It is disappointing this port has been denied a chance to
host a final visit by Saga Cruises' Saga Ruby, for
this veteran would have afforded an opportunity to see one of
the last graceful and classic passenger liners of a past era,
one in which ships were built to look like ships.
The ship had been originally listed on Port Otago's cruise
ship schedule to make its third visit tomorrow. But at the
time of writing, yesterday, the ship was not even close to
New Zealand waters. It was somewhere in the South Atlantic.
The ship is on its farewell world cruise, which has been
shortenedfrom 109 days to 66 days because of mechanical
problems. It was due to leave Southampton on January 7.
However, shortly before departure time, theship's engineers
discovered a serious problem with the crankshaft of one of
the main engines. After repairs were carried out, the vessel
underwent sea trials andfinally sailed from Southampton on
its belated and final round-the-worldvoyage on February 20.
This was the second major breakdown the ship had experienced
in recentmonths. Last November, machinery problems developed
when the ship called at Porto, Portugal. It then spent six
weeks at Bremerhaven where the machinery was given a complete
overhaul and at the same time, accommodation was refurbished.
The cruise had been originally planned for three sectors. The
first was for the ship to visit places on the east coast of
South America. On the middle leg, which has been cancelled,
the ship was to round Cape Horn, and cross the Pacific via
Easter Island and Pitcairn Island. Then it was on to New
Zealand and Australia before heading to Cape Town.
It will now visit other ports on the west coast of Africa
before arriving back at Southampton on April 27. This final
leg is also part of the revised schedule, which will include
a visit to the Falkland Islands and to remote Tristan da
Cunha, where, depending on the weather, passengers might be
able to go ashore.
For the remainder of the year Saga Ruby will carry out a
series of cruises to the Baltic States, Canary Islands, the
Mediterranean and the Norwegian fjords.
The ship will make its final cruise, a 31-day Christmas
cruise to the Caribbean, from Southampton on December 7.
After arriving back there on January 7, 2014, it will be
withdrawn from service.
At present,the name Saga Ruby seems very appropriate. This
year the ship celebrates its 40th - ruby - anniversary of
service. Looking back to when it was new, it closed two
important chapters in maritime history.
It was the last passenger liner to be built for the
Norwegian-America Line, of Oslo, and the last passenger liner
to be built at a shipyard in the United Kingdom.
The ship was ordered from the Wallsend yard of Swan Hunter
Shipbuilders Ltd and was laid down at Yard No39. It was
launched as Vistafjord on May 15, 1972, completed exactly one
year later, on May 15, 1973, and a week later commenced its
maiden voyage from Oslo to New York.
G. Clark & N. E. M. Ltd, of Wallsend, supplied twin-screw
propulsion units. They were two nine-cylinder Sulzer diesels
whose combined output of 24,000bhp gave the ship a service
speed of 20 knots. Vistafjord was an enlarged version
of Sagafjord, built in France in 1965.
Both ships were sold without change of name to Cunard
in 1983. Sagafjord called here on February 19,1991,
and after it was sold to Saga Shipping in 1997, made three
visits as Saga Rose between 2004 and 2006.
In 1999, Vistafjord was renamed Caronia. It has
served the Saga fleet as Saga Ruby since being
acquired in 2004. Not one of the larger type of cruise ships
to visit Port Chalmers, this vessel of a modest 24,492gt has
It called here for the first time on February 26, 2010. under
the British flag, four months before it was transferred to
the Maltese registry. Saga Ruby made a return visit on
March 9, 2011.