A Cruise Law News reader has alerted us to a major engine problem for the Saga Sapphire cruise ship which has broken down during a cruise through Norway.  A passenger aboard the stricken cruise ship writes:

"The Saga Sapphire is currently struck with motor-problems again – this time whilst on a Norwegian Cruise – and has been unable to leave Trömso Fjord for the last two days. Efforts to repair the ship succeeded – after a further 4 miles the ship has broken down again."

Newspaper accounts in Norway corroborate the passenger’s account.

Nordlys newspaper in Norway confirms that the cruise ship’s generators failed and repairs were Saga Sapphire Cruise Ship - Engine Failure - Norwayattempted in Trömso, without success.

You can see, from a photograph from the Norwegian newspaper, the Saga Sapphire smoking heavily. Something’s definitely not right with this ship.

The Norwegian newspaper contains a rather humorous account of the situation where several of the 600 passengers asked the cruise ship’s agent about the heavy diesel smoke pouring from the ship’s engines and wondered: is it was normal to have such large emissions? The agent said "no it’s not the worst thing I have ever seen."  To which a passenger responded, "what is the worst thing you’ve seen?"

Of course, the situation is not humorous to the passengers who paid for a nice vacation cruise.  They have been sailing part of the time in a tender vessel. 

The cruise ship’s captain has a blog  – called the Saga Sapphire Captain’s Blog – which has remained silent for the past 5 days.  A lesson for any cruise line:  If you have a cruise ship blog, be sure to write about the good times and the bad times in an equally transparent manner.  Otherwise, it makes matters worse.  It appears that you are covering things up.  (please note that Captain Philip Rentell has since updated his blog, and seems to have a good nature approach in his assessment of the delays).

The last entry from the Captain in the ship’s blog five days ago mentions "even worse weather, high winds, driving rain and temperature forecast to feel like only 1 degree Celsius."  Yikes.  I don’t want to be on a cruise ship in crappy weather with crappy generators.  That may take the situation from not funny to dangerous.

This is not the first time that the Saga Sapphire has encountered engine problems.

In April, we reported on problems during its maiden voyage which was cut short due to the failure of one of its engines.  

As you can see in the video below, the Saga Sapphire was smoking heavily two months ago, during its maiden voyage.

Hopefully the cruise ship can get the generators running.  But if so, it looks like a smokey cruise. Gas masks anyone? 




June 30, 2012 Update:  As you can see from the comments below, some of the passengers are upset with the botched cruise, the general condition and state of affair of the Saga Sapphire and the compensation offered by the cruise line.  One passenger sent me the photograph below of the cruise ship leaving Tromso – I’m not sure I have ever seen any ship smoking like this! 

Saga Sapphire Cruise Ship Smoking

August 10, 2012 Update: The Telegraph in the U.K. has an article today Saga Reassures Customers Over Newest Vessel.  Not much substance to the article but this is what the company is saying. 


Photo credits

Top:  Northern Lights-tipping via Nordlys

Bottom: Saga Sapphire cruise passenger

  • Larry Shaw

    Sailed out of Tromso 24th June 2012 and Stack Exhaust was very much worse than event shown in video. Captain said that ‘Scavenge Air Fans’ had been ‘closed off’. I assume this would mean fan’s inlet was closed through some form of Isolating Damper? Whilst photographing the plume from Deck 12, I was concerned that the plume itself was rich enough in Oxygen to combust on exit to atmosphere – so beat a hasty retreat…

  • Paul Alden

    This cruise continued three days late. We had not visited the Sognefjord travelling northwards as promised, had failed to go to the North Cape or visit Honningsvag (the cruise was called “Voyage to the North Cape”) and then missed two more Fjords and stops on the cruise southwards. No one was hapy and many had been quite worried at so many technical issues.
    On arriving home, I have been offered 20% refund of my cruise cost. I don’t think this is adequate and fair. What do fellow customers think? Please send your views.

