Saturday, 11 May 2013

I have been to … the Caribbean

Sunday 14th April: Southampton
We had packed the car and were on our way by 8.45am, and the journey towards Southampton was uneventful. There were no hold-ups on the M25 or M3, and we had plenty of time to stop for breakfast at Winchester Services. We had reached the junction of the M27 and M271 by 11.15am … and then the problems started!

Before leaving home we had checked the Highways Agency website to see if there were any major traffic problems on the route we were going to take, and none were indicated. My wife even checked the local Southampton information website just in case Southampton United football club were playing at home … and there were no potential hold-ups listed. You can therefore imaging our surprise when we joined the tail-end of a traffic jam on the M271!

It took us ninety minutes to drive the mile from the junction where we joined the M271 to the roundabout where we were supposed to turn off to take the road to the docks. The reason why it took so long was a set of roadworks. Two of the three lanes of the motorway were being resurfaced, and to make matters worse, the roundabout had been closed and all the traffic was being diverted in the opposite direction from that towards which most of it wanted to travel. This diversion added another fifteen minutes to our journey.

However once we reached the Mayflower Cruise Terminal things began to improve, and by 1.30pm we were checked in and sat in the Meridian Restaurant aboard P&O’s MV Arcadia, eating lunch. Not long after 2.00pm we were informed that our cabin was ready for us to go to, and almost our entire luggage was waiting for us to unpack when we got there. The missing items arrived about an hour later, and we had completed almost all of our unpacking by the time we had to go for the obligatory Safety Briefing.

After we had returned our lifejackets to our cabin we went up to the Aquarius Bar for the sail-away from Southampton. We followed two other P&O cruise liners out of Southampton, MV Oriana and MV Azura.

On our way out of harbour we sailed past the Marchwood Military Port. One of the RO-RO ferries operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary was moored alongside – the Anvil Point – as were several Royal Logistics Corps smaller craft.










The Royal Logistics Corps craft included several landing craft and small launches.








After the sail-away we had a hot drink in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant, after which we returned to our cabin, completed our unpacking, and prepared for the evening meal. Before dinner in the Meridian Restaurant we had a further drink in the Aquarius Bar, but as it was rather cold and windy we did not return there for our after-dinner drink, which we had in Spinnakers. This was a bar situated near the Meridian Restaurant, and it contains several interesting models of sailing ships as well as the original Arcadia’s ships bell.

We were sharing a table with four other people, and after mutual introductions we shared our experiences of previous cruises. The conversation flowed easily, and we left the meal hoping that this would remain the case for the rest of the cruise.

As it had been a long and tiring day, we went to bed early, and despite the rough weather, we both slept fairly well. We were only woken up a couple of times as a result the rough weather (for example, sudden loud noises caused by doors slamming shut and violent changes of the ship’s movement through the sea), and soon managed to get back to sleep again.

Monday 15th April: At sea
We awoke just after 8.00am, and after getting ready we went for breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant. The weather was still rather rough (the sea state was described as moderate and the swell was heavy) and what P&O euphemistically called ‘motion disturbance bags’ had appeared in almost all the public areas.


After a short spell on deck, we decided to find somewhere warm and comfortable to sit, and after collecting our Kindles and iPads we both went up to the Crow’s Nest Bar. This was situated high up at the front of the ship, and as a result it experienced quite a bit of movement. It was, therefore, quite empty and we sat there for over two hours, watching the sea or reading books on our Kindles.

I began reading Saul David’s CHURCHILL’S SACRIFICE OF THE HIGHLAND DIVISION: FRANCE 1940 (Published by Brassey’s in 1994) and I was over a quarter of the way through it when we went for a late snack lunch in the Meridian Restaurant. The book tells the story of 51st Highland Division from its arrival in France – where it formed part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) – until its surrender at St Valéry-en-Caux.

After lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon resting and reading in our cabin. I also managed to write a few notes about half-size tabletop FUNNY LITTLE WARS, and I hope to turn these into a blog entry in due course.

We had a pre-dinner drink in Spinnakers before going into the Meridian Restaurant for dinner. Our table companions again proved to be interesting people to talk with, and the time passed very quickly. After dinner we had another drink in Spinnakers, where we listened to a musical duo before going back to our cabin to sleep.

Tuesday 16th April: At sea
Overnight the weather did not improve, and the weather was grey and very overcast when we got up. The Passenger Information Channel on the ship’s TV system that the wind was Force 7, the air temperature was 12°C/54°F, and the sea state was described as being rough, with an average to heavy swell.

Walking around the ship was not easy as the ship had a tendency to lurch suddenly, despite the stabilisers being deployed. As we went to breakfast we noticed that a lot of cabins had ‘Resting’ signs on their doors, and this was an indication that quite a few passengers were probably taking things easy due to the bad weather.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went to watch a cookery demonstration in The Globe (a dance and conference venue) by the ship’s Executive Chef. As a result we booked a table in the Ocean Grill select dining restaurant for later in the cruise.

We then went up to the Crow’s Nest Bar, where we sat and read for a couple of hours. I also tried my hand at a hex-based computer wargame application that I had bought and installed on the iPad. I am not usually a great lover of computer wargames, but this one – TANK BATTLE by HexWar Limited – was quite enjoyable to play, and was similar – in some respects – to my own hex-based figure wargames. I had also bought and installed the same company’s CIVIL WAR wargame application, and I hoped to try that later in the cruise.

Because the weather remained overcast and sea was rough, we decided to eat lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant. We both ate cold meat, salad, and chips, washed down with a dink. Having eaten lunch we went outside to the area around the Aquarius Bar for a breath of fresh air, but after about fifteen minutes it proved to be too cold and damp for comfort, and we returned to our cabin to rest and read.

That evening marked the first formal dinner of the cruise, but the usual Captain’s Welcome Aboard cocktail party was cancelled due to the bad weather. It was rearranged to take place on Friday 19th April, subject to the weather having improved.

