Saga’s River Cruise Captains Named In Countdown To Naming Ceremony And Launch

Spirit of The Rhine (Rendering, courtesy Saga)Saga’s brand-new river ships ‘Spirit of the Danube’ and its sister ‘Spirit of the Rhine’ are set to welcome Captain George Dudunica and Captain Marinus Pols as their respective Masters when they get underway in March.

Captain George Dudunica, who hails from Romania and originally qualified as a First Officer through the River Navigation School, will be a familiar face to many Saga guests as he previously operated the Filia Rheni between 2013 and 2019, during which time he qualified as Captain.

Captain Dudunica, said: “I’m delighted to be back working with Saga again and it’s such a pleasure to be operating the beautiful new ‘Spirit of the Danube’. I have a real love for the river it is named after and have always so enjoyed meeting Saga guests, so I look forward to welcoming them on-board again.”

Spirit of the Rhine’s Master, Captain Marinus Pols, is from Holland and operated Spirit of the Rhine on its initial sailings towards the end of 2021. Having grown up with parents who transported cargo ships around Europe, Marinus was born and raised on the water and became a Captain at the age of 22.

Captain Pols, said: “I made the switch from tankers to river cruise ships some years ago and I’ve never looked back. I so enjoy contact with the Saga guests – they are curious about how the ships manoeuvre and always keen to explore and learn more about our journey, which means we build up a real rapport and friendship. It’s fantastic to know they leave the ship having had such a fantastic time on board.”

The new ships can both host up to 190 guests who will be served by up to 50 crew. The vessels have been designed to the highest specification and have four decks and 95 cabins. Guests can enjoy the Panorama Restaurant, a beautiful sundeck with hot-tub, an indoor and outdoor terrace, a library, gym and a stunning, panoramic lounge with floor to ceiling windows to maximise the view.

Spirit of the Danube and Spirit of the Rhine will have a joint naming ceremony in Arnhem in the Netherlands on 19 March. Both ships are owned by the shipping company Rijfers Nautical Management and built by VAHALI Shipyards.

Spirit of the Danube’s week-long inaugural cruise, which departs on 21 March from Arnhem, will navigate the intricate Dutch waterways to the windmills of Kinderdijk and the fortified town of Willemstad before crossing the border into Belgium for included tours of Ghent, medieval Bruges and Antwerp, where the 16th-century Grote Markt is home to the famous Brabo fountain and Belgium’s largest Gothic cathedral. On return to the Netherlands, guests have the option to admire work by Dutch masters such as Aelbert Cuyp and Ferdinand Bol at the Dordrechts Museum before exploring Amsterdam, where the cruise concludes.

Spirit of the Rhine’s first post-naming cruise is for solo travellers and the seven-night journey begins in Amsterdam, followed by a full-day excursion to Keukenhof Gardens – one of the largest and most revered botanical gardens on the planet. There is an included trip to The Hague, home to a wealth of important and historic buildings, and cruise to windmills of Kinderdijk. The cruise also stops in Arnhem with an optional tour to learn about Operation Market Garden, a key moment in World War II, before visiting pretty Enkhuizen and Hoorn en route back to Amsterdam.

The two ships are set to complete 91 itineraries this year so there’s plenty of choice available for guests, from birdwatching to cities to music themed tours, plus of course the ever-popular Christmas markets.