  • Clive Bosman

    1. Of the ten listed itinerary ports of call only six were actually visited.
    2. The two fjord highlights,Geiranger and Eidfjord were omitted due to the ships technical faults.
    3. There was a pervading smell of sewage in the cabin corridors on all decks (resolved only on the last day).
    4. After Tromso the ship sailed without bow thrusters.
    5. Many passengers felt that the ship is not seaworthy.
    6. A completely ruined voyage with an inadeqaute offer of 40% (only on another sea cruise) or 20% cash by SAGA.

  • Dorothy Davies

    I agree with Paul’s comments and also feel the compensation offered is not acceptable. Very disappointed with the cruise which I booked in April 2011, the highlight for me being ‘cruising around the North Cape’. Having been a loyal customer with Saga for a number of years now I feel very let down.

  • Ken Robinson

    I have received the generous offer that the captain said would arrive and it is disgusting.

    A 100% refund should be made and quick because those of us who are in the 80+ group have neither the money or time on hand to fulfill the journey we set off on June 12 to enjoy, and ended up bitterly dissapointed.

    The trouble was of Saga’s own making because they blew the fuse while trying to repair the bow thruster, then found the stand-by generation didn’t work, was it tested before departure, because the captain said no stand-by generation no steering if the electricity fails

  • Fred Mason

    Why oh Why oh Why, do people whinge and whine about something that can’t be foreseen, namely “A BREAKDOWN”, for god sake get real, have you never gone out in your car and then a bang, clunk, rattle rattle, or just a puncture, even down to a flat battery, it is not your fault is it?, NO!! you never blame yourself because it’s happened I would wager, well there you go, the Captain can’t just phone the AA or RAC for assistance, and as for the parts availability what are they supposed to do? some part’s for the ship have to be handled by lifting gear and they would need another ship twice the size just to stock the parts, how unreal can you folk get at all? the Captain has fulfilled his duty by trying to sort things out with the engineers, they have done their up-most to try and sort the problem to be able just to get you back here!! and you still whine on about it, for god’s sake, you should be praising them, I would put money on none of the above passenger knowing anything about marine engineering!!.
    If you would take the time to CALMLY (not shouting and raving at the staff on the phone’s as it’s not their fault either) just talk properly with them, they are there to try and help you and not to be used as a whipping post for you to vent your anger on!!
    There you go, to re-iterate 1, It is not the captain’s fault, 2. It is not the engineers fault, 3.It certainly is not the office staffs fault. Who’s fault is it then, I hear you say!! , it is just an unfortunate group of events and circumstances and that’s it! and Nothing else so what do us British people do? Get on with it, Thats What… before you start again, I do NOT work for SAGA, I am medically retired aged 61, I cant afford to go on a cruise, I am just an ex-soldier who is sick and tired of the people complaining about something that CANNOT BE HELPED…Kindest Regards to one and all. Fred

  • Craik Pamela & Ian

    1/July/2012 As passengers on the Saga Sapphire Norweigian Cruise we agree with the above comments. In addition the air conditioning never worked properly, freezing cold or very hot cabins, inspite of frequent attempts by crew to correct. Probably contributing to the very high levels of sickness on board; we both went out well and came home very sick. For us an extremely expensive disaster. Compensation offer derisory.

  • Sandra Stewart

    What mr Mason forgets in his comments is that this is the 3rd failure of the Saphire, pictures of the ship on her previous voyage (no 2) also show black smoke pouring out of her funnel.If you go on a train journey you expect to be delivered to your purchased destination even if the train breaks down, you also expect to receive compensation if this is not achieved. The headline destination was not reached, this in itself should have been so embarrassing for the company that they would readily offer recompense. It took us 3 years to save for this ‘holiday of a lifetime’ and we are unlikely to be able to afford a replacement at the present rate of compensation.

  • philip

    mr mason should realise that although mechanical things do go wrong, saga has had all the time in the world to put things right. I too am medically retired and rely on a wheelchair. The cruise was an absolute disaster from the outset.People on board have spent a fortune on this holiday which in the end the end they did not get and have every right to complain and request that they get a 100% refund.

