Saga Shipping, also known as Saga Cruises, a division of the Saga plc, is a cruise line headquartered in Folkestone, England founded in 1996.
The fifth vessel that was part of the fleet was the 638 passenger capacity – SAGA PEARL II that was acquired in 2010 from Transocean Tours.
She was built in Germany by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) with yard number 165 as the ASTOR in 1981. After short unsuccessful operations with two owners, she was bought by the East German government in 1985 and renamed ARKONA. After 1990 the ship was operated by Seetours, which was acquired by P&O Princess Cruises in 1999, and then chartered to Transocean Tours as ASTORIA in 2002. Seetours was rebranded as AIDA Cruises in 2004.
ASTORIA entering Grand Harbour, Malta back to 24th March, 2004.
Saga Cruises acquired the ship, at an auction during August 2009 and she was effectively replacing the SAGA ROSE which was decommissioned in 2009. In late 2009, the ship sailed to Swansea, Wales where she underwent a £20 million three-month refit, including engine overhaul, in the re-opened Swansea dry dock, after which the ship had a maximum capacity of 449 passengers, served by 252 crew members.
She sailed on her first cruise as SAGA PEARL II on 15th March 2010 to the Norwegian fjords and on Tuesday 9th November, 2010 she made her maiden call to Grand Harbour, Malta.
Upon her arrival, entering Grand Harbour for the first time as SAGA PEARL II she received a gun salute from the Saluting Battery at Upper Barracca Gardens.
Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna (FWA) volunteers dressed in costumes of late 19th century Maltese gunners of the British Army manning the guns at the saluting battery firing saluting rounds from five guns at 10-second intervals to honour the cruise ship.
Till the 1950s, visiting dignitaries were honoured with the firing of gun salutes from the saluting battery and at times from other harbour fortifications, depending on their rank and importance.
Then she proceeded to Pinto Wharf , part of Valletta Cruise Port of which at that time it was known as VISET.
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