Saga has pledged to set “a new standard” of quality for ex-UK cruises when Spirit of Discovery launches next year as it was revealed the vessel will be christened in Dover.

The 999-passenger ship will be the first vessel to be christened in Dover following completion of the first two stages of a £250 million redevelopment project at the port.

Saga Cruises chief executive Robin Shaw last night promised to the media and agents that the ship would be delivered on time.

He said: “We are at the intense phase of building this cruise ship – and we are nearly at the finishing line.

“We have called our product ‘boutique cruising’ and quite often I get asked ‘what is that all about?’

“What I try and do is draw comparisons between us and a boutique hotel. When I say boutique hotel you think of certain things. The first thing you think of is it is going to be small – and we certainly are.

“Our cruise ship is going to be a real statement of small and bespoke. Our ship is a one-off.”

Saga’s second new build, Spirit of Adventure, which launches in the summer 2020, will be “completely different” in terms of design, to Spirit of Discovery, Shaw said.

He also said technology would not replace the first-class service onboard which Saga prided itself on when the ship launched.

“We must set a new standard in terms of quality and service when it comes to cruising out of the UK,” he said. “There will be no one better when it comes to those characteristics.”

Spirit of Discovery’s sold-out maiden voyage around the British Isles will sail from Dover on July 10.

Nigel Blanks, Saga’s chief operating officer, said Dover was the “true and right place” to launch Spirit of Discovery on July 5.

Saga announced last week it was to move to all-inclusive cruising from 2020.

Blanks said the decision had been made to distance Saga from the competition and mass cruise market.

He added: “We firmly believe this will not only sit very well alongside our boutique cruising proposition but will reaffirm our position as Britain’s nice luxury cruise operator.”