  • clive bosman

    It is difficult to understand why Mr Fred Mason has submitted an entry to this blog. He wasn’t on the cruise so has no conception of what was involved and seems to have no knowledge of the fact that this ship is yet to make a scheduled itinerary due to SUCCESSIVE engineering system failures so it is not ‘just an unfortunate group of events’ as he suggests. He says he can’t afford a cruise so the issues have no relevance to him. His entry seems to be motivated by sour grapes or simply a desire to see his word in print. In my personal letter to Saga about the inadequate compensation offer I was at pains to express our thanks to the whole of the Saga Sapphire crew for their unstinting good service and unremitting courtesy. No one as far as I am aware is blaming anyone except Saga who continue to cruise this ship with known repeated failures. As a retired professional aviation engineer I can say that if the Saga Sapphire were an aicraft with its record it would be grounded by the CAA until it obtained a new airworthiness certificate.

  • Malcolm Holland

    It must have been very annoying for Saga passengers to see Thomson Spirit, a very old ship which has not been refurbished, sailing out of Tromso on the same day (with us on board), knowing it was headed successfully for the North Cape. Just goes to show – expensive is not always best.

  • Alison Austin

    Although I support some of what Mr Mason is saying in his posting – things do indeed break down – I believe it addresses only one aspect of the matter – i.e the technical breakdowns of bow thrusters and electrical systems. As always the matter is more complex and involved communications with passengers and subsequent treatment after the cruise.
    The ship has had a succession of technical problems since being comissioned by Saga including its maiden voyage. This must have given rise to a serious level of concern amongst the engineering support team and one would hope they had prepared emergency response plans to service future issues and kept these honed until such time as the ship had gone beyond the major corrective action stage and snagging list. The Sapphire had clearly not reached that stage when we left Dover on the 11th June. But commercial pressures probably prevailed. Indeed given the number of instances Sapphire needed tugs to take her into and out of the quaysides one wonders if the problem with the bowthrusters was known to the Bridge much much earlier on than announced.
    However, the old adage of keep communicating but be honest with your passengers still holds true. I believe much more could have been done on the sapphire by the senior staff to keep all informed and to be honest with the messages. The cited reason the ship pulled out of the visit to the Lofoten Islands was due to poor weather and heavy seas. Ditto for going up to the Northern Cape. The problem is with the Internet passengers can check this out – one sterling individual found this site which challenges the poor weather statement. http://www.yr.no/place/Norway/Nordland/V%C3%A5gan/Svolv%C3%A6r/almanakk.html?dato=2012-06-18
    I understand that compensation is exempt for diversion from a destination due to bad weather.
    On the day we left Tromso, after repairs, we stopped again mid channel and for more than 2 hours heard nothing from the Bridge – disconcerting when there is no wake behind the ship and little movement! Then we heard about the back up generator not linking corectly into the mains electrical system – no one questioned the need for all the subsequent tests – no one questioned the need to demonstrate safety. We did question though the Head Office interpretation of events and their level of understanding of passengers disappointment and disatisfaction. Was the ship really clear in their communications with the the Saga onshore team over passenger feelings?
    Its just that on top of this were constant problems relating to lack of hot water in the bathrooms, toilet systems, sewage smells and non functioning air conditioning controls (ours stuck at 13.2 degrees C – way below min leaglly required).
    I sincerely hope that Saga engineering team with legal support are able to hold the refurbishment company to account and secure a task force to sort the poor ship out. I hope they have an expanded team of engineers and repair men on board to deal with all the major and minor issues still to be solved.
    Mr Mason also forgets that cars have improved dramatically in reliability in the last 15 years thanks to the japanese and german car industry and that the rest of the sector has had to respond. Surely ship engineering and refurbishment companies should take note and learn and implement from them. Fiancial implications are much more severe.
    Like others who have posted here I can only but heap praise upon the Sapphire staff for their sterling service and good cheer during this last cruise. If we were experiencing problems they were too in their work spaces and personal quarters.

