Blue Sapphire

Former names: Saga Sapphire, Bleu de France, Holiday Dream, SuperStar Aries, SuperStar Europe, MS Europa, Blue Sapphire

Blue Sapphire current position

Blue Sapphire current location is at Aegean Sea (coordinates 38.43272 N / 27.10785 E) cruising en route to Izmir. The AIS position was reported 7 minutes ago.

Current Position

Specifications of Blue Sapphire

Year of build1981  /  Age: 43
Flag state Bahamas
BuilderBremer Vulkan Werft (Bremen, Germany)
Building costUSD 120 million
Speed21 kn / 39 km/h / 24 mph
Length (LOA)199 m / 653 ft
Beam (width)28 m / 92 ft
Gross Tonnage37049 gt
Passengers-to-space ratio45
Decks with cabins10
Last Refurbishment2022
Former namesSaga Sapphire, Bleu de France, Holiday Dream, SuperStar Aries, SuperStar Europe, MS Europa, Blue Sapphire
OwnerANEX Tours (Turkey)
OperatorANEX Selectum Blu Cruises (via AnexSea Cruises Ltd)

Blue Sapphire Review

Review of Blue Sapphire

The 1981-built Saga Sapphire cruise ship (now Blue Sapphire) was one of Saga Cruises UK's two old vessels - together with the fleetmate Saga Pearl 2. Sapphire was transferred to Saga Holidays/Saga Travel (part of SAGA Group UK) in 2011 and inaugurated in March 2012.

Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl 2 were both withdrawn from service (left the fleet) after SAGA Group's two newbuilds - Spirit of Discovery (2019) and Spirit of Adventure (2020) - were delivered. In August 2019 was announced that Saga Sapphire will be acquired by ANEX Tours (Turkey's largest travel agency/tour operator), starting operations for ANEX Tours in mid-2020. The 39-year-old liner was sold to/acquired by ANEX Tours on June 18, 2020.

The ship (renamed "Blue Sapphire") started operations for ANEX Tours in 2021, with an inaugural cruise program based on roundtrips from homeport Antalya Turkey to Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea ports.

(ANEX Tours/shipowner) 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 brand privatized in the 1990s by Vladimir Yevtushenkov), ANEX Tours 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 11B).

Thomas Cook Group (2007-founded / 2019-defunct) was a British travel group formed by the merger of Thomas Cook AG (British-German, 2001-founded) and MyTravel Group plc (British, 1972-founded). Neset Kockar (ANEX Tours) was the second-largest shareholder in Thomas Cook Group - after Fosun International (China).

In late-February ANEX Turkey announced its new brand "Selectum Blu Cruises", with CEO Necdet Ucarlar. ANEX Tours plans to expand Selectum Blu Cruises' fleet to 3 ships (second-hand vessels), with itineraries in Europe, Asia and Caribbean, and homeporting in Turkey, China (or Vietnam) and the Dominican Republic. ANEX Tours sell holidays (including ship cruises) since 1996.

Saga Sapphire's last drydock refurb (by SAG UK) was in 2015. Following the acquisition, ANEX Tours Turkey planned a drydock refurbishment for Blue Sapphire to be conducted in 2020-Q3. As of December 1, 2020, the ship was docked at Port Marmaris Turkey.

For SAGA UK, the vessel (IMO number 7822457) was Malta-flagged (MMSI 256208000) and registered in Valletta. Following the ANEX acquisition, Blue Sapphire is now Bahamas-flagged (MMSI 311000978) and registered in Nassau.

"Selectum Blu Cruises" is operated via the Malta-based subsidiary "AnexSea Cruises Ltd" (February 2020-incorporated, company number C94928, headquartered in Sliema, Malta) and plans to acquire/purchase a second vessel.

History - construction and ownership

Saga Cruises (Saga Shipping) is a UK-based company, division of Saga Group. By purchasing Saga Rose, Saga Group started its passenger shipping operations. The boat operated as flagship until 2005 when was added Saga Ruby (bought from Cunard Line). For the 2003 summer Saga Cruises chartered mv Minerva (built 1989), which was renamed to Saga Pearl. Saga Rose was retired after a final 37-night Mediterranean voyage. Subsequently, the ship was scrapped in China. Saga Ruby departed for Gibraltar out of Southampton for the last time on Jan. 10 and was handed over to the new shipowner on January 13, 2014.

Saga Sapphire cruise ship

Saga Sapphire was originally built for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises as ms Europa (link to the HP 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 travelers).