As there was no cocktail party we had a pre-dinner drink in Spinnakers, but after dinner we decided to see what it was like on deck. The Promenade Deck was closed due to high winds and spray, but the open area at the stern of the ship near the Aquarius Bar was open, even though the bar was shut. Out of the wind it was quite pleasant, and we spent fifteen minutes or so sitting there enjoying the open air before we went back to our cabin to sleep.

Wednesday 17th April: At sea
Overnight there were several patches of rough weather, and both of us were woken by the somewhat erratic and violent movement of the ship. When we got up at 8.00am the wind was Force 8 and the sea state was rough, with an average to moderate swell. The air temperature was only slightly warmer than the previous day – 14°C/57°F – but the forecast was that the weather would improve as the day progressed.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went up to the area around the Aquarius Bar for a breath of fresh air. The deck was very wet as the movement of the ship had caused a lot of water to slosh out of the Aquarius Pool and its attached Jacuzzis and on to the deck. Whilst we were sat there the clouds began to clear and the warmth of the Sun began to make itself felt. This predicted improvement in the general weather conditions continued for the rest of the day, and by late afternoon the air temperature had risen to 15°C/59°F and the sea state was no longer rough but had become moderate.

In fact the weather had improved so much by lunchtime that we ate our snack lunch sitting at a table near the main swimming pool. The moveable roof over the swimming pool had been slide back so that half of the covered area was exposed to the elements, and although it was a little windy, it was pleasant enough for us to sit there for some time.

We had spent part of the morning resting and reading in the Crow’s Nest Bar, and we discussed returning there after lunch. In the end we decided to return to the area near the Aquarius Bar before returning to our cabin to read and rest some more.

I managed to finish reading Saul David’s CHURCHILL’S SACRIFICE OF THE HIGHLAND DIVISION: FRANCE 1940 on my Kindle just before the batteries needed recharging. The book uses the personal recollections of some of the members of the Division to help to tell the story of its fighting retreat from the Maginot Line, via the area of France where some of the famous battles of the First Word War took place, to the French coast of the English Channel at St Valéry-en-Caux. It described in detail many of the skirmishes that took place between the units of the Division and the German forces advancing across France, and I struck me that these could form the basis of a great mini-campaign.

We preceded dinner in the Meridian Restaurant with a drink in Spinnakers. Dinner was up to its usual excellent standard, and the conversation around the table flowed very easily. After dinner we went up to the area near the Aquarius Bar to see what the weather was like and to have a breath of fresh air. Although the bar was closed, there were a few people sitting at the nearby tables and we had a long and interesting chat with one of the ship’s officers. We had met this officer on previous cruises, and we exchanged news, stories, and information about the various places we had visited before we took our leave, and went back to our cabin to sleep.

Thursday 18th April: Ponta Delgada, Sâo Miguel, Azores
After the first smooth and uninterrupted night’s sleep of the cruise, Arcadia was moored alongside the quay at Ponta Delgada by 8.00am, and we were awoken by the sound of the ship preparing to disembark passengers who were going on organised excursions. The air temperature outside was 15°C/59°F, but it looked likely that this would increase as the day went on and the cloud cover began to disperse.

As we had not arranged to go anywhere whilst we were in Ponta Delgada, we took our time getting ready and did not rush to have breakfast. For the first time on this cruise we did not go to the Meridian Restaurant; instead we went up to the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant.


After breakfast we returned to our cabin, got our cameras and other bits and pieces together, and prepared to go ashore.

During the morning Arcadia had a number of crew drills, and one of these involved deploying the portside lifeboats. These were swung out and cleaned before being used.


As we were leaving our cabin, a frigate of the Portuguese Navy left port and passed Arcadia’s portside. It was the NRP António Enes (F471).


Arcadia was moored alongside the port’s cruise terminal …


… and moored just ahead of her was the sail training ship TS Tenacious.


We walked along the seafront towards the military museum that was housed in the Fort Sâo Brás.


This was still an active military post and its entrance was guarded by a cannon and a Military Policeman.








Just past the entrance to the fort was a further cannon …




… and a memorial to the members of the Portuguese Navy who died during the First World War.


As we had visited the military museum on our previous visit to Ponta Delgada, we decided walk back through the narrow streets of the capital of Sâo Miguel towards the Arcadia’s mooring.




On the way back we stopped off at the main food market …


… and passed the Church of St Peter, which was a fine example of the local ecclesiastical building style.


Arcadia set sail from Ponta Delgada at 3.00pm, thirty minutes later than planned. On our way out of the harbour the Portuguese Navy frigate NRP António Enes passed us on her way back into port.




We spent the rest of the afternoon in our cabin resting, reading, and writing. We did this until just after 6.00pm, when we began to prepare for that evening’s dinner. Instead of eating dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, we had booked a meal in the Ocean Grill. This was one of the ship’s select dinning venues, and was franchised to Marco Pierre White. We had eaten there on previous cruises, and the food and service was as good – if not better – than usual.

Friday 19th April: At sea
The captain had announced on the previous day that the weather was going to improve once we left Ponta Delgada … and this prediction proved correct. The sea was much calmer overnight – although it did appear to have rained – and we both slept quite well. The sky was overcast when we awoke, but this began to change as the morning progressed.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant I attended a meeting of the international fraternal organisation of which I was a member. The meeting was called to enable members on board Arcadia to get to know each other and to organise a charitable fund-raising event – a coffee morning – that was to take place later during the cruise.

We then spent a short time on deck, but at midday we attended the Peninsular Club lunch. This was a special lunch that was organised to thank regular cruisers for their loyalty. Both of us were members of the Baltic Tier of the Peninsular Club, which was one of the higher tiers and which entitled us not only to attendance at the special lunch but also to discounts on many of the ship’s services, including drinks and laundry.

The lunch was excellent, and we sat at a table that was hosted by the ship’s Human Resources Manager. The other guests on the table were also very experienced travellers, and much of the conversation related to previous cruises – and cruise ships – we had been on. The lunch ended just after 2.00pm, and after a visit to the ship’s shopping area we returned to our cabin to read and rest.

