Thursday, 12 January 2012

I have been to ... the Caribbean

Almost a year ago – in fact almost as soon as we returned from our last Christmas cruise – my wife and I booked our longest cruise yet ... twenty three days to the Caribbean and back over Christmas. During the past year our lives have been more than a little 'interesting', and although at one point we did contemplate cancelling this cruise, we decided – in the end – to go ahead and go ... so we did!

Saturday 17th December: Southampton
After several days of cold weather and the prospect of having to drive on icy roads, we decided to leave London as early as possible, but by the time we had got ready, had breakfast, and packed the car it was already 9.30am.

The drive around the M25 was uneventful, and by 10.30am we had just joined the M3 to Southampton. In fact we were making such good time that we were able to stop at Winchester Services for a café latte and sandwich before completing our journey to Southampton Docks. Surprisingly, although it was so close to Christmas, the journey through Southampton was no busier than normal, and just after midday we were unloading our luggage at the Mayflower Terminal. Check-in was reasonably swift, and by 12.30pm we were sat in MV Arcadia's Crow's Nest Bar drinking complimentary champagne and eating canapés.

After unpacking – and the obligatory safety briefing about what to do in event of an emergency at sea – we went on deck for the 'sail away'. This was somewhat later than planned, and by the time the ship cast off at 6.00pm it was too dark to see very much. A band and choir onshore marked our departure with a short concert of traditional carols, and despite the cold quite a few people remained on deck until the ship was well on her way out of Southampton.

Before dinner we had a refreshing drink in the Globe Bar, where we were able to listen to live music performed by a four-piece group. After dinner we retired to our cabin, where I began to read a book of short stories that I bought on Friday. It was entitled THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF NEW SHERLOCK HOLMES ADVENTURES (Constable & Robinson [2009] ISBN 978 1 84529 926 2) and it was edited by Mike Ashley. The stories were intended to fill in some of the gaps in the Holmes canon and were presented in chronological order.

The first two stories – which I read before going to sleep – were set in the late 1870s, which is when Holmes was still very young and had not yet become a consulting detective. THE BOTHERSOME BUSINESS OF THE DUTCH NATIVITY (by Derek Wilson) relates how Holmes met the famous Dr Spooner (of New College, Oxford) and solved the mystery of a missing work of art that had been stolen from the College Chapel. The second story – THE AFFRAY AT THE KILDARE STREET CLUB by Peter Tremayne – dealt with Holmes's first run-in with Colonel Sebastian Moran and his first sight of Professor Moriarty, although the latter was not involved in the matter that Holmes resolves.

Sunday 18th December: At sea
Although the weather was windy and the sea state was described as 'short swells', I slept very soundly, and when my wife and I awoke the ship had already reached Ushant. She turned onto a more southerly course just as we sat down to breakfast, and by 10.15am Arcadia was skirting the top of the Bay of Biscay.

This morning we attended a cookery demonstration by the ship's Executive Chef (Trevor Connolly). He showed how it was possible – with the right preparation and ingredients – to cook a traditional three-course Christmas Lunch in less than two hours. Now I am no gourmet (gourmand would be a far better description) but even I could recognise the quality of the food the Chef prepared ... and the enthusiasm he had for his craft. We sat and watched him at work for nearly two hours, and the time simply whizzed by.

We then had a snack lunch in the informal cafeteria-style Belvedere Restaurant, after which we went to an illustrated talk by Dr Peter Durrans. The talk was entitled 'The Age of Discovery (c1400-1600)' and it proved to be an excellent introduction to the topic. If time permits we hope to hear some more of Dr Durrans's talks during our cruise.

After the talk – and afternoon tea in the main restaurant – I began watching a video of the film DR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB on my iPad2. This is one of the joys of owning an iPad. You can not only download and books but also videos, and before setting out on this cruise I made sure that I had downloaded a selection of some of my favourite films so that I could watch them as and when I want to.

It was soon time to prepare for dinner, although I did have some time to begin reading the next story in my book of Sherlock Holmes short stories. THE CASE OF THE INCUMBENT INVALID (by Claire Griffin) was the first of the stories set in the 1880s, and it told of the events referred to in THE SIX NAPOLEONS as 'the dreadful business of the Abernettys.'

I managed to finished this short story (and the next two in the collection, THE ADVENTURE OF VITTORIA, THE CIRCUS BELLE by Edward D Hoch and THE DARLINGTON SUBSTITUTION SCANDAL by David Stuart Davies) after we had been to dinner and the evening show in the Palladium Theatre. The latter was a tribute to the Beatles, and was an excellent performance.

Monday 19th December: At sea
Overnight the weather improved. The sea state became calmer and the air temperature rose, and by the time we had had breakfast it was not too cold sit out on the deck in shirtsleeves for five to ten minutes. I finished watching DR STRANGELOVE after breakfast and before we went to the second cookery demonstration of the voyage by the Executive Chef, Trevor Connolly.

His theme was again Christmas-related, but this time he concentrated on less well-known dishes that could be used at Christmas as alternatives or supplements to the more traditional Christmas fare. One of his assistants – who was from Goa – cooked at traditional Goan Christmas dish, a vegetarian curry containing cauliflower and potatoes. This session lasted two hours, and was so interesting that I lost all track of time and managed to miss Dr Durrans's talk about Sir Francis Drake and Captain Cook.

Before going to lunch we spent a couple of hours relaxing in the Crow's Nest Bar and in our cabin, and I read the next story in the collection of Holmesian short stories. This was THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSPECT SERVANT, which told the story of how Holmes solved a domestic problem for Mrs Cecil Forrester. This problem was referred to by Miss Mary Morstan (who later became Mrs Mary Watson) when she first met Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in THE SIGN OF FOUR.

After a snack lunch (we are both trying to avoid eating too much during the cruise!) we spent some time on deck, but the air temperature, when coupled with the effect of the wind-over-deck due to the prevailing wind and the movement of the ship, eventually forced us inside. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our cabin reading and – in my case – watching the first half of the film GUNGA DIN on my iPad2. The stories I read were THE ADVENTURE OF THE AMATEUR MENDICANT SOCIETY (by John Gregory Betancourt) and THE ADVENTURE OF THE SILVER BUCKLE (by Denis O Smith, and which is also known as 'the singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa)'. Both of these adventures are mentioned in passing in THE THREE ORANGE PIPS.

This evening's dinner was proceeded by the Captain's 'Welcome Aboard' cocktail party, and this was the first formal event of the voyage. The party was held around the Neptune Pool, which is the largest open space on the ship. The moveable roof was shut for the occasion, and because the air temperature was not too high the humidity was reasonably bearable ... for once!

