Friday 31 March 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 31st March – 19th June 1937


The Nationalists forces in the North, led by General Emilio Mola, began an offensive against Basque forces in Vizcaya with the intention of capturing the Basque stronghold of Bilbao. The Basques, who were not well armed and who were led by General Francisco Llano de la Encomienda, gave ground, and the towns of Durango and Guernica surrendered on 28th April after suffering heavy bombing by units of the German Condor Legion.

He-111s of the Condor Legion preparing to bomb targets in the Basque region.
After the death of General Mola in an air crash on 3rd June, General Fidel Davila took command of the Nationalist forces. By 11th June the Basques had withdrawn behind the "Ring of Iron" defences around Bilbao, but these proved to be less than effective when subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. Under cover of the bombardment the Nationalists breached the outer defences and the "Ring of Iron" collapsed. On the night of 13th June most of the civilian inhabitants of Bilbao were evacuated, and on 18th June the last units of the Basque army, now led by General Mariano Gamir Ulibarri, abandoned the city. The Nationalists entered Bilbao on the next day.

Thursday 30 March 2017

The Write Stuff?

With two books currently 'on the go' (the next PORTABLE WARGAME book and the history of an important Masonic Lodge), I thought that I might see how my other books were faring on the sales front. The results were somewhat different from what I expected.

The first book I published was WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! This was published in paperback format and has currently sold 57 copies.

The Rest of the World sales split down into two copies sold in Australia and one each in Ireland, France, and the Netherlands.

My second book was BROTHERS IN ARMS AND BROTHERS IN THE LODGE. The book tells the stories of the ten members of my Masonic Mother Lodge who served during the First World War, and was written to both commemorate their memory and to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our oldest member's Initiation into the Lodge. (He is a Masonic historian and archivist as well as being involved in the Tanks of Flesquieres in France.)

This book was also published in paperback format and has currently sold eighty one copies ... five of these being to the United States of America!

The third book was a pure vanity project, and was a thriller entitled THE ELEPHANT AND THE COBRA. It was published as both a paperback and as an eBook. I had no expectations that it would sell ... but it has!

Twelve copies might not seem like many ... but it is ten more than I expected!

I had hoped that THE PORTABLE WARGAME would achieve sales in the high double figures ... and it has. It was published in three formats, hardback, paperback, and eBook, and the sales to date amount to a total of 232.

I expected most of the sales to be to English-speaking countries, and it is no surprise that this assumption was correct.

In this instance the Rest of the World sales split down into four each in Australia and France, three each in Canada and the European Union*, and one each in Ireland, Italy, and Finland.

* The sales figures from do not always specify the country the sales have been made in. In this case they merely stated 'EU' for three sales within the European Union.

It is said that actors should never read reviews of the plays they are in or authors of the books that they have written. Despite this good advice, feedback from readers is important, and the following review of THE PORTABLE WARGAME recently appeared on my Amazon page:
I like the idea of a portable wargame, so the title immediately piqued my interest. The book to me has the overall feel of a piece intended for the internet, rather than as a fully thought out print book. It is as though the author was in a rush to make the point that he has thought of his own rules which can be used to play portable wargames, but accepts that he is not the only person to have done so. That to me seems to be stating the obvious.

Mr Cordery provides the reader with two example sets of portable game rules, which he then proceeds to explain by means of blow by blow fight throughs.

On reflection, this is not a bad book, it's just that with some judicious editing and the use of colour pictures, I think this could all have been put into print as a good two part article in a magazine such as Miniature Wargames, and be all the better for it.
Unfortunately my somewhat disappointed reviewer only gave the name 'Critical-look' when he submitted his 3/5 Star review, otherwise I could have contacted him to discuss the points he raises somewhat further.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Nugget 298

I will be collecting the latest edition of THE NUGGET (N298) from the printer later today, and I hope to post it out to members of Wargame Developments by tomorrow.

I have already uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and they are now available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the seventh issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2016-2017 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can still do so if they want to. This can be done by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

A visit to 'The Works'

On Sunday I paid a visit to the Dartford branch of THE WORKS to buy some more recorded books. Whilst I was there my eye was caught by a board game that was on sale ... Alex M Newman's SUN TZU.

