Saga Cruises is returning to the US after an absence of at least eight years.

Strict US regulations for visiting cruiseships, including security, meant retrofitting its older vessels became onerous.

But the US Coast Guard has been heavily involved in ensuring Saga’s two newbuildings are compliant, and the Spirit of Discovery’s itinerary includes a 35-night New York and Caribbean cruise in December costing from £6,889.

The ship's maiden cruise from Dover on 10 July is cheaper, with 13 nights around the British Isles from £3,999.

Traditional propulsion

The vessel has more traditional diesel electric propulsion, because of Saga Cruises’ operations worldwide.

The Saga Pearl 11 sold for further trading despite being 38 years old Photo: Saga

Saga Travel chief executive Robin Shaw says its bespoke itineraries mean LNG fuelling was not an option because bunkering may not be available on, for example, an 80-day voyage around South America. Space for LNG tanks is also a challenge for smaller cruiseships.

Instead, Saga has opted to burn heavy fuel oil using scrubbers to reduce emissions.

Testimony to the condition which Saga has maintained its older, earlier ships is the fact the 602-passenger Saga Pearl II (built 1981) has escaped demolition and found a trading buyer. It is rumoured that it could instead be converted into a large luxury yacht.

Shaw says he is confident that Saga’s other vessel — the 720-berth Saga Sapphire (built 1981) — will also be sold for further trading.

“We would only sell back into the market if there was a provision not to operate out of the UK market,” he says.

The Saga Sapphire will be withdrawn from service about 10 weeks before the Spirit of Adventure’s delivery in August 2020.

Saga Cruise's Saga Sapphire (pictured) will be replaced when the Spirit of Adventure is delivered Photo: Saga