After dinner we sat on deck for a while, and then went for a drink in the Globe Bar. Before finally going to sleep I read some more short stories from my Sherlock Holmes collection ... THE CASE OF THE SPORTING SQUIRE (by Guy N Smith) and THE VANISHING OF THE ATKINSONS (by Eric Brown). Neither story was particularly outstanding. The first seemed to be a pastiche of elements from other stories (most especially THE SPECKLED BAND) and the second dealt with the topic of inter-racial relationships that I don't think Conan Doyle would have felt appropriate for his readership.

Tuesday 20th December: At sea
The sea remained remarkably calm during the night and I slept very well. We awoke just before 9.00am, and after a leisurely breakfast in the Belvedere Restaurant we spent most of the morning walking around the ship or sitting in various venues relaxing and talking. I managed to watch the second half of GUNGA DIN as well as update my blog.

During the afternoon I attended two meetings. The first was held by members of the international fraternal organisation to which I belong. The main item on the agenda dealt with organising a charitable fund-raising event to take place later in the cruise. About forty people attended, and although I have experience of putting on such events, I was not chosen to be a member of the organising committee. Perhaps this is just as well as I had the feeling that I would not have found it easy to work with some of the members of the committee.

The second was a meeting of the unofficial 'Model Railway Club'. This was run by the Assistant Cruise Directors, and gave people with an interest in model railways (and modelling in general) an opportunity to meet and discuss their hobbies.

We also spent time looking at some of the cameras that were on sale in the ship's Photo Gallery ... and after due consideration we bought a Nikon Coolpix S5100 that was on sale at a considerably discounted price.

For a change we decided to dine in one of the speciality restaurants rather than in the main Meridian Restaurant, and we booked into the Ocean Grill. This restaurant is one of the Marco Pierre White restaurants that are a feature on several P&O ships, and having eaten in the one on MV Ventura some time ago, we expected a high quality dining experience. We were not disappointed!

We followed our meal with yet another visit to the Palladium Theatre to see the second Beatles tribute performance. It proved as good as the first, and we both enjoyed it tremendously. Although it was quite late by the time we went to bed I still had time to read THE ADVENTURE OF THE FALLEN STAR (by Simon Clark) and Michael Moorcroft's contribution to the collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories, THE ADVENTURE OF THE DORSET STREET LODGER. This is the first of the stories set in the 1890s, and proved to be one of the best written of those I had read so far.

Wednesday 21st December: Madeira
Overnight both my wife and I developed quite heavy colds. We had both been exhibiting the symptoms for some days, but had hoped that the sea air and warmer weather would help us to fight off the infection. Unfortunately, they did not.

The cold was the sort that some people like to refer to as 'man flu'. Besides the usual runny nose and impaired hearing, your head feels as if it is full of cotton wool and you seem to ache in every joint ... and you feel like you just want to lie down and sleep. As we were in Madeira, the latter was not an option, so after a large dose of Aspirin and the use of a decongestant nose spray, we set off for breakfast and then into the capital Funchal.

This proved to be an ideal solution. The warmth of the sun, coupled with the activity of walking, seemed to clear our heads fairly well, and although it did not cure our colds, it made them more bearable.

We started our visit by walking up to a small park that contained several Christmas-related tableau, including Father Christmas, ...

... a a small train, ...

... and sledge pulled by reindeer.

In the midst of all this was a monument to Simon Bolivar, at the base of which was a wreath that had been recently laid to commemorate his death on 17th December 1830.

We then made our way along the main street ...

... towards the Town Hall, passing on our way a small street market selling Christmas goods, ...

... a unique Madeiran nativity scene, ...

... and finally a full-size nativity scene that included some very life-like figures.

The Town Hall was a very imposing structure ...

... and it was situated in the main square.

We then made our way to the market, which contained a variety of different stalls selling fresh flowers, fruit, and vegetables as well a local wine, embroidery, and leather goods.

Abutting the main market was the fish market, and although it was coming up to lunchtime, it was still doing fairly good trade.

After a very nice lunch in a local restaurant, we made our way back to our ship. MV Arcadia was moored alongside the main breakwater and cruise ship/ferry terminal. Just behind her was the MV Aida Bella ...

... and across the harbour was the MV Black Watch.

The former had followed our ship in this morning, and the latter had preceded her.

One thing that I did note that I do not remember seeing on any of my previous trips to Madeira was a fortress that had been built above the town. Judging from its design it must date from the eighteenth century or earlier.

By the time that we had returned to the ship, the effects of our colds had began to reassert themselves, and we both took a short nap before our ship left Funchal for its next port-of-call in Antigua.

I did not manage to read much during the day, but by bedtime I was able to read the next story in my book of Holmesian short stories. It was entitled THE MYSTERY OF THE ADDLETON CURSE and was written by Barrie Roberts. The story is not so much about a criminal act as it is about a persistent medical problem that is affecting a 'cursed' village. A somewhat different type of story ... and none the worse for being so.

Thursday 22nd December: At sea
Yesterday's sunny, cloudless sky was replaced by a rather cloudy one by the time we awoke. The air temperature was not too low and the wind speed was only moderate, and these factors compensated somewhat for the lack of sunshine. Our bad colds of yesterday had improved slightly overnight, and a combination of Aspirin and activity seemed to help us feel better.

We had an earlier than expected start to the day as the clocks had gone back overnight ... but our alarm clock had not been reset! This was no bad thing as it gave us time to cope with getting dressed and into breakfast without having to rush ... and rushing was something that neither of us wanted to do.

We took breakfast in the Meridian restaurant, after which we went on deck for a short while before attending another cookery demonstration by the Executive Chef, Trevor Connolly. This lasted until just before midday and after the demonstration we had a drink in the Crow's Nest Bar.

Before lunch I wrote up my blog and watched the first episode of the BBC's adaptation of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY on my iPad2. I watched the second episode during the afternoon as well as reading another of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, THE ADVENTURE OF THE PARISIAN GENTLEMAN by Robert Weinberg and Lois H Gresh.

During the evening we attended the second formal dinner of the cruise, after which we had a drink in the Globe Bar and retired to bed. Before going to sleep I read another two Holmes short stories, THE ADVENTURE OF THE INERTIAL ADJUSTER by Stephen Baxter and THE ADVENTURE OF THE TOUCH OF GOD by Peter Crowther. The first of these two stories featured H G Wells as a 'guest' character, and leans towards the Science Fiction/Steam Punk genre, whilst the second had undertones of a Jack the Ripper-style murderer who collects specific body parts from his victims.

