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The ultimate, bespoke luxury travel experiences in the Spirit of Discovery

If your idea of cruising involves being herded ashore as part of a large group and visiting the usual tourist traps at speed, without getting a real feel of the destination, think again. Saga Cruise‘s new ship, Spirit of Discovery, is all about personal discovery, both on and off-shore. Read on to learn more and to discover how you could win a £500 hamper! The boutique, luxury small ship, which was designed exclusively for the British market and will take its maiden voyage in Summer 2019, takes less than 1,000 passengers. Packed with unique features, including a private balcony for every cabin and small enough to sail into ports that larger ships can’t reach, Spirit of Discovery brings passengers closer to the action. This means that guests not only see more places, but can also make the most of precious days – and nights – ashore. Where other cruise liners visit ports for a day, Saga often stays overnight in some of the world’s most interesting destinations so that passengers can get a real flavour of a place. And imagine, at each destination, being able to have the ultimate, bespoke luxury travel experience which is personally organised for you, by a very special concierge-style service. If you fancy eating ashore one evening or soaking up the local nightlife, that’s no problem. The new Spirit of Discovery boutique small ship takes the whole cruise experience one step further, with its innovative Explore Ashore concept. The brand new service helps create unique trips and experiences, designed for you. From an exclusive dining experience with a local dignitary at Reid’s Palace in Madeira to exploring Lisbon from the side car of a motorcycle, the possibilities are endless. Uncover hidden gems that you don’t normally see in the guidebooks The Explore Ashore team, on-board Saga’s Spirit of Discovery, has over 20 years’ local experience across multiple destinations. Their unique little black book is packed with the most amazing experiences and contacts, so they’re best-placed to organise an experience exclusively for you or for a small group. You could stop off in Barcelona and spend time with a top chef, exploring the local markets and discovering the best regional dishes. Alternatively you could set off on a bespoke flightseeing tour, search for humpback whales with a wildlife expert, take a railway journey through the mountains, a wildlife safari in Arctic Norway or an urban safari in New York City. Whatever your idea is, the team can create this for you. Saga Spirit of Discovery humpback whale Your previous unique experience could win you a delicious £500 hamper Not only can you book your place in advance for a cruise that could be packed with your own idyllic, unforgettable travel experiences, but Saga Cruises is also giving away a gift collection of award-winning still and sparkling wines worth £500 from its partners, English wine producers, Hush Heath Estate. Any special place or experience you have had can give you the chance to win. It may be a special restaurant, bar, or an adventure or cultural experience; if you felt it was unforgettable, you should enter to be in with a chance to win. Your suggestion may even be added to the list of Spirit of Discovery’s Explore Ashore recommendations! Leave your experience in the comments below. Saga Spirit of Discovery Explore Ashore Exceptional service and experiences plus a 5% discount Spirit of Discovery is already taking reservations for 2019 and, for the first 10,000 people, Saga is offering a special advance registration offer of 5% off your first cruise. To find out more click here or call 0800 015 4310 to register and pay a fully refundable £90 per person deposit. Saga will then discount your cruise cost by 5% – one of the perks of registering in advance. Once you’ve done that then you can start thinking about what once-in-a-lifetime bespoke experiences you would like to have. All of this will be handled for you by the Explore Ashore team, whether it’s a personalised paella or meeting some local artisans. Saga Spirit of Discovery Explore Ashore-1 Don’t forget… Don’t forget to share your unique experiences below to be in with a chance of winning the Hush Heath Estate hamper worth £500. Your suggestion may even be added to the list of Spirit of Discovery’s Explore Ashore recommendations. Deadline for submissions is 30th September 2017, and a winner will be drawn at random. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Saga Cruises.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. When we visited Dubai, we spent a morning at the cultural centre there and it was incredible to learn more about the culture and heritage of the place and the people. We were introduced to the traditional cuisine, got to try on traditional outfits and heard of first hand experiences and had our questions answered. My idea is to seek out cultural centres wherever the cruise visits – eg barcelona etc and find out about the history and culture of a place.

  2. This cruise sounds magical! How fab to see a humpback whale in the wild…
    My unique experience was trekking through the Thai jungle in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. We hiked along ridges and through thick bamboo to an Akha village and learned about their traditional ways of life. We cooked on an open fire, slept in a traditional wooden home and had a fantastic and educational cultural experience. I only wish I’d worn something more practical than a long white skirt and flip flops for the 13 mile hike!

  3. What a wonderful concept. :) In Japan we learnt to fight like Samurais, something that I’ve always wanted to do. The energy of the guy teaching us was something else, I’ll never forget it. He is a renowned sword fight choreographer. We learnt how to hold the sword correctly and also how to use if very deftly. To complete the experience we were also taken to learn how to eat and cook like a Samurai. It was an absolutely amazing experience.