  • angela brook

    Bring back the Saga Rose. Like me its old but beautiful

  • Doug

    Latest offer ok if you remained fit.Wife went down with Bronchitis, tablets caused nausea.Like many others suffered from persistent coughing bouts.Had to miss booked trips,never stepped ashore after Narvik.The air -con was a joke and certainly is a health hazard.Alredy booked Quest for next year so the 10% discount offered for future cruise not available.What a way to reward loyalty.

  • joywoollard

    our cabin on the sapphire certainly had the smuts from the smoke in tromso come on saga if you want us to continue sailing with you we should be offered more than 50%.
    now the ruby is being retired you have very little to offer. If we take the cash offered we will not sail with you again.

  • Jean hoff

    Please explain why the Saga ships have to be so cold due to air conditioning being set at almost freezing point. Sailed on the Rose, Ruby and Pearl 11 and all these ships blasted cold air out in the public rooms making conditions very uncomfortable as you needed to wrap up in a coat to keep warm once you came inside the ship. All complaints about the artic conditions fell on deaf ears. Embarked each of the Saga ships fighting fit and disembarked with terrible coughs which took weeks to get rid of. Germs just circulate through the ships air conditioning systems. The Sapphire sounds like it has the same problems relating to passengers comfort.

  • Jean Hoff

    Have cancelled my cruise on the Saga Sapphire for March 2013. Grateful for all the comments. Sailed on the Rose, Ruby and Pearl 11 but not prepared to set sail on this doomed ship. Rebooked on the Quest as I know this ship is reliable unless anyone knows different!

  • DV & AW Hessey

    Having read all the above comments and having 3 cruises booked on the Sapphire I wondering if we ought to change our booking to the Ruby.- especially as she is being retired.

  • John Desborough

    We have just retuned from Iceland on the Saga Ruby, we felt that the ballroom was cold, the air conditioning was blowing very cold air but it only took one mention to one of the senior crew staff members and within minutes we were comfortably warm. If you have a problem make sure you talk to someone who can do something about it.

  • Onimous

    Crew work there backsides off and have to put up with u lot moaning they do long contracts and have a hard time enough , to be treated and shouted at , put yourself in there shoes more often .

  • Tony Hibberdine

    What are the latest problems with Saga Sapphire – or are the old ones still ongoing?

    I have 2 cruises booked on this ship and am now considering cancellation if the problems have not been properly rectified.

    I would be grateful to have an honest answer please.

    Tony Hibberdine – regular Saga cruiser (Rose, Ruby, Spirit of Adventure on many occasions)

  • Trevor Beswick

    Well! Well! Can this be the same cruise of which I thoroughly enjoyed the first half and was adequately compensated for the second half?

    As I understand it, the captain decided not to go to Svolvar because high winds were forecast and he felt it unwise to ride at anchor in a relatively unsheltered port. The forecast of high winds was also the reason why we did not go to the North Cape. It is not the Captain’s fault that the winds were less strong than forecast.

    My wife and I did however enjoy our visit to Stavanger, the cruise through part of Sognefjord and the visit to Trondheim. We were sorry to miss Svolvar but understand the reason for it. Narvick is no substitute for Svolvar but the scenery through the inner passage and the fjord system around Narvick was spectacular and we did see the midnight sun in the fjord system after leaving Narvick. I have some stunning photographs of it and I will cherish memories of this and the glacier which we sailed past and photographed. We also enjoyed our visit to Hammerfest and the excursion there.

    Tromso was also well worth seeing and we enjoyed our excursion there but I have to admit that the holiday from then on was a bit of a damp squib.

    The point I am making is that we did get half the holiday and if, as I have done, you put your compensation towards the August 2012 cruise on Saga Ruby which goes to Geiranger and Eidfjord you will have got what you paid for together with a week’s free board and lodging courtesy of Saga.

    I was disappointed with the second half of the cruise but am happy with the compensation and looking forward to completing the itinery next year.