During the afternoon I managed to read OPERATION BARBAROSSA 1941 by Michael Olive and Robert Edwards. This Kindle book was published by Stackpole Books in 2012 as part of their STACKPOLE MILITARY PHOTO SERIES, and makes extensive use of previously unpublished photographs from private collections. This proved to be a useful source of ideas for the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign I planned to fight at some time in the future.

The evening was marked by the second formal dinner of the cruise. This was preceded by the Captain’s Welcome Aboard cocktail party, which had previously been cancelled due to the bad weather. As it was held in the area around the main swimming pool aboard Arcadia, we decided not to go to the cocktail party. (The area can be very hot and humid if the ship’s sliding roof was closed, and cold and windy if it was not.) Instead we went to Spinnakers for a pre-dinner drink.

Only two of our usual table companions joined us for the formal dinner, but it did give us a chance to have quite interesting discussions with them, and I discovered that I shared a common interest in action/war films with one of them.

The air temperature had improved to such a degree that it was possible for us to go up to the Aquarius Bar for an after-dinner drink, and we sat there for about thirty minutes before going back to our cabin to sleep.

Saturday 20th April: At sea
The predicted improvement in the weather continued, and when we got ready for breakfast the cloud cover was 6/8 and the air temperature was 18°C/64°F. We had breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant and then went up to the area next to the Aquarius Bar to sit on the open deck and enjoy the fresh air.

It was very pleasant up there until just after midday, when the weather changed. There was some light rainfall and the temperature dropped slightly, as a result of which we decided to go back to our cabin until it was time to eat lunch.

For lunch we ate sandwiches that were prepared for us by a member of staff at the salad bar next to the Neptune Grill. As this was situated next to the ship’s main swimming pool we sat at one of the tables around the pool to eat. Because of the earlier rain, the sliding roof over the swimming pool had been closed, and it was warm and very pleasant sitting there.

After lunch we returned to our cabin to rest and read. During the day I began reading PANZER-GRENADIER ACES: GERMAN MECHANIZED INFANTRYMEN IN WWII by Franz Kurowski. This Kindle book was published by Stackpole Books in 2010 as part of their STACKPOLE MILITARY HISTORY SERIES, and tells the stories of a number of officers and men who served with units of the German mechanised infantry during the Second World War.

At about 4.00pm we went up to the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for afternoon tea, and then went out to the open area next to the Aquarius Bar for some fresh air. We returned to our cabin just before 5.00pm and watched a port presentation about St Lucia on the ship’s TV system before we began to get ready for the evening.

We ate dinner in the Meridian Restaurant as usual, although on this occasion we sat on our own as the other four people we share the table with were eating elsewhere that night. Because the weather was warmer than it had been on previous days, we drank both our pre and post-dinner drinks in the open air Aquarius Bar.

Sunday 21st April: At sea
On at least two occasions during the night we were awoken by the sound of things falling over in the cabin as a result of the ship rolling from side to side. This movement was far more noticeable than usual, and was unexpected as the sea state was moderate and wind was not particularly strong. When we got up at 8.00am the air temperature was 19°C/66°F, the sea state was still average to moderate, the wind speed was Force 6, and the cloud cover was 4/8.

We ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and then – as usual – went up to the area near the Aquarius Bar for some fresh air. At the start of our cruise this area had been relatively empty of people most of the time, but by this stage it was beginning to fill up quite early in the day with sunbathers. This proved problematical at times as – once all the sun-loungers were in use – they tended to take the chairs from the covered area where we normally sat. This was supposed to be prohibited but some passengers proved to be oblivious to this fact.

We stayed by the Aquarius Bar until just after 2.00pm, when we went into the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for a late lunch. By then the air temperature was 22°C/72°F and the sun had been shining for most of the time. (At one point the ship did sail through a short but intense rain squall, which caused a very rapid clearance of passengers from the exposed deck area!)

After lunch we returned to our cabin to rest and read, and I took the opportunity to start drafting what I hope will end up as being the definite draft of my HEXBLITZ II wargames rules. I was inspired to do this as a result of my continued reading of PANZER-GRENADIER ACES: GERMAN MECHANIZED INFANTRYMEN IN WWII by Franz Kurowski.

The weather – and in particular the air temperature – had improved so much that we were again able to have our pre and post-dinner drinks in the Aquarius Bar, and it appeared likely that this would become our routine for the rest of the time we spent in and around the Caribbean. For the first time in several days all six of us were at the dinner table together in the Meridian Restaurant, and the conversation flowed easily.

Monday 22nd April: At sea
We were awoken slightly earlier than usual by the sun streaming through the gaps in curtains that covered the door from our cabin to our balcony. The sea was relatively calm (sea state was moderate with an average to low swell), the cloud cover was 2/8, and the air temperature was 22°C/72°F … and likely to rise quite quickly! (The temperature was 26°C/79°F when we returned to our cabin at 3.00pm.)


As usual we ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant and followed that by going up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar. The sun deck there was already becoming crowded but we were able to find seats in the covered part of the deck area … and we remained there until 2.30pm drinking cold drinks and chatting with people we had met during our cruise.

By 2.30pm we were feeling hungry and went into the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for a cold drink and a snack lunch. This took until 3.00pm, at which time we went back to our cabin to cool down, rest, and read. Because our balcony was not in the sun, we were able to sit on it for quite some time. The movement of the ship ensured that a cooling breeze was blowing over the balcony, and this made it a very pleasant place to sit and read. I managed to complete writing a draft of my HEXBLITZ II wargames rules and finished reading Franz Kurowski’s PANZER-GRENADIER ACES: GERMAN MECHANIZED INFANTRYMEN IN WWII.