  4. Saga’s Spirit of Discovery seems like an incredible concept!

    I haven’t been on a cruise holiday, but something like this would be right up my street.

    My unique experience was going horse riding and swimming with turtles in Barbados. A truly stunning country, with some of the most affable people I’ve ever crome across. It was the holiday of a lifetime.

  5. Great idea! Looking forward to hearing more about Spirit of Discovery!

    My unique experience was in exploring the historic riverside of Porto, where the old port warehouses have been turned into fantastic bars and restaurants which reflect the history and culture of the city, all under the wonderful Dom Luis bridge.

  6. We have just completed our 1st cruise of 50 days, and did one shore excursion and that was in St Petersburg where we had to do the organised tour as we didn’t have visa’s. So why only one in 50 days? For the very reasons that Spirit of Discovery are introducing bespoke tours. We don’t like being herded with the masses, eating a mass tourist cafes, and following the flag around. So yes this is appealing. Our most unique experiences, which we organised ourselves, were cooking schools in Tuscany, and a food walking tour in Athens, and another in Lisbon. Being with locals who not only know food, but know their home towns, gives you a greater insight into a destination.

  7. I have not been on a cruise but this memory I would not forget.

    Going to Lapland in a log cabin,
    With the fire burning bright,
    Looking at the mountains glistening,
    What a wonderful sight!

    Seeing the streams not flowing covered in ice,
    And seeing my children falling over not once but twice,
    And as I leave the cabin I touch the icy prickling snow
    And noticed my children’s faces all aglow,

    Silver trunks of trees glowing at night
    Snow covered landscapes very bright
    Seeing the northern lights
    The tranquil lights mark the passing of time.

    I watched the skiing joy of the mountains outside,
    Through a gleaming window Cold as ice,
    I guess life would never be the same
    Having this memory of snow on an icy plane.

  8. I love this idea! In Iceland we stayed off the beaten track in the middle of nowhere- there was nothing else around to cause light pollution so when the Northern Lights appeared we were able to watch the magical display from the comfort of our own balcony without crowds of other people. It was a very romantic and enchanting.

  9. I love cruising! We have so far cruised in the South Pacific and the Mediterranean and have never been disappointed. The trick is to leave the masses behind and go off the beaten path. This worked particularly well in Kotor, Montenegro, where we were the first off the ship to climb the famous city walls. Not only were we undisturbed by our fellow passengers, we also enjoyed the fresh morning air in the shadow of the mountains. An unforgettable experience!

  10. One of my favourite experiences so far happened on my last visit to Paris. I was looking for a place to eat that was not overtaken by tourists and that afforded me the opportunity to dine on traditional French cuisine. I was recommended a little bistro called La Poulet Pot which was hidden away in the backstreets of Paris. I soon found out why this was the favourite haunt of all the chefs on Paris for their after work feed. A very memorable occasion was had.

  11. We’re very lucky that we occasionally get to teach ukulele on cruise ships. Our favourite so far has been sailing from Tahiti to Singapore….it was magical.

  12. Saga’s Spirit of Discovery sounds like a very good concept! We have been on a cruise holiday only once and loved it.

    One of the most unique experiences from our travels has been spending a night under the open sky in the deserts of Rajasthan. It was just the two of us with our guide and his helper. We only had sleeping bags and lay down in the middle of nowhere with a sky full of stars and beautiful silence! It was absolutely magical!

  13. Many moons ago I was in Santa Cruz in the North of Tenerife. We liked to eat out in the old town as there were fantastic restaurants. One night on a stroll through the old part of town we stumbled across a local bar, with musicians playing. We sat next to a travel journalist who was propping up the bar and he had been ther a while. Apart from him we were the only tourists in the place. We had several rounds of drinks and enjoyed the festivities as they were having a party. When we came to leave and pay for the drinks this was refused as they were celebrating the bars birthday and everything was on the house. A marvellous night and such unexpected hospitality.

  14. Visiting Tiritiri Matangi island off the coast of Aukland, New Zealand. It’s an isolated nature reserve, and a genuinely magical place to visit.

  15. The most magical moment of our honeymoon in Mauritius was going to La Vanille Nature Reserve and meeting all the giant tortoises. We felt so lucky to be around these amazing creatures, and especially getting to meet and feed Domino, who’s 107 years old!

  16. I haven’t been on a cruise ship before but I sure would love to experience one. The way you describe this cruise is awesome! I remember in Mount Pulag (Philippines), we trek for 2 hours (early morning) from our camping area to the summit to witness the sea of clouds. It was so amazing that you will definitely remember to be thankful for the good things in life! <3

  17. I love the idea of a small ship that visit unique places! As for a unique experience, we visited Petra with our children a few years ago. It was during the height of the Arab uprising, so the place was almost empty of tourists. Our guide was amazing and brought us for tea in the Petra cave that he used to call home. We even got to join him and meet his family for tea in the nearby village that they moved to after the Bedouins in Petra were resettled.