In November 2011, Saga Holidays took ownership of Pullmantur CDF’s Bleu de France, immediately beginning a multimillion drydock refurbishment of the 706-passenger vessel. The vessel changed hands a few times since its debut in 1981 as Hapag-Lloyd's Europa. Saga Cruises successfully created a stylish but contemporary ship with lovely British touches. A part of the refurb was the stunning 7-m installation of 1395 stainless steel fish (Atrium Lobby's centerpiece). To Saga Sapphire's staterooms (Deck 8) were added 46 step-out balconies - increasing the balcony cabins to 65. Amenities include electronic safe box and lifejackets (in the closet), DVD player, smart HDTV, direct-dial phone (intercom), hairdryer, mini-fridge, individually controlled air-conditioning. Public spaces were redesigned and now support using mobile devices via Wi-Fi connectivity (Saga UK's first such amenity).

Decks and Cabins

Saga Sapphire/Blue Sapphire staterooms (382 total, in 25 categories) and include 6 Royal Suites, 1 Owner Suite, 3 Grand Suites, Standard Outside (1 Suite, 2 Singles, 21 Doubles /all with obstructed views), Standard Inside Single, 6 wheelchair-accessible cabins. Of all staterooms, 179 are with baths (of which 20 have showers) and 58 are studios (single-occupancy cabins, including 2 with balconies). The total 65 Balcony cabins are with relatively narrow step-out verandas (still but big enough for sitting).

The boat has 12 decks, of which 9 are passenger-accessible and 8 with cabins. The cruise ship is of an older design and has no identical (production-line fabricated/same-sized) cabins.

Shipboard dining options - Food and Drinks

Dining venues on Saga Sapphire are fare-included. Saga Sapphire’s main Pole to Pole restaurant is situated on Deck 7, accommodating a maximum of 620 people. Pole to Pole is split into separate themed areas on seven continents, with intimate impression. The windows are down each of the room’s sides and geographical variation is provided by enlarged photographs. Dinner is open-seating. It is served between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The passengers choose to dine as couples or join a table of four or six. Traditionalists prefer eating at the same table, at the same time and with the same companions each day. They can be accommodated by speaking to the maitre d’ on request on cruise’s first day and are expected to use the same table throughout the cruise.

Each morning, a continental buffet is being set out in the restaurant, with waiter service for tea and coffee, fresh toast or cooked items. Waiter-service lunch is provided also in Pole to Pole. The Grill is Saga Sapphire’s alternative dining area on Deck 9. Full waiter service is also available throughout the day, with a self-service salad section during lunch. At lunchtime, if weather permitting, a barbecue grill is being set up on the Verandah. The Grill stays open 30 minutes after Pole to Pole at breakfast. Continental buffet and daily cooked specialities are served at breakfast. Saga Cruises has decided to increase the number of self-serve buffet offerings. Make a reservation for speciality restaurant East to West at no extra charge. The restaurant offers an Asian fusion menu of Thai, Chinese, Sri Lankan and Indian. Lunchtime burgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, are served poolside at the Beach Club, which also offers unlimited soft ice cream.

Saga Sapphire cruise ship

Follows the complete list of Saga Sapphire restaurants and food bars.

  • Pole to Pole Restaurant (Main Dining Room)
  • East to West Restaurant (Asian cuisine)
  • The Grill (alternative dining area)
  • The Verandah.

Shipboard entertainment options - Fun and Sport

The Drawing Room up on Deck 11 provides computers for travellers’ access to the Internet. Wi-Fi is also available. The Academy on Deck 4 is used as an addition to Brittania Lounge for onboard lectures. There and in the library are many books to borrow, as well as DVDs and iPads. The two shops on Deck 8 supply formal wear, resort clothes, confectionery, souvenirs, travel necessities, pharmaceuticals.

Daytime lectures and evening shows are held in Britannia Lounge which is on Deck 8. It serves also as the meeting point for the departures to shore excursions, afternoon teas, and cocktail parties. Britannia Lounge is furnished with soft chairs and sofas - it is the boat's main entertainment venue with an array of musicians and cabarets in the evening, hosting lectures and dancing lessons throughout the day. To the opposite is situated the Card Room, decorated in gold leaf, open to card-game enthusiasts. The Drawing Room up on Deck 11, with expansive observation windows and panoramic views, is furnished with furniture eclectic collection and knick-knacks - an entertainment venue that is alternative with vessel’s second dance floor. The Drawing Room is also a perfect place for a daytime retreat. Cooper's Bar on Deck 8 is a popular pre-dinner bar, themed around the comedian Tommy Cooper. The flat-screen TV is used for half-hour comedy shows.