A quick look at the box indicated that it was two-player game, and that it came with 21 Red and 21 Blue soldiers. The price was indicated as being £10.00, but when I got to the till I was only charged £7.00, so it must be a real bargain! Once I got home I had a look on BoardGameGeek, and the reviews were fairly positive.

The box contains:
  • One Game Board divided up into five Provinces (Jin-Yan, Han-Qi, Wu, Chu, and Qin) and with two tracks for the Sun Tzu and King of Chu figures to move along.
  • Ten Score Displays
  • One Rule Book
  • Fifty five cards (40 Action Cards, 10 Warlord Cards, and 5 Event Cards)
  • Forty four 28mm Plastic Miniatures (21 red Soldier, 21 Blue Soldiers, 1,Sun Tzu figure, 1 King of Chu figure)
On the surface the game appears to be quite simple, but reading the rules one gets the feeling that the complexity comes from the tactics the players choose to adopt.

Monday 27 March 2017

Miniature Wargames Issue 408

The March issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES magazine was delivered on Friday afternoon, and over the weekend I have managed to read it from cover to cover.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: The Country Itself: Garden wargaming by Conrad Kinch
  • When in Rome: A campaign system for all those wanting to be friends, Romans, or countrymen by Jim Webster
  • Show Special: Vapnartak by John Treadaway
  • Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Indian Mutiny skirmish rules (Part Two) by Jon Sutherland
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • On the Warpath: An interview with the designers of Manic Games' WARPATH and FIREFIGHT games
    • From the 4Ground up: Customising MDF building for SF games (Part Two) by Roger Dixon
  • Show Special: Hammerhead by John Treadaway
  • Pick a card, any card: Using playing cards to help with orders in wargames by Arthur Harman
  • Show Special: ROBIN (Red On Blue In Nottingham) by Roger Dixon
  • Recce
  • Arab Stockade: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Show Special: Cavalier by John Treadaway
  • Club Directory
Lots of good articles for me to enjoy reading and to give me something to think about. Of particular interest were:
  • Conrad Kinch's Send three and fourpence article about garden wargaming reminded me how much I have enjoyed taking part in such games at COW (the Conference of Wargamers) and elsewhere. The publication of Paul Wright's FUNNY LITTLE WARS and Tim Gow's LITTLE COLD WARS revived my interest in the sort of wargames I played as a child, and I now own quite a large collection of 54mm figures that need to be taken out and used every so often. Thank god that the Garden Wargaming season is not far off!
  • Jim Webster's When in Rome campaign system looks interesting because it does not use a map and seems to have a very simple but effective way for players to raise armies. It has given me something to think about with regard to my possible future Napoleonic campaign. 
  • The second part of Jon Sutherland's Mad Dogs and Englishmen article looks at the various commanders who took part, the use of event cards, and some typical armies.
  • The second part of Roger Dixon's From the 4Ground up article about customising MDF buildings continues to whet my interest with regard to the possibility of using MDF buildings.
  • Arthur Harman used my card-driven turn sequence as a starting point for the mechanisms he describes in his article entitled Pick a card, any card. He has taken it to a much higher level than I did ... and produced a very simple but sophisticated way to represent the ability of a commander to issue orders to the units under their command.
The magazine also included a guide to SALUTE 2017, which will be taking place on 22nd April at the ExCel Centre, London.

I hope to go to this show, and the fact that the guide was included with but not part of this issue means that I can spend time looking at it separately from the magazine. I really do like this idea, and hope that it will continue to feature in future issues of this magazine.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Nugget 298

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue of the journal to me earlier this week, and I took it to the printer yesterday morning. With luck this will mean that it will be printed and posted out to members of Wargame Developments by the end of March.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the seventh issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2016-2017 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can still do so if they want to. This can be done by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website.

Saturday 25 March 2017

I have been to ... Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, and Madeira

Tuesday 7th March 2017: Southampton
With winter coming to an end and spring fast approaching, it was great to be able to look forward to a cruise southwards. By 9.00am our luggage was packed into our car and we set off towards Southampton. The satnav indicated that the journey would be slightly longer than normal, but that other than that traffic on the M25 and M3 was flowing well.