  18. Sky diving over Byron Bay, Australia. One of the best moments of my life and I’d recommend it to anyone, young or old. Life is for living!

  19. An amazing day trip to Westray, part of the Orkney Islands, and an excursion there which took in some hidden gems – a local man, Graham Maben, with a Leyland DAF minibus who knew every nook and cranny and how to get there. We saw amazing bird life, wild flowers and historic monuments including Noltland Castle. One of those days when you feel really privileged to have been privy to such gems. The man’s wife made us an amazing lunch which we ate, sat on a cliff top watching the Puffins at play. So special!

  20. My most amazing moment was the time we visited Cat Tien national park, a primitive rain forest in Vietnam. We sprayed a bit of perfume on our hair and hundreds of butterflies just stayed around us. They thought we were flowers.

  21. I have been on 8 cruises, but never on a Saga ship yet. This new ship looks like it has a lot of things I like. I’ve been on some of the mega “floating city” ships (just off Independence of the Seas, in fact) but I think now I’ve come to the conclusion I prefer the smaller, more intimate ships. Spirit of Discovery looks exactly like what I need in a cruise ship, and summer 2019 works out perfectly for me. I’m guessing her maiden voyage is already booking up quickly, but I’ll be looking into that. I have to have a balcony cabin though, there is nothing like sipping a cocktail on your own private balcony in the evening watching the sun set.

    Swimming with dolphins is one of my most unique experiences. I’ve never seen it offered on a cruise ship yet; often there is dolphin watching, but rarely can you enjoy going in the water with them.

  22. What a fantastic cruise! My most recent cruise experience was very different – just as well I don’t get seasick because our very small vessel bobbed around on heavy seas like a cork in a bottle as we headed from Lord Howe Island across a VERY deep sea trench to Balls Pyramid, world’s highest rock stack! A fantastic experience – but I can’t quite see it making it onto the Spirit of Discovery offshore itinerary :D

  23. Sounds like a great cruise. One of my favorite luxury experiences was a helicopter ride over Niagara falls. It was just amazing seeing the falls from above, definitely something I will always remember.

  24. Our favourite moment was when we were staying in rustic hut accommodation in Thailand on a private beach, and we collected wood to make a fire. We drank local beers and had a fresh seafood bbq – the atmosphere was just incredible and we could have stayed there forever!

  25. I love that cruise companies are taking things to the next level and appealing to more adventurous travellers these days.

    My unique experience was on an island in Cambodia with no running water or electricity – Koh Ta Kiev. We went midnight swimming in the warm ocean to have our first experience with phosphorescence.

    Though it was, admittedly, a little freaky wading into the inky black ocean, once the water started to glow and sparkle at our touch, we were mesmerized.

    Jane M

  26. To ride on the Funicular Railway in Naples was very interesting as very few Tourists were on the Train. After we got off the Train we went to the Castel which had fantastic views over Naples and Vesuvius. Fantastic day and very peaceful and there is also a Museum in the Castel as well.

  27. Now this is precisely the sort of cruise that I would like to do. I have always wanted to go on a cruise, but the idea of being herded from pillar to post like cattle was not appealing at all. Something little more bespoke with a concierge service is far more to my liking. I am going to have a look at the destinations now!

  28. Cyprus is the place for me. Just like Aphrodite’s ability to lure in the lovers, this island has exuded a magnetic charm on all who’ve washed up here across the centuries. Whether hiking between time-warp villages and ruins, over hillsides strewn with Jerusalem sage and wild fennel, or admiring crumbling castle ramparts and the golden glint of richly saturated Byzantine frescoes, for me, Cyprus encapsulates the convoluted and fascinating history of the Eastern Mediterranean, all wrapped up in one bite-sized package.

  29. A magical experience for us was a visit to a Kiwi reserve on Aloha Island, just north of Keri Keri, in New Zealand. The Bay of Islands is stunningly beautiful and well worth a visit in its own right. This reserve put us in touch with New Zealand’s tiny, reclusive and endangered unofficial national emblem in a very unique setting. A beautiful area where we enjoyed a very close to nature ecological experience.

  30. Trekking and rafting in Vietnam interacting with leeches and seeing dog kebabs in remote villages. Fabulous people . Look forward to taking my kids there

  31. Not as exotic as some but my unique experience was a trip to the highlands of Scotland, hiking through beautiful hills and countryside, exploring the lochs and looking for Nessie. We even managed to get as far as John O Groats and spotted seals playing along the Coast. It is a truly beautiful part of the world.