Friday 23rd December: At sea
The sea was somewhat rougher overnight, but both of us slept well despite our ongoing colds. For the second night running the clocks had been set back by one hour (i.e. we are currently operating at GMT -2) and our body clocks seem to be finding the adjustment a little difficult to cope with first thing in the morning.

Between breakfast and the middle of the afternoon we spent most of our time sitting by the Aquarius Pool at the stern of the ship. This area is sheltered from the wind and also catches the sun ... so it is an ideal place to be. It is also served by its own bar – the Aquarius Bar – and abuts the self-service restaurant.

Before lunch I watched the third episode of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY and attended the second meeting of the international fraternal organisation to which I belong. This was so that we could all be informed of the progress the organising committee had made with the arrangements for a charitable fund-raising event that will be held later during the cruise.

We both had sandwiches for lunch, as the weather was not really conducive for a cooked meal. It seemed very odd to be sitting out in the sunshine in a short-sleeved shirt in the middle of December ... but that is one of the joys of cruising towards the southern part of the northern hemisphere during the winter!

During the afternoon my wife and I signed up to take part in 'The Arcadia Regatta'. This was a boat building contest, and contestants had to build a model boat capable of meeting the competition's rules which were:
  • The model boat had to be made from almost anything found on the ship.
  • The model boat had to be able to float and carry six full cans of fizzy drink.
  • No item of the ship's safety equipment (i.e. lifejackets etc.) could be used to construct the model boat.
  • Contestants were allowed to beg or borrow equipment or materials from members of the ship's company but not to take anything without asking permission.
  • Pre-made models boats from toy shops were not acceptable.
  • The model boat had to have a name.
By the end of the afternoon we had acquired a large sheet of expanded polystyrene, two corrugated cardboard wine bottle carriers, and a toilet roll tube. We had not yet found a source of suitable glue or paint, but we had begun to formulate a design.

The design had a wide hull that was built from the wine bottle carriers (one for the centre section and the other to make the bow and stern sections) and these were to be filled with expanded polystyrene. Space was provided for the fizzy drinks to be carried close to the model boat's centre of gravity. Once the hull was completed we planned to add a bridge, deckhouses, a funnel, and masts.

By the end of the evening my wife had come up with a completely different design ... a catamaran. After considerable discussion, we decided to proceed with both designs, and then choose the better of the two to enter the competition.

Saturday 24th December: At sea
Overnight the ship passed through a storm, and we awoke to find the decks were very wet and water was dripping off the lifeboats and onto any unwary passengers sitting on the Promenade Deck.

We passed the morning doing very little, although I did manage to watch the fourth episode of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SAILOR before lunch.

During the morning there was considerable agitation amongst the smokers on board. Over recent days there had been what appeared to be a concerted campaign by some non-smokers to stop people from smoking in parts of the ship that were hitherto designated as smoking areas. Ashtrays had been removed so that smokers could not extinguish their cigarettes safely ... which raised a serious safety issue. Complaints had been made to several of the ship's officers by non-smokers because smokers were smoking in a designated smoking area that was in the sun ... where the non-smokers wished to sunbathe. Matters came to a head during the morning when that area was re-designated as a non-smoking area ... and notices to that effect were put up around the much reduced smoking area.

I am not a smoker ... but I could understand the resentment felt by the smokers at this change. The non-smokers had been perfectly happy with the situation until the ship reached latitudes where the weather had improved and sunbathing was possible; it was at that point that they began to demand a reduction in the designated smoking area ... and it said much for the attitude of the ship's Captain that he chose the course of action that he did. One wondered if he would also consider restricting sales of duty-free cigarettes on board his ship as well ... but I suspected that as this was a significant revenue earner he would not.

At about 4.30pm the ship had a visitation from Santa. As is traditional, he first made his appearance at the top of the ship's funnel to the accompaniment of well-known Christmas Carols and songs sung by the ship's choir. He then descended to the Sun Deck just above the Aquarius Bar and Swimming Pool ...

... before passing around the deck, handing out presents to selected passengers. (These were passengers with special medical and/or mobility needs.)

On our return to our cabin to prepare for dinner, we found that we had both been left presents from P&O. We opened them to discover that we had both been given a very expensive box of Belgian chocolate truffles.

We went to the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink ... and discovered that the ship was passing through a spectacular tropical storm! Although the deck around the bar is open, the bar itself is undercover, so we did not get wet whilst we watched the rain pour down, accompanied by sheet lightening that lit up the entire horizon.

Once dinner was over my wife and I had a celebratory drink before attending the midnight service in the Arcadia's Palladium Theatre, after which we went to bed.

Sunday 25th December: At sea
The bad weather of the previous evening was well behind us when we awoke. The blue sky was studded with small white clouds and the sea was a deep blue colour. In addition, our colds seemed to have finally disappeared.

We ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and it was a somewhat catastrophic affair. The waiter dropped both the starters after he collided with another waiter trying to get through the doors from the kitchen ... and then dropped my wife's main course only feet from our table when the plate slipped out of his hands!

After breakfast we opened our presents and Christmas cards, and then went on deck to sit in the shade. I watched the next episode of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY after trying to send a Christmas text message to various friends and members of my family.

The weather was so pleasant that we stayed on deck for most of the day, and actually did not bother with lunch as we did not feel hungry ... and we knew that we would have a large Christmas dinner to eat later. I spent part of the time just sitting dozing but I did spend about an hour working on the newest draft of my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT). This came about as a result of an email I received from Ross Macfarlane, who was thinking about adding additional data so that infantry anti-tank weapons and armoured cars were covered by the rules.

The 'clash' between the smokers and non-smokers still rumbled on. Non-smokers were going into the smoking area to either sit at the tables – and then complain about the fact that people were smoking – or to remove the chairs so that they could sit in them in the sun. In the end it required the intervention of a ship's officer to defuse the situation. Non-smokers were asked not to remove seats from the smoking area and not to sit in the designated smoking area if they objected to people smoking nearby.

(As an aside, the exhaust from the ship's diesel engines could be seen drifting across the non-smoking area as this row was developing. I wondered if the non-smokers would ask the Captain to order the ship's engineer to start using smokeless, non-polluting fuel next. Somehow I doubted it!)

We returned to our cabin late in the afternoon, and before getting ready for dinner I read some more of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, THE ADVENTURE OF THE PERSECUTED PAINTER by Basil Copper and THE ADVENTURE OR THE SUFFERING RULER by H R F Keating. The latter of the two was interesting in that Watson came up with the correct solution to the problem, and Holmes had to admit that for once he was in error.

Dinner was an example of the sort of traditional event that P&O organise so well. We were greeted by a choir made up of members of the ship's crew singing a selection of Christmas carols and songs. For those of us who wanted it, dinner comprised a starter, soup course, sorbet, main course (which in my case was Norfolk turkey and all the trimmings), a dessert (my choice was the traditional flambéed plum pudding with brandy sauce), finished off with tea or coffee served with mince pies and Christmas cake! We were also given a small box of chocolates ... just in case we felt hungry later.

Monday 26th December: At sea
Overnight the weather became much more humid, and by lunchtime we had passed into the Tropic of Cancer.

My wife and I had a light breakfast (not much of a surprise considering how much we ate last night), after which we went to see the staff at the Future Cruise Desk to book cruise that will sail during the latter part in 2012. I then left my wife sitting on deck whilst I attended a talk by Dr Durran entitled 'Britain as a Great Power'. Yet again this was an interesting and though-provoking session, and I found that I was in agreement with a lot of what he said. I was able to have a long discussion with Dr Durran later in the day, and I found the experience mentally invigorating.

Just after midday my wife and I repaired to the air-conditioned Crow's Nest Bar for a very welcome cold drink. I then attended yet another meeting of the international fraternal organisation that I belong to. This was held to finalise the details of the fund-raising event ... and hopefully we will not require any further meetings! (There are some people organising this event who would find difficulty finding the brewery, let alone managing to arrange a drink there!)

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the shade next to the Aquarius Pool and Bar at the stern of the ship. The breeze over that part of the ship did much to reduce the effect of the humidity in the atmosphere, and we spent several pleasant hours there. We then returned to our cabin to get ready for dinner.

The entertainment staff had organised a 'Welcome to the Caribbean' disco on the decks next to the Aquarius Pool and Bar, and after dinner we joined the large number of the passengers who were already up there. We stayed for over an hour before going back to our cabin to prepare for the next day's visit to Antigua. I read three more of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, THE REPULSIVE STORY OF THE RED LEECH by David Langford, THE ADVENTURE OF THE GRACE CHALICE by Roger Johnson, and THE ADVENTURE OF THE FAITHFUL RETAINER by Amy Myers. The last of these was particularly interesting as part of the 'action' took place in the area of London where I live, and I actually know the pub and house that are mentioned

Tuesday 27th December: Antigua
I awoke just as the ship was beginning her final approach into the harbour of St Johns, the capital of Antigua, and I managed to photograph the sun rising over the town.

After breakfast we collected our stuff together and went ashore to join the excursion that we had booked, 'Antigua Cricketing Legends'. Along with twenty other people and our guide we drove to the 'Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground' which was built for the West Indies Cricketing Board ... by the Chinese(!) ... so that they could stage the ICC World Cup in 2007.

We were met and shown around the ground by the Head Groundsman, Freddo, who was very knowledgeable and admitted to having played for Antigua and the Leeward Islands in his younger days!

The ground was very impressive ... but lacked atmosphere ... and we got the impression that it was not as popular a venue for cricket as the old ground in St Johns.

We then went to see 'The Sticky Wicket', which is located next to Antigua's airport. The 'Wicket' forms part of the 'Stanford Cricket Ground' (which is currently closed) and its outer wall houses the West Indies Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has only twelve members, and each has a bronze plaque on the wall. Each plaque has an image of the player and a description of their cricketing career.

The tour finished at the home of West Indies cricket, the 'Antigua Recreation Ground', which is better known as the ARG. Freddo was also the groundsman at the ARG, and he showed us around the ground.

In particular he pointed out the boards that record the names of each player who scored 100 runs or more or who took five wickets or more at a Test Match at the ARG.

We were then joined by a cricketing legend, Curtly Ambrose. He spoke to us for well over thirty minutes about his career and the players he played with and against as well as answering numerous questions. He then had his photograph taken with each of us ...

... and also signed a miniature cricket bat for us. (We also asked Freddo to sign the back of one of the bats for us as well.)

Our guide then took us back to our coach and we drove back to the harbour, although we did take her advice and tried the local beer in the Beehive Bar ... and very refreshing it was too!

Before going back aboard Arcadia we went for a stroll around the shops in the harbour area, and my wife bought me a new Caribbean shirt and a couple of loose cotton dresses for herself.

MV Arcadia was not the only cruise ship in harbour. Moored alongside were MV Aida Luna ...

... and MV Marina.

After a snack lunch and a cold drink in the Aquarius Bar, my wife and I went back to our cabin, where I began work on building the model ship we were entering into 'The Arcadia Regatta'. As this involved cutting up the large sheet of expanded polystyrene I had been given ... with a steak knife(!) ... I did it on the cabin balcony ... much to the amusement and stupefaction of some of the passengers on the nearby MV Marina.

Just behind Arcadia was a small fort that was situated on the northern side of the harbour entrance.

This was Fort James, which was begun in 1704 and completed in 1739. It was armed with thirty six cannons and was complimented by a fort built of the southern side of the entrance (Fort Barrington) as well as a battery on a small island in the middle of the bay (Rat Island Battery).

For a change we were booked into Marco Pierre White's Ocean Grill for dinner. We ate there a week before and enjoyed it so much that we had booked a second meal in the restaurant immediately afterwards. The menu was slightly different from our last visit, and yet again we were impressed by the quality of the food and the service.

We were both feeling so full after our wonderful meal that when we returned to our cabin neither of us felt like going to sleep right away. I managed to read another short story, THE CASE OF THE SUICIDAL LAWYER by Martin Edwards. This is the first of the stories set in the 1900s, and concerns the apparent decline into madness and subsequent apparent suicide a young lawyer. Needless to say, it was actually a murder that Holmes is not quite able to prevent, but whose perpetrator was quickly identified.

Wednesday 28th December: St Maarten
The ship docked in Philipsburg, St Maarten slightly ahead of schedule. The sun was already up when we awoke, and at first it appeared that we were docked next to a container port. This proved to be only partially correct, as the starboard side of the ship (which was where our cabin was located) faced the container area but the port side faced the other ships moored at the cruise ship terminal.

Sint Maarten is the Dutch part of the island, the French part being called Saint Martin. St Maarten is visited by many cruise ships, and moored alongside Arcadia when we were there were MV Seven Seas Navigator, MV Adventure of the Seas, ...

... MV Celebrity Eclipse, ...

... and MV Allure of the Seas.

The latter is the largest cruise ship in the World, and has a tonnage of 250,000 tons, a crew of 2,000, and carries over 5,000 passengers!

We went ashore, and after exploring the area around the cruise terminal we took the water taxi to the town. On our way to the water taxi we passed a very nice motor yacht called Cakewalk, which seemed to us to make an interesting comparison with the huge Allure of the Seas.

We visited quite a few shops (mainly those selling jewellery and duty free goods) but thanks to some advice from a shop assistant in a diving shop, we found a small department store where we bought the waterproof tape, masking tape, and scissors we needed to build our entry for 'The Arcadia Regatta'.

After a cold beer in a beachside bar we took the water taxi back to the cruise terminal area. We took our purchases aboard ... and then went back to find some lunch ashore and to do some more shopping!

Many of the shops in the area around the cruise terminal were traditional wooden stall known locally as Gingerbread Stalls, and they sold a wide variety of different things, including clothes, carvings, local drinks, and food.

We found a very nice outdoor cafe where we had a couple of cold beers and a snack lunch. We then returned to Arcadia, hot and tired, but feeling great! St Maarten was a very nice place to visit, with friendly, helpful people and lots of bargains to be had.

I spent about thirty minutes working on the model boat we are entering in 'The Arcadia Regatta', but a sudden downpour brought this to an end. The upside was the fact that the wind that accompanied the rain blew away many of the tiny bits of expanded polystyrene that had come loose whilst I was cutting out the 'hold' that will carry the six cans of fizzy drink and shaping the bows.

I used this enforced break to watch the penultimate episode of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY ... and then began getting ready for dinner. Dinner had a 'Tropical' theme, and after dinner there was a tropical dance party in the area around the Aquarius Bar and Pool. As we were feeling rather tired after our day in St Maarten we went to bed fairly early. I did, however, manage to read two more Sherlock Holmes short stories before going to sleep ... THE LEGACY OF RACHEL HOWELLS by Michael Doyle and THE ADVENTURE OF THE BULGARIAN DIPLOMAT by Zakaria Erzinclioglu. The first story built upon the events covered in THE MUSGRAVE RITUAL, and the second explained how Holmes helped to stop a Great European War from starting in the early 1900s.

Thursday 29th December: St Kitts
We awoke just as the ship was beginning the process of coming alongside the jetty in the harbour of Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts. Unfortunately were had to rush our breakfast as we were booked on a tour entitled 'Best of St Kitts', and we were ashore and queuing for our minibus by a little after 8.50pm.

Our guide and minibus driver was a local man called Winston(!), who turned out to be one of the best tour guides we have ever had. The first part of our tour was a potted guide to Basseterre, after which we drove out along the coast towards Romney Manor. On the way we stopped several times and looked at a flock of egrets that we're nesting in tree right next to the main road ...

... and the remains of a windmill that was used in the sugar industry.

Whilst we were stopped we noticed that another cruise ship was approaching Basseterre, and although it was unclear which ship it was, it appeared to be one of the fleet owned and run by Carnival Cruises.

Romney Manor was situated over 500 feet up Mount Misery, an inactive volcano. At one time it was one of the biggest sugar plantations and processing factories on St Kitts, and remnants of its past could still be seen, including its bell tower ...

... and the chimney of its fire house.

We then drove on to Brimstone Hill National Park. Situated at the peak of the hill is a fortress that covers over 40 acres.

I took a considerable number of photographs inside the restored parts of the fortress, and I hope to write a separate blog entry about the site in the near future.

The tour ended when we returned to Basseterre in time for lunch. My wife and I chose to stop for a cold drink (and some retail therapy) before returning to the ship. Over the past few days we had discovered that the local beer – Carib Beer – was both reasonably priced (two for three US Dollars) and very refreshing ... so we both had one!

On the way back to our ship we were able to identify the cruise ship that had moored alongside Arcadia as being the MV Carnival Valor.

Once back aboard Arcadia we had some lunch (and another cold drink) before I did some more work on the model boat we had entered in 'The Arcadia Regatta'. I used cocktail sticks to pin the sheets of expanded polystyrene together, and then sheathed the sides of the model in corrugated cardboard, which I fixed in place with lengths of masking tape. I then covered the bottom and sides of the hull with strips of waterproof tape and 'planked' the deck with strips of masking tape.

Once that was completed, I built a very simple bridge structure and funnel from spare cardboard and toilet roll tubes. This was also covered in waterproof tape, but was not to be fixed into position until the hull had been tested in the Aquarius Pool.

After a very good dinner, my wife and I tested the hull of the model ship in one of the jacuzzi pools next to the Aquarius Pool. This was done in front of as few witnesses as possible (people might have though that we were a little odd if we had done it when the area was crowded!), but much to the amusement and encouragement of the staff in the Aquarius Bar. The test proved to be very successful, although I had a few concerns about how high out of the water the hull floated.

Before going to sleep I read yet another Sherlock Holmes short story, THE ENIGMA OF THE WARWICKSHIRE VORTEX by F Gwynplaine MacIntyre. This was a positively odd story that featured early cinema, Ambrose Bierce, and Aleister Crowley.

Friday 30th December: St Lucia
Overnight the ship sailed through a tropical storm, and the wind noise and movement actually woke both of us up at least twice during the night. It was therefore not very surprising that when we got up to go to breakfast, the sky was somewhat overcast and the atmosphere very humid.

Arcadia moored just across the bay from Castries (the capital of St Lucia) near to the base used by St Lucia Police to house its patrol boats. These included two quite large vessels (one of which was named Defender) and a small launch named Protector.

These are the closest thing that St Lucia has to a navy, and they looked eminently suitable for the task they had to perform.

We went ashore at the Pointe Seraphine Cruise Ship Dock, which is a Duty Free Area. Whilst there I saw a member of the St Lucia Armed Forces talking to a local police officer. The uniform was almost exactly the same as the old US Army Woodland pattern uniforms worn until only a few years ago.

Having had a quick look around the Duty Free Area, my wife and I attempted to catch the ferry across the harbour to Castries, the capital of St Lucia. We waited for nearly forty five minutes in the sun for the ferry to arrive ... only to find that we could not get on it because a couple of passengers from an American cruise ship insisted that they had been waiting for the ferry longer than everyone else, even though they had not been in the queue in the sun! The ferry operator's representative gave us a full refund, and we walked to the nearby taxi rank and took a cab into town instead.

Castries was far more like what our expectations of a Caribbean town would be like than any of the other places we had visited to date. It had a proper market that catered for local people and not just the passing tourist trade, and we enjoyed our walk through it and the surrounding streets.

We decided that we needed to have a drink before returning to Arcadia, and we found a very pleasant bar close to the landing stage for the ferry.

After a couple of refreshing bottles of local Piton Beer, my wife and I decided to use the ferry to return across the harbour. Our attempts to buy our tickets were frustrated for some time by three American women who were demanding refunds from the ferry operator's representative. It appeared that they had used the tickets to go across the bay, but had then decided to come back by taxi. They were demanding that they should be entitled to have half their money back because they had only used the ferry in one direction. The representative tried to explain that if they had wanted to only use the ferry in one direction, they could have bought single rather than return tickets, but because they had bought return tickets and used them, they could not have a refund. They began to complain very loudly and in a somewhat threatening manner, but the arrival of a Port Authority security guard calmed matters somewhat and they finally left, complaining bitterly that they were going to complain to their cruise company when they went back aboard their ship.

(It is of interest to note that the cost of the return fare was five US Dollars, and the single fare cost three US Dollars. It seemed to me to be a lot of fuss for the sake of two US Dollars ... but I suppose that not everyone would agree with me.)

Whilst waiting for the ferry I was able to take photographs of the three cruise ships that were in port when we were in St Lucia.

Besides MV Arcadia ...

... there was the MV Astor, ...

... and the MV Crystal Serenity.

Once back at Pointe Seraphine, my wife and I enjoyed yet another Piton Beer each before going back on board Arcadia. We then had a late lunch before going to sit in the area around the Aquarius Bar and Pool, where we were entertained by a local steel drum band called Harmonize. We stayed there until the ship left St Lucia, and took part in the 'Great British Sail Away'. The latter was a programme of popular songs and tunes associated with the United Kingdom, and involved lots of singing and flag waving.

We had become aware that 'The Arcadia Regatta' was going to involve more than just a test of our model's ability to carry six cans of fizzy drink, and during the time before dinner my wife and I decided to replace the superstructure with masts and sails, thus turning the model from a steamship into a sailing craft. In order to keep things as simple as possible, we chose to rig the model with two masts, each with a triangular sail. We also looked at the possibility of adding leeboards so as to increase the models lateral stability.

After dinner we returned to the area around the Aquarius Bar and Pool, where we found some materials (plastic tubes to which the flags we had waved earlier in the day were attached) that were very suitable to use as masts and spars. On our return to our cabin I read the last of the Sherlock Holmes short stories. This was entitled THE CASE OF THE LAST BATTLE (by L B Greenwood), and it told the story of Holmes' involvement in helping to end the Great War.

Saturday 31st December: Barbados
After yet another stormy night's passage, we arrived inside the harbour of Bridgetown, Barbados just after 7.00am, although it took us until nearly an hour later before we were tied up alongside.

We had a leisurely breakfast, and then got ready to go ashore. Before we could, the skies darkened, the wind speed rose rapidly, and a brief but intense storm broke over the harbour. Almost at once there was an announcement of the ship's tannoy system calling crew to emergency mooring stations. The wind had been so strong that the ship had begun to move and there had been a danger of the gangways coming adrift.

It took about ten minutes for the ship to be re-secured alongside and the gangways to be reset in place. By this time we were in the queue waiting to go ashore, and the Head of Security told us that the winds had actually pushed the ship back over three feet from the dockside.

Arcadia was not the only cruise ship in port when we visited Barbados. Also moored alongside were MV Ventura ...

... MV Norwegian Dawn, ...

... MV Freewinds, ...

... and the Wind Spirit.

We used the shuttle bus to reach the cruise ship terminal, and from there we took a taxi to the centre of Bridgetown. Bridgetown was by far and away the most urbanised of the places we visited, and looked and felt much more like a small city than St Johns, Philipsburg, Basseterre, or even Castries.

Dominating Heroes Square in the centre of Bridgetown was a statue of Nelson, and we sat in the shade nearby before passing over a bridge across the Constitution River.

We did some shopping for souvenirs in the small market at one end of the bridge before stopping for a much needed drink in the Waterfront Cafe. As had become our custom, we drank the local lager, Banks Beer.

We then walked slowly back across the bridge, along the waterfront to the fishing harbour, and then back to the main taxi rank in the centre of the town. Within minutes we were back at the cruise ship terminal, and from there we went back by shuttle bus to Arcadia.

After we had a snack lunch in the Belvedere Restaurant, my wife and I went to the Aquarius Bar for an after-lunch drink. Whilst there I noticed that our ship was moored near to where the Barbadian Navy moored some of its patrol boats.

Like their counterparts in St Lucia, these craft looked workmanlike and capable of performing their tasks very efficiently.

Once we felt rested and refreshed, my wife and I returned to our cabin in order to finish work on the model boat we entered for 'The Arcadia Regatta'. It now had a set of sails that not only improved the look of the craft but which also helped to propel it through the water.

Because Barbados was the last Caribbean island we visited on this cruise, a special 'sail away' was held around the Aquarius Pool and Bar, and my wife and I were there when the special flag that marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of P&O was hoisted for the first time aboard Arcadia.

As it was also New Year's Eve (or Old Year's Night as they call it in Barbados), a special formal dinner was held in the Meridian Restaurant, followed by a variety of different parties to celebrate the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. We attended the party held around the Aquarius Pool and Bar, and despite the wind and rough seas, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We finally got to bed just after 2.30am on Sunday 1st January, having had a great end to what has been a somewhat difficult and life-changing year.

Sunday 1st January: At sea
The weather during the night was quite windy, and we awoke to find moderately rough seas and relatively high winds.

As 'The Arcadia Regatta' was held during the afternoon, the morning was spent putting some final touches to the model boat ... including naming it.

My wife plaited some of the plastic streamers that we had acquired so that they were considerably stronger than single lengths of streamer, and these were used to re-rig the boat. We also named it 'Kin'ship ... which was a result of my wife constantly asking me 'Is that ***kin* ship not finished yet?'

The regatta began at 3.30pm in the Aquarius Pool. We were happy with our ship's final appearance ...

... but some of the competition looked very good indeed. They included one based on the design of a Mediterranean galley, ...

... another whose design was inspired by a Barbary pirate Xebec, ...

... Noah's Ark (including marzipan animals!), ...

... Kon Tiki, ...

... a bizarre looking raft built from plastic bottles, corks, and cocktail stirrers, ...

... and a sort of semi-submersible which was also built from plastic bottles.

Each ship was paraded around the Aquarius Pool by its builder ...

... and then placed into the Pool to see if it floated.

It is worth noting that the waves in the Pool that were caused by the wind and the ship's pitching and rolling were over a foot high at times, and that this was quite a testing environment for the model boats!

All of the entrants passed this test. They were then loaded with six cans of fizzy drinks ... and again they all passed this test as well, although at one point the semi-submersible did look as if it was about to sink.

In the end our model boat won the prize for 'Best Designed and Engineered Model Boat', and we were given a copy of the book that was printed and given to all passengers who travelled on MV Arcadia's maiden voyage.

The rest of the day passed quietly, and although the weather remained windy and the seas were moderately rough, we felt very relaxed ... and quite pleased with ourselves!

During the evening I watched the last episode of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY ... and the first episode of SMILEY'S PEOPLE. I had intended to begin reading one of the books I had saved onto my iPad, but as I had caught yet another cold (or my previous one had come back) I did not feel like doing much reading. As almost everyone we met on board the ship also seemed to have some sort of cold, we assumed that the germs were probably being spread around by the ship's very efficient air conditioning system.

Monday 2nd January: At sea
Overnight there was no real change in the weather, and it remained windy and the seas were moderately rough. My wife and I both awoke with sore throats and runny noses, and neither of us felt like doing much more than sitting and relaxing. During the morning I watched the next two episodes of SMILEY'S PEOPLE and tried to read whilst my wife dozed.

During the afternoon I attended the second meeting of the unofficial 'Model Railway Club', where the Assistant Cruise Director showed us what model railway stuff he had been given as present for Christmas.

It was then time to get ready for the fund-raising event that had been arranged by the international fraternal organisation of which I am a member. This went well and was attended by over eighty people, including the Captain and Tom O'Connor. It also raised almost £800 for various charities, including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

After the meeting had ended my wife and I went for a drink in the Aquarius Bar before dinner. We then went to watch Tom O'Connor's show in the Palladium Theatre, after which we went to bed, hoping that we would both feel better in the morning.

Tuesday 3rd January: At sea
Although the weather had changed slightly for the better, my wife and I were still feeling unwell. It appeared that we were not alone in feeling under the weather, and from discussions with had with other passengers it seemed like everyone had exhibited some sort of cold symptoms.

During the morning we did our best to keep warm and try not to doze too much. I managed to watch two more episodes of SMILEY'S PEOPLE before my wife and I went to the Palladium Theatre to hear the Cruise Director interview the Captain.

We then had a snack lunch, followed by a rest (and a drink) in the Aquarius Bar. We spent the rest of the afternoon resting ... and dozing ... in our cabin before it was time to get ready for the evening's Portunus Club party and formal dinner. The Portunus Club was the current P&O reward scheme for regular cruise passengers, and as we were Gold Tier members (the highest level that could be achieved) we got invitations to both the Portunus Club party and the Gold Tier lunch that was held on 4th January.

The party was held in the area round the enclosed Neptune Pool ... which was very hot and humid. As a result it was quite uncomfortable for those people who attended the party as they were wearing their evening dress clothes ... and one could never describe dress clothes as being lightweight and ideal for a hot and humid environment!

The dinner was a special 'Black and White' dinner, where all those attending were supposed to be dressed only in those colours ... and most attendees actually managed to conform! We had a great meal with excellent company, and afterwards we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a post-dinner drink before going to bed.

Wednesday 4th January: At sea
Both my wife and I had a restless night's sleep due to our colds and the sometimes violent movement of the ship. We did, however, decide to get up at the usual time and to try to have a reasonably normal day ... and to a large extent we managed to achieve that aim.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went to the Palladium Theatre to watch Tom O'Connor and the Cruise Director cook a Liverpool speciality, scouse! This turned out to be more of a chat with jokes and anecdotes than a cookery demonstration, although they did actually manage to prepare and cook a large bowl of scouse that members of the audience were able to try.

My wife and I then went to the Portunus Gold Tier lunch in the Meridian Restaurant. As usual, this was a very well attended function, and the food was excellently cooked and very well presented.

Having dined well we returned to our cabin, and whilst my wife dozed I finished watching the last episode of SMILEY'S PEOPLE. I then managed to complete the latest draft of my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) wargames rules, after which I watched the episode of CALLAN I had downloaded onto my iPad. It was the episode that featured two wargames (including one that takes place at an early wargames convention where one of the participants look remarkably like Donald Featherstone!) that Callan fought against Heathcote Land, and it is my all-time favourite episode.

After a hot shower that helped to clear my head somewhat, my wife and I got ourselves ready for the evening and had a pre-dinner drink before going to the Meridian Restaurant to eat.

Thursday 5th January: Azores
Neither my wife nor I slept well during the night because of our colds, which seemed to have got worse as the night went on. In the end we decided to sleep in, and when we eventually did get up, we both felt slightly better.

At one point during the latter part of the morning it looked as if MV Arcadia was not going to be able to dock at Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel in the Azores. There was a danger that the 35-knot wind would make docking too dangerous, but as the ship approached the harbour the wind speed dropped enough to enable Arcadia to get alongside and moored just after 12.30pm.

We decided that rather than stay aboard feeling ill and miserable we might as well go ashore as the exercise might do us some good. As it was, the sun was shining and the walk along the seafront did help to blow the cobwebs away. My wife had spotted that there was a small fort at one end of the seafront, and we set ourselves the goal of walking there.

As it turned out, the Sao Bras Fort turned out to be well worth walking to.

It was built in the late sixteenth century by Tommaso Benedetto, and was the first example of a star fort built in Portugal. Not only that, but since June 2006 it has been the Military Museum of the Azores! The entry cost was only 3.00 Euros each, which seemed very reasonable when compared with similar museums in the UK.

I took a number of pictures inside the fort, and I hope to write a separate blog entry about the fort in the very near future.

After our visit to the fort we walked back to the ship via the town's commercial and retail centres. We stopped on the way for a drink and a meal in one of the local cafes ... and not only were the quality and service we received excellent, the price we were charged was very reasonable as well.

On our return to the ship we were both feeling rather tired, and we spent the rest of the afternoon resting, reading, and dozing. We had booked a table at the Marco Pierre White restaurant – the Ocean Grill – for that evening, and we began showering and dressing ourselves for our special dinner just after the ship had begun the process of slipping its lines and proceeding to sea.

We had a pre-dinner drink in the Crow's Nest Bar before going to the Ocean Grill. The food and service were excellent – as usual – and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening. We did not finish our meal until nearly 11.00 pm, and we went back to our cabin almost straight afterwards to sit and rest for a while before going to bed.

Friday 6th January: At sea
The seas were a lot calmer during the night, and both of us slept better than we had done for some days. Our colds had not abated at all, and we took things easy for most of the day. We sat on deck for a short while after our breakfast, and then attended 'The Big A Factor'. This was put on in the ship's atrium, and each Department had a stand that explained what they contributed to the operation of Arcadia.

We then returned to our cabin to read and rest, and I updated my blog and re-read the current draft of MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) to check for any typographical errors. After a light lunch and another spell sitting on deck we again returned to our cabin to read and rest. In fact I had enough time to read FUNNY LITTLE WARS by Paul Wright from cover to cover ... and it convinced me that I had to expand my collection of 54mm figures over the next few months so that I can participate in some FLW battles during the run-up to the 2013 centenary celebrations of the publication of H G Wells' LITTLE WARS.

I also managed to watch the first part of THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING – starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery and directed by John Huston – on my iPad. The original Kipling short story is one of my all-time favourites, and the film is not only an excellent dramatisation of that story but also features two of my favourite screen actors.

Dinner was followed by a drink in the Crow's Nest Bar as our usual haunt – the Aquarius Bar – was closed. As this bar is on an outside deck, it is only kept open when it is warm enough for passengers to sit outside in comfort, and as the ship is now off the coast of Portugal the bar was closed by the time we had finished dinner.

Saturday 7th January: At sea
After another reasonably calm night my wife and I awoke to find the sun shining through the cloud and the sea looking silvery-grey. We had a late breakfast in the Belvedere Restaurant, and then spent some time on deck before going to the Crow's Nest Bar. The latter was quite crowded as it is one of the warmer and quieter public spaces aboard Arcadia.

I managed to watch the second half of THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING before lunch, and after lunch my wife and I attended a concert by the ship's choir. We then returned to our cabin and I spent time re-drafting my MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) rules so that they incorporate some of the changes I made when I re-drafted the latest version of my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) rules. I then watched the first half of KIM on my iPad. I had not seen the film for many years, and had forgotten just how good it was.

Just after 6.00pm we began getting ready for the last formal dinner of the cruise. As was usual, this dinner was marked by a parade through the restaurant by the chefs and galley brigade, and by a special menu that included one of my favourite dishes ... Boeuf Wellington!

The after-dinner entertainment in the Palladium Theatre was provided by Tom O'Connor, and his constant stream of jokes and funny stories – all told without recourse to bad language – kept us amused for nearly an hour. We then went to the Crow's Nest Bar for a final drink before going to bed.

Sunday 8th January: At sea
Overnight the ship passed out of the northern part of the Bay of Biscay, and as we awoke Arcadia was approaching Ushant and the entrance to the western end of the English Channel. The sky was overcast and the sea was dark grey.

As it was our last full day at sea we did not rush to get ready for breakfast. Instead we began getting some of our stuff ready for packing later in the day. It was at this point that we decided that we needed to buy another hold all as the amount of clothes that we had seemed to have grown!

We then went up to the Crow's Nest Bar to have a drink and to relax. I watched the second half of KIM ... and afterwards decided that I really ought to re-read the original story again as soon as possible.

We had a snack lunch in the Belvedere Restaurant, and afterwards began the lengthy process of packing our bags so that most of them could be collected before dinner for off-loading in the morning. Packing took us about two hours, and yet again it amazed me to see how clothes always seem to take up more space going home than they do when going away!

Because it was the last night aboard ship, the evening show in the Palladium Theatre was held before dinner rather than after it. The show was a non-stop medley of wartime songs and tunes, and most of the audience joined in with the most well known ones.

Dinner was a somewhat subdued affair as we said our goodbyes to the people we shared a table with for the last twenty three days as well as the stewards who served us. After one last drink (or two!) with our table companions we then went back to our cabin to pack the last remaining bag for collection and off-loading.

Monday 9th January: Southampton
We awoke a 6.30am, and prepared ourselves for disembarkation. We packed our hand luggage, and after breakfast and a final farewell to our cabin steward we went on deck until it was time for use to finally leave MV Arcadia ... until our next cruise aboard her.

Whilst on deck I noticed what looked like two destroyers of the Daring class moored at a pier on the opposite side of Southampton Harbour at Marchwood Military Port. I managed to take a photograph of the two warships, and on closer examination the pennant number on the closer of the ships appeared to be D32 ... HMS Daring's number.

We collected our luggage from the luggage hall, and after passing through Customs we went to the car park to find our car. Once all the luggage was loaded aboard we set off for home just before 9.30am. Our journey home involved a major diversion as a result of a serious road accident on the M25. This caused a traffic jam on the road we were on (the M3), and we left the motorway and drove cross-country via Farnham, Guilford, and Leatherhead to join the M25 at Junction 9. Despite this diversion, the journey only took slightly longer than usual and we were home just after midday.


  1. A delightful read. I am beginning to understand why travelogue books were so popular in the 19thC.

    Congratulations on putting all that study of things naval and marine to such good use.

    and my apologies for intruding on your Christmas Day :)


  2. Ross Mac,

    I am pleased that you enjoyed reading about most recent trip. I try to write about each day's events 'as they happen' if I can, and use a selection of photographs from the vast number that my wife and I take.

    Building the model ship was great fun, and if the chance arises I may well do it again ... but not with expanded polystyrene!

    All the best,


    PS. No problems about Christmas Day, by the way. Your email was both very welcome and thought provoking ... as usual!

  3. Your travel-log kept me smiling all along. I had a great laugh when you described naming the kin'ship.
    Good to see you both had a relaxing start to the new year.


  4. Brigadier Dundas (Don),

    I am glad that you enjoyed reading about our recent cruise. My wife and I needed the break ... and it has given us a good start to the year.

    I had to explain the name of the ship to the onlookers ... and they all found it hilarious as well!

    All the best,


  5. You realise that you will now be known to the world as Bob the Boat Builder!

    Alas, they never did activities like that when my wife and I went on cruises...

    But I did secure equal first place in the quiz at the holiday centre we visited last summer - thanks mainly to the fact that there was an entire round devoted to the Gunpowder Plot, which I used to teach for Common Entrance.

  6. Arthur1815,

    I rather like being called 'Bob the Boat Builder'! It will spur me on to build some more model boats in the very near future ... I hope!

    My wife and I only took part in one quiz during our recent cruise ... and came joint second out of over twenty teams! Not bad considering that the team that won that quiz had won on every other quiz as well.

    All the best,


  7. Hi Bob,

    I wonder if the prize winning ship would be useful for the navy of Cordeguay....;-)

    Loved the name and the whole cruise looked like enormous fun!

    Glad you and Mrs C had an enjoyable and well deserved break.

    All the best,


  8. David Crook,

    I had to leave my model ship behind when I left 'Arcadia' ... which is probably just as well as it was enormous!

    As to the cruise ... well we both think that it was well worth the cost as we have both returned mentally refreshed.

    All the best,


  9. Wow I am glad you enjoyed our little country and our beer :-). Also I know Winston personally, so I will let him know how much you all appreciated him.
    Blessed Love!

  10. G.Cue,

    I loved visiting all of the islands I went to ... and hope to go back there someday.

    Please pass on my regards to Winston; he was a great tour guide.

    All the best,



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