Saga’s new ship Spirit of Discovery will help “tackle brand perception” and get agents and consumers to “re-evaluate” what the over-50s specialist can offer.

Saga’s head of trade sales Iain Powell said there were perception issues around the Saga brand but the 999-passenger ship, which describes itself as a “luxury boutique hotel at sea”, will attract new customers.

Spirit of Discovery is Saga’s first new-build ship for the brand and will be followed by Spirit of Adventure next year. The vessels will replace Saga Pearl and Saga Sapphire which were both bought from other cruise lines and renovated.

Discovery is the first new-build ship dedicated to the British market since P&O Cruises launched Britannia in 2015.

“These ships will bring a lot of new customers to the brand,” Powell said. “These ships tackle brand perception. We know there is a brand perception challenge around Saga but I think this is a really great ship to say Saga is not what you thought.”

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Gallery: Spirit of Discovery preview sailing

Saga underwent a brand refresh last year with a new logo and ‘Keep Doing’ tagline.

Robin Shaw, chief executive of Saga Travel, ruled out a compete rebrand in future change, but said: “What we have to do is improve our consideration. Everyone knows Saga and having a ship like this gets everyone to re-evaluate what Saga is offering. The trade have big role to play in that.”

The ship hosted around 700 agents this week on a preview sailing ahead of its christening in Dover on Friday.

“70% of new customers come via the trade so that’s why it’s such an important channel for us,” Powell said.

“The trade feedback has been overwhelming. We’ve worked hard for this for four to five years and we’re finally here so to see agents walk on was really wonderful.”

Take a tour of Saga’s Spirit of Discovery:

He said the early voyages have been booked largely by existing Saga cruise customers but added: “We have double the capacity now so we need new passengers. Some will come across from the tour operating business but my gut is there will be a lot of new customers coming to these ships.”

Discovery’s first season is between 80-90% sold, according to Powell.

The ship encountered technical issues on Tuesday night preventing it from sailing to Bruges as planned. Instead it sailed along the Kent coast on Wednesday.

“Agents are here to see the ship and of course we were disappointed not to go to Bruges but it’s not the end of the world,” Powell said. “They have hopefully had a great time and had more of an opportunity to spend more time on board.”

Gallery: Spirit of Discovery preview sailing