New Saga Cruises ship Spirit of Discovery has left the inland shipyard in Papenburg touched the sea for the first time.

The 999-passenger vessel was towed up the River Ems on Sunday evening and passed through the sea lock to start its journey to Dover where it will homeport.

Spirit of Discovery will now undergo technical and nautical sea trials until mid June.

Saga will take official delivery of the ship on June 20, before the vessel is officially named on July 5.

Spirit of Discovery will sail from Dover on its inaugural cruise on July 10.

Nigel Blanks, Saga Cruises’ chief operating officer, said: “Our major milestones for Saga Cruises and Spirit of Discovery are now coming thick and fast.

“This ongoing journey sees everyone at Saga Cruises pioneering the future of British boutique cruising, creating a host of unique, new experiences, both ashore and at sea, and providing a fresh new concept in the global cruising market.

“Our thanks go to the impeccable team at Meyer Werft for all their ongoing work on our iconic, stunning new ship.”

Spirit of Discovery is the first of two new passenger ships being constructed at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.