The Saga Group, based in the United Kingdom, was founded in 1951 as a privately owned tour company offering holiday packages within the U.K. to travelers aged 60 and over. Saga soon expanded their offerings to include European destinations and later in Asia. In 2011, Saga celebrated its Diamond Anniversary and nowadays, Saga bills itself as a cruise, tour and resort company "for today's over 50s" (the qualifying age dropped from 60 to 50 in 1995).
In 1975, Saga Holidays offered its senior customers a world cruise for the first time, and began to build a portfolio of at-sea offerings. But it wasn't until almost 20 years later in 1996 that Saga bought its first wholly owned cruise ship -- Cunard's Sagafjord, which was renamed Saga Rose. In 2003, Saga doubled its fleet with the purchase of a second and similar cruise ship -- Cunard's Caronia (formerly Vistafjord), which was now known as Saga Ruby.
Sagafjord and Vistafjord sailed as "sister ships" for Cunard, though they were built eight years apart, in 1965 and 1973 for Norwegian America Line. Cunard bought the ships form an interim company -- Norwegian America Cruises -- and they are close, but not entirely identical in design.
In 2006, Saga began operating the 352-passenger Spirit of Adventure (Deilmann's former Berlin), in a short-lived attempt to attract a younger demographic by lowering the minimum age to 21-years-old. The cruises, with a strong enrichment program hosted by expert lecturers, explored the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the Middle East, Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia.
Saga Pearl II joined the fleet in October 2009. That ship was formerly known as Astoria and sailed with Transocean Tours. A few months later Saga Pearl II transferred to Saga's Spirit of Adventure sister brand as the Quest for Adventure, but 18 months later it reverted back to its original name and now no longer offers adventure itineraries.
In 2012, it introduced Saga Sapphire, which debuted in 1981 as Hapag-Lloyd's Europa. (An extensive refit preceded the launch).
In 2015, Saga confirmed its first-ever new builds -- Spirit of Discovery, which launches in 2019; and in a nod to one of its old ships, Spirit of Adventure, which will launch in 2020. The line has an option on a third ship, and have intimated -- but not confirmed -- that they will exercise this option. The ships are being built at the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Germany and will each carry 999 passengers.
Saga Holidays is part of the larger Saga Group, which provides various services to seniors in the U.K. In addition to its travel division, Saga Group offers flexible and affordable healthcare and insurance options, and its own magazine geared toward a more mature audience. But it is Saga Cruises that will interest North Americans most.