The evening meal was the third formal dinner of the cruise, and we took time to get ready. As had become the norm, we had a pre and post-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, and the cool breeze was very refreshing. When we returned to our cabin I began reading VIKING PANZERS: THE GERMAN 5TH SS TANK REGIMENT IN THE EAST IN WORLD WAR II by Ewald Klapdor (published in 2011 by Stackpole Books) before going to sleep.

Tuesday 23rd April: St John’s, Antigua
We were due to dock in Antigua by 9.30am and Arcadia was alongside and tied up ten minutes early.






We had visited Antigua during our Christmas and New Year cruise in 2011 – 2012. During that visit we had taken a tour of the cricket grounds, but this time we went on an organised morning tour to Nelson’s Dockyard. We disembarked in plenty of time, and listened to a local steel band as we waited to set off on our tour. By then the air temperature was 27°C/81°F … and the atmosphere was quite humid.


Nelson’s Dockyard was situated in English Harbour, which was twelve miles from the cruise terminal in St John’s. Its potential as a harbour was recognised by the Royal Navy as far back as the 1670s, and the construction of a naval base began in 1725. By the time Nelson came to the harbour in 1784 it was well enough equipped to meet all the needs of the fleet, and had strong enough fortifications to be able to protect it from any potential attackers.


Nelson’s Dockyard remained in use until 1899, when it was no longer suitable for the larger ships that formed the bulk of the Royal Navy’s battle fleet. It went into decline, and by 1950 it was derelict. In that year the Society of Friends of English Harbour was founded and since then they have not only preserved the main buildings and facilities, but also turned it into a tourist destination and a world-class marina.

There was so much to see there that Nelson’s Dockyard was covered by a separate and more detailed blog entry.

We arrived back at Arcadia in time to have a sedate walk around the duty-free area of the port and to have a cold beer in the BeeHive Bar, which was located near to the quay where the ship was moored. By then we were so tired and hot that we just felt like sitting in our cabin in order to rest and cool down.

By 4.00pm we were feeling much better and we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a cold drink. The ship’s entertainment staff had organised a deck-party to celebrate our arrival in the Caribbean and the fact that it was St George’s Day, and this began at 5.15pm, fifteen minutes before Arcadia set sail for Tortola. It lasted until after 6.00pm, by which time the ship was on her way out to sea. We then returned to our cabin and got ready for that evening’s dinner.

We returned to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink, but after dinner we went to the Palladium Theatre to see our first show of the cruise. This was entitled ‘We’ll Meet Again’, and told the history of the Second World War through the medium of the song and dance of the period. We had seen this show on a previous cruise, but it seemed like an apt was to end the celebration of St George’s Day.

Wednesday 24th April: Road Town, Tortola
The run to Tortola was very smooth, and Arcadia was moored alongside the dock in Road Town just after 7.30am, about thirty minutes ahead of schedule.




We had not visited Tortola before so we decided to take an organised afternoon tour that included a visit to the local maritime museum and the main scenic views of the island. This left us with the morning free, so after breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went ashore to explore Road Town.

During breakfast another cruise ship – the Costa Luminosa – moored alongside the dock next to Arcadia


It was very hot (the air temperature when we woke up was 25°C/77°F and rose to 28°C/82°F by midday) and we only managed to walk as far as the main crossroads in Bridge Town. We chose to spend some time looking around a number of small local craft and gift shops … where I bought a British Virgin Islands flag and my wife bought a painting.




On our return to the ship we each had a sandwich and a cooling drink for lunch before disembarking for our tour. This proved to be very eventful. The party numbered fifteen – which was quite small – and we were all aboard the open-sided tour bus in plenty of time.


Luckily our guide/driver checked the itinerary with us (it was the first time any P&O ship had booked this tour with the local tour company) … and discovered that what we had been told was somewhat different from the itinerary he had been given. Luckily he was able to rejig what he had planned to do to match what we had been told to expect … and off we went.

Our first stop was the Virgin Islands Maritime Museum. This proved to be a small but very interesting museum, with lots of ship models, and this was covered by a separate and more detailed blog entry.


After our visit to the museum our guide/driver took us to Long Beach Bay, where we were able to drink a very cool and refreshing smoothy made from local fruits. Our journey to Long beach Island was … interesting … as it involved driving along some very narrow and very steep roads which were not always particularly well maintained.






Our guide/driver then took us on a tour of the major scenic areas on the island … but the roads seemed even steeper, narrower, and more precipitate than before! At one stage we were well over 900 feet above sea level. The views were spectacular …








… but the drive back was as equally ‘exciting’ as the drive up!

We eventually arrive back at Arcadia at 5.15pm, just fifteen minutes before she was due to set sail. We went straight up to the Aquarius Bar for a couple of long, cool, and relaxing drinks before going back to our cabin to prepare for the evening meal. This was a special themed dinner … and the theme was ‘tropical’. I therefore wore the loudest Caribbean shirt that I owned (bought in St Kitts in 2011) and my wife wore something equally exotic.

After a further drink in the Aquarius Bar, we went to dinner in the Meridian Restaurant. Some of the dishes on the menu were vaguely ‘tropical’, but mostly were not. After dinner we returned to the Aquarius Bar, where the breeze blowing across the deck helped to keep us cool.

Thursday 25th April: Philipsburg, St Maarten
St Maarten was formerly part of the Dutch Antilles, but in 2010 it became part of the Netherlands proper, and formed an overseas county with its own representatives in the Dutch Parliament. The island was divided into two parts in 1648, the other part being the French possession of St Martin.


The cruise terminal for Philipsburg was just across the bay from the town, and Arcadia was moored by alongside by just after 7.30am. The air temperature when we awoke was warm (25°C/77°F), but a cooling breeze kept it bearable. Arcadia was one of five cruise ships alongside (St Maarten was a favourite stopping point for US-based cruise ships), and we knew it was going to be very busy in the cruise terminal and duty free area.

The other cruise ships at the cruise terminal were Celebrity Summit, Maasdam, Freedom of the Seas, and Grandeur of the Seas.










The only other ship moored there was the luxury yacht, Nirvana.