    I would be very happy for Saga to use this posting to counter any suggestions made elsewhere that they did not adequately compensate or look after their customers if they so wish.

  • jharlow

    23/8 24hours notice of cancelled cruise due to cabin technicalities

  • Pauline Swindon

    come on jharlow tell us more. Was the whole cruise cancelled or just certain cabins

  • M.Smith

    For those of us booked on the next Best of the Baltic cruise on 11th September the cancellation comment by jharlow provides yet more uncertainty. Can Saga risk it’s reputation by commencing another cruise with a vessel not up to standard?

  • Maddy

    Not surprised, I was a passenger on Norway Cruise 17-24thAug 2012, air conditioning erratic and quality of air very poor in some cabins due to heavy diesel pollution. Luckily I was transferred to a much better cabin on boarding, I said I would be ill if I stayed where I was.. I don’t think SAGA are able to sort this. Every other aspect of the cruise was very good as usual from Saga. I will not book on Sapphire again as I spend a lot of time in my cabin and can’t risk this again. See next ?cruise was cancelled as we docked. We were given no indication whatsoever that the next cruise had been cancelled and all passenger reviews in Cruise Critic have disappeared!!!!!

  • James Hart

    see the captains blog has dried up again. How many cruises have been cancelled?

  • P Alden

    I was on the Saga Sapphire cruise to the North Cape. Very disappointed to miss so many destinations – and I have said so before. I have received the revised letter offerring compensation equal to 40% of the cruise price. I contacted Ms Hooper (Chief Executive of Saga Cruises) with my comments that this did not seem adequate when it would cost so much more to visit all thise site that we missed (including the North Cape). My letter was ignored – also extremely disappoining – and I received the repeated offer from their Customer Relations people. I feel that I was forced to accept this unsatisfactory offer – but still (as at September 5th) have not been paid a penny in compensation.

  • Viv Kemp

    HELP!!!!Please can someone tell me if the sapphire is now sailing with all its problems solved or would it be advisable to rebook on another ship. An honest reply please.

  • Robin Vleij

    Interesting. The Sapphire was just towed into Stockholm harbour by two tugs, which is strange since most cruise ships can do this on their own.

    Googled a bit and found this site. The captains blog has been quiet for 5-6 days now as well. 🙂

    There was some (normal) diesel smoke, so it has power somehow. Can’t find if the stop in Stockholm was planned or not.

    But it was the first time I saw a cruiseship being towed in.

  • Jane & Brenda

    We are two ladies who have booked a cruise on the Sapphire. Can anyone inform us if this ship is now sailing without any further touble. We are really worried about going to sea in a ship that is unreliable. What about the heating / air conditioning. Surely someone has sailed on this ship recently and can put our minds at rest. Does this ship have reliable engines.

  • Anon

    I recently was a officer with saga! I have left! Too many problems all the time! Not enough investment!! Doomed!!!

  • Ian & Margaret

    Hi all, fascinating reading, but can anyone tell us if the problems have been fixed please? We have spent weeks researching Northern Lights holidays in 2013 and the Sapphire cruise leaving 25 February really looks the best – BUT who wants the alternating stench of sewerage and diesel, and the risk of engine failure up in the arctic circle? Is this all a leg-pull, or for real? We’ll be coming from Australia, for a watershed birthday, and while we don’t mind a bit of the unexpected, neither of us can swim in zero degrees water!

    Any updates please? Or any other suggestions? Has anyone been on the Fred Olsen, Marco Polo or the MV Discovery alternative cruises?


  • Bob Hodgson

    We have sailed on all other Saga ships over the past 15 years and are booked for the Saphire for 31 nights in November this year.We have every confidence that the Saga crew and staff will look after us well and look forward to another great cruise even if all things do not go smoothly

  • Grahame Arnold

    I was at Tromso on one of the days that the Sapphire was marooned there. My ship was the Athena (1948 – no less) which is the oldest cruise ship still operating. I thought that all was not well with the Sapphire as it was being shunted around the anchorage by tugs, and didn’t have any visible passengers aboard. The old Athena performed faultlessly throughout our cruise (we had just come from North Cape). I took a couple of shots of the Saga ship from ‘Athena’, if anyone is interested

  • william and joyce crossley

    Hi Bob, so how did the cruise go then? your comments would be helpful before booking on the Sapphire.

