Sagafjord Gallery
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Show Picture Full Size The Norwegian America Line was formed in 1910, to provide a national shipping line involved in the increasing trade and emmigration to the American continent. However, the First World War changed the nature of all transatlantic traffic and in the 1920's, NAL
also began sending its liners on cruises to Scandanavia, beginning what Norwegian America Line would become most famous for - luxury cruising. (see below: some official postcards of NAL's earlier ships)

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Kristianiafjord (1913-17)
& Bergensfjord (1913-46)
Stavangerfjord (1918-64) Oslofjord (1949-69) Bergensfjord (1955-71)

Sagafjord (1965)
24,002 grt; length 620ft; 462 passengers

Specifically for cruising out of New York but also to be at home on the North Atlantic, Sagafjord was designed by NAL's own marine architects but was built in France. She was to be the new flagship.

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An official postcard view of Sagafjord as she originally looked
For the Atlantic, she carried only 70 passengers in "First Class" and 719 in "Tourist" but most of the time, when cruising she accommodated just 460 in her luxurious interior. With comforts including stabilisers and air-conditioning, she was the best in Scandanavian design; she was also the first designed with a bow-thruster, to aid her manoeverability in port.

The departure of the legendary "Caronia" in 1967 left Sagafjord the top cruise-ship in the World.

She was joined in 1973 by Vistafjord (see also the Vistafjord Gallery >>) and between them, these two "Cruise-Liners" established an enviable reputation for luxury and service, offering single-sitting dining for all passengers in their vast restaurants.
(right) Sagafjord's beautiful 2-deck high Dining Room in 1982, seating all passengers in one sitting
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However, with increasing costs it was becoming more and more difficult for Sagafjord to make a profit cruising with just 460 passengers and with competiton from the 3 new ships of Royal Viking Line, it was inevitable that the two Lines should enter discussions for a merger in 1979.

But the merger with Royal Viking Line failed and in 1980, Sagafjord was given a refit that added an entire deck above the bridge forward of the funnel, including 2 suites and 13 balcony cabins, significantly altering her sleek profile ( making her look more like Vistafjord ) and increasing her passengers to 505.
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(Above) As built & (Below) After her 1980 refit
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Magnificent in the Panama Canal, following her 1980 refit

At this time, "Norwegian American Cruises" was formed to own the two ships and alterations were made to their itineraries to further improve bookings. Hopes were high.....

However, meanwhile, ailing rival Cunard Line had been bought by Trafalgar House Investments who, wanting to make more of the luxury cruise market, made an offer for both ships that NAC's owners could not refuse. Hence, Sagafjord and Vistafjord joined the Cunard fleet in 1983.

Sagafjord (1983)
24,474 grt; length 620ft; 588 passengers

Yet another refit followed and controversial alterations were made. Gone were her sheltered Sports Deck and beautifully stepped stern in favour of more balcony cabins aft of the funnel, while a rather ungainly extension provided a new 2-tier Club Polaris.

Her public rooms were remodelled and given "modern" furnishings and her Dining Room was extended to accommodate 620 passengers. But for the first time, it was now given large windows cut into her hull along Main-deck.
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Again in the Panama Canal but now sporting her new Cunard look

Initially, economies introduced by Cunard resulted in some bad reports, mostly from loyal ex-NAC passengers. However, she consistently outshone her sister Vistafjord and remained the highest rated cruise-ship in the World, being awarded a "5-star plus" rating from Berlitz. Only in 1988, with the arrival of Royal Viking Line's brand new Royal Viking Sun did she eventually slip into second place after 23 proud years at the top.

This was the Sagafjord I would come to know and love.

Bermuda & the Colonial South
27th April - 10th May 1989

View the complete Log of this cruise >>
This cruise was a "watershed" for me. It involved my first intercontinental flight on a "Jumbo-jet", my first experience of New York and it introduced me to the paradise that is Bermuda. Having previously sailed on the lovely Vistafjord 3 times already, it also introduced me to Sagafjord.

