The bubbly has been on ice for far too long; it’s time to welcome Spirit of Adventure to the Saga fleet. With just hours to go until the ship is finally christened ahead of her maiden voyage around the UK, we caught up with the man set to take her helm for an exclusive interview.
Make a coffee, put your feet up in the sun and let Captain Tanner give you a look behind the scenes as Saga return to sea. It turns out we aren’t the only ones who just can’t wait to cruise again…
Captain Tanner, in the month you take the helm of new ship, Spirit of Adventure, on her inaugural sailing, how are you feeling about the return to sea?
I cannot wait to be back at sea again. Tilbury docks entertained us for a few days, but 450+ days alongside were getting a little tiresome…
Before we delve into what you think makes a Saga ship and sailing so special, can you tell us how you came to find yourself working aboard some of the world’s leading cruise lines?
I started out young, messing around in boats as a toddler being brought up in a coastal house in Jersey. My father was a sailor and I naturally followed in his footsteps, starting by working on yachts and then commencing my commercial career as a cadet with P&O Cruises.
I worked on P&O, Princess and Cunard cruise ships, and also on ferries and superyachts during my leave periods to earn a little extra pocket money. On reaching Staff Captain, and with Carnival’s cruise fleet only getting bigger in tonnage, I yearned for slightly smaller ships with adventurous itineraries, which is how I found myself at Saga.
And how are you finding Spirit of Adventure by comparison?
Spirit of Adventure is what I would call an ideal sized cruise ship for us. Not so big that she can’t call into the lesser-visited ports we enjoy exploring at Saga, but big enough to have plenty of exclusive venues on board and provide everyone with a lot of space. A modern ship, she is wonderfully manoeuvrable, a dream to ‘drive,’ and in fact contrary to what many believe, as a result of this combined with a lesser draft, our new ships are able to visit many more smaller harbours than our beloved old Saga Sapphire.
You mention Saga’s adventurous itineraries and smaller ships. What else do you think has earned the cruise line such a dedicated following?
In two words, the crew and the food! Many of our loyal guests consider Saga cruise ships their second home, and being a smaller, more intimate affair, our crew and guests have the opportunity to get to know one another well. After a day or so on board, seldom does one have to order a drink when walking into one of the bars – a simple nod at the bartender will see them knocking up your favourite tipple. Nothing is too much trouble at Saga when it comes to food, either.
How has Saga adapted its protocols ahead of its return to sea in light of post-pandemic regulations?
An entire new section of our operations manual has been created to help prevent and deal with the risks associated with COVID. As we are also so used to now ashore, these are constantly changing to reflect the latest Government and scientific advice, but our crews are trained and drilled in all aspects related to COVID management.
There’s so much anticipation and excitement in the air around cruising’s return. What can Saga’s guests expect this summer?
Fantastic views of our great British coastline as we scenic cruise (let’s not forget that every guest cabin has its own private balcony), combined with optional organised trips ashore to sample various regional highlights. Match this with great food and on-board entertainment, along with the selection of facilities boasted by our new ships, and we have all the ingredients for a great British summer holiday without the worry of driving (or getting rained on whilst going to the shop…).
Are there any destinations you’re particularly looking forward to showing Saga guests in your time as Captain?
Absolutely – Greenland should be spectacular, and as we start to see countries opening up post-pandemic, there are some cracking European ports on the cards, too. The Baltic and the Mediterranean are two of my favourite stomping grounds, as a mere overnight trip on board in either of these seas often moves us to different countries, cultures, languages, sights and culinary delights.
Which destinations have left a lasting impression on you in all your years at sea?
I love the culture and lifestyle of so many European countries, and in particular Spain, where I own my house. It used to be so easy to hop on a plane for an hour or so to visit them, so I’m really looking forward to being able to do that again. Further afield, I have loved travelling to the Far East – especially for the food – and Cuba also left a unique impression on me.
And finally, could you give our readers an idea of how a ‘typical’ day might look for the Captain of a Saga ship?
One of the beauties of the job is the unpredictability – no two days are ever the same. When at sea, I tend to be up early and wander around the ship checking all is ship-shape, bumping into those other early risers plying the promenade deck, prior to undoing all their hard work by consuming a famous Saga breakfast.
Days are filled with heading various inspections, meetings, all elements of cruise planning and of course the administrative side of things; dreaded emails! There are frequently cocktail parties in the evening, and often these are followed by hosting the traditional Captain’s dinner table.
When in port, I am up on the Bridge for all harbour entries and exits, either ‘driving’ or overseeing my deputies doing the same under training, when safe to do so.