After a leisurely breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, we went ashore. After walking around the numerous shops in the cruise terminal area – and undertaking some essential retail therapy – we went across to Philipsburg on one of the regular water buses. This dropped us near the centre of the beach area …




… and we walked along the beachside paved area to a small bar, where we each had a much needed bottle of cold beer.


Suitably refreshed, we walked around the centre of Philipsburg, enjoying the sights and sounds and undertaking some more retail therapy. By then the air temperature was well over 28°C/82°F and we decided to return to Arcadia. The water bus stop was on a pier near the old Dutch-style Courthouse …


… and right next to the beach.


Once back at the cruise terminal we made our way back to our ship, where we had a cold drink and some lunch before returning to our cabin to cool down and relax. We then sorted through what we had bought during our trip to St Maarten before getting ready for dinner.

Our departure from St Maarten was somewhat delayed by problems with the fuel barge that had come alongside almost as soon as Arcadia had moored. For some reason best known to its crew, the barge took well over thirty minutes to get itself attached to its attendant tug … and then another thirty minutes to disentangle its lines to Arcadia so that it could move off.

Our evening followed what had become our norm for our time in the Caribbean; pre and post-dinner drinks in the Aquarius Bar and dinner in the Meridian Restaurant. Before going to bed we were able to watch the lights of several nearby islands as we passed them in the dark.

Friday 26th April: Castries, St Lucia
There were two possible places for Acadia to dock in Castries: Pointe Seraphine Cruise Ship Dock or Elizabeth II Dock. On this visit the ship moored alongside Elizabeth II Dock, which meant that we were close to the centre of Castries rather than on its outskirts.

During our passage into the harbour of Castries we passed by the local airport, …


… the base for the patrol boats used by the St Lucian Police, …


… and Pointe Seraphine Cruise Ship Dock.




Arcadia was due to be moored by 8.00am, but she was not fully secured alongside until somewhat later. It was already getting warm (the air temperature was 27°C/81°F at 9.00am) and we decided to have leisurely breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant before even thinking of going ashore.

Just after 10.00am we disembarked and made our way into the duty free shopping hall that adjoined the Elizabeth II Dock. After a spell of retail therapy, we went to Chef Robby’s Bar and Restaurant for a cold drink … a bottle if ice-cold Piton beer!


We then took a short walk to the Vendor’s Market …




… then crossed the road to the Central Market, …


… and back through the streets …






… to the boarding place for the ferry to Pointe Seraphine Cruise Ship Dock bar and retail area. By this time it was close to midday and the air temperature had reached 29°C/84°F.








Pointe Seraphine Cruise Ship Dock was very close to the base for the patrol boats used by the St Lucian Police, and several of the patrol boats were alongside.








After a walk around the shops located at Pointe Seraphine Cruise Ship Dock, we returned to the centre of Castries on the local ferry …


… passing Arcadia on the way back.


We then had another cold beer and an excellent lunch in Chef Robby’s Bar and Restaurant before going back aboard Arcadia. We then returned to our cabin to rest and cool down before the ship set out to our next port-of-call, Barbados.

Arcadia left Castries at 5.30pm, and within an hour she was well on her way out of the Caribbean and into the Atlantic. (Technically Barbados does not form part of the Caribbean as it does not have a Caribbean coast and an Atlantic coast.) Just before 8.00pm we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink, and at 8.30pm we went down to the Meridian Restaurant for dinner. The day had been so tiring that we went back to our cabin after dinner, and after sitting on our balcony for a short time, we went to bed.

Saturday 27th April: Bridgetown, Barbados
Arcadia was tied up at the quay of Bridgetown Harbour by just before 8.00am. The cloud cover was 6/8 and the air temperature was already 26°C/79°F, and we were advised that the latter was going to rise significantly as the day went on. (It later rose to 28°C/82°F at midday.)

On our previous visit to Barbados we had taken a taxi into the centre of Bridgetown and walked around the main sites of interest. This time we chose to take an organised tour that included a visit to the Historic Garrison, which was the headquarters of the Barbados Defence Force. This left at 9.00am, not long after we had docked alongside the cruise terminal.

There was so much of interest for anyone with an interest in military history to see at the Historic Garrison, and this was covered by a separate and more detailed blog entry.

Our tour returned to the cruise terminal just before 1.00pm, and after sorting ourselves out we decided to go into the centre of Bridgetown by taxi. We were dropped off at one end of Broad Street – the main shopping street in Bridgetown – and walked along it until we reached Heroes Square. From there we crossed over the Constitution River using one of the two bridges that give the town its name, and made our way to the Waterfront Café, where we had a cooling local beer – Banks – and a snack lunch.




We then re-crossed the river towards St Michael’s Cathedral …


… and the Parliament Building.


In front of the latter was the War Memorial that commemorated the service personnel from Barbados who died during the First and Second World Wars.


We walked back towards Broad Street, passing the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson as we did so.


After some much-needed retail therapy, we returned to the cruise terminal by taxi, passed through the terminal building, and back along the dock to Arcadia. By then it was almost 4.00pm, so we dropped our stuff off in our cabin and went up to the Aquarius Bar for several long, cool drinks. Our time in the Bar coincided with the special ‘Great British Sail Away’ (lots of traditional sing-along music and flag waving!) that had been organised by the ship’s entertainment staff. In the end it was almost 6.30pm before we returned to our cabin to get ready for the evening meal.

We had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, but by the time that we went to the Meridian Restaurant for dinner the weather was beginning to get somewhat rougher than it had been for the previous few days, and we decided that we would not return there for a drink when we had finished eating. As it turned out, we were both feeling so tired after dinner that we went back to our cabin to sleep.