We were almost at the junction of the M25 with the M23 when the situation changed. The satnav reported that there was a 'traffic incident' ahead, and that we should turn off onto the M23 towards London Gatwick Airport. It also predicted that if we did not, our journey to Southampton would take six hours! We complied with the instruction, and when we reached the junction, we turned southwards.

We became very confused when – just as we were approaching the turn off on the M23 for London Gatwick Airport – the satnav told us to turn around and go back towards the M25. By the time we had discussed what to do, we were past the junction, heading towards Brighton. We were able to stop at Pease Pottage Services to look at our road map, and checked the satnav's suggested route … only to discover that this had changed yet again! We rejoined the M23 going south, and less than ten miles before we reached Brighton it directed us onto the A272 going west.

From then on our route went across country via Arundel and Chichester using a number of A-class roads until we reached the M27 near Portsmouth. The latter took us towards Southampton, which we reached just before midday, having taken three hours to do a journey that usually took two and half. Considering the route that we had taken, Sue and I thought that we had done quite well to get to our destination that quickly.

Once we had arrived at the Mayflower Cruise Terminal everything went very smoothly. A porter helped to unload our luggage, which was whisked away to be taken aboard MV Ventura. Whilst he did that, I was able to book the car in with the valet parking service. Sue and I then walked into the booking hall, where we were able to go straight to one of the desks to be registered, photographed, and given our cruise cards. From there we walked to the security gates, where our hand luggage was x-rayed and we were scanned.

The whole process from stopping our car outside the terminal until we walked aboard Ventura took less than thirty minutes, and just after 12.30pm we were seated in the Cinnamon Restaurant (Deck 6 Midships) eating brunch. Our cabin was ready for occupation at 1.00pm, and when we reached it at 1.15pm our luggage was already there waiting for us.

We spent the next couple of hours unpacking, and by just before 3.00pm we went up to the Laguna Bar (Deck 15 Forward) for a drink …

… before going to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant (Deck 15 Midships) for a snack. On our return to our cabin we finished our unpacking, and at 4.10pm we went down to the Arena Theatre …

… for our safety briefing. This ended at 4.45pm, and Sue and I went up to the Terrace Bar (Dec k 15 Aft) to watch the ship sail out of Southampton.

We were back in our cabin by 5.15pm, and then spent some time resting until we had to get ready for our evening meal. Because it was dark and quite windy outside, we decided to have a drink in the Red Bar (Deck 7 Midships), which was far emptier than we had expected. Once we had finished our drinks we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant (Deck 6 Aft), where we joined the queue to go into dinner. We were shown to our table, and within five minutes we had been joined by the other two couples we will be sharing it with for the rest of our cruise. The food and service were – as usual – excellent, and our dinner companions were very pleasant.

After dinner we braved the elements and went out onto the Promenade Deck (Deck 7) for a breath of fresh air, but the wind and spray eventually proved too much and we returned to our cabin. By then we were both beginning to feel very tired, and by 11.30pm we were both sound asleep.

Wednesday 8th March 2017: At sea
We awoke just before 8.45am, and it was apparent that Ventura was sailing through quite unpleasant weather. She was already well on her way down the English Channel towards the Atlantic Ocean and the top of the Bay of Biscay …

… and was expected to leave the Channel by midday. After getting washed and dressed we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for breakfast. On our way back to our cabin after breakfast we stopped just outside the Tamarind Club (Deck 7 Midships) and booked dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant (Deck 17 Aft) for two evenings later in the cruise. (We always like to visit one or more of the select dining venues during a cruise.)

After picking up our Kindles, Sue and I went off on a tour of the ship to find somewhere to sit and read. We stopped off at the Terrace Bar for some fresh air before visiting the Metropolis Bar (Deck 18 Aft), but the latter was very crowded and we could not find anywhere to sit. We then tried the Glass House Bar (Deck 7 Midships) …

… and eventually found somewhere to sit. I finally finished reading Jenny Uglow's IN THESE TIMES: LIVING IN BRITAIN THROUGH NAPOLEON'S WARS 1793 - 1815 (it is an excellent book and provides a different, civilian point-of-view for anyone with an interest in Britain's involvement in the Napoleonic Wars) and began reading SS-GB by Len Deighton. I read this book many years ago and before going on this cruise Sue and I had watched the first three episodes of the BBC series that is based on the novel … hence my reason for re-reading the book.