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House Flags & Signal Mast Heading for Bermuda View from
the Bridge
Andrew & Gerry
Playing Shuffleboard

Sagafjord's most striking feature was her traditional ocean-liner style, 2 deck-high Dining Room, in which the standard of food was almost gastronomic and the standard of service was impeccable.
Menus: Welcome Dinner >> International Dinner >> French Dinner >> Farewell Dinner >>

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Another tradition; the Repeaters' Cocktail Party, and a chance to shake hands with Captain Magnar Berntzen. << Enlarge Picture Also see our Formal Group Photo >>
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The "modernised" Saga Dining Room

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Hamilton, Bermuda
Alongside Front Street
Theatre Lobby
Verandah Deck
Verandah Deck
Hamilton, Bermuda
Alongside Front Street

Another feature I particularly appreciated was her Theatre with full-size Cinema projection system. Sadly, they don't tend to use this any more, preferring the ease of digital media. Such is progress!

Her Grand Ballroom included a large fully-sprung dance-floor where the tradition of male "dance hosts" was still maintained for those unnaccompanied "ladies who cruise"!

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North Cape Bar
Verandah Deck
Grand Ballroom
Verandah Deck
Verandah Deck
Garden Lounge
Verandah Deck

Sagafjord's other stunning feature (one shared with her sister Vistafjord) was the Garden Lounge, a forward observation lounge of incomparable proportions, with a spectacular 180-degree view.

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Indoor Pool
Purser's Lobby
Upper Deck
Club Polaris
Upper Level
Lido Cafe
Verandah Deck

Another feature, rare on ships her size, even in 1965, was an indoor sea-water swimming-pool. Still maintained today, it's right down at the water-line, so it's just like swimming in the sea!

The 2-tier Club Polaris, while being an unsightly addition in 1983, is on top of the Lido Cafe and access to it, especially to its Upper Level, is a bit peculiar but the intimate Night Club atmosphere is nevertheless perfect and in the day-time, it is a cool retreat from the heat of the day.

In 1990, while on a cruise aboard Vistafjord to the Caribbean, the Captains of both ships adjusted course so as to pass each other after lunch, very close and at full speed. The exhilarating exchange of whistles was captured on video by someone else on board! Show YouTube video-clip
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Seen here in the Caribbean in 1990, and photographed from her sister, Vistafjord, the stately Sagafjord as we came to know her

Bermuda, New England & Canada
26th September - 13th October 1993

View the complete Log of this cruise >>
This was only our second time aboard but it was Dad's first taste of Sagafjord and at 14 nights, it was twice as long as our first voyage and Sagafjord was already my favourite ship.

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John, Dad & Me
Embarkation in Florida
Front Street, Hamilton
& the "Birdcage"
Bermuda by Night
& the "Birdcage"
at Bar Harbor, Maine

Travelling from temperatures in the high 80's in Florida and Bermuda, an added bonus this time was a 4-day post-cruise package based in Toronto, during which we visited Niagara Falls.

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Sagafjord in Quebec
from Dufferin Terrace
Quebec City
from Dufferin Terrace
Toronto Skyline
CN Tower & Skydome
Niagara Falls
& the "Maid o' the Mist"

Pacific Coast, Panama Canal & the Caribbean
1st-15th September 1994

View the complete Log of this cruise >>
Beginning in Los Angeles, while the others preferred to do the tour of Hollywood, I instead went off on my own to visit the legendary RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach!

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RMS Queen Mary
in Long Beach, California
Embarking Sagafjord
in San Pedro (Los Angeles)
C-grade Cabin #223
The recently refurbished
Saga Dining Room**

On booking this cruise, Cunard gave us an upgrade, so John now had an outside cabin and Andrew & I now had a spacious C-grade on Upper Deck, our largest cabin to date!

The high-spot of Day-2 was the Captain's Cocktail Party and Welcome Dinner >> in the recently refurbished Saga Dining Room. I had Caviar, Mock Turtle Soup and Lobster!
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(**Please Note: the Dining Room photo above shows Cunard's remodelling. However, the photo does not date from 1994 but from 1997 when Saga re-upholstered the chairs in dark blue. Cunard's better choice was actually a pale blue-grey but I took no photo!)