Sunday 28th April: At sea
We were so tired that we slept very soundly, and by the time we awoke at 8.00am the previous night’s rough weather had abated. The air temperature was 27°C/81°F and the sea state slight with an average to moderate swell.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, we went up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar … and stayed there reading until 2.30pm, when we went for a late lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant. During the time we spent on deck I finished reading Ewald Klapdor’s VIKING PANZERS: THE GERMAN 5TH SS TANK REGIMENT IN THE EAST IN WORLD WAR II. The book was translated from German – somewhat badly in places – and I felt that it needed to have been edited somewhat more rigorously than it had been to improve its readability. I then read A FLEET IN BEING: AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN WARSHIPS OF WW1 by Russell Phillips. This short monograph was published by Russell Phillips in 2011, and it includes a technical description of the main ships used by the Austro-Hungarian Navy during the Great War and some brief details of the major operations carried out by them.

After lunch we returned to our cabin to rest and I took the opportunity to begin watching GETTYSBURG yet again on my iPad. (It was a film that I always enjoy watching.) When the battery warning notice appeared on my iPad, I had to stop using it whilst it was recharged, and whilst that was happening I began reading GENTLY TO THE SUMMIT by Alan Hunter. This was originally published in 1961 by Cassell & Co., and republished in paperback and electronic format by Constable & Robinson Ltd., in 2011.

It was still warm enough on deck for us to have a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar before we went down to the Meridian Restaurant for the fourth formal dinner of the cruise. After dinner we went to the Palladium Theatre to watch the first of two shows put on during the cruise by ‘The Beatles Experience’. They were a tribute band we had seen on a previous cruise, and they were very good and well worth watching again.

We then returned to our cabin, and I read a few more pages of my George Gently novel before going to sleep.

Monday 29th April: At sea
Overnight Arcadia had continued to sail on a north-easterly course towards the Azores, and when we awoke the change in latitude was becoming more noticeable. Although there was not a lot of cloud cover (it was 1/8), the air temperature was 24°C/77°F. This was somewhat cooler than it had been on the previous day, and although it was not cold in the open, the difference in temperature was apparent.

As usual we ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant and then went up to the area near the Aquarius Bar to sit on the open deck … and sat there reading and talking until 2.30pm, when we went into the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for a snack lunch. We then returned to our cabin to rest, read, and cool down.

It was still warm enough that evening to have both a pre and post-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar. In fact the air temperature was 23°C/73°F when we went to bed – somewhat later than normal – at 1.30am on the next morning! (One of the ‘problems’ with cruising was the number of interesting people one meets and ends up talking to, often for several hours on end.)

Tuesday 30th April: At sea
The air temperature was still 23°C/73°F when we woke up at 8.00am having both had a deep and uninterrupted sleep. Despite feeling quite tired, we still made it to breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, after which we went up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar to sit and enjoy the fresh air.

Halfway through the morning the clouds darkened and the temperature dropped very suddenly … and the ship sailed through a rain squall. Within seconds the torrential rain was falling and the sunbathers had jumped off their sunbeds and had run under cover. The rain continued to fall for well over thirty minutes, but once Arcadia had sailed through the rain squall the weather gradually began to improve, and by then air temperature had reached 21°C/70°F.

Just after 2.00pm we had a snack lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant, and then returned to our cabin to rest and to read. By then it was warm enough to sit on the balcony, and we did so – on and off – until it was time to begin getting ready for dinner. I managed to finish watching GETTYSBURG and reading GENTLY TO THE SUMMIT and began the next book in the Inspector Gently series, GENTLY WHERE THE ROADS GO (originally published in 1962 by Cassell & Co., and in paperback and electronic format by Constable & Robinson Ltd., in 2011).

For a change we ate dinner in the Ocean Grill, one of the select dining venues aboard Arcadia. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar before going to the restaurant, where we ate what was yet another excellent meal. We then returned to the Aquarius Bar area to sit in the cool evening air for a while before we went back to our cabin to read before going to sleep.

Wednesday 1st May: At sea
The Arcadia had continued to sail north-easterly overnight and was well on her way towards the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when we woke up. The weather was fine, the sea state was slight with a short, low swell, and the air temperature was 21°C/70°F.

After yet another breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, we went up to the open area near the Aquarius Bar and Pool to see if the air temperature was warm enough to sit there. It was … and we stayed there – reading our books and talking to various people – until 3.15pm, when we had a snack lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant. We then returned to our cabin, where I finished reading GENTLY WHERE THE ROADS GO, and began reading the next book in the Inspector Gently series, GENTLY FLOATING (originally published in 1963 by Cassell & Co., and in paperback and electronic format by Constable & Robinson Ltd.

The evening followed the usual pattern of a pre- and post-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, and dinner in the Meridian Restaurant. Then it was back to our cabin to read for a short while before going to bed.

Thursday 2nd May: At sea
The weather was calm during the night, and at 8.00am when we got up the sea state was slight, with a short, low swell, and the air temperature was 19°C/66°F. By then the Arcadia had reached the middle of the Atlantic (the online map showed her position as over the Mid Atlantic Ridge) and was still on a north-easterly course towards the Azores, travelling at a speed of 15 knots.

We ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant as usual, and at 10.00am we attended the fund-raising Coffee Morning organised by the international fraternal organisation of which I was a member. This was held in the Viceroy Room on Deck 10 Forward (next to the Crow’s Nest Bar) and it was well attended. As well as the members of the organisation and their partners and guests, the Captain and several senior officers attended, and we had pleasure in being able to donate £260.00 to a charity of his choice (Macmillan Cancer Support) as well as an equivalent sum to the Prostate Cancer charity.

After the Coffee Morning we went up to the open area near the Aquarius Bar in the hope that the air temperature had not fallen and that there might be somewhere for us to sit in the open air. In fact it had warmed up quite considerably during the morning, and the air temperature was 24°C/75°F by midday. We stayed in the open deck area until going into the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant at 2.30pm for a late lunch. At 3.00pm we returned to our cabin to cool off, and I finished reading GENTLY FLOATING and began the next book in the series, GENTLY WITH THE LADIES (originally published in 1961 by Cassell & Co., and republished in paperback and electronic format by Constable & Robinson Ltd., in 2012). During the latter part of the afternoon we sat on our balcony for a while before beginning the process of getting ready for dinner and the evening’s entertainment.