We stayed in the Glass House Bar until 1.15pm, when we went back to our cabin to rest and freshen up before lunch. We decided to leave it as late as possible before eating lunch, and did not go up to the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant (Deck 15 Aft) until 2.45pm. Whilst we were there we had a chat with one of the Restaurant Managers who we had met on an early cruise.

After a short spell out on the open deck near the Terrace Bar, we went to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for a cup of tea (for Sue) and a glass of milk (for me). As the restaurant was rather full, Sue and I decided to take our drinks out to the area near the Beachcomber Bar (Deck 15 Midships), which is next to the ship's covered swimming pool.

We were back in our cabin just after 4.00pm, and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting. By 6.00pm we had begun to get for the first formal dinner of the cruise, which was preceded by the Captain's Gala Reception. This took place in the ship's Atrium, which is situated amidships and which is three decks high.

After the Reception Sue and I went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner, which was a very enjoyable meal. The food was exceptionally good, the service was excellent, and our table companions proved to be great people to sit and talk to.

Sue and I went for a walk along the Promenade Deck after dinner and before going to our cabin to sleep. Although it was quite windy, the air temperature was much higher that it had been earlier in the day and was hopefully the harbinger of better weather.

Thursday 9th March 2017: At sea … with a short diversion to La Coruña
Overnight we were both woken up by what sounded like an emergency announcement, and it was therefore no great surprise to discover that when we woke up, Ventura was entering the harbour of La Coruña!

At 9.00am the ship's captain – Captain Marcin Banach – announced that we were about to moor alongside to offload a passenger who had become too ill for the ship's own Medical Centre to deal with. This operation took until almost 9.45am, by which time Sue and I were in the Bay Tree Restaurant eating breakfast. Not long after we had left the restaurant Ventura was underway again, and the ship was soon passing the famous lighthouse that marks the entrance to the harbour.

The weather was much improved, and we tried to find somewhere on the open deck near the Terrace Bar to sit, but it was so crowded that we gave up and eventually ended up in the Glass House Bar. Sue remained there whilst I went to a short Masonic get-together, and when that ended at 11.45am we returned to the Terrace Bar for a drink.

As it was close to midday, the area was somewhat emptier than it had been, and we were able to spend some time there, sitting in the sun whilst drinking something cool. Not long after 1.00pm we went back to our cabin to read until it was time to go to lunch at 2.30pm.

Sue and I ate lunch in the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant, after which we went out to the Terrace Bar, where we finished the drinks we had bought to go with our lunch.

Because Ventura had changed course and was sailing almost directly southwards, the seating area around the Terrace Bar was no longer bathed in sunshine. As a result we stayed there for about fifteen minutes before deciding that it was too cold to sit there any longer. Sue and I returned to our cabin to warm up, and stayed there reading and resting until it was time to begin getting ready for dinner.

Sue and I went for a pre-dinner drink in the Terrace Bar, and returned there after dinner for a breath of fresh air before going to bed. The air temperature at 10.45pm was 17°C/62°F … which was warmed than it had been at midday!

I read several more chapters of SS-GB before going to sleep, and had reached the point in the book where the third episode of the TV series ended.

Friday 10th March 2017: Lisbon, Portugal
After an excellent night's sleep I was awoken at 6.45am by an eerie whistling sound that got louder and louder before gradually diminishing. It took me some minutes to realise that the sound had been caused by the wind blowing the steelwork of the Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge) as Ventura had sailed under it towards the centre of Lisbon.

The ship was moored alongside by just before 8.00am, …

… and Sue and I ate breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant between 8.45am and 9.15am. (We did not hurry ourselves as the last of the organised tours was leaving Ventura by 10.30am, and we knew that there would be a pre-tour rush to eat breakfast by 9.00am.)

