Saga's new all-balcony German-made cruise ship
The cruise line will offer an all-balcony 1,000-passenger ship from summer 2019 as the first of two modern vessels to meet demand
Saga Cruises has ordered an all-balcony ship that will be available to holidaymakers from 2019, to accommodate demand on the holiday company's popular sailings.
The new vessel will carry fewer than 1,000 passengers in around 540 suites and cabins, each with a balcony. Around 15 per cent of cabins will be designed for single occupancy and leisure facilities will include outdoor and and beauty salon.
Artist impression, The Veranda
Saga Cruises currently only operates two ships, the 446-passenger Saga Pearl II and the 706-passenger Saga Sapphire, both of which are set for an eventual phase out. Demand for sailings on the ships is extremely high: they carried around 25,000 passengers last year, with a 75 per cent repeat passenger rate.
The new ship is significant as sailings on the two existing vessels sell out far in advance, suggesting that demand from cruisers outstrips what Saga can currently offer.
"There is no expectation that customers will pay more."
Robin Shaw, chief executive of Saga Cruises
The 55,900 grt vessel that will come into service in 2019 will be built by Meyer Werft in Germany. The shipyard recently put the finishing touches to Norwegian Cruise Line's soon-to-launch Norwegian Escape and is building Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas.
A second new vessel may also enter service by 2021.
Robin Shaw, chief executive of the cruising division, said that, "There is no expectation that customers will pay more" as a result of the new ships.
Lance Batchelor, Saga chief executive officer, added that cruising remains, "at the heart of the Saga brand".
Feedback from passenger forums indicated that passengers are keen to maintain the friendly, "one ship for everybody" ethos that Saga is known for. Dining can be accommodated in a single sitting and there will be no exclusive areas on board, or restaurants that charge supplements.
Research commissioned by Saga into travel buying patterns of the 50-plus age group found that spending on cruising is expected to increase by 43 per cent to £2.2 billion by 2020. This compares with £1.65 bn in 2014 of £41 bn on travel and tourism as a whole.
Nearly a third (32 per cent) of the over-50s in employment said they were planning to increase their spending on cruises post retirement.
The Saga Pearl II and the Saga Sapphire will visit 14 new ports between them in 2016, including Holy Loch, Scotland; Boulogne-sur-Mer in France; Pyramiden in the Svalbard archipelago; San Remo in Italy and Southwold in Suffolk.