Saga River Cruises: 7 Things You Need To Know Before Booking


In August I took my first cruise with Saga. I was invited to join them on a Danube river cruise from Budapest to Bucharest and I had the most amazing time. I’d definitely recommend a cruise with Saga but I wouldn’t recommend it to all. The following 7 points will help you to make an informed decision about if a Saga river cruise is right for you.

Saga Cruises Are Aimed At a British Market

Without a doubt, Saga river cruises are aimed primarily at a British market. I recently returned from a Danube river cruise with Saga where almost all passengers were British. Having said that, Saga cruise are not exclusively for brits.

Saga don’t advertise in the USA/Canada/Australia so this explains the majority of passengers being British.

British Touches

British favourites are regularly on the menu of Saga cruises. I had the most amazing fish and chips during my Saga river cruise. You’ll find more about the food later in this post.

Tea features heavily in the daily schedule. Afternoon tea happens each and every day and offers passengers a variety of sandwiches, cakes and teas to choose from. Onboard there was a choice of Yorkshire tea, PG tips and about 15 other tea choices. Tea/Coffee making facilities are available in the main lounge 24 hours a day and tea/coffee is also served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Saga River Cruise Afternoon Tea
Mum and me, enjoying afternoon tea!

Saga Don’t Own/Build Their Own Ships

Saga don’t own their own river cruise ships, they charter them from other river cruise companies. This means that there is a lot of variety in regards to onboard ship amenities within the Saga fleet. The ships are chartered exclusively for Saga meaning that no other cruise lines/companies are able to use the ships while they are chartered to Saga.

Other river cruise lines that build their own ships will usually have little or no variation in their fleet.

6 of Saga’s Current River Cruise Fleet

The ships chartered by Saga are generally speaking older than ships that you may find on other river cruise lines like Emerald Waterways and Avalon.

Filia Rheni River Cruise Ship Review

I cruised on the Filia Rheni which was built in 1999. She was a very comfortable ship and although not really showing her age you could still tell that she isn’t a modern river ship. The design of river ships has changed in recent years and certain features onboard give away the ship’s age.

That said, all of the furnishings onboard appeared relatively new and there wasn’t ever anything that was broken or scruffy onboard. The Filia Rheni provides a traditional river cruise experience. She has one big dining room, one lounge and a swimming pool on the top deck. The ship is a good size for the number of passengers that she holds, we certainly never struggled to find a seat or a sunlounger! At one point I had 8 sun loungers, a giant chessboard and a swimming pool all to myself.

Saga Filia Rheni Lounge

Filia Rheni Cabin Review

We stayed in a balcony cabin and it was a decent size. The cabin had everything that we needed and we were very comfortable there. That said, there wasn’t anything in the cabin that particularly wowed me but I did enjoy leaning out of the balcony as we sailed along.

The cabin was cleaned every day to a high standard and my only complaint was that the bed wasn’t very comfortable because I could feel the springs digging into my arm when I layed down. I fixed this by using the bed cover as a mattress topper and from this point onwards it was fine.

Filia rheni balcony cabin

Saga Cruises Include Transfers

During my Saga cruise, I spoke to many other guests and asked them about why they liked cruising with Saga. The most common reason I heard was that Saga looks after their guests and they include transfers in their cruise fare.

Saga seem to be pretty flexible when it comes to travel arrangements. Some passengers had caught trains instead of taxis and a few even have hotel stays included because they lived so far from the airport.

Transfer Distance

Saga includes a transfer if you live within 250 miles of the cruise port or airport which I think is amazing. I was picked up for my Saga cruise at 4 am and taken to the airport. The taxi alone would have cost over £100 and we had the same thing on the way home too!

This service is a private chauffeur for distances up to 75 miles each way, and a shared chauffeur service from 76-250 miles each way.

Don’t want to chauffeur? No problem. We’ll also be happy to arrange complimentary car parking near the port, or can provide included rail/coach tickets, or even free flights from your local airport, subject to availability. – source.

Thie service operates only in the UK.

The Saga Team Will Look After You

Saga charter their ships so, as far as I can work out, most members of crew onboard will below to the ship rather than to Saga. On my Saga cruise, the bar team, housekeeping team, and kitchen team were all incredible and made sure that every guest had everything that they needed.

Port Talk Saga River Cruise
A port talk by the Saga team

Saga Team

On a Saga river cruise, there will be a few members of staff from Saga and I was lucky enough to have Charlie, Loraine, and Debbie. Charlie was our Cruise Host with Loraine second in command. Debbie was our entertainment for the week, she sang, she hosted games and she ran the Zumba! A lady with many talents.

During our cruise, they were always available for the guests and were constantly friendly and patient which made the atmosphere onboard very homely and welcoming. If anything went wrong or anybody onboard ever had any questions we all knew that we could go to Charlie, Loraine or Debbie and they’d help sort it out.

I spoke to many other guests onboard all of whom loved the trio. Many praised Charlies ability to explain things, Loraines ability to organise everything (and everybody), and Debbies ability to make everybody laugh.

A rose made for us at dinner from a napkin.

Saga Have Fixed Dining Times and Table Sharing

Saga has fixed dining times on their river cruises and table sharing is common. On most river cruises you will have fixed dining times because the majority of river cruise ships only have one main dining room.

There are a few new ships with multiple restaurant options but generally speaking, river cruise ships have one main dining room.

Breakfast

Saga offers a buffet breakfast in the main dining room. This usually is open for a couple of hours and when you arrive you will be seated with other guests. You are able to arrive at any time when breakfast is open. Tea/Coffee is offered and there are a variety of juices and water available.