Saga Sapphire cruise ship

The Aviators Bar is one deck down, adjacent to Reception Desk. Drinks are available also from the Beach Club on Deck 11, by the pool. The Clubhouse is adjoining the pool area - an indoor room with games like table football and tennis. A small troupe of singers and dancers are available onboard the Saga Sapphire. They perform productions of show tunes that are popular. The afternoon tea is accompanied by a classical trio or string quartet, playing for pre-dinner dancing. Comedians, guest singers, virtuoso instrumentalists take part in cabaret performances, although Saga Sapphire is not a late-night clubbing vessel.

Sapphire’s outdoor cinema “View from the Top” is situated above the Beach Club (Saga's first). The mini-golf course St Andrews is on Deck 12, in front of the ship. Saga's shore excursions are usually led by local guides and they prove to be popular because of the reasonable price.

The Saga Sapphire beauty and spa salon is situated deep down on Deck 2. Alongside the hair salon and the treatment rooms are the steam room and the sauna. A rudimentary gym also awaits for you. There are a whirlpool bath and a heated indoor pool. The main pool is situated on Deck 11 and it is surrounded by sun loungers and deckchairs. Saga Sapphire View from the Top is an outdoor cinema above the Beach Club - the first of its kind for Saga UK. Also on Deck 11 is a small golf course, called St Andrews.

Saga Sapphire cruise ship drydock refurbishment

Saga Cruises passengers are not comfortable with the concept “resort casual”. Saga Sapphire is not dedicated to 21st-century fashion. Most of the men wear ties and jackets even on casual evenings; suits are for informal nights. Also frequently used are the cravats and blazers, particularly among Britannia Club members. Women usually wear blouse-and-skirt combinations, dresses, light, and airy or elegant cocktail outfits. The seven-night cruises have two formal nights; the 2-weeks voyages have three.

Tips for cabin stewards and waiters are included in fares. There are no gratuities added automatically to bar bills or spa treatments. The pound sterling is the currency on board.

Follows the complete list of Saga Sapphire lounges, clubs, and other entertainment venues for kids, teens, and adults.

  • The Academy (hosts lectures)
  • Aviator's Bar; Cooper's Bar
  • Photo Gallery & Shop
  • View from the Top
  • Britannia Lounge; The Drawing Room; Library; Card Room
  • The Beach Club; The Club House
  • Aqua Spa; Treatment Rooms; Hair&Beauty Salon; Sauna; Steam Room; Indoor Pool; Outdoor Pool; 2 Hot Tubs; Gym
  • Sun Deck with outdoor games (shuffleboard, deck quoits)
  • St Andrews (mini-golf course).


Blue Sapphire itinerary program was planned to start with a Maiden Voyage in May 2021. However, the Inaugural Cruise was eventually rescheduled for August 28th. The 7-night itinerary (Aug 28 - Sept 4/Antalya roundtrip) visited Alexandria (Egypt), Kusadasi-Ephesus and Marmaris.

In 2021-2022, the ship was homeported in Antalya Turkey for roundtrips visiting ports and islands in the Eastern Mediterranean. In September-November 2021, ANEX Tours scheduled for Blue Sapphire homeporting in Marmaris Turkey with roundtrips to Greek islands and Turkish ports. For 2021-2022 winter season, the boat was deployed in the Persian Gulf, with homeporting in Dubai UAE.

Selectum Blu Cruises 2023 program (May-October) had scheduled roundtrips from homeport Bodrum Turkey. The 3-4-night/4-5-day Eastern Mediterranean itineraries visited Greek island ports - Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos. Some voyages visit Piraeus-Athens and Heraklion (Crete Island). The season started on May 2nd

ANEX Selectum Blu Cruises brand targets customers mainly from Eastern Europe and Russia-Ukraine-Kazakhstan. Turkish passengers are estimated to be 15-20% of the source market. All onboard announcements are made in several languages.

Note: Saga Sapphire itinerary program was based on roundtrips from the UK ports Dover and Southampton to the British Isles, Norway Fjords, Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Canada/New England, and the Caribbean with round-trip Transatlantic crossings.

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Saga Sapphire was originally built for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises as ms Europa (link to the HP 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".

Saga cruise passengers are 50-60+, mainly British and repeaters (known as "saganauts"). This typical UK cruise ship is adults-only (child-free environment). Ship's last Captain (for Saga) was Julian Burgess. While operated by Saga UK, the ship was Malta-flagged (MMSI 256208000) and registered in Valletta.

In 2018, Saga Sapphire passengers had the unique opportunity to visit the Meyer Werft shipbuilding yard (in Papenburg Germany) and see the construction of Saga's new ship Spirit of Discovery. The location was part of organized from Bremen cruise tour itinerary during the 6-night "Easter Getaway" cruise (March 28, 2018). The shipyard's guided tour enabled guests to see the vessel's construction progress and learn about its design and the shipbuilding process itself. The unique 6-night cruise itinerary was priced from GBP 968 pp departing from Southampton England. The UK travel package (to and from Portsmouth) included all meals, table wines (at lunch and dinner), afternoon tea, 24-hour room service, unlimited tea/coffee (selected venues), free Wi-Fi internet, onboard gratuities, porterage, free shuttle bus transfer (to nearest town).

In 2018, the ship had scheduled "Isle of Man and the TT" (motorcycle race) themed cruise (7-day itinerary May 29 - June 5) leaving roundtrip from Dover to Dublin, Liverpool, Isle of Man (Douglas, June 2) and Isle of Portland (June 4). The all-inclusive ticket prices started from GBP 1000 pp (double-occupancy Inside Cabin fare). Saga Cruises all-inclusive deals on the voyage included UK land travel (to / from homeport Dover), 24-hour room service, welcome aboard cocktail party, onboard meals and entertainment, table wine (at lunches and dinners), house-brand alcohol, cocktails, beers, mixers, soft drinks (all served complimentary in onboard bars and lounges), Afternoon Tea service, unlimited tea and coffee, Wi-Fi, all gratuities, porterage, free transfers (shuttle bus to / from the ship in call ports).

During Saga Sapphire's drydock refurbishment in June 2016 (at Blohm+Voss Shipyard in Hamburg) were extended Aviators Bar and the pool deck area. The ship's main engines received routine maintenance.

Blue Sapphire's first drydocking by ANEX Selectum Blu Cruises was conducted in 2022 and included a full-scale refurbishment of all public spaces and passenger staterooms, as well as a complete hull treatment and technical overhauls.

Saga Sapphire cruises 2020 (last voyages for SAGA UK)

Next tables show the ship's last cruises for Saga Group.

16-day "Norwegian Fjords" from Southampton to Dover

Date / TimePort
21 FebDeparting from Southampton, England
24 Feb 08:00 - 17:00Bergen, Norway
25 Feb 08:00 - 16:00Alesund, Norway
27 Feb 10:00 - 28 Feb 16:00Tromso, Norway
29 Feb 08:00 - 01 Mar 15:00Alta, Norway
04 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Kristiansund, Norway
06 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Stavanger, Norway
08 Mar 08:00Arriving in Dover, England

7-day "Irish Coasts and Cities" roundtrip from Dover

Date / TimePort
08 Mar 16:00Departing from Dover, England
10 Mar 05:00 - 20:00Liverpool, England
11 Mar 10:00 - 12 Mar 16:00Dublin, Ireland
13 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Cobh-Cork, Ireland
14 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Isle of Portland, Dorset, England
15 Mar 08:00Arriving in Dover, England

8-day "Scandinavian Vistas" roundtrip from Dover

Date / TimePort
15 Mar 16:00Departing from Dover, England
17 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Kristiansand, Norway
18 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Goteborg, Gothenburg, Sweden
19 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Aarhus, Denmark
20 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Copenhagen, Denmark
21 MarKiel Canal, Germany
23 Mar 08:00Arriving in Dover, England

19-day "Tastes of Spain and Portugal" roundtrip from Dover

Date / TimePort
23 Mar 16:00Departing from Dover, England
25 Mar 08:00 - 17:00La Rochelle, France
26 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Bilbao, Spain
28 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Porto-Leixoes, Oporto, Portugal
30 Mar 08:00 - 17:00Cadiz, Spain
31 Mar 09:00 - 17:00Casablanca, Morocco
02 Apr 08:00 - 17:00Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
03 Apr 08:00 - 21:00Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands
04 Apr 08:00 - 21:00El Hierro, Puerto de la Estaca, Canary Islands
07 Apr 08:00 - 12:00Lisbon, Portugal
11 Apr 08:00Arriving in Dover, England

(last voyage for Saga UK) 15-day "UK and Ireland" from Dover to Southampton

Date / TimePort
21 Apr 16:00Departing from Dover, England
23 Apr 08:00 - 17:00Newcastle upon Tyne, England
24 Apr 04:15 - 13:00Leith-Edinburgh, Newhaven, Scotland
26 Apr 08:00 - 17:00Kirkwall, Orkney Island, Scotland
28 Apr 08:00 - 17:00Fort William, Scotland
29 Apr 08:00Belfast, Northern Ireland
01 May 08:00 - 17:00Liverpool, England
02 May 08:00 - 19:00Dublin, Ireland
04 May 08:00 - 17:00Guernsey Island, St Peter Port, Channel Islands
05 May 08:00 - 19:00Poole, England
06 May 08:00Arriving in Southampton, England

Unfortunately, due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, all the March-April voyages were cancelled.