The evening began with our attendance at the Peninsular Club Party. This was one of the events organised by P&O to ‘reward’ regular customers, and this event followed the usual course. First we were given drinks and canapés as we arrived, and once everyone had arrived, the Peninsular Club Representative/Future Cruise Agent made a short speech of welcome. They then handed over to the Captain, who also welcomed everyone and then gave a speech that outlined changes and developments that P&O was going to make over the near future. That over, he then chose the winning ticket for the Peninsular Club raffle, and the prize – a Dartington Glass bowl – was handed over to the winner.

We went straight from the Party to the Meridian Restaurant for our fourth formal dinner of the cruise, after which we went to the Palladium Theatre to see ‘The Beatles Experience’ for a second time. Whereas the first show concentrated on the band’s earlier music, this show featured music from the era of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Abbey Road’. We finished the evening with a late drink in the Aquarius Bar, and finally went to bed well after midnight.

Friday 3rd May: At sea
The sky was quite overcast when we got up to get ready for breakfast (the cloud cover was 7/8) and the air temperature was 19°C/66°F. The sea had remained calm (the seat state was slight, with a short, low swell) although it appeared to have rained at some time during the night.

As usual we ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and followed that with a visit to the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar and Pool. We stayed there until 3.00pm, reading and talking to numerous people we had met during the cruise. By then the air temperature had reached 21°C/70°F and it the sun made occasional appearances through the cloud cover.

After a late snack lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant we returned to our cabin and sat on the balcony. I finished reading GENTLY WITH THE LADIES and began reading GENTLY CONTINENTAL (originally published in 1967 by Cassell & Co., and republished in paperback and electronic format by Constable & Robinson Ltd., in 2012).

The evening followed a similar pattern to many of those that had gone before. We had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, followed by dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, after which we returned to the Aquarius Bar to have a final drink of the day before going back to our cabin to sleep.

Saturday 4th May: Horta, Faial, Azores
We arrived off Horta just before 7.30am, and the process of launching the ship’s tenders began soon afterwards.


The sky was very overcast (7/8 cloud cover) and the air temperature was much colder that it had been for the past few days (17°C/63°F). (It is worth noting that it stayed at or near this temperature for the rest of the day.) As usual we ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, after which we went up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar to wait for the early rush of passengers going ashore to pass.

At 9.45.am we went to the Piano Bar to collect our tender tickets, and then proceeded to the tender disembarkation pontoon where we boarded the tender that took us from Arcadia into the harbour.


Once ashore we went for a walk from the cruise terminal to the centre of Horta. This journey first took us to the Praça da Republica, a nice little square that was lined with buildings built in the local style, …






… with a bandstand in the middle …


… and the local market along one side.




We then proceeded towards the Praça do Infante, passing a statue to Largo Duque D’Avila e Bolama …


… as we did so. In the Praça do Infante was a bust of Infante Henrique (better known to to English-speakers as Henry the Navigator).


On one side of the Praça do Infante was the Fort de Santa Cruz. This ivy-clad fortification had been converted into a top-class hotel and restaurant.
















We had a drink in a nearby café, and then walked back along the seafront towards the cruise terminal. During our walk we passed a war memorial dedicated to the men of Horta who had died during the Portugal’s overseas wars.


At this point the weather began to change and the rain began to fall. We took shelter until the worst has passed, and then made our way to the cruise terminal. We had to wait for about fifteen minutes before we were able to get aboard a tender, but the journey back took less than ten minutes, and we were back in our cabin not long after 1.30pm.

Suitably refreshed – and dry – we went for as drink in the Aquarius Bar, and stayed there until 4.00pm, although we did go into the nearby Belvedere Self Service Restaurant to eat a snack lunch between 3.00pm and 3.15pm. After leaving the area near the Aquarius Bar and Pool we went back to our cabin to rest and relax.

By the time that Arcadia set sail from Horta at just after 6.00pm, the wind speed had risen to Force 6 and the rainfall had returned. This – combined with the worsening sea state – had delayed our departure slightly as it had proven difficult to hoist the last remaining tenders back aboard ship.

At 8.00pm we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink … and discovered that most of the open area was wet due to further outbreaks of rain. When we returned to the Aquarius Bar after our dinner in the Meridian Restaurant the situation remained the same, and we went to bed hoping that the weather would improve overnight.

Sunday 5th May: At sea
Our hopes of better weather developing overnight were somewhat unfulfilled, and our balcony was very wet when we woke up and opened our curtains. The wind was still blowing at Force 8, the cloud cover was 8/8, and the air temperature was 17°C/63°F. Luckily the sea state was only moderate, with an average to low swell, and this made it relatively easy to move about Arcadia.

Because of the bad weather we expected most of the public areas of the ship – including the restaurants – to be quite crowded. In fact, when we went for breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we did not have to wait to be seated at a table – as we expected might happen – and we had finished eating by 9.45am. After a short spell in the undercover area by the Aquarius Bar, we went to the Neptune Pool, where the various Departments were hosting stands as part of a village fete. This provided some much-needed fun on what could otherwise have been a rather dismal day.

We stayed at the fete until just before 11.00am, when we returned to our cabin. By then the cloud seemed to be lifting, and there was the prospect of improved weather later in the day … so we went back up to the undercover area by the Aquarius Bar. For a short time the weather did seem to get better … and then it got worse again. By midday the air temperature was 16°C/61°F although the wind speed had dropped to Force 7. We stayed there – undercover – reading and talking until just after 2.00pm, when we went for lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant.

After lunch we went back to our cabin, and I finished reading GENTLY CONTINENTAL and began reading GENTLY NORTH WEST (originally published in 1967 by Cassell & Co., and republished in paperback and electronic format by Constable & Robinson Ltd., in 2012).