We went ashore just after 10.00am, and once we had passed through the cruise terminal and negotiated our way through the pack of taxi tour touts, we crossed over the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and began to walk along the Rua do Jardin do Tobaco, …

… the Rua do Terreiro do Trigo until we reached a square that contain numerous small restaurants, some of which had interesting tile decorations on their outside walls.

Sue and I then continued to walk towards the centre of the city via the Rua do Cais do Santarém and the Rua dos Bacalhoeiros. When we came to the Rua do Comércio – which runs parallel with the northern side of the Plaça do Comércio but which is better known as Black Horse Square – we continued our walk until we reached the Plaça do Municipal. Along the way we were able to see the famous statue of Dom Jose I through the Arco de Vitoria.

From the Plaça do Municipal

… we walked back towards the Plaça do Comércio

via the Rua do Arsenal. Once back in Black Horse Square we found a very pleasant café named Paço de Água in which to have a drink.

The café gave us the opportunity to sit and watch the world go by, but eventually we left and set off up the Rua Aurea

… towards the Plaça do Dom Pedro IV, whose statue dominates the square.

After a spell of retail therapy in a fabric shop, Sue and I continued our journey northward past the magnificent railway station …

... until we reached the Plaça dos Restauradores

… where we found the shuttle-bus stop that took us back to Ventura. By a little after 1.30pm Sue and I were sitting near the Terrace Bar drinking cold drinks. (The air temperature had reached over 22°C/72°F during the day, and by the time we got back to the ship we were rather hot and very thirsty.)

Just before 2.00pm we went to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for a snack lunch … and some more cold drinks! We had thought about going back ashore for a short visit to the nearby Military Museum, but both of us felt too tired to be bothered. As a result we went back to our cabin to read and to rest until the ship set sail.

Ventura set sail from Lisbon at 4.30pm. After turning 180° she ended facing the Ponte 25 de Abril and the open sea.

On her way down river, Ventura sailed past the Plaça do Comércio

… before reaching and then sailing under the Ponte 25 de Abril.

The next major landmark she passed were the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoverers) …

… and the Torre de Belém (Belem Tower).

It did not take long for the ship to reach the open sea, and by 6.00pm she was going at a speed of slightly over 21 knots towards our next port-of-call, Cadiz.

At 7.15pm Sue and I went up to the Terrace Bar for a pre-dinner drink, and at 7.45pm we went up to the Epicurean Restaurant (Deck 17 Aft) for our first meal in one of the ship's select dining venues. The meal and service were – as usual – excellent, and when we finally left the restaurant nearly two hours later, we were both feeling very full.

Both of us was feeling very tired, and so we went down to Deck 15 and walked forward until we reached the open deck area near the Laguna Bar. We sat there for about fifteen minutes before going back to our cabin on Deck 9 to read before it was time to go to sleep.

As the ship's clocks were being adjusted overnight to local Spanish time, we finally turned our lights out and went to sleep at 10.45pm UK time, having changed to time on our clocks and watches to 11.45pm.

Saturday 11th March: Cadiz, Spain
Sue and I were both awake just after 7.45am, and when we looked out of our cabin window Ventura was still on her way towards Cadiz. She finally moored alongside just after 8.30am, having turned around in the harbour so that the port side of the ship was facing the dockside.

Moored just astern and at right angles to Ventura was the Spanish Navy's Sail Training Vessel Juan Sebastián Elcano

… and the Patrol Vessel (ex-Descubierta-class Frigate) Cazadora (P78).

Both Sue and I were feeling less than 100% well when we got up, and after breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant we went up to the Terrace Bar area to sit and discuss what we were going to do. In the end we went back to our cabin to rest until we felt better … but at 10.30am the Captain announced that there was going to be a full crew drill. This involved launching the starboard lifeboats … one of which was stored just beneath our cabin! The noise of it being swung out and launched was very loud, and after trying to doze through it we decided to go ashore … just as it was hauled back to its normal position.

We took a very leisurely stroll out of the dock gates and along the Avenida del Puerto until we reached the roundabout near the old tobacco factory. The former has a fountain at its centre …

… and the latter is now used as a conference and business centre.

