The UK-based cruise shipping company that specializes in services for the over 50s - SAGA Cruises, announced it had completed the previously agreed sale of the 39-year-old liner Saga Sapphire. The vessel was sold to the family-owned Turkish tour operator and travel agency ANEX Tour.
The boat is scheduled to enter service under the name "Blue Sapphire" for ANEX Tour's new cruise line in 2021. The inaugural cruise program of Blue Sapphire is based on roundtrips from homeport Antalya Turkey to Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea ports.
While many ships are currently being scrapped or sold due to the pandemic, Saga Sapphire was fortunate to escape the Aliaga ship graveyard - Europe's largest ship recycling facility (located close to Izmir Tutkey). In August 2019, ANEX Tour announced that it would acquire the vessel.
Saga Sapphire was originally built for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (as ms Europa / link to the Hapag-Lloyd-owned ship). "MS Europa" was the 5th ship for Hapag-Lloyd with that name. Through the years, the vessel was renamed several times - SuperStar Europe (1999-2000, owner Star Cruises Asia), Superstar Aries (2000-2004, owner Star Cruises Asia), ms Holiday Dream (2004-2008, owner Club Vacaciones), Bleu de France (2008-2011, owner Pulllmantur-CDF). In November 2010, the ship was bought by Saga UK but remained on charter by CDF-France (Pullmantur subsidiary) for the next year. After an extensive refit in 2012, the ship received the name "MS Saga Sapphire".
The 752-passenger ship Saga Sapphire was introduced (as the company's flagship) in March 2012. Sapphire was the largest vessel operated by Saga Group (a UK-based corporation that specializes in financial services and also cruise shipping for 50+ aged travellers).
Note: In November 2019, after acquiring Thomas Cook Group's subsidiaries in Germany (Oger Tours, Bucher Reisen, Neckermann) and Russia (Intourist, 1929-founded USSR-Russia travel agency), ANEX Tour became the world's second-largest tour operator - after TUI Group. The company's Chairman (Neset Kockar) commented that expects the annual passenger volume to increase to 8 million and the turnover to reach ~EUR 10 billion (~USD 11 B).
Thomas Cook (2007-founded / 2019-defunct) was a British travel group formed by the merger of Thomas Cook AG (Anglo-German, 2001-founded) and MyTravel Group plc (British, 1972-founded). Neset Kockar (ANEX Tours) was the second-largest shareholder in Thomas Cook Group plc (after Fosun International China).