The buffet contained everything from a full English breakfast to continental favourites. Bread, cereals, and fruits were plentiful and always of really high quality. I’d find it very difficult to find any fault with anything in the buffet.

Saga River Cruise Filia Rheni Food Breakfast Bread Gluten Free

Lunch

There are two options for lunch. Guests can either have a 3-course meal in the main dining room or can have a ‘light lunch’ in the lounge. I tried both and they were great.

Main Dining Room Lunch

The sit-down lunch in the main dining room was very similar to dinner, the only difference is that during lunch guests are seated on a first come first serve basis. I quite liked this as it meant we got to chat with new people each lunchtime. The options on the menu were varied and I never had a bad dish during the entire cruise. In fact, I never heard anybody say anything bad about any item of food for the entire cruise. Wow!

Light Lunch

I really enjoyed the light lunch. It was usually a collection of sandwiches/salads and things like pasta or soups. Don’t be fooled by the ‘light lunch’ title, it definitely is possible to overeat. We were actually planning on leaving the ship one lunchtime when the smell of spare ribs wafted from the lounge… we decided, of course, to have lunch and then venture out.

Saga Filia Rheni Light Lunch Option

Dinner

Saga has fixed tables for dining which will be given to you on the first night of your cruise. We were sharing with 4 other ladies all of whom were lovely. It’s always a relief to have nice table mates.

The dinner onboard is usually 4 courses, a starter, soup, main and dessert. On occasion, other courses would appear such as a sorbet.

Our waiter would often give us another dish to share if he thought we should try a certain dish. We never really wanted the extra dessert but somehow always managed to eat it… funny that!

Saga River Cruise Food Dinner

Food Quality

I’ve been on 23 cruises to date and I have to say that, in my opinion, the food served on Saga ships is up there with the best. During my 6 night cruise, I didn’t hear a single complaint from any passenger about the quality of the food.

Saga River Cruises Include Some Excursions, Drinks with Meals, and WiFi

In addition to the transfers mentioned earlier, Saga include a lot in their base cruise fare.

Are Excursions Included on a Saga River Cruises?

On our 6 night cruise, we had two excursions included. Plus a very strange bonus excursion on the first day which we didn’t expect. To read more about that, check out this post: Saga Danube River Cruise Daily Diary & Review. 

The excursions are mostly coach based. During our excursions we were given some time to walk around and those who were less able were given an option of waiting in a coffee shop.

Saga river cruises do not include daily excursions and the number of excursions offered does vary by cruise. Having said this, cruise director Charlie was always available to do a ‘walk into town’ for the passengers who weren’t on an excursion. I thought that this was a lovely gesture as it helped the passengers to feel safer when exploring new places and meant that they knew where they were going when doing their own exploring.

Saga Danube Delta River Excursion
Danube Delta Excursion

Are Drinks Included on a Saga River Cruises?

Saga river cruises include drinks with meals. This includes beer, wine and soft drinks such as soda. The ‘free’ drinks aren’t only available in the main dining room but they are also available in the main lounge when lunch is being served. Beer/wine isn’t served with breakfast.

Wine

The wine servings were HUGE and most nights I didn’t have more than one other drink in the evening. We actually only spent £42 on drinks during our cruise! Dinner is quite an event on Saga cruises and we often sat for quite a long time just chatting and getting our money worth out of the free drinks. There is only one seating of dinner you don’t have to be rushed out of the restaurant so can take as much time as you need.

A red, white and rose are available every night. This didn’t change during the cruise but I wouldn’t have wanted it too. I liked the rose. Check out those wine servings below!

Saga River Cruise Table Sharing at Dinner

WiFi

WiFi is included on Saga river cruises. The quality of the WiFi depends on where you are cruising at the time. Sometimes the WiFi was pretty good and other times it was awful. To use the WiFi you’ll need to get a password from reception and use this to log in.

Travel Insurance

Saga river cruises include travel insurance. This is a big benefit for a lot of their passengers who may find it expensive to buy travel insurance. If you don’t want to take the travel insurance Saga will usually offer you a small discount on the cruise fare.

Saga Are a 50+ Cruise Line

Saga are a 50+ cruise line. The only exception to this rule is that guests 40+ may travel if they are cruising with somebody who is 50+. Having said this, I don’t think I saw anybody in their 40s on my Saga cruise, most were in their 60s or 70s.

You may have noticed that I am not 50! I’m 25. Saga invited me on the cruise so that I could learn about it and report back here on this website and on YouTube, I also updated Instagram, Facebook and Twitter daily during the cruise. When the cruise was booked for me I went onto Saga’s website to try and order a brochure and it wouldn’t let me until I pretended I was 50, haha… Despite the cruise definitely not being targeted at me I had a really great time and I’ll remember the cruise forever.

To read more about the cruise I took with Saga, check out this post: Saga Danube River Cruise Daily Diary & Review. 

To learn more about cruising with Saga, visit Saga’s website here: https://bit.ly/2JvsHmp

(affiliate link)

Filia Rheni River Cruise Ship Budapest

If you are considering a river cruise but are not over 50 it may be worth checking out Emerald Waterways. I took a cruise with them along the Rhone and it was brilliant. To learn more read my daily cruise diary here: Emerald Waterways, Daily Cruise Diary and Review. 

Where To Next?

If you’re considering your first cruise, or would just like to learn a little more about cruising, this post is a brilliant place to start: 67 Cruise Tips From 67 Cruisers. 

The post shares tips from 67 real cruisers and takes you through from embarkation to disembarkation. By reading this guide you’ll be better prepared for your cruise than 99% of other cruisers!67 first time cruise tips from 67 cruisers ultimate cruise tips guide

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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