We crossed the road and walked the short distance towards the Plaza San Juan de Dios and sat for a while in the small park that is situated at one end of the square.

In the park was a statue of Blaz de Leon …

… the Admiral who led the Spanish forces when they withstood the British siege of Cartagena de Indias (in modern-day Colombia) in 1741.

At one end of the Plaza San Juan de Dios

... is the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) …

… and we walked through the narrow streets from there to the Cathedral.

By then it was getting very hot, and both Sue and I felt that we needed a rest. We therefore made our way back through a maze of narrow streets …

… to Ventura, stopping in the Plaza de Espana

… to rest and to look at the monument to the 1812 Constitution.

We were back aboard Ventura by not long after 1.00pm, and once we had both had a cold drink and a snack lunch we decided to make our way back ashore.

This time we walked along the Calle Mexico

… and Calla Honduras, …

… which took to the northern side of the city. We walked along the promenade, stopping for a short break in the Alameda de Apodaca

… before we reached the Baluarte de la Candelaria.

We then turned inland and followed a somewhat meandering route through narrow streets and small squares.

Sue and I were both feeling thirsty, and stopped for a drink in a small café called the Café la Fabrica.

Suitable refreshed we turned back towards the sea and rejoined the Calla Honduras near to where it joined the Calle Mexico. This time we walked along the top of the seaward ramparts, …

… where a number of ancient cannons have been sited to show what the defences looked like back in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

We descended the ramparts, …

… and found ourselves only a few hundred metres away from the Ventura. We were back aboard just after 5.15pm, tired but feeling much better thanks to the exercise we had taken.

From then on Sue and I rested before getting ready for the evening meal, which was preceded – as usual – by a pre-dinner drink in the Terrace Bar. After dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant we decided to take a walk along the Promenade Deck for a change. It was surprisingly crowded considering that it was 10.30pm, but the air temperature was warm and the wind was not too great.

I finished reading SS-GB before going to sleep and began THEY ALL LOVE JACK: BUSTING THE RIPPER by Bruce Robinson. It is one of the most recent books to pose the question 'Who was Jack the Ripper?', and from what I have heard it exposes the whole thing to be a Masonic conspiracy. I look forward to reading it with interest.

Sunday 12th March 2017: Gibraltar
Ventura had a good passage from Cadiz to Gibraltar, and arrived slightly ahead of schedule. Sue and I were awake early because we had booked a tour, and the sun was only just rising as we got up.

We ate a light breakfast in our cabin, and by 8.50am we were ashore and waiting to join our tour. The minibus left the cruise terminal a little after 9.25am … and things began to good slightly wrong.

We had booked a tour entitled 'City and King's Bastion' but as we drove off the tour guide began talking about the walking tour that we were on. It was quickly pointed out to her that we were expected a different itinerary, but she assured us that she was following the itinerary she had been give.

First the minibus took us to across the airport runway …

… and up to the border with Spain.

We then turned back across the airport and turned up Devil's Tower Road towards Catalan Bay …

… and then along Sir Herbert Miles Road, Dudley Ward Tunnel, and Europa Advance Road to Europa Point.

We stopped there for about thirty minutes, during which time we were able to photograph the Mosque of the Two Holy Custodians, …

… the north coast of Morocco, …

… the remaining 12.5” gun at Harding's Battery, …

… Europa Point Lighthouse, …

… and the Sikorski Memorial.

The minibus then took us to Casemates Square …

... via Europa Road and Line Wall Road. We then walked up Main Street ...

… until we reached the turn off into John Mackintosh Square …

… where the City Hall and Parliament Building …

… are located. We then returned to Main Street and walked to Cathedral Square …

… and thence down Bombhouse Lane towards the Gibraltar Museum.

After a very brief stop at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, we crossed Line Wall Road and entered Commonwealth Park.

Our guide then took us into the King's Bastion. We had all expected to see a reconstructed eighteenth century fortress; what we got was a visit to a leisure centre!

None of the promised guns, uniforms, and artefacts was on show, although there was a small display in a couple of alcoves and some reproductions of paintings in the entrance to the leisure centre.