By 8.00pm the air temperature had fallen even lower (14°C/57°F), and we gave serious thought having our pre-dinner drink somewhere other than in the Aquarius Bar. In the end we decided to see what it was like on deck, and discovered that out of the wind it was really quite pleasant. We returned there after our dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, and had an after-dinner prink before going to bed.

Monday 6th May: At sea
Overnight we were awoken several times by the movement of the ship and the sound of the ship’s fog horn. As a result we were not surprised to find that we could not see the horizon due to low cloud (the cloud cover was 8/8) and fog. (The fog persisted all day and the horizon remained invisible until it was too dark to see otherwise.) The wind speed had dropped (it was blowing at Force 4) but the direction of the wind caused the ship to have a significant roll. Despite this the air temperature had remained the same overnight (it was 14°C/57°F), and it was not too unpleasant on the cabin balcony.

We had both woken up with the early stages of a cold, but we were determined not allow this to hinder our enjoyment of the remaining days of the cruise. After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went to the Reception Desk to sort out our disembarkation passes (we had not been given the priority passes that we should have been given) and then to the shops to buy some throat lozenges. We then paid our first visit to the Ship’s Photographers to look at the numerous photographs that they had taken of us during our cruise, before going up to the open area near the Aquarius Bar.

We stayed there for about an hour, but by then the air temperature had begun to drop and we made our way to the Crow’s Nest Bar, which was considerable warmer. After sitting and reading for a couple of hours in the Crow’s Nest Bar, we went to the Neptune Grill – which was located near the Neptune Pool – where we ate lunch. Because the air temperature had risen slightly we returned to the Aquarius Bar after we had eaten, and we stayed there until after 4.00pm, when we went back to our cabin to read and rest before getting ready for the last formal dinner of the cruise.

It was during this short break that I decided to revise my PORTABLE WARGAME: 19th CENTURY and PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN rules so as to incorporate the use of playing card tiles to determine the order in which Units are activated. These revisions did not take me very long to complete, and I looked forward to the opportunity to play-testing the new version of the rules in the near future.

We decided to see if it was feasible to have a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, and it proved so. Out of the wind it was warm enough to sit there in comfort … so we did. The dinner was probably the best of the cruise, and was marked by both an excellent menu and a parade of the ship’s chefs and galley brigade through the Meridian Restaurant.

After our meal we returned to the Aquarius Bar for an after-dinner drink, only to find that the Arcadia was passing through a prolonged rain squall. The Bar was about to close, but in the end it stayed open long enough to serve the customers who had just arrived there after finishing their dinner.

Suitably refreshed, we went down to our cabin and went to bed. I finished reading GENTLY NORTH WEST and began the last of Alan Hunter’s books that I had stored on my Kindle, GENTLY AT THE GALLOP (originally published in 1971 by Cassell & Co., and republished in paperback and electronic format by Constable & Robinson Ltd., in 2013).

Tuesday 7th May: At sea
The weather did not improve much overnight, although the fog had gone by the time we woke up at 8.00pm, only to reappear later that morning. By then the air temperature was 13°C/55°F, the wind was blowing at Force 5/6, and the sea state was moderate, with a short, low swell. Our colds had also not gotten any better, and we were both coughing and sneezing as we prepared for breakfast.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar, but whilst we had been eating the fog had returned and the visibility was so bad that the Arcadia was sounding her fog horn every two minutes. We decided that it was too cold and damp to stay there and made our way to the Crow’s Nest Bar, where we remained until just before 1.00pm. By this time the wind speed had increased to Force 7/8, and this had increased visibility to the extent that the horizon was just about discernible.

As neither of us was very hungry we decided to return to our cabin to begin the process of packing, and we did this for about an hour. We then went to the Aquarius Bar for a drink, and then into the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for a light lunch, after which we returned to our cabin to continue packing. We finally finished packing just after 5.00pm, by which time the fog had finally cleared.

At 6.00pm the Captain made an announcement that Arcadia was about to pass another P&O ship, MV Adonia. The Adonia was captained by Commodore Burgoyne – the P&O fleet’s most senior officer – and he retired on 8th May. As a courtesy Arcadia saluted Commodore Burgoyne and Adonia as they passed.

We went for our pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, and then made out way to the Meridian Restaurant for our final dinner of the cruise. After the meal we made our farewells to the staff who had served us and the two people with whom we had shared our table during the cruise.

On returning to our cabin we finished packing the last bit of luggage that had to be collected for unloading. We then went to bed, and before I went to sleep I finished reading GENTLY AT THE GALLOP.

Wednesday 8th May: Southampton
Arcadia was docked alongside the Ocean Cruise Terminal by just after 6.30am. We were already awake and by 7.30am we were on our way to the Meridian Restaurant for our last breakfast of the cruise.

Once we had eaten we collected our hand luggage from our cabin, said a final farewell to our cabin steward, and made our way to Deck 3 to await our disembarkation. We were called to go ashore at 8.30am, and in less than ten minutes we had begun to collect our luggage from the collection hall in the terminal … and then our problems began.

We had collected all but one of our bags by 8.50am … but it took us nearly forty five minutes to find the last one! By mistake it had been placed with the luggage from a completely different deck from the one our cabin had been on, and had had other bags piled on top of it. Once we had found it we went straight through the Green Lane of the Customs Hall and out to the car park, where we collected and loaded our car. It was 9.50am when we finally left Southampton … and we were parked outside our house just after midday.

Our cruise to the Caribbean was finally over.

6 comments:

  1. Nirvana is currently up for sale - a snip at 230M Euro's... :o)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Owned by a Russian of course... Vladimir Potanin.....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    I could probably manage to get hold of 230 Euros ... but not 230,000,000!

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  4. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    It's owned by a Russian oligarch is it? That is a surprise!

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great travelogue entry, as usual Bob.

    Must do the Caribean sometime!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jim Duncan,

    I am pleased that you enjoyed reading it!

    There are four more blog entries to come that will cover some of the places we visited in greater detail.

    I would certainly recommend the Caribbean as a place that is worth visiting.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete