Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Portable Wargame book ... is almost ready to be published!

After a few trials and tribulations, the text of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules has been uploaded to Lulu.com and proof copies of the hardback and paperback editions should be on their way to me in the next fortnight. Once I have had a chance to check them, the book will go on sale.


This book contains chapters entitled:
  • Introduction
  • A brief (and incomplete) history of gridded wargames
  • Some basic rules
  • Grids: Hexes and Squares
  • Definitions
  • Units ... and how to represent them on the tabletop
  • Design Notes
  • Going Solo and the Sudden Death Option
  • Portable Wargame Rules: Late Nineteenth Century (Including Colonial)
  • The Portable Wargame in Action: The hunt for the Mahdi
  • Portable Wargame Rules: Early and Mid Twentieth Century
  • The Portable Wargame in Action: Soviet Combine Arms Assault
  • Appendix: Some thoughts on wargame design
  • Bibliography
  • Endnotes
The book will be available in three versions:
  • Hardback (costing £14.99)
  • Softback (costing £5.99)
  • Ebook (costing £2.99)
It is being printed and distributed by Lulu.com, and once it has been proof read and approved for publication it should be available online from Lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Once the book has been approved for publication, I will write a blog entry to that effect.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Still very busy

I've managed to finish the second battle report that I'm going to include in my PORTABLE WARGAME book, and all that remains to be done is the book's layout.

Based on my previous experience, this will take some time, and I hope to complete this final pre-proof stage of the process over the next few days. I will also have to design the book's cover and add ISBNs for each of the versions of the book, and then I can send them off so that proof copies can be printed.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Busy, busy, busy!

I've spent most of this morning setting up, fighting, photographing, and recording the second battle report I will be including in my PORTABLE WARGAME book.

The battle is set on the Eastern Front, and features a Soviet combined arms assault on a German defence system. The Soviet Assault Group comprises four Tank units, six Rifle units, a Field Artillery unit, and an Anti-tank Gun unit. Facing them is a kampfgruppe that comprises a Tank unit, two Machine Gun units, two Infantry units, a Mountain Gun unit, and an Anti-tank Gun unit. The Germans have to keep the Soviets from breaking through for twelve turns, and so far I have played through five turns and the Germans have yet to be seriously tested.

With luck I should be able to finish the battle by this evening, but if not, I hope to complete it by Saturday at the latest.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

My Portable Wargame book ... another update

I have been working on my PORTABLE WARGAME book on and off since we got back from our recent cruise, and I have just finished the first of the two explanatory battle reports that I am going to include in the book.

By writing well illustrated step-by-step descriptions of battles fought using my rules, I am able to include lots of example of how the main mechanisms work. So far I have completed the battle report for the late nineteenth century/colonial version of the rules, and here are a few of the photographs I have used.




I hope to begin work on the second battle report later this week, and if I manage that all I will need to do is to proof-read the manuscript before it can go for publication.

At the moment I plan to produce a paperback and a hardback edition of the rules. I'm not sure how much these will cost to produce or how much they will sell for, but as soon as I know I will pass this information on to my regular blog readers.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

How to ... construct a boxed version of the Portable Wargame

Recently I wanted to take a very fast-play version of my PORTABLE WARGAME on a cruise ... but space and weight considerations meant that I could not take any figures and terrain with me. I therefore set about constructing a boxed version of my game ... and this is how I did it.

Materials and Tools required
  • Several large (A4-size) self-adhesive laser/inkjet printer labels (J8167/L7167)
  • A colour laser or inkjet printer
  • A copy of the following warboard, unit, and terrain feature templates (These are available in PDF format here and here.)

  • An A4-size piece of foamcore
  • An A4-size piece of self-adhesive steel paper
  • An A5-size pieces of self-adhesive steel paper
  • At least one A5-size piece of self-adhesive magnetic sheet
  • Two A5-size pieces of mounting board or similar thick card
  • A sharp modelling knife, steel ruler, and cutting board (N.B. These should be used using the correct and safe methods, and modellers should always exercise care when using them.)
  • An A4-size Tiger Brand Slim Tuff Box, several D6 dice, and a copy of the rules

Construction Method
  • Print a copy of each of the templates onto an A4-size laser/inkjet printer labels
  • The Warboard
    1. Very carefully fix the label with printed warboard to the non-adhesive side of the A4-size sheet of self-adhesive steel paper.
    2. Very carefully fix this to the sheet of foamcore.
    3. Once this is complete, very carefully trim the whole assembly down so that it is neat and tidy. It is advisable to leave at least a 1cm wide space around three sides of the assembly and a large space along the fourth side. The latter is very useful for storing playing pieces etc. whilst a battle is being fought.
  • The Terrain Features
    1. Cut the label with the printed units and terrain features into two pieces so that the units are on one part and the terrain features are on the other.
    2. Very carefully fix the label with printed terrain features printed on it to the non-adhesive side of the A5-size sheets of self-adhesive steel paper.
    3. Very carefully fix this to one of the A5-size pieces of mounting board or similar thick card.
    4. Very carefully fix this to the adhesive side of an A5-size piece of self-adhesive magnetic sheet.
    5. Very carefully cut out the terrain features using the lines as a guide. Too much care cannot be exercised in doing this as the combined steel paper, mounting board/thick cardboard, and magnetic sheet are quite substantial.
    • (Note: The terrain features have magnetic bottoms to hold them in place on the warboard and steel paper under the printed top layer so that units will stay in place if place on them during a battle.)
  • The Units
    1. Very carefully fix the label with units printed on it to one of the A5-size pieces of mounting board or similar thick card.
    2. Very carefully fix this to the adhesive side of an A5-size piece of self-adhesive magnetic sheet.
    3. Very carefully cut out the units using the lines as a guide. Too much care cannot be exercised in doing this as the combined mounting board/thick cardboard and magnetic sheet are quite substantial.
The playing pieces are now complete, and can be stored – along with a copy of the rules and several D6 dice – in the Slim Tuff Box.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Time Commanders

Over the Christmas break I have been catching up on any TV programmes that I missed whilst Sue and I were on our recent cruise. Amongst these was the latest incarnation of BBC's TIME COMMANDERS.


The concept is to pit two teams of three players against each other using a computerised game engine (developed by The Creative Assembly). Unlike the previous two series, which were hosted by Eddie Mair and Richard Hammond respectively, the host is Greg Wallace. He is assisted by Dr Lynette Nusbacher and Mike Loades.


The first programme saw a team of Scottish wrestlers take on a group of historical board gamers from London. The battle that was recreated was the Battle of Zama, with the wrestlers being the Carthaginians and the board gamers the Romans. In two initial skirmishes – which were intended to give both teams an opportunity to practice using the game engine – the Carthaginians won quite decisively. In the actual re-fight, the Roman side drove off the Carthaginian elephants (which had attacked without support) and then overwhelmed the enemy cavalry. The Carthaginians then attempted to regroup ... whilst the Romans stood and watched. The Romans then slowly moved forward, using their cavalry to first outflank the block of Carthaginian infantry and then attack them from the rear. In the end the battle degenerated into a massive infantry slogging match, with both sides winning on their right flanks and losing on their left. Eventually the Romans prevailed ... although both sides lost their commanders.

The second programme featured a team of aquarium workers (Imperial France) fighting a team of archers (Allies) in a re-fight of the Battle of Waterloo. The programme followed the same basic format at the first programme (two short trial skirmishes followed by the re-fight) and ended in a narrow victory for the Allies ... but it was one hell of a messy battle, during which Napoleon was killed!

I think that the new format works better than the previous one, and Greg Wallace's enthusiastic hosting – which could easily have been quite annoying – actually made the programmes more interesting to watch.

I look forward to watching the rest of the series.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my regular blog readers a ...


... and a safe and happy New Year!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

I have been to ... the Caribbean and the Azores

Friday 25th November 2016: Southampton
We had set our alarm clock to go off at 6.00am, and after washing, dressing, and loading the car, we were on our way to Southampton by 8.30am.

Despite having to travel at the end of the morning rush-hour, we made good time reaching the M25, and by 9.40am were had reached the junction with the M3. The roadworks on the M3 seem to have been in place for years, and thanks to the speed limit and average speed cameras, we did not reach Winchester Services until 10.20am. We ate breakfast in Costa Coffee, and despite a slight diversion due to heavy traffic in the centre of Southampton, we reached the Mayflower Cruise Terminal just before 11.45am.

After a porter helped to unload our luggage and handing our car over to the valet parking service, we went inside the Cruise Terminal to book in. Once that was done we sat in the departure lounge for about thirty minutes until it was our turn to go aboard MV Arcadia. We passed through the security checks without any problems, and were aboard just 12.45pm.

We made on our way to the upper tier of the Meridian Restaurant (Deck 3 Aft), where we were able to have a drink (or several) and a snack lunch whilst our cabin was being prepared. An announcement that all passenger cabins were ready for occupation was made just before 2.00pm, and we were able to go up to Deck 4 Forward, where we discovered all luggage was waiting for us.

The process of unpacking seemed to take much longer that we had expected, and during a break I went out onto our cabin balcony to take a look around. In the distance I could see P&O's MV Oceana moored alongside the City Cruise Terminal as well as three large vehicle transporters.


At the Military Port on the other side of the river I could see the Ro-Ro ship Hurst Point moored alongside one of the loading quays.


The bunker vessel Whitchampion was tied up alongside Arcadia, and was refuelling her prior to our departure.


On the horizon P&O's MV Oriana had already set sail for Hamburg …


… where she was going to have a fortnight in dock being refitted.

At 4.15pm Sue and I had to go to the Palladium Theatre (which is spread over Deck 1, B Deck 2, and the Promenade Deck (Deck 3) Forward) for the statutory safety briefing. The briefing ended by 4.35pm, and after dropping off our life-jackets in the cabin, Sue and I went up the Aquarius Bar (Deck 9 Aft) to watch the ship sail out of Southampton Docks.

Our departure was delayed for over an hour as a result of an accident (a passenger had fallen over after the safety briefing and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance) and by the time Arcadia actually set sail we had returned to our cabin to complete our unpacking.

At 7.45pm we went to the Spinnaker Bar (Deck 3 Aft) for a pre-dinner drink. The doors to the Meridian Restaurant opened at 8.30pm, and by 8.45pm we were seated at our table and had been joined by the two couples with whom we will be sharing the table for the rest of our cruise. After mutual introductions we all chatted whilst our respective orders were taken by our waiter, and the conversation flowed effortlessly throughout the meal. We had all finished eating and had left the restaurant by 10.30pm, and after a quick visit to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar for some fresh air, Sue and I retired to our cabin to sleep.

Saturday 26th November 2016: At sea
After a very good night's sleep, we awoke at 8.00am to find that Arcadia was well down the English Channel and on her way into the Atlantic


The sky was overcast but the sea was reasonably smooth, which was not what we had expected bearing in mind the time of year.


After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant Sue and I paid a brief visit to the Future Cruises and Loyalty Desk (Deck 2 Midships) to drop off our Peninsular Club Lunch acceptance letters. We then made our way up to the Crow's Nest Bar (Deck 10 Forward), where we sat and read until it was 1.15pm. After a short break for some fresh air in the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar, we walked through the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant (Deck 9 Aft) to the Neptune Grill, where we had a snack lunch and a drink.

After lunch we returned to our cabin to read and to rest, and at 3.45pm we made our way back to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea. Sue and I decided to take our drinks outside to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar, where we met two people we had met on a cruise in 2014. As a result we sat there talking until nearly 5.00pm, by which time it was beginning to get dark and the air temperature had begun to drop.

We stayed in our cabin until it was time to go for a pre-dinner drink, and I managed to finish reading the book I had started before we had left home (James Mitchell's A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER), and begun another of his books, SMEAR JOB. Both feature the exploits of David Callan and his friend and assistant, Lonely, and I have downloaded all of the Callan books and short stories onto my Kindle so that I can read them during the cruise.

Sue and I had our pre-dinner drink in the Spinnaker Bar, and after a very pleasant meal with our four table companions, we went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar for some fresh air before going back to our cabin. We had only intended to stay on deck for ten minutes, but soon got talking with the couple we had met on a previous cruise … and the ten minutes soon became and hour!

I read for a time before going to sleep, and made quite a lot of progress reading SMEAR JOB, which I expected to finish on the following day.

Sunday 27th November 2016: At sea
Over night the weather had become slightly worse, and when we got up at 8.00am Arcadia was well out into the Atlantic to the west of the north-eastern coast of Spain.


As usual we ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and then went up to the Crow's Nest Bar to read and to watch the sea.


I stayed there until 11.15am when I went to a Masonic get-together which was held in the nearby Viceroy Room (Deck 10 Forward). The meeting lasted about an hour, after which Sue and I decided to go to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar for some fresh air. We discovered that it was raining …



… so our stay there was brief.

We returned to our cabin to continue reading and relaxing, and it was not until 1.30pm that we went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant to eat lunch. Because the ship was experiencing quite a lot of movement, we used the central lifts to go up to the Deck 9.


These are situated near to the entrance to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant …


… which was surprisingly empty considering that it was lunchtime.

After lunch we tried our luck again outside … and discovered that although the deck was wet, it was no longer raining and blue patches of sky were visible through breaks in the clouds.

Sue and I sat there chatting for some time before going back to our cabin, but we returned to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant at 4.20pm for afternoon tea (i.e a cup of tea and a couple of cakes).

We did not stay there very long as we had to get ready for what was the first formal dinner of the cruise. Dinner was preceded by the Captain's Gala Party, which was the official 'welcome aboard' event. It was held in the area surrounding the Neptune Pool (Deck 9 Midships), the only area on the ship large enough to accommodate half the passengers at any one time.

After dinner Sue and I went back to the covered area near the Aquarius Bar. We had not intended to stay there very long, but our friends arrived not long after we had and we all ended up chatting until it was well after midnight.

Monday 28th November 2016: At sea
The seas became slightly rougher overnight. This did not seem to affect Arcadia's progress, and when we woke up at 8.00am she was closer to the Azores than she was to the Iberian Peninsular.


The sky was no longer as overcast as it had been …


… and it was somewhat surprising to discover that the Promenade Deck was closed to passengers due to high winds and spray.

After eating our breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I attended a talk in the Palladium Theatre that was given by the ship's guest speaker, Ricky Bastin. He is an expert on air crash investigation, and his talk was about the disappearance of Malaysian Airways MH370.


His conclusions were that the senior pilot was responsible for the aircraft's destruction, but although the speaker gave some very credible reasons as to how the pilot had done it (i.e. the means and the opportunity), he could not explain why he had (i.e. there was no motive).

Once the talk was over, we paid a quick visit to our cabin before going up to the Crow's Nest Bar to read. I managed to finish reading James Mitchell's SMEAR JOB and began reading the next book in the series, RUSSIAN ROULETTE.

We stayed in the Crow's Nest Bar until just after 1.00pm, when we went down to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant to get some lunch. It was so crowded that we decided to defer eating until slightly later, and went out to the covered area near the Aquarius Bar. Yet again we met up with our friends and stayed talking to them until 2.30pm, by which time the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant was considerably less crowded.

After lunch Sue and I went down to The Rising Sun pub (Deck 2 Forward) where I signed up for the 'Build a Boat on a Boat' competition. This involved building a model boat that can carry four cans of fizzy drink and stay afloat for more than ten seconds. The model can be built from whatever can be found around the ship or bought ashore.

As soon as I had signed up, Sue and I went up to the ship's shopping area (Deck 3 Midships), where I was able to obtain several large collapsible cardboard boxes. These will form the basis of my model as they are strong, light, and – when folded – rigid box structures that I can use to build my boat from.

After a short visit back to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for a cup of tea and a cake, we returned to our cabin to read and rest before getting ready for dinner. By this time the ship was approaching the middle of the channel between two of the larger islands that make up the Azores.


We had booked a table for 8.30pm at the Ocean Grill Restaurant (Deck 2 Midships) and had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar. The meal we ate in the Ocean Grill was – as usual – superb (particularly the chateaubriand!), and both of us left feeling very full. After dinner we returned to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar, where we sat chatting until midnight.

When we returned to our chain we discovered that the toilet would not flush properly and no water would come out of the taps. I immediately contacted the Reception Desk (Deck 1 Midships) who informed me that the engineers had switched off the water supply to our deck to clear a blockage in the pipework.

Tuesday 29th November 2016: At sea
Arcadia was well past the Azores and on her way towards Mid-Atlantic Ridge by the time we woke up.


After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went out onto the Promenade Deck …


… and we stayed there enjoying the fresh air until it was time to return to our cabin to get ready for the Peninsular Club Ligurian and Baltic Tier Lunch. (The Peninsular Club is P&O's loyalty scheme. At present Sue and I are Baltic Tier members, which is the second highest level in the scheme.)

Our table at the lunch was hosted by the ship's Passenger Services Manager, and we were joined by two other couples for the lunch. The food was excellent, and I had:
  • White Onion Soup, with Fried Shallot Rings and Parsley Oil
  • Mango Sorbet
  • Tournedos of Beef, Slow Cooked Rib Mille Feuille, and Cognac Sauce
  • Chocolate Fudge Cake, Raspberries, Candied Walnuts, and White Chocolate Cream
Sue ate:
  • Roasted Goat's Cheese, Mixed Beets, Honey and Beetroot Purée, and Mixed Baby Leaves
  • Tournedos of Beef, Slow Cooked Rib Mille Feuille, and Cognac Sauce
  • Selection of British and Continentasl Cheese, Walnut Bread, Black Grapes, and Vegetable Crudités
After such a rich meal, both of us felt rather full, and we returned to our cabin to rest. I managed to finish reading RUSSIAN ROULETTE and began the next book in the series, DEATH AND BRIGHT WATER.

At 4.30pm Sue and I went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for a drink, and afterwards we sat outside in the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar until it was time to get ready for dinner.

After dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I returned to the Aquarius Bar for a quick drink before going to bed. We met our friends from a previous cruise, and chatted to them until just after 11.00pm, when were returned to our cabin to go to sleep.

Wednesday 30th November 2016: At sea
Overnight the seas seemed to get somewhat rougher, although this did not seem to have hampered Arcadia's progress across the Atlantic. When I looked at the on-screen map in our cabin, the ship's position was close to the Mid Atlantic Ridge, which marked the approximate halfway point on our journey from Southampton to the Caribbean.


Whilst trying to get ready, we discovered that the toilet had stopped flushing yet again although the water supply appeared to be working normally. On informing the Reception Desk of the situation, we were again told that the engineers we aware of the problem and dealing with it, and we were requested to use the public toilet facilities for the time being.

As usual we ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, after which we decided to see what it was like on the Promenade Deck. It was emptier that we had expected even though the air temperature was nearly 20°C. We sat there for some time, and then went back to our cabin to collect our Kindles before going up to the Crow's Nest Bar.

At 12.15pm the Captain – Captain Ashley Cook – made a special announcement regarding the ship's waste disposal system. It turned out the the somewhat erratic toilet and in-cabin water supply problems that we had been experiencing for the last thirty six hours had been solved by the ship's engineers … and passengers were reminded not to try to flush anything other than human waster and toilet tissue down the cabin toilets. (It transpired that amongst other things, a passenger had flushed a pair of underpants (!) down the loo, causing a major blockage that took the engineers over five hours to remove.)

After a short visit to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar for some much needed fresh air, Sue and I went to the seating area near the Neptune Pool …


… where we ate freshly-made sandwiches from the nearby sandwich bar for lunch.

We then decided to go down to the Promenade Deck for a walk, but discovered that the doors to the starboard side of the deck were sealed off. We therefore went out through the port side doors and walked around the deck from there. On reaching the starboard side we could find no reason for the doors to be sealed off other than to stop passengers trying to open the doors into the prevailing strong wind.

Just before 3.00pm we went back to our cabin to read and to rest, and during the remaining part of the afternoon I finished reading James Mitchell's DEATH AND BRIGHT WATER, which only left me with his book entitled BONFIRE NIGHT and the Callan short stories to read.

At 7.45pm Sue and I went up to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink, which we had with our friends from a previous cruise, and at 8.30pm we all went down to the Meridian Restaurant for dinner.

The dinner was the second formal one of the cruise, and to mark the fact that it was St Andrew's Day I wore my Black Watch tartan bow tie. Unfortunately the menu didn't have any Scottish influence, which Sue and I thought was a missed opportunity.

After dinner we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a post-dinner drink with our two friends, and we stayed there chatting until just after 11.00pm, when we went back to our cabin to get ready for bed.

Thursday 1st December 2016: At sea
Over night Arcadia sailed further south along the Mid Atlantic Ridge, and we could see the outline of some of the larger easternmost Caribbean Islands in the extreme left bottom of the on-screen map.


We went down to breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant just after 9.00am, and once we had eaten we went to the Reception Desk to enquire about our on-board credit. (Because we own shares in Carnival, the owners of P&O, we should get additional on-board credit; this had not been done, even though we had an email from Carnival to state that it had. The receptionist took a copy of the email and told us that the situation would be looked into as soon as possible.)

Sue and I then went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar, where we discovered that the sun had come out, the air temperature was rising, and people were out on the open deck area sunbathing.


We stayed there until 10.50am, at which point we made our way to the Palladium Theatre to listen to the Port Presenter's talk about the one place we have not previously visited … Martinique. This lasted from 11.15am until midday, and Sue and I found it very informative and helpful.


As it was too early for lunch, we returned to the Aquarius Bar for a drink before going to the Neptune Grill for a snack. We then went back to the Aquarius Bar, and we remained there talking to our two friends until it was time to go downstairs to get ready for dinner.

During our chat one of our friends – who happens to be an engineer – was interested to listen to and discuss my initial design ideas for the model boat I intend to build for the 'Build a Boat on a Boat' competition. He made several very helpful suggestions, and it has now become a joint project. (Its frame is going to be a strong but lightweight geodesic structure made from plastic drinking straws, and we intend to cover it with cling film to make it watertight.)

Our discussions continued over our pre-dinner drinks in the Aquarius Bar … and were resumed after we had all eaten dinner in the Meridian Restaurant and returned to the bar for a post-dinner drink. We even had the opportunity to acquire a large number of straws and cocktail servers from the Head Barman, who was keen to see if and how our design would work.

Friday 2nd December 2016: At sea
During the night the Arcadia continued her journey towards the islands of the Caribbean, and they were clearly visible on the on-screen map in our cabin.


Whilst waiting to go down to breakfast I began to make triangles out of the straws we had acquired.


It took me less than a minute to make one triangle … and I estimate that we will need at least fifty from which to construct the model boat's framework.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant Sue and I paid a very short visit to the Reception Desk to enquire about our 'missing' on-board credit. It appeared that they had tried to contact us by telephone to tell us that it had been added to our account, but as we had been eating breakfast, we had not been there to receive it. They also gave us a roll of adhesive tape to help in the construction of our model boat.

We then went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar, where I sat making triangles from plastic straws until it was 11.15am and time us to go to see Rick Bastin's talk about Britain's V Bombers.


Sue and I returned to the Aquarius Bar just after midday, and with the help and encouragement of our friends I managed to build the model boat's framework.


After taking the model boat's framework back to our cabin, Sue and I ate lunch in the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant. We then returned to our cabin, and I continued working on the model boat. By teatime I had installed a cardboard box inside the hull. This had holes cut into it so that the 'cargo' that the rules require the model to carry could be held securely in place.


I also added some additional bracing pieces made from plastic drinking straws.

After a short break for afternoon tea, I continued work on the model boat, and covered the hull with a layer of bubble wrap and six plastic Union flags. I also added a fore and aft deck, and cut holes for the masts.


All that remained was for the hull to be covered in several layers of cling film, which we planned to do at a later stage in the cruise.

By the time it was dark, Sue and I began to get ready for the third formal dinner of the cruise. As the air temperature had risen, I decided to wear my lightweight tuxedo instead of my usual black evening dress suit … and very glad I was that I did so. The Meridian Restaurant was crowded, and despite the best efforts of the air conditioning, it was quite hot and sticky in there. Several other people were obviously quite uncomfortable, but although I was hot, I was not as hot as I otherwise would have been.

After dinner we were in great need of some fresh air, and although it was still quite warm, the gentle breeze blowing across the deck near the Aquarius Bar made it a very refreshing place to sit. We stayed there chatting until about 11.30pm, when we returned to our cabin to sleep.

I finished reading James Mitchell's BONFIRE NIGHT before going to sleep. It was written and published just before the author died, and in my opinion was in need of editing and redrafting. The plot is – as usual with books that involve Callan – suitably complex and involved his on-off relationship with 'The Section' and its boss, Hunter. In this book Hunter is a woman and Callan is now a multi-millionaire due to his investment in a computer company owned by Roger Bullivant … the name now used by Lonely! The latter is also a multi-millionaire, well dressed, and living a beautiful girlfriend who is a barrister. Callan is also much more settled, and is in the early stages of what looks like developing into a long-term relationship. This was not – in my opinion – an easy book to read, but I am glad that I have read it as it draws a line under the Callan saga.

Saturday 3rd December 2016: At sea
The on-screen map display in our cabin showed that we were nearing the end of our sea voyage to the Caribbean, and the islands were occupying an increasing large area on the left-hand side of the map.


By the time we went to breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant the air temperature was rising, and was already 25°C.

After breakfast we went up to the covered area near the Aquarius Bar, where we were able to find some seats in the shade. At 11.15am I went to a short meeting with the other contestants in the 'Build a Boat on a Boat' competition, followed shortly afterwards – at 11.30am – by the second Masonic get-together of the cruise. This was held in the Viceroy Room, and during the meeting the final details of the planned charity fund-raising Masonic Cocktail Reception were agreed, and attendees paid for their tickets.

Sue and I then went back to the Aquarius Bar, where we sat talking to our friends until 2.30pm. We walked the short distance to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant …


… where we ate lunch. As it was getting rather hot outside, we decided to return to our cabin to read and to rest, and I had the opportunity to watch a recording of Ricky Bastin's last talk of the cruise on the in-cabin TV system. It was about Operation Black Buck (the RAF bombing raid of Stanley Airport during the Falklands War) and was very interesting.

I ventured out onto our balcony at 4.30pm, but even in the shade the air temperature was much hotter than it had been earlier in the day, and when I checked it was more than 30°C!

During the day Arcadia had been getting closer and closer to the islands of the Caribbean, and we began to see more and more sea birds flying near to the ship.



It was still hot when we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink … and was becoming increasingly humid and uncomfortable to sit there.

Because we had an early start next day, Sue and I went straight back to our cabin after we had eaten dinner in the Meridian Restaurant. As a result we managed to have a relatively early night, although I did start reading the first of the anthology of Callan short stories – CALLAN UNCOVERED – by James Mitchell.

Sunday 4th December 2016: St John's, Antigua
As we were going on an organised excursion, we had to be ashore almost as soon as Arcadia was securely moored alongside in St John's harbour. In fact we were just awake when the ship reached her berth …


… and the sun was rising.


By the time I had gone up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant to collect some croissants and Danish pastries so that we could eat breakfast in our cabin, the sun was already lighting up the harbour.


We went ashore just after 8.00am, and met the ship's tour guides on the quay. After telling them that we were on the 'Antigua Island Sights' tour, we were asked to form a line with other passengers. By 8.10am our tour guide had arrived, and by just after 8.20pm we had boarded our minibus and were on our way to our first destination.

Our first stop was at The Blockhouse, which was a gun battery and fortification built on a headland overlooking the approaches to English and Falmouth Harbours from the Atlantic Ocean.



Little remains of the original buildings except the ruins of the former Officers' Quarters …


… but the view from the site was magnificent.


Our next stop was only a short way away, and was at the lookout point at Shirley Heights.


The main building that remains on the site is the former guardhouse …


… which was garrisoned by the Royal Artillery.


It was part of the outer defences of the English and Falmouth Harbours …


… and its high position meant that any ship approaching the harbour in the waters between Antigua and Montserrat (which was visible over twenty miles away on the horizon) …


… could be clearly seen.

The final stop of our tour was at Nelson's Dockyard, which is located in English Harbour. We started our visit at the area where ships were hauled onto their sides in order for them to be careened, and replica capstans mark to location of the original man-powered system that was used.


After a brief stop for a rum punch in one of the nearby bars …


… we walked back through the dockyard. On the way we passed the original pay office (which is now a liquor store), …



… the shed where ship's boats were built and repaired, …


… the old copper and lumber store and crew barracks (which is now a luxury hotel), …


… the former Officers' Quarters (which are now offices and workshops), …


… and the Port Admiral's House (which is now the dockyard museum.)

The latter is guarded by a large naval cannon …


… opposite which is an equally ancient carronade.


Our trip back to St John's took us through a number of small villages, and we arrived back near the quayside just after 11.40am. After some retail therapy Sue and I went back aboard Arcadia not long after midday, and we immediately went up to the Aquarius Bar for a refreshing cold drink … or two!

We ate an early lunch, and then went back to our cabin to cool down and to rest. We stayed there until 3.30pm, when we paid a short visit back up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant and Aquarius Bar for tea and a cold drink.

We were back in our cabin by 4.15pm, and stayed there until it was time to go for a pre-dinner drink. Whilst we were there, at 5.45pm Arcadia set sail for Tortola, and as she reversed out of her berth, she passed the RCI cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas, which had moored on the other side of the quay earlier in the day.


After our usual pre-dinner drink with our friends in the Aquarius Bar, we ate our evening meal in the Meridian Restaurant. We rejoined them after dinner, and sat together in the warm open air until it was time to go back to our cabins to sleep.

Monday 5th December 2016: Roadtown, Tortola
Arcadia arrived in Roadtown Harbour, Tortola, slightly ahead of schedule.


RCI's Splendour of the Seas followed Arcadia into harbour …


… and moored on the opposite of the quay.

Sue and I had eaten breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant by a little after 9.00am, and decided to go ashore soon afterwards. The sky was overcast, and light rain had already begun to fall as we walked towards the end of the quay.


We walked through the Tortola Pier Park …


… and along Administration Drive until we reached the junction with Waterfront Drive. We turned left along Waterfront Drive, and were soon in the small complex of souvenir stalls that are located there.


We had visited the area on a previous cruise, and soon found what we were looking for … the studio of local painter, Joseph Hodge.


During our previous visit we had bought one of his oil paintings of a beach at sunrise, and this time we were able to buy a companion piece, a beach at sunset.

We turned back up Waterfront Drive …


… until we reached James Walter Francis Highway. Although the rain had stopped falling, the skies were darkening again, so we decided to return to the Tortola Pier Park. Our route took us along De Castro Street and back along Administration Drive.


By the time we reached the Pier Park, the rain was becoming heavy, and Sue and I thought that doing some retail therapy inside one of the shops there might be a good idea. It was … and when we left Sue was the proud owner of a new piece of jewellery!

As we reached the security checkpoint at the end of the quay it began to drizzle, and we decided to try to get back to the ship as quickly as possible. Unfortunately we were unlucky, and by the time we reached the gangway we were both soaked to the skin! As soon as we were back aboard, we went straight to our cabin to dry ourselves and to change into dry clothes. We then went up to the covered area near the Aquarius Bar for a much needed drink.

Just after midday we went into the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for an early lunch, and when we had finished the weather seemed to be brightening up. We thought that we would go back ashore to explore more of Roadtown, and by 1.00pm we were walking back along the quay towards the Pier Park. We had just passed through the checkpoint when the rain began to fall, and within seconds it had become a torrential downpour.

We made a quick dash into the nearby entrance to the Pier Park, but that was already crowded with people sheltering from the rain. In the end we made another dash to the covered area of one of the nearby restaurants, where we waited until the rain had eased. Once it had we made our way back to the ship as quickly as possible, and were able to get back aboard before the rain became torrential again. As a result we just managed to avoid being soaked for the second time in a matter of hours!

After a refreshing drink in the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar, we returned to our cabin to rest and recover from what had happened during the day. Sue and I stayed there until it was time to get ready for the 'tropical evening' (the theme for that night's entertainment) and to go back to the Aquarius Bar for our pre-dinner drink.

It was very crowded, and we only just managed to get seats for ourselves and our friends. The sound engineers and a band were preparing for the Tropical Beach Party that was going to be held on the deck near the Aquarius Bar and Pool from 9.30pm onwards, and we all agreed that it was very loud and very distracting.

After dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I returned to the Aquarius Bar for a drink, but by the time we got there the party was in full swing and there was nowhere to sit in comfort. Furthermore the band was very loud, and after staying there about five minutes, we went to East Bar (Deck 11 Midships) for a quiet after dinner drink.

Tuesday 6th December 2016: Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Both Sue and I were awake early (just before 7.00am) due to the sound and vibration caused by Arcadia's azipods and bow thrusters being used to manoeuvre her alongside the dock in Philipsburg.


The sky was overcast, and forecast was for some rain during the day. By 8.30am were were ready for breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and soon after 9.10am we we back in our cabin preparing to go ashore. We had to be ashore by 10.15am as we were booked on a tour entitled 'Philipsburg by Trolley Train' that was to leave at 10.30am.

In fact we went ashore in plenty of time, and by 9.50am we were walking along the quay towards the checkpoint between the quay and the local retail area.


We had enough time to have a quick look around the shops before we joined the queue to board the trolley train. It arrived a couple of minutes early, and by 10.30am our tour was under way. Our route took us along Juancho Trausquin Boulevard to the roundabout that is dedicated to the Freedom Fighters who fought for the end of slavery in the Netherlands Antilles. This struggle is commemorated by a statue in the centre of the roundabout.


We turned onto Walter A Nisbeth Road, where we saw another monument in the centre of a roundabout. This one was dedicated to the workers who toiled in the island's former salt industry.



Our trolley train then turned towards the local market, which consisted of a large number of small, colourful stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs, clothes, hats, and bags.




We then turned onto Front Street, which took us towards the Divi Bay private estate.


The trolley train stopped inside the estate, and it gave us the opportunity to see the whole of Great Bay.


We then walked through the estate …


… to the remains of Fort Amsterdam.


Most of the site was overgrown, but there were a few cannons on display …


… as well as the remains of one of the batteries …



… and the guardhouse.


There was another derelict building on the site …


… as well as some British cannons in the battery embrasures.



We then made our way back through the private estate …


… and re-boarded the trolley train. It took us back into the centre of Philipsburg, where we had twenty minutes free time in one of the smaller shopping and bar areas.


We were both feeling very thirsty, and found a local bar …


... that was selling two bottles of local lager for $9.00 … or a bucket of five for $10.00! We bought the bucket of beer and shared one of the bottles with someone who was on the tour with us, and the other two were given to our cabin steward when we got back to the ship.

The tour ended back at the entrance to the quay at 12.30pm, and after we had re-boarded the Arcadia and went to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for an early lunch, which was followed by a cold drink in the Aquarius Bar.

We stayed there until just after 2.00pm, when we went back ashore to do some shopping in the nearby duty-free shops. Once our purchases had been made, we made our way back towards the ship. As we walked back along the quay, we saw several pelicans nearby in the water, and we stopped and watched them for a short time.



By the time we got back to our cabin the air temperature outside was 33°C, and we spent the next hour sitting and resting whilst we cooled down. At 4.30pm Sue and I returned to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for some tea, after which we went out to the covered area near the Aquarius Bar for a short time.

We were back in our cabin well before Arcadia set sail at 5.30pm, and we stayed there reading and resting until it was time to get ready for dinner. At 7.45pm Sue and I had our usual pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar with our friends before going down to the Meridian Restaurant to eat. By the time that dinner was over at 10.05pm, we were both feeling very tired, and after a short walk along the Promenade Deck, we went up to our cabin to sleep.

Wednesday 7th December 2016: Basseterre, St Kitts
Arcadia arrived in Basseterre, St Kitts, nearly and hour ahead of schedule, and we were woken up at 7.00am by the sound and vibration of the bow thrusters as she manoeuvred alongside the dock.


We had an early breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and after a short spell on deck for some fresh air, Sue and I decided to get ready to go ashore. This involved paying a visit to the Reception Desk to change some money into US Dollars, before returning to our cabin for a short time to pick up everything that we might need ashore.

Because the Arcadia had moored at the commercial dock rather than at the cruise terminal, …


… we had to use a local minibus taxi service to get into the centre of Basseterre. (Port Zante – the cruise terminal – was already occupied by two other cruise liners (one each from Celebrity Cruises ship and Norwegian Cruise Line) and the nearest offshore mooring was taken by one of the sail/motor-powered cruise ships that operate in the Caribbean.)




The taxi cost us $2.00 each, and we were dropped off near the entrance to Port Zante not long after 10.15am.


We decided to have a walk around the centre of Basseterre before looking in the duty free shops in Port Zante. Our route took us through a small shopping mall …


… and out into Bay Road.


We then went up Fort Street to the Circus (so named after Piccadilly Circus in London) …




… and along Central Street to Independence Square.




We sat in the shade of the trees in Independence Square for a while before walking along Bank Street …


… and Liverpool Row. We then turned down Market Street, which took us towards the sea and Bay Road.

Sue and I walked back along Bay Road until we reached the National Museum of St Kitts, which also serves as one of the entrances to Port Zante. We spent some time walking around Port Zante, …


… and after a spell of retail therapy we had a couple of drinks (two beers for $5.00) in one of the local bars.


We continued our walk around Port Zante until we finally arrived back at the minibus taxi pick up and drop off point. We only had to wait a few minutes before one came along, and by 12.15pm we were climbing the gangway back aboard Arcadia. Although it was only 28°C when we got back, the humidity made it feel rather uncomfortable, and we were only too pleased to get back to our cabin to cool off for a short time.

Sue and I were both feeling very thirsty, and by a little after 12.45pm we were sitting in the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar drinking cold drinks. Once they were finished we went into the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for a snack lunch before returning to the Aquarius Bar for a further drink.

At 2.15pm we finally returned to our cabin to rest and recuperate, and we stayed there until it was time for afternoon tea. After tea Sue and I went out to the covered deck area near the Aquarius Bar, and we sat there chatting with our friends until 4.30pm, when we went back to our cabin.

At 5.00pm the local Port Police boat arrived to help Arcadia to cast off prior to setting sail.


As the ship began to move away from the dockside, we could see the Celebrity Cruises ship and Norwegian Cruise Line ship sailing towards the horizon.


Sue and I went up to the Aquarius Bar for our pre-dinner drink at 7.45pm, and at 8.30pm we went down to the Meridian Restaurant to eat. We returned to the Aquarius Bar after dinner, and the bar staff helped us to complete the hull of our model boat by wrapping it in cling-film. This ensured that it was watertight, and we then tested the model in the nearby jacuzzi. It passed the test with flying colours, and all that remained was to add a few finishing touches before the day of the competition.

We were back in our cabin just after midnight, and I finished reading CALLAN: UNCOVERED and began the second anthology, CALLAN UNCOVERED 2.

Thursday 8th December 2016: Fort-de-France, Martinique
Over night Arcadia passed through some rough weather, and when she docked in Fort-de-France at 7.30am, it was still raining quite heavily.


As she docked, another cruise liner – owned by Thompson TUI – passed Arcadia on its way to its mooring place.


Because of the rain we were in no rush to get off, and we had a leisurely breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant. We then went up to the covered deck area near the Aquarius Bar for a breath of fresh air and a quick chat with our friends, but when it became apparent that the rain was not going to let up, we made our way to the Crow's Nest Bar.

Whilst there we met a couple we had shared a dinner table with some years ago, and we sat talking to them until nearly 10.30am. By then the rain had stopped, and we made our way ashore via our cabin, where we picked up our bags and cameras.

We walked along the quay towards the cruise terminal …


… and it began to rain. The light drizzle quickly turned to heavy rain, and then became torrential. By the time we reached the end of the quay we were soaked, and sort refuge in the tourist information tent that had been erected there. From there we had a very good view of Arcadia moored alongside the quay.


Once the rain had stopped, we walked along the seafront, passing some stalls selling locally-made goods as we did.


We then walked along the Boulevard Alfassa until we reached the outer wall of the Fort Saint-Louis.



The road turned inland, following the line of the fortress's walls, and became the Boulevard de Chevalier Sainte Marthe. We continued along it, passing one of the old entrances to the fort …


… until we came to the main gate of the fort … only to discover that it was closed to visitors.

Sue and I were disappointed that we were unable to visit this ancient monument, but as it also serves as the local naval base, this was understandable.

We crossed the road and entered the local park (called La Savane) where we saw some of the original outer defences of Fort Saint -Louis, …



… the war memorial to the men of Martinique who died in the two World Wars, …


… and a statue of Betain d'Esnambuc, the Frenchman who brought the first settlers to the island.



Sue and I then crossed the Rue de la Liberté and began to walk up Rue Victor Hugo. We then turned inland up Rue Victor Schoelcher and entered the Place Mgr. Romero. In the centre was a large fountain, …


… and on one side was the famous Saint-Louis Catherdral, which has a unique steel frame.



The Cathedral is currently being renovated, so we did not go inside. Instead Sue and I walked along Rue Antoine Siger until its junction with Rue de la Republique.


One of the buildings that formed one corner of the junction had some remarkable ironwork, and this seemed to be feature of some of the other older buildings that we saw.


We finally arrived at Rue Ernest Deproge, and from there it was a short walk back to the Boulevard Alfassa. By the time that we reached the security checkpoint at the end of the quay, it was beginning to rain again, but luckily it did not progress beyond a light drizzle until we were back aboard Arcadia.

It was 12.30pm by the time we had got back to our cabin, and after dropping off our damp bags and drying our hair, Sue and I went up to the area near the Neptune Pool. We ate sandwiches from the sandwich bar, and then went out to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar for a drink. We met our friends there, and sat talking to them until just before 3.00pm, when we went down to our cabin for a short rest.

Not long after 4.20pm Sue and I went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea, which we drank in the undercover area by the Aquarius Bar. Just after 5.00pm we returned to our cabin to read and to watch the ship's departure from our balcony, but by the time Arcadia set sail the sun had set and it was getting very dark.

The rest of the day followed its usual routine; a pre-dinner drink with our friends in the Aquarius Bar, dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, and a post-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar. We did try to have a reasonably early night as we were going on a tour that started quite early the next morning.

Friday 9th December 2016: Castries, St Lucia
Arcadia arrived in Castries, St Lucia, ahead of schedule …


… and docked near the commercial part of the harbour.


After a rather quick breakfast in the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant, Sue and I we ashore in plenty of time to join the queue to go on our tour. It was entitled 'St Lucia's Scenic North' and took us to parts of the island we had not previously visited.

Our first stop was not far from Castries at Bagshaw's Art Studio, where one of the staff gave us a demonstration of screen printing.



The stop also gave us the opportunity to see some of the stunning and unspoilt parts of the island's coastline.



Our next stop was at Rodney Bay, where we had the opportunity to look at the beaches that have attracted such a large number of tourists to St Lucia.



It was only a short drive from Rodney Bay to Gros Islet, where Sue and I were able to look around the local church that is dedicated to St Joseph.


It has an unusual bell tower next to it …


… and inside it is decorated with murals painted by a local artist.




Our minibus then took us to Pigeon Point …


… which is also a favourite tourist beach. It is also the location of Fort Rodney …



… which was named after Admiral Rodney, who won the Battle of the Saints – and thus control of this part of the Caribbean – in 1782.

The next stop of the tour was at Point du Cap, the highest point on the northern coast of St Lucia.


After a short photo stop, we went on to the St Lucia Golf Course, where we had the opportunity to drink rum punch on the clubhouse veranda, overlooking the course.



Our final stop was at an art gallery on the way back to Castries. There we were given a demonstration of painting cotton with acrylic paints.


The minibus deposited us back at the cruise terminal just after 1.00pm, and after some shopping we went upstairs to Chef Robbie's, a restaurant that we have previously eaten in.




After an excellent lunch of freshly-caught and grilled fish (eaten by Sue) and grilled chicken (eaten by me), we went downstairs to catch the ferry across the harbour to Pointe Seraphime, the alternative cruise terminal and duty free shopping area.

Two cruise ships were moored at Pointe Seraphime, Club Mediterranean's Club Med 2


… and TUI's Mein Schiff 5.


The ferry …


... took only ten minutes to travel across to Pointe Seraphime, but when we got there it seemed to be very empty of tourists.




Sue and I only stayed there for about thirty minutes before returning to Arcadia using the ferry. We were back aboard by 3.15pm, and went straight up to the Aquarius Bar for a drink.

A local steel band – the Harmonites – began playing typical Caribbean music at 3.45pm …


… and we stayed listening to them until it was time for the ship to set sail at 5.30pm.

The 'Great British Sail-away' followed almost immediately, and we stayed in the Aquarius Bar until Arcadia was well on her way out of harbour.

On returning to our cabin we discovered that the 'Build a Boat on a Boat' competition was taking place at 10.00am the next day, so we spent most of the time until we had to get ready for dinner finishing the model.


Sue and I were ready in dinner by 7.45pm, and went up to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink with our friends. We rejoined them after we had eaten dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, but as we were all tired we retuned to our cabins not long after 11.30pm.

Saturday 10th December 2016: At sea
By the time Sue and I awoke at 7.30am, Arcadia was already well on her way home …


… even through the weather was a little rougher than we had hoped.


After a quick breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, we collected our model boat from our cabin and made our way up to the Neptune Pool, where the 'Build a Boat on a Boat' competition was to take place. There were only three entrants, …


… and the judging was done by two passengers. Our boat – which we called Aquarius Crew's Ship – proved to be seaworthy …



… even when laden with four cans of drink. In the end we were awarded second place … which was not unfair.

After the competition I returned the model to our cabin and then joined Sue and our friends in the Aquarius Bar for a celebratory drink. In the end we stayed there until the midday announcement, after which a jazz band entertained everyone until it was time for us to go for a snack lunch in the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant.

After lunch Sue and I went back to our cabin to read and to rest until it was time for afternoon tea and some fresh air out on deck. We were back in our cabin by 4.45pm, and after some more reading and resting we got ready for the fourth formal dinner of the cruise. I finished reading James Mitchell's CALLAN UNCOVERED 2 and began George MacDonald Fraser's FLASHMAN ON THE MARCH. The story is set during General Napier's expedition to Abyssinia, and from what I read in the first chapters it looked to be another classic Flashman adventure.

The rest of the day followed what has now become the norm, with dinner in the Meridian Restaurant bracketed with drinks before and afterwards with friends in the Aquarius Bar.

Sunday 11th December 2016: At sea
As it was Sunday Sue and I had a slight lie-in, and we not up until almost 8.30am. The on-screen map showed Arcadia's progress overnight … which considering that she was travelling at approximately 19 knots did not seem very far.


The ship was experiencing a bit of movement, and the sky was overcast and at times rain squalls could be seen on the horizon.


Despite our slightly late start, we managed to get into the Meridian Restaurant in time for breakfast, after which we went up to the covered deck area near the Aquarius Bar. We sat there chatting to various people until 12.30pm, when we went to the sandwich bar near the Neptune Pool for a sandwich each for lunch.

After lunch we returned to our cabin, and we stayed there or on our balcony until it was time for afternoon tea. Sue and I then went back outside to the Aquarius Bar, and spent the rest of the afternoon talking to our friends.

We went back to our cabin just as the sun was setting at 5.30pm, and we rested and read for a time before getting ready to go to the Ocean Grill Restaurant for dinner. As the weather was still fine, we had a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar before going down to the Ocean Grill, where we ate an excellent meal. Sue and I were feeling rather full by the end of it, and were in need of some fresh air before going to bed. We therefore returned to the Aquarius Bar for a short time, but not to drink. Our stay lasted until a little after 11.00pm, at which point we went back to our cabin to get ready for bed.

Monday 12th December 2016: At sea
After a somewhat disturbed night's sleep due to significant ship's movement, Sue and I were awake just before 8.00am. The on-screen map showed that Arcadia had reached the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and was following a course that was slightly southerly of the one she took on the way to the Caribbean.


The air temperature was 24°C but felt colder due to the wind that was blowing from ahead. After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant Sue and I went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar … and we stayed there until 1.30pm, when we returned to our cabin to read and to rest.

At 3.15pm we went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for a late lunch, and then spent the next forty minutes or so back in the Aquarius Bar. We then returned to our cabin via the Reception Desk, where we checked on our on-board credit.

Sue and I were invited to the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party, and just before 8.00pm we arrived at the venue – the area around the Neptune Pool – where we drank our complimentary drinks and listened to the ship's captain – Captain Ashley Cook – talk about what P&O planned to do over the next few years. He also drew the Peninsular Club raffle … which – as usual – we did not win!

After dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I went up to the Aquarius Bar for a post-dinner drink and a chat with our friends. It was still warm enough to sit in the open air in shirtsleeves, but it was very apparent that as we sailed further north and east, the air temperature was beginning to drop.

Before going to sleep I finished reading FLASHMAN ON THE MARCH, although I still had the appendices to read before finally completing the book.

Tuesday 13th December 2016: At sea
Our sleep was interrupted several times by changes to the ship's movement during the night, but when we finally awoke and got up, the sea did not seem be much rougher than it had been on the previous two days.

Over night Arcadia had continued on her course towards the Azores, and they had begun to appear in the top right corner of the on-screen map.


Sue and I went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar after eating breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and we stayed there until just before 11.00am. Although there were some clouds in the sky and the sea state was moderate, the air temperature was over 23°C and we were beginning to feel hot. As a result we went back to our cabin to cool down and to read until it was time to go to lunch.

When we went up to the Neptune Pool on our way to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for lunch, there was a table available near the Neptune Grill. As it was a lot less crowded that the restaurant, we decided to stop and to eat something from the Neptune Grill. Sue had fish and chips and I ate a cheeseburger and chips … and both enjoyed our freshly-cooked food.

We had a drink with our meal, and then went out to the Aquarius Bar for a second one and to get some fresh air. We shared a table with another couple, and spent over half an hour talking to them before going back to our cabin for the rest of the afternoon.

I used part of the time to try out the travel version of my PORTABLE WARGAME that I designed and made before I left home.


The playing surface or board was constructed from a sheet of foam-core, onto which had been stuck a sheet of steel paper. They had – in turn – had a printed 8 x 8 green grid glued on top of it. The playing pieces and terrain were made from printed coloured labels that had been stuck on top of squares of cardboard that had magnetic sheet glued underneath them.

I decided to follow Neil Thomas's idea for a campaign, and the first battle was decided by the throw of a D6. The score was 5, and thus fifth scenario in ONE HOUR WARGAMES (Scenario 5: Bridgehead) was selected and set up.


(As I had forgotten to make any river terrain pieces, I used swamp/marsh terrain pieces in there place.)

The battle took about fifteen minutes to fight, and ended with a victory for the Blue side.


The second battle of the campaign was again decided by the throw of a D6. The score was 3, and when added to 6 this meant that the ninth scenario in the book (Scenario 9: Double Delaying Action) was the one that I would fight.


This time the Red side won.


For the third battle of the campaign, a dice throw of 1 added to 12 meant that the thirteenth scenario in Neil Thomas's book (Scenario 13: Escape) was the one that would be fought.


The Red side won for a second time …


… and I decided that they had won the campaign.

These battles, which were fought using the 'sudden death' version of the current draft of my nineteenth century PORTABLE WARGAME rules, showed that the rules work and the travel version of my wargame is more than viable.

The evening meal was the fifth formal dinner of the cruise, and was denominated to be a 'Black and White' event. Both Sue and I wore suitable evening wear, although I did notice that not all the diners had bothered to do so. We had our usual pre and post-dinner drinks in the Aquarius Bar with our friends, even though the air temperature after dinner had dropped considerably by the time we went out on deck.

Once back in our cabin I finished reading the appendices to FLASHMAN ON THE MARCH and began FLASHMAN AND THE TIGER before going to sleep.

Wednesday 14th December 2016: At sea
The sea conditions overnight – which were definitely moving towards what one would expect at this time of year in the North Atlantic – woke us up a couple of times, and at 8.30am were described on the on-screen display in our cabin as being 'long and heavy swells' with an air temperature of 18°C.

Despite the sea conditions Arcadia had made good progress overnight, and was to the west of north west of the Canary Islands on a steady course of 54° towards the Azores.


After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar. We were able to sit there enjoying the sun and the fresh air until after 1.00pm, when we went to the tables near the Neptune Pool to eat a sandwich from the sandwich bar.


Once we had finished lunch, Sue and I returned to our cabin via the Future Cruise Desk (Deck 1 Midships) – where we paid a future cruise deposit that guarantees us increased on-board credit – to read and to rest until 3.00pm, when we went down to the ship's shopping area for some retail therapy. We then returned to our cabin and stayed there until it was time to get ready for the Masonic Drinks Reception.

The Masonic Drinks Reception that had been planned earlier in the cruise was held at 5.30pm in The Retreat (Deck 10 Midships). In my role as Director of Ceremonies I had to introduce all the attendees to the president (a former Provincial Grand Master of Surrey) and to then announce the various toasts and the raffle. I also had the task of proposing the toast to the Ladies, which Sue answered on their behalf. The money raised was over £700.00 and was presented to the Captain's charity, which in this case was the Macmillan Fund that provides nursing care and support to cancer sufferers.

Once the reception was over we went outside on the small seating area on Deck 10 Midships with our friends for a breath of fresh air, and in the end we stayed there until after 7.30pm. We all then left to freshen up before dinner, and we met up again for a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar.

We met up with them again after we had all eaten dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, but as the air temperature had dropped considerably and the sea conditions were worsening, we had all finished our drinks and went back to our respective cabins before 11.30pm.

Thursday 15th December 2016: Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores
The weather overnight was – at times – quite rough, and both Sue and I were woken up several times by the movement and the noise. Arcadia moored alongside the cruise terminal quay just as the sun was rising. The somewhat less than helpful on-screen maps showed almost no detail of the surrounding area whatsoever, …



… but once the sun was up it was possible to see the main part of the town.


A large rescue tug was moored near to the ship …


… and across the harbour was a the Portuguese Navy corvette João Roby (F487) of the Baptista de Andrade-class.


(This class was thought to have been discarded in 2015, but some of them still appear to be in service with the Portuguese Navy.)

Sue and I went ashore just after 10.00am, having first eaten our breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant. We walked along the pier that leads from the cruise terminal to the seafront …



… passing several shops and bars as we did so. We crossed the Avenida Dr. João Bosco Mota Amaral


… and walked towards the junction with the first street that went inland.


Where it met the Rua Ernesto Do Canto we crossed the road …


… and chose to walk down the lower of the two streets, the Rua Do Mercadores.


After a short walk we reached St Sebastian's, the main church of Ponta Delgada ...


… which has a magnificent set of main doors.


Sue and I walked around the inland side of the church, passing a small flower stall as we did.


This led us to the Praça Gonçalo Velho Cabral, where the old town gates are situated.


We then walked across the Praça Gonçalo Velho Cabral and along the Rua A. Oriental. This brought us to the Praça Do Municipo, where the Town Hall is located.


Sue and I walked down the Rua A. Oriental until it met the Rua Cons. Dr. L. Bettencourt. We turned left and walked towards the seafront, where we joined the Avenida Infante D. Henrique.

Sue and I were able to see the nearby St Bras Fort, …


… and we walked towards it.

Whilst Sue sat on a bench, I took a number of photographs of the fort's entrance, …


… its gate guardian (a late nineteenth century cannon), …



… and its extensive walls.




One section of the wall is taken up with a memorial to the Portuguese sailors who died during the First World War.



Sue and I then made our way across the Campo S. Francisco, where St Joseph's Church, …


… and the Convent and Church of Our Lady of Hope are situated.


We then walked along the Rua Marqués Praia d. Monforte and …



Rua Marchado Santos ...




… until we reached Rua M. Correia. We then turned towards the seafront, and retraced our steps from St Sebastian's Church back to the ship. We were back aboard Arcadia just before 1.00pm, and after a quick visit to our cabin, we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a drink. This was followed by lunch from the Neptune Grill, after which we returned to our cabin to read and to rest.

At 3.30pm we went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea. Sue and I had just finished when all the lights went out and the emergency generator kicked in. We went out into the covered area near the Aquarius Bar to wait until an announcement was made, and some fifteen minutes later the Deputy Captain explained that the ship was experiencing a major electrical fault, and that the engineers were trying to find a solution.

Just after 4.30pm Captain Cook made a follow-up announcement intended to reassure the passengers that everything was being done to restore power as quickly as possible … and at 5.15pm the problem was solved and full power was restored to all areas of the ship.

Due to the power problems Arcadia's departure from Ponta Delgada was delayed, as were such things as restaurant meal times. In our case second sitting was moved from 8.30pm to 8.45pm, which was not a major change, but first sitting was at 7.00pm rather than at 6.30pm, and start time for dinner service in the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant was similarly put back.

We finally set sail just after 7.30pm … an hour and a half later than planned. Luckily the ship had three days in which to make up the 'lost' time … or so we thought.

Having left Ponta Delgada, there was nothing untoward happening as Arcadia sped towards Southampton at cruising speed. We had our usual pre-dinner drinks in the Aquarius Bar with our friends, and it was not until halfway through dinner – just as our main course was arriving – that circumstances began to change.

Just minutes apart there were two calls to the ship's medical team to go to the Palladium Theatre to deal with emergencies. By the time the plates were cleared away for our dessert, the captain – Captain Cook – had made an announcement to the effect that the medical emergencies were of such a nature that the ship was going to have to turn around and return to Ponta Delgada so that those affected could be taken to hospital.

After dinner Sue and I went back to the Aquarius Bar for a post-dinner drink with our friends, and to watch events as they unfolded. We stayed there until well past midnight, by which time the lights of Ponta Delgada's harbour were only a mile or so away. We returned to our cabin, and were on the balcony when the ship came to a halt by the cruise terminal.


There was an ambulance waiting on the quayside …


… and as soon as the ship was secured alongside the crew began to unload and bring the gurney aboard Arcadia.



Then a second ambulance arrived …


… and also parked near the ship's gangway.


It also unloaded a gurney that was brought aboard.

Minutes later the ambulances were joined by a car carrying a paramedic team, …


… who also proceeded to board the ship.

The first gurney and casualty were taken off the ship and loaded into the first ambulance …


… and after a few minutes the ambulance left.


The family (or families) of the injured then disembarked and took seats in the vehicle the shore agent had arrived in.


The second casualty was then taken off the ship on a gurney and loaded into the remaining ambulance ...


… which left minutes later, preceded by the short agent's vehicle.


The paramedics also left soon afterwards, and a matter of minutes later the ship had cast off and was leaving Ponta Delgada for a second time.



We finally went to bed at 2.00am, but as we did so the ship's movement indicated that we were likely to have an interrupted sleep.

Friday 16th December 2016: At sea
When we finally awoke at 8.00am – both feeling somewhat tired – the weather and sea state were typical for winter in the North Atlantic … grey skies, a sea with a long and heavy swell, and an air temperature of 15°C.



We ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant as usual, and immediately afterwards I went to Spinnaker's Bar for a short meeting with the other Freemasons who had helped to organise the Masonic Drinks Reception. Once that was over Sue and I went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar for a drink and a chat with other passengers.

We had returned to our cabin by midday, and stayed there reading and resting until it was time for lunch. Sue and I ate a snack lunch in the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant before making our way to the Palladium Theatre to hear a talk by Dickie Arbiter, the latest guest speaker to join Arcadia. He is a former Buckingham Palace Press Secretary, and his talk covered the past, present, and future role of the British Monarchy.

The talk finished at 3.15pm, and after a short spell on the Promenade, we returned to our cabin. We remained there until just after 4.00pm, when we went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea and then out to the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar for some fresh air. Sue and I were back in our cabin by 5.00pm, and we stayed there until it was time to go for our pre-dinner drink.

After eating dinner in the Meridian Restaurant Sue and I decided that we would go to see the show in the Palladium Theatre. It was a one-man show by Roy Walker, one of the original comedians from the 1970s show called – surprisingly enough – 'The Comedians'. His is a gentler style of comedy than that of most of his generation of comics, and included the story of how the show came about as well as anecdotes about his contemporaries.

When the show was over we were both feeling tired, and returned to our cabin to sleep. Although Sue slept quite well, I did not, mainly due to stomach pains that took some time to disappear.

Saturday 17th December 2016: At sea
It was dark when we woke up at 8.00am, although the sun began to rise soon afterwards.


Overnight Arcadia had sailed further north west, and was to the west of Finisterre in north eastern Spain.


Once Sue and I had eaten breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, we paid a short visit to the Reception Desk to drop off our cruise questionnaire followed by a walk around the ship's shops, where we bought one or two small items. We then went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant to get a cup of tea and a fruit juice, which we drank outside in the undercover area near the Aquarius Bar.

Because we wanted to listen to Dickie Arbiter's second talk in the Palladium Theatre at 11.15am, we went down to the theatre via our cabin, where we dropped off our purchases. The talk was very interesting, and covered the relationship between the various members of the Royal Family and the press.


Because he had a Q&A session at the end of his talk, Dickie Arbiter didn't actually finish until 12.15pm. By this time Sue and I were feeling thirsty, and we made our way up to the Aquarius Bar, where we met up with our friends for a drink. We stayed chatting to them until just after 2.00pm, when we went into the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant to eat lunch.

One of the waiting staff who had served us drinks throughout the cruise told us that she had never seen snow … so after lunch we went back to our cabin to collect our laptop computer as it has all of our cruise photos stored on it, including those from our Christmas Markets tour some years ago. We were able to show her what snow looked like, and what people wore when it got cold enough for snow to fall and not melt.

Whilst talking to her we had another drink, and once that had been consumed Sue and I went back to our cabin to do some pre-packing sorting out. This went so well that we actually managed to pack two of our suitcases a day early.

By the time we went up to the Aquarius Bar for our pre-dinner drink, the sun had set and the air temperature had dropped. It was not too cold to sit there … but we decided not to return after dinner.

The last formal dinner of the cruise was marked by a special menu devised by Marco Pierre White (which included Baked Alaska), a parade of the chefs and galley brigade through the restaurant, and the presentation of copies of the menus for all the dinners we had eaten during the cruise..

We were back in our cabin by a little after 10.30pm, and after reading for a while we got ready for bed,

Sunday 18th December 2016: At sea
Arcadia was to the west of the tip of Brittany when we woke up just after 8.00am.



The sea was relatively calm, and the air temperature was 12°C.


We ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant – as usual – and then went up to the Crow's Nest Bar …


... to read until it was time to go to Dickie Arbiter's third talk, which took place in the Palladium Theatre from 10.45am until 11.30am. Once the talk was over we made our way up to the Aquarius Bar for a quick drink before going back to our cabin to pack.

The packing was pretty well complete by 1.30pm, at which point we went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for a light lunch, followed by another spell out on deck near the Aquarius Bar. Despite the fact that the air temperature was only 13°C, it was quite comfortable as the table we sat was sheltered from the wind.

We returned to our cabin just before 2.45pm, and stayed there reading and resting until it was time for afternoon tea. I managed to finish reading FLASHMAN AND THE TIGER, and particularly enjoyed the denouement, which culminated in the arrest of Colonel 'Tiger' Moran at the hands of a tall, unnamed detective and his shorter, medically qualified assistant!

Just after 4.00pm we went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea, and then went out onto the deck area near the Aquarius Bar and Pool.



The sun was just setting as we left …


… and we were back in our cabin just after 4.45pm.

At 7.30pm Sue and I went back to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink, and although it was getting colder, it was still possible to sit undercover without feeling uncomfortable. At 8.20pm we went down to the Meridian Restaurant for our last dinner of the cruise, and once we had eaten we said our goodbyes to the other couples we had shared a table with as well as the waiting staff who had served us.

As it was obviously going to be too cold to join our friends for a last post-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, we had arranged to meet them in Spinnaker's Bar. We stayed there talking to them until just before midnight, and having bade each other farewell until we meet again, we went our separate ways.

By 12.10am we had packed the last piece of luggage that needed to be offloaded in Southampton, and it had been placed outside our cabin for collection. Sue and I then got ready for bed, having set our alarm clock for 6.30am.

Sunday 19th December 2016: Southampton
Arcadia began to manoeuvre alongside the dock just before 6.30am, and we were awoken by the vibration and noise from the bow thrusters.



We had been allocated 8.30am as our disembarkation time, and we were in the designated assembly point – the Globe Night Club (Deck 2 Midships) – ten minutes beforehand.

There was a slight delay before we were able to disembark, but by 8.45am we were in the baggage collection hall looking for our luggage. We found all but one of our bags within ten minutes … but it took until 9.30am before we found the last piece of our luggage. (It had been placed in the area of the hall designated for luggage from Deck 5 rather than Deck 4.)

Once we had all of our luggage, we quickly passed through the customs control point and collected our car keys from the valet parking service's office. After loading all our luggage into our car, we set off for home. Sue and I left Southampton Docks at 10.00am … and drove onto the hard-standing outside our house at 12.30pm.

Our latest cruise was over … and we are already looking forward to our next one!