  32. Discreetly watching a group of local women opening fresh coconuts with such speed and skill in Thailand. Our stares however were not that discreet as we were noticed and they invited us over to educate and share. The simple pleasure of being included has stayed with me even with no words spoken just gestures and smiles.

  33. Most memorable experience is being sat on the steep slopes of machu picchu in the mid morning sun with my husband, sharing a bar of chocolate we had brought from a local lady who made it in her home. The view was breath taking, we sat there for over an hour in silence just taking it all in. Feel very privileged to have been able to go there and to have share the experience with someone so special to me.

  34. I went to Greece a few years back and we did a tour of the local Islands it was beautiful but was only a little ship can you imagine being on a cruiser that’s my next ambition but the People in Greece could not do enough for you and and the scenery was amazing ??

  35. My most incredible cruising experience was to Sardinia where we had the opportunity to visit the incredible Capuchin Catacombs. It’s a humbling and fascinating experience.

  36. I have never been on a cruise, but it’s something I will be looking into in the future. My most memorable experience would be our trip to riviera maya, Mexico. Swimming with turtles in the sea, watching the baby turtles hatching from their buryed eggs on the beach. Swimming with dolphins, sea lions and manitees. Seeing the happiness and excitement on my boys faces, priceless! Can’t wait for more adventures ☺️☺️☺️

  37. My unique experience was travelling to Jamaica last year to attend my best friends Wedding. It was the most beautiful ceremony and the beaches were amazing. The locals despite not having much materialistically, were the most happy and friendly people you were ever to meet. We went Horse Riding through the Jungle and in the sea. I would love to go back again one day soon ?

  38. Our unique experience to date was our trip to Jersey. we returned on our Ruby wedding anniversary as it was our honeymoon destination. Lovely place. Hubby now has Parkinsons so our time is running out to go on adventures but we can dream x

  39. When travelling around Ireland we stopped off at Kilrush and wandered up the street into a small bar. The bar was nearly empty but within half an hour of us being there it had filled up with some drinkers, but most of all some musicians who came along with their instruments and set up an impromptu evening of Irish music. Unforgettable – as I’m sure a cruise on this new ship would be.

  40. I have never been on a cruise but would love to one day with my son. My unique experience was travelling India when I was 19, I worked in an auphonage in Delhi before exploring some more of the country x

  41. I’ve been searching for perfect cruises for a while now, I’m quite particular as it can be difficult to find ones that cater for Vegans – eek! Less than 1,000 passengers… Still seems like a lot of people on one ship lol. The fact that each experience is personally organised sounds really lovely though. This is definitely one of the top cruises that I have heard about.

    My unique experience would be being on a watersports trip in the south of france on a speedboat experience, and the driver had to do a U turn to save someone that was struggling in the waters!

  42. I took my then boyfriend (now husband) to Rotterdam for his birthday, I went to find a cashpoint that was 2 minutes away down a straight road…. I was gone for almost 2 hours as I managed to get lost. My partner started worrying after an hour as his beer was getting low and I had the cash, but I left my phone, passport and ship pass with him! Luckily a couple of young local lads managed to direct me back to where I had left my partner even without me knowing the name of the pub or the road it was on. The locals were lovely and so helpful. I finally got back to my dehydrated partner who then sent me to the bar haha.

  43. An unforgettable moment for me was a day cruise around Greek islands around Kos on our honeymoon. It was absolutely gorgeous and I jumped off of the side of our boat for the first time in my life. Quite an achievement when I don’t like going under water! My new hubby was amazing and helped me and we then got to explore an island with only one resident. Add to that finding our favourite ever food – souvlaki with tzatziki – and experiencing the heat of an active volcano, it was just incredible!

  44. Cruising is such a great way to see so many different destinations. I haven’t travelled with Saga cruises yet but after reading this I’m sure I will in the future. I love the range of options of things to do on a cruise for entertainment at night to amazing food and relaxing by the pool, there’s always something going on.

  45. I never realised cruises could actually be so interesting and that you get to do so many different activities. I have never really thought about going on a cruise before but seeing how varied it can be has actually made me really interested. Seeing humpback whales and amazing activities like wildlife safaris would be on my list.

  46. This post is awesome! It makes me think twice about going on a cruise again, something which I had written off long ago.

  47. I still haven’t been on a cruise but I really cannot wait to go on a cruise soon! This looks like an amazing cruise.

  48. I still think that being on a cruise trip is the best buck for my money. I get to see all those little gems I wouldn’t normally find myself, get to meet lots of fellow travellers, enjoy being out on the sea and taste great food. It is an all in one package.

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