  • S & P

    We sailed in August to Iceland on the Sapphire. The crew and staff, as always were excellent but we were, of course, disappointed not to land at several of the places planned due to bad weather. Rather peeved also to discover that the launderette which was mentioned on the original plans had mysteriously disappeared!

    I am writing this now as we are trying to get an update on the problems encountered during our voyage in August when there were disgusting effluent and diesel fumes pervading the ship, along with a night when the ship’s engine was obviously encountering difficulties? We are booked for the Arctic cruise end of February 2013!! Although quite intrepid travellers in the past, we would like to feel confident that SAGA had sorted these problems by now and we can look forward to a really comfortable cruise next year. Should the same problems exist, we shall not be so forgiving in the future!

  • m greening

    Sapphire sailing back from Canaries cruise January 13 has had problems I understand, put into Vigo (unscheduled) and is delayed returning to Southampton on Jan 21st. Texts from passengers on board refer to “damage” but I was unable to verify this.

  • D Botterill

    My wife and I spent one night on the Sapphire at the beginning of the delayed inaugural cruise and left the ship an hour before it sailed because the second revision of the itinerary substituted Casablanca for Rome.
    Shortly after boarding the ship, we got into conversation with a member of the senior management team. My wife complained to him about the absence of a self service laundry room and, just before we left the ship, we received a circular to all passengers announcing that the laundry service would be complimentary for the entire voyage. Previously the charges were said to have been reduced due to the lack of a launderette.

  • F. Frobisher

    I can confirm that many of the criticisms directed at the Saga Sapphire still exist. Having returned from a five week Spice Island Cruise on February 25th 2013 I observed that many passengers including ourselves were taken ill with chest infections. Had no air conditioning in hot cabins which the crew could not fix and were dismayed at the state of the dirty and old windows in the Pole to Pole restaurant. Windows were not cleaned until the final leg of the trip at Lisbon. Moreover, the frames and whatever held the windows in looked as though they may fall out in a storm! All this at the cost, we imagine, of overdressing some public rooms and economising on finish and other essentials such as the food. This, we found to be of very poor quality and mainly fish and chicken dishes for the first three weeks.

    As gold members, we were very disappointed in what appeared an economy exercise on Saga’s part. We may try once more to see if things have improved but judging by the comments over the past 12 months, most problems have not been addressed and will not be until the ship is taken out of service and a thorough makeover is done.

    There were many dissatisfied passengers on our cruise. We have never known this before.

    As usual, the saving grace was the wonderful staff and in particular the waiters in Pole to Pole and East to West. C’mon Saga get it right or you will lose your faithful customers.

  • Chris Taylor

    But it is still a problem ship. Do people realize it broke down again on the July trip to the Midnight sun with cracked cylinder head and fumes in the cabin ?

  • C Dugard

    We booked a cruise to France (7days) last summer. I loved the large cabin but the ship broke down (water in the engines). I could not believe the stories of other breakdowns – so many. We got offered free drinks and our excursion money refunded. This was apparently the best excursion. Was very disappointed particularly as it was our only holiday last year. Will definitely not book on this ship.

  • Pat Locke

    We have just returned from 2014 Christmas cruise on the Saga Sapphire. The content of the cruise was very good ie :- ports, food and Christmas and new year celebrations, there was a big problem though, every corridor on the ship smelled of sewage for the whole cruise, so we won’t be sailing on the Sapphire until we know that the problem has been sorted,

  • Mrs Patricia Cresswell

    I have just returned from a cruise with Saga Sapphire, there was a smell of sewage in the corridors and cabin for quite a time, a lot of people with coughs especially on the last day waiting to disembark, since returning I have been in bed for a week with illness and severe chest infection.