It wasn’t the public welcome with rows of camera-clicking spectators that Saga would otherwise have expected for the arrival in Britain of a brand new ship.
But as Spirit of Adventure docked at the Essex port of Tilbury last night, she was given a warm greeting by older sister Spirit of Discovery as the two ships came bow-to-bow.
Crew on both vessels gathered at the railings to wave as horns blared and Discovery displayed “Hey sister” in lights along her side.
Nigel Blanks, managing director of Saga Cruises, said: “We could not miss the chance for the two sisters to finally meet one another… we also made every crew member smile. Well done to the teams that made this happen for a fantastic gesture that will be remembered for many years to come!”
When Spirit of Discovery arrived in Dover on June 28 last year, she was met by waiting media and cruise fans. A week later she was christened by the Duchess of Cornwall at a very English garden party with grass brought down from Yorkshire and sparkling wine supplied by a Kent vineyard.
However, because of coronavirus, Spirit of Adventure had a very different start. Having been handed over to the cruise line in Emden, Germany, on September 30 by makers Meyer Werft, the ship sailed along the Thames yesterday without fanfare.
Cruise fan Tamara Moon, who photographed Spirit of Adventure as the ship passed her home on Canvey Island, Essex, said: “She looked elegant in all her glory as she sailed past me – absolutely beautiful, it sent shivers down my spine.”
It was just after 7pm that the newcomer entered the lock at Tilbury to meet her sister.
The 999-passenger ships may look the same from the outside but are not identical, with the interior of Spirit of Adventure having a “bold and adventurous style”, according to Saga.
Among her new features will be a modern Nepalese restaurant, Khukuri House, inspired by Gurkha heritage.
Spirit of Adventure was due to make her inaugural voyage on November 5 but that has now been put back to February 5, 2021, with a cruise to the Canary Islands. Until then, the two sisters are likely to stay berthed at Tilbury in the company of other laid-up ships.
Saga Cruises boss Nigel Blanks said: “Though the inaugural cruise will take place a little later than we had originally planned, we cannot wait to welcome guests on board and see all she has to offer. I can assure you, she is worth the wait.”