BLEU DE FRANCE seen at Tunis in 2008. Photo © B. Bignon
Saga Holidays announced their newest acquisition will be named SAGA SAPPHIRE. The inaugural voyage for the 37,301 gross ton vessel will take place on March 26, 2012. At present, the ship is sailing under the Royal Caribbean-owned Croisieres de France banner as the BLEU DE FRANCE.
Under Saga, the ship will join fleetmates SAGA RUBY and SAGA PEARL II in catering to the over 50 age group with comfortable small-to-mid-sized ships. The 655 foot long SAGA SAPPHIRE will carry 750 passengers or less. When built as Hapag-Lloyd’s EUROPA in 1981, this ship was among the most spacious luxury cruisers in the world with a capacity of only 600 guests in extremely large staterooms. It was one of the first vessels constructed at the start of a building boom that continues to this day.
In 1999, the German line sold the ship to Star Cruises where it first became the SUPERSTAR EUROPE and was followed a few months later by another renaming to SUPERSTAR ARIES. Star Cruises really had no idea what to do with this ship, which did not fit well with its rapidly changing fleet. By 2001, they had announced SUPERSTAR ARIES would transfer to their Orient Line division, joining the MARCO POLO and CROWN ODYSSEY on expedition cruises but that never took place. Instead, it was sold to Spanish-based Pullmantur in 2004, becoming the HOLIDAY DREAM. In 2008, it became BLEU DE FRANCE when CDF decided to tap the burgeoning French market.
Under Saga Holidays, the ship should once again be operated by a company that can run the former EUROPA in a style befitting the more luxurious role for which it was intended — cruising to ports throughout the world.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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