weren’t mega floating resorts.

Although many smaller 600-passenger cruise ships continue to operate today, they are almost exclusively for the luxury to premium ends of the market, where high ticket prices offset the lack of economies of scale.

This cruise for Saga Pearl II will be her final homecoming voyage, returning to Cape Town, the city from which she was meant to operate a regular liner voyage to the UK for Safmarine.

Safmarine bought the ship from Hadag Cruise Line and deployed her on the Cape Town-Southampton liner service, but soon found that she was underpowered for regular ocean liner operation.

Saga Pearl II has been sailing for Saga Cruises for the past ten years

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In 1985 was sold to East Germany and became a state pleasure cruiser for party officials during the Communist era. When German was reunified in the 90s, she became a cruise ship once more for Seetours (now AIDA Cruises).

By 2008, she was suffering mechanical issues and a lack of profitability and laid-up, awaiting the scrap yard, until Saga Cruises bought her in 2009 and extensively refurbished and refitted her for leisurely grand voyages around the world.

Saga Pearl II has been calling regularly in South Africa for the past ten years.

Now, however, with Saga Cruises first ever newbuild Saga Discovery, nearing completion, the ship is surplus to requirements and will in Cape Town on March 10th, 2019 for the final time.

Her last South African port of call will be Durban, on March 18th, before she departs on her homeward leg to Portsmouth.

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