Saga Pearl II does not retire until 2019 and she is looking good; polished to the nines with new carpets and blinds, shiny woodwork and upgraded furniture on the outside Verandah Deck.
She's stylish and comfortable with a soft nautical feel to the decor in varying restful shades of blue and cream.
A smart ship is one thing but it is really the crew who make this classic vessel an absolute gem.
Captain Nick Sunderland is always about and he runs a 3.45pm Captain's Corner so anyone can join him to talk about the ship or the ship's course, the weather, manoeuvres, ports or whatever's on their mind. It's a nice touch and on such a small ship, with up to 400 passengers, it's a manageable task.
Capt Sunderland's crew are all equally friendly and welcoming – you can feel Saga Pearl II is a happy ship. There's a high crew to passenger ratio which makes for a more relaxed environment and no crew member passes without saying 'hello' and the warm smiles feel genuine, rather than those shallow 'Have a nice day' lines that sound so empty.
A special mention also goes to the Girl Power team of hotel director Dawn Cartwright, who ensures everything's shipshape and Saga fashion; Hannah Page on Food and Beverage who uses plenty of shoe leather ensuring mealtimes run smoothly and Jacquie Forbes-Watson who organises finely tuned tours with clockwork precision.
Jacquie has been working on ships for many years and her knowledge is something any sensible journalist should glean; she even remembers when there were bears performing in the streets of St Petersburg.
Baltic cruises can be busy (requiring back-to-back tours if you want to make the most of cities during overnight stays) so with St Petersburg and Stockholm as two-day calls she helped me make the most of my time ashore.
Back on board there is plenty of daytime entertainment, especially on sea days. On the White Nights of the Baltic cruise talks by Justin Raey on Maritime Art were just up my street while I avoided the line dancing and Bridge (being hopeless at both).
Evening entertainment has been ramped up and top of the bill, Matt Lewis, a US Elvis impersonator (who is far more used to thousands of screaming fans in Las Vegas) hit the mark.
The 40th anniversary of the King of rock 'n' roll's death was commemorated with three shows; each one getting livelier as the cruise went on. Matt, sorry, 'Elvis', built a rapport with the British passengers who were up dancing and even waiting around after the show to get their photos taken with him. Well done, Saga, something different and a great success.
If the weather's good it is lovely to eat al fresco, so almost every meal on this sun-blessed sailing, was spent out on deck. A lunchtime barbecue, outside the Sundowner Bar offers choices of meat, fish and vegetable made a super third option.
Gala buffets are a Saga speciality and Executive chef Dirk Rosessler and his team really 'pushed the boat out' with a banquet during the sail away from Stockholm; a Baltic extravaganza in St Petersburg with caviar, stroganoff and pavlova being highlights of a grand spread, plus the Graceland party, which went on until the early hours, with dishes named after Elvis songs!
Exercise is key to work off the calories so it's pleasant to Walk a Mile round the top deck or join in the fitness classes. There is an outdoor and indoor pool – neither are huge but they are spotlessly clean and inviting.
At the Spa, Nadia is the queen of massages and facials, and guess what, she doesn't try to sell anything during the treatment. That really is refreshing as so often, just as you are feeling pampered, the therapist suggests something for whatever she thinks is lacking, and bang goes the relaxation in exchange for a hard sell. Three cheers for Nadia!
The wifi speed is much improved on Saga Pearl II and free to use. The code is on your ship ID card so there's no need to keep rushing down to reception for access. From Dover to the Baltic there was hardly a time when the signal was slow. A happy Bellew!
After busy days ashore, room service is also a happy alternative to eating in the restaurants and the meals arrive hot and well-presented. In my opinion, a lazy evening is always good to build into a cruise!
My Junior Suite with balcony had plenty of space with a coffee table and chairs, a desk, ample wardrobe space, a bath with shower, a good-size television and UK plug sockets (hurrah).
Butler service in the shape of charming Noel included replenishment of the mini-bar with a choice of drinks, delivery of canapés and the dinner menu every evening as well treats such as chocolate-covered strawberries. However, the piece de resistance was the complimentary laundry service. What a pleasure to arrive at the Captain's Table in a sharply pressed outfit and to go home with clothes looking better than when you boarded.
Complimentary laundry is included when staying in a suite or when you become a Britannia Club gold member, that's having 150 cruise nights under your belt.
Saga knows a way to passengers' hearts and Saga Pearl II is certainly a Pearl of the Seas.
More stories, linked to the Baltic tours and sailing through the Kiel Canal, on this cruise will feature in various publications over the next few months. Watch out for social media alerts.
Anyone who is interested in a similar sailing on Saga Pearl II can consider The Majestic Baltic cruise which departs from Dover on May 22, 2018 . Ports of call include Gdansk, Poland ; Tallinn, Estonia; St Petersburg, Russia; Kotka, Finland; Visby and Karlskrona, Sweden and Kiel, Germany.
14 nights from £2,825, including optional travel insurance or a reduction if not required.
Visit saga.co.uk/cruises or call 0800 50 50 30