Saga’s first new-build river cruise ship follows the huge success of its boutique ocean cruise ships, Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, designed exclusively for the British holiday company and its over-50s clientele.
Billed as a five-star river ship, Spirit of the Rhine reflects the luxury styling of the ocean fleet with sleek lines and pastel tones, showcasing original work specially commissioned from British-based artists.
Although the River Rhine is its core destination there are itineraries on the Moselle, Main, Danube and Dutch waterways, too.
Up to eight free excursions are available -- three on seven-night cruises -- but passengers can also use a free audio headset to use with interactive maps and explore at their own pace.
All cruises also include gratuities, complimentary wifi, VIP transfers starting from passengers’ homes and travel insurance that covers 400 pre-existing medical conditions.
A few cruises are also dedicated to singles groups or solo travellers.
The headline dining experience is an intimate a la carte restaurant limited to 34 covers, with a menu by celebrity chef Nick Nairn who made his name on TV shows such as Ready Steady Cook and the BBC’s Great British Menu.
Free reservations will be available to every passenger for dinner and on selected cruises the Michelin star chef will present a live cooking show. The main restaurant also features locally sourced ingredients for its breakfast, lunch and dinners, with four or five courses at some evening meals. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are available at lunch and dinner in the main restaurant and a la carte restaurant, where light lunches are served.
And for an alfresco alternative there’s the sundeck barbecue, on sunny days when the ship is moored, with free drinks at lunch and dinner.
Complimentary afternoon tea will be served every day and there are self-service stations for tea, coffee and biscuits any time of day.
At an average of 17 square metres and with hotel-style beds -- twin and double -- cabins offer a spacious home-from-home. All have en-suite bathrooms with a walk-in shower, with bathrobes and slippers to use during the cruise.
Tea and coffee-making facilities are in every cabin, with a small fridge, TV, Bluetooth speaker and USB charging point. There is also a hairdryer, telephone, safe and small seating area, with a turndown service available every evening.
Cabins on the middle and upper decks have a French balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows while those on the lower deck are slightly smaller, with a picture window.
The large sun deck has a hot tub, barbecue, deck games and plenty of room for deckchairs and loungers for those who want to sit outside while the ship sails -- or enjoy a waiter-served drink in the sun after a day exploring.
Celebrity guests will entertain passengers with talks about their careers and experiences, with some joining excursions to vineyards and gardens. In 2021 the line-up includes celebrity chef Nick Nairn, cricket broadcaster Jonathan Agnew MBE, BBC Radio DJ Johnnie Walker MBE, TV gardener Charlie Dimmock, wine expert Jilly Goolden and former political journalist John Sergeant.
The inaugural cruise in March 2021 has a Beatles theme, with the Bootleg Beatles performing, there’s a Gilbert & Sullivan cruise with on-board shows and every cruise has a Saga host and on-board entertainer as well as a resident band.
During the day passengers can relax in the uber-stylish library lounge, a smaller version of the extremely popular libraries on Saga’s ocean ships, and there’s also a small gym for the energetic.
Spirit of the Rhine has 15 itineraries to choose from on the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Danube, with cruises of the Dutch Waterways to take in Keukenhof Garden’s spring bulbs extravaganza.
A number of Special Interest cruises include wine-tasting and art-themed itineraries and some will be dedicated to jazz and bands across the eras. Exclusive Excursions, such as foodie experiences in Vienna and Amsterdam, beer tasting in Bratislava and a canal cruise in Ghent, will be included to reveal lesser-known sights.
And for those who can’t decide where they want to go there’s a mystery cruise.