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The Los Angeles Cloud Forest
Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
Collecting our Gold 100-day Pins
from Captain Tore Lura
The Chef's Dinner
Open Menu >>

From the quieter wonders of a Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, we passed through the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean, witnessing one of the "7 Wonders of the Modern World".

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Bridge of the Americas
& the Pan-American Highway
Lock Control Center
at Miraflores Locks
Gatun Locks
Lock Gates 82ft high
in Gatun Locks

Our plans to travel on Sagafjord again in late 1996 were dashed when, in December 1995, Cunard announced that her programme was to be curtailed the following September. At more than 30 years old and with new safety legislation to be complied with, she simply couldn't provide an adequate return for the ailing company. However, just 2 months later, en-route from Hong Kong to Kota Kinabalu and mid-way through her final World Cruise for Cunard, Sagafjord was crippled by a generator fire and had to be towed to the Philippines by tugs.

Sagafjord's career with Cunard was finished.

Show Picture Full Size A temporary reprieve - and then a new life....
Fortunately, Sagafjord was repaired and in July she was chartered to the German Transocean Tours and renamed "Gripsholm". Awkward in her new, temporary identity, she hit the news again by running aground off Copenhagen. Stuck for 3 days, she required 5 tugs (again) to get her free.

But there were still people who cared for Sagafjord's legendary reputation and had faith in her. Even before her charter to Transocean was over, it was announced that she was to be sold to Saga and renamed "Saga Rose". Based in Dover, she would specialise in luxury cruises for the over 50's.

Saga Rose (1997)
24,528 grt; length 620ft; 587 passengers

Following not one but two refits during 1997, Saga Rose emerged with a sumptuous new interior and a smart new livery.

Retaining her coveted single-sitting dining and confounding her doubters, who thought Saga rash to invest in her, she went on to become, yet again, a luxury cruise-ship with a loyal following. For 12 more years, she was one of the few to maintain the tradition of 3-month Winter Cruises and she became one of the "Grand Old Ladies" of the cruising World.
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Saga Rose, seen here departing her home port of Dover in 2005

The Baltic Capitals
11th - 24th September 2005

View the complete Log of this cruise >>

It had been 11 years since we were on Sagafjord and I thought we had seen the last of her until she was unexpectedly saved by Saga in 1997. Mind you, at 40 years old she was getting on a bit and it was becoming more difficult for her to compete with the facilities of the newer ships.

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From the Fortress, Oslo North Cape Bar Saga Dining Room Britannia Lounge

But where she still scored was in the dignity and style of her public rooms, all tastefully and sympathetically refurbished by Saga, who continued to maintain her reputation for excellent food and service in single-sitting dining - something of a rarity these days. See Menu 1 >> See Menu 2 >>

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Fwd Lobby Library Lido Cafe Balcony Cabin 106 Polaris Club

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Card Room Theatre Lobby Theatre/Cinema Indoor Pool

Also something of a rarity, even on some larger modern ships, Saga Rose had a well-stocked Library where you could sit and watch the sea, as well as a Card Room, a full-size Cinema and an indoor seawater Pool. However, built originally as an ocean-liner, her ability to handle a rough sea was without doubt one of her strongest virtues! Show YouTube video-clip
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30th October 2009
Southampton - The Final Farewell

It was inevitable though that at 44 years old, Saga Rose would not be able to comply with yet another round of SOLAS Safety regulations. And so it was that, on 30th October 2009, she left Southampton on her final cruise, a 37-night grand circuit of the Mediterranean.

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Flying her
Paying-off Pennant
Saga Rose departs Southampton
on her final cruise
A fly-past tribute Farewell Sagafjord!

At the end of her Farewell Cruise, she returned on 6th December 2009 to cold, grey Southampton and later left quietly to an uncertain future, being laid-up for 6 months at Gibraltar, while Saga attempted to find a buyer. Even as she sailed from Gibraltar in April 2010, there were hopes that she might yet be saved. But in the end, she was sold for scrap and she finished her life at breakers in Jiangyin on the Yangtze River in China.

The beautiful old Sagafjord still holds the record for the most World Cruises ever completed, with 44 altogether - even surpassing the Queen Elizabeth 2.

Total Mileage travelled
aboard Sagafjord & Saga Rose: 13,950 n miles

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