05 November 2012

Saga Sapphire in Helsinki, 27 July 2012

Before we proceed to today's entry with the Saga Sapphire, it is time to do the same advertisement we do every two months: the latest issue of the Finnish-language Ulkomatala web magazine is out again. This time it includes two articles by yours truly, one detailing the 50 years of ferry traffic between Finland and Germany and the other dealing with past ships named Finlandia in honour of Eckerö Line's upcoming ship with that name. You may access the latest issue of the magazine here.

Also, in case you have missed it, I have recently also been active as MaritimeMatters' Helsinki correspondent with a trip report from Eckerö Line's Nordlandia. You can read that piece here. Now, onwards to the point.

Saga Sapphire

IMO 7822457
Name history: Europa, SuperStar Europe, SuperStar Aries, Holiday Dream, Bleu de France
Built 1981, Bremer Vulkan, Germany
Tonnage 37 301 GT
Length 199,63 m
Width 28,55 m
Draught 8,30 m
706 passengers
2 MAN-Bremer Vulkan diesels, combined 21 270 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 21 knots

The Saga Sapphire started life as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Europa of 1981. According to Philip Dawson's delightful book The Liner, the ship was designed to be usable in liner traffic in addition to cruise service, though she has never been used as a liner. The Europa sailed with Hapag-Lloyd until the late 1990s, when the company decided to build a new, much more luxurious Europa. In preparation for the delivery of the new Europa, the old Europa was sold to Star Cruises in 1998, but chartered back to Hapag-Lloyd until the delivery of the new Europa in 1999.

In 1999 the Europa became Star Cruises' SuperStar Europe, with the name modified to SuperStar Aries the following year. In 2004 the ship changed owners and reappeared as Pullmantur Cruises' Holiday Dream. Four years later Pullmantur's new owners Royal Caribbean Cruises International decided to refit the Holiday Dream for the French cruise market under the banner of RCCL's new CdF Croisieres de France brand as the Bleu de France. CdF became a success and it was soon clear a larger ship would be needed. In 2010 the Bleu de France was sold to Saga Cruises for delivery in 2012. Saga Cruises decided to rename the ship Saga Sapphire and she entered service following a refit in 2012.

The photographs below show the Saga Sapphire departing from Helsinki on the afternoon of 27 July 2012, photographed from Kustaanmiekka. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

With the new ship Saga Cruises decided to alter their funnel colours from the very traditional yellow and black... and the new ones look terrible. The other side, with a "Saga" text looks slightly better.
Due to having just one bow thruster, the Saga Sapphire needed tug assistance to depart and she was trailed by the tugs out of Kustaanmiekka. The first tug is the Artemis and the second probably the Hector (I didn't write their names down so not 100% certain about the identification of the latter).
Nice summer lighting and even a little sailboat in the background. And the ship doesn't look too shabby either.
When they cut out the new balconies below the boat deck, they might have done something to the previously added protruding balconies below the bridge as well. The ship would look much better without those.
Traditional crowd of on-lookers.
A little bit of tree and fortifications in the foreground.
Next time: Delphin

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