By this point Sue and had had enough, and we told the guide that we would make our own way back to the ship. We walked back to Main Street and down to Casemates Square, where we had a drink and lunch in Latino's.

Once we had eaten we took one of the shuttle-taxis back to Ventura, and as soon as we had been to the Terrace Bar for a cold drink, we wrote a letter of complaint about our tour. I presented it to the Explorers Desk (Deck 5 Midships) before Ventura set sail, and I was assured that the matter would be looked into.

(The description of the tour that we booked involved three activities:
  • A walk along the fortress walls above Camp Bay (Not visited)
  • A visit to Europa Point (Visited)
  • A visit to King's Bastion to see guns, uniforms and other exhibits relating to the Great Siege (Visited, but nothing listed was seen during our visit)
There was no mention of a visit to the border with Spain, a very short photo-stop at Catalan Bay, or a walk up Main Street to see the Cathedrals and Commonwealth Park.)

Ventura was later leaving Gibraltar than expected due to it taking longer than planned for divers to conduct her annual underwater hull checks and adverse winds coming from the Atlantic. She eventually set sail just after 5.00pm, and was soon well on her way to her next stop, Cartagena.

Sue and I spent what remained of the afternoon and early evening reading before it was time to get ready for the second formal dinner of the cruise. Thanks to the good weather it was possible for us to have our pre-dinner drink in the Terrace Bar, but by the time that dinner was over the wind – which was coming from astern – had increased in strength so much that it was too cold to return to the Terrace Bar. Instead Sue and I took a walk along the Promenade Deck, which was sheltered from the worst of the high winds.

Monday 13th March 2017: Cartagena, Spain … almost!
Overnight the weather deteriorated, and by the time we reached Cartagena the sea was too rough and the wind too strong for Ventura to enter the harbour by 9.00am.

The ship anchored outside the harbour, and whilst she was there one of the Spanish Navy's submarines – which are based in Cartagena – sailed past on her way out to deeper waters.

Whilst Sue and I were eating breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant the Captain announced that he hoped to attempt to enter harbour at some point around midday. In the meantime the ship's Entertainment Staff began organising additional on-board events and the Shore Excursion Team began rearranging the start times for the tours they had organised.

After breakfast we tried to go out onto the open deck for some fresh air, but it was so cold and windy that it was too uncomfortable to stay there. We therefore returned to our cabin to read until the situation – and the weather – became clearer.

As the morning progressed the wind speed began to drop slightly … and was replaced by heavy rain. At 11.50am the Captain announced that he was going to try to take the ship into harbour as soon after midday as possible, but that he was going to have to request the use of two tugs to do so. By 12.15pm the anchor had been retrieved and the local pilot had come aboard, and thirty minutes later Ventura began to sail towards the harbour entrance. The two tugs guided her in, and by 1.00pm Ventura was manoeuvring towards the outer mole through a torrential rainstorm … and then the wind speed increased again to over 40 knots.

At 1.05pm the Deputy Captain announced that the change in the weather meant that Ventura could not enter the harbour safely, and that she was being turned around to go out into deeper water. By this time the rainstorm had developed into a thunderstorm, and lightening could be seen along the horizon.

Weather conditions did not get any better as time progressed – in fact they got worse, and the ship was hit by a short but violent hailstorm that lasted over five minutes – and at 1.40pm the Captain announced that he was not going to be able to take Ventura into Cartagena. Ventura therefore turned seawards and began to sail slowly towards Malaga, the next port-of-call. (During his announcement the Captain mentioned that the bad weather was affecting the whole southern coast of Spain, and that there was the possibility that it might not improve a great deal by the time the ship reached Malaga next day.)

At 2.10pm Sue and I decided to go for some lunch … and after some discussion we ended up in the Glass House Bar. We ate a leisurely meal, after which we went for a walk along Deck 7, paying a short visit to the ship's shops as we did. Once we reached the Havana Show Lounge (Deck 7 Aft) we went up to the Terrace Bar for some fresh air, but although it was no longer raining, it was too cold to stay there. We therefore walked forward along Deck 15 until we reached the undercover area near the Laguna Bar. Sue and I stayed there for about five minutes before taking