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Spirit of Discovery at sea

Jennie Bond: A curious adventure

Join Cruise Miles® ambassador Jennie Bond as she joins Spirit of Discovery in the Canary Islands

Published on 07 Feb 2024


It was a curious thing to do: join a ship in late December for the final leg of a Canary Islands cruise. The Bay of Biscay in winter is probably not at the top of anyone’s holiday wish list! But I had been invited by Saga Ocean Cruises to give some talks to their guests on the final few days of one of their winter voyages. And I’m always up for an adventure! 

And so it was that, less than a week before Christmas, my husband, Jim, and I settled back into a chauffeur-driven car - provided as part of the deal to Saga Ocean Cruises guests - to be driven to the airport for a flight to Madeira. 

A few hours later, we stepped out into early evening sunshine and dinner al fresco at our seaside hotel in Funchal. Already, the trip seemed like an excellent idea! 

Our driver met us bright and early the following morning to take us to our ship, Spirit of Discoveryone of Saga Ocean Cruises’ two boutique cruise liners. Launched in 2019, it’s the sister of Spirit of Adventurewhich came on the market three years ago. Both are relatively small ships, carrying just under 1,000 passengers, with one member of staff for every two guests. And that’s just how it feels. 

From the minute we stepped aboard (with that glorious sigh of relief that comes with knowing this is your home for the next however long), Spirit of Discovery felt cosy, warm, relaxed and welcoming. There’s something about the size and layout; comfy armchairs, quiet corners and wonderful bright decor (not garish, just cheerful). Our cabin was a revelation; an elegant bedroom and separate lounge, a spacious balcony and - joy of joys - a big beautiful bath, as well as a shower cubicle. It was perfect! Our butler, Noel, introduced himself and came bearing a deliciously cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. We popped it in the fridge for later.

As we explored the ship, it was clear that our fellow guests were all super relaxed after a couple of weeks bobbing around in the warmth of the Canaries - many had made friends along the way and it felt like walking into a community of happy travellers enjoying some well earned time out from the winter. 

I found the swimming pool, which was like a warm bath, and jumped in - impressed by its size - while my husband enjoyed a glass of Prosecco (most drinks are included). I discovered later that the hydrotherapy pool in the spa is also open for guests to use at no extra cost, which is pretty unusual. 

We set sail from Madeira later that day, bound for Portsmouth - so, having arrived, we were already on our way home! But what a glorious few days we had. The Bay of Biscay behaved, I entertained (I hope) the guests with my tales as a royal correspondent and life after the BBC, and Jim and I were hugely entertained by all the rest that the ship had to offer. 

I went line dancing, walked a mile around the Promenade Deck, looked in on the arts and crafts classes and had a glorious massage. The food was consistently good, and we particularly enjoyed the speciality restaurants featuring Asian dishes, seafood extravaganzas and some of the best steak I have ever tasted. It was all wonderful. 

One of the most popular corners of the ship was the library, with books, jigsaw puzzles, comfy sofas and delicious coffee on tap. A great, relaxing space. Even with most people inside as the winter weather closed in, the ship didn’t seem overcrowded and the mood was convivial. 

Jim and I were hugely impressed with all that Saga Ocean Cruises has to offer, and we are firm believers now that cruising is the answer to almost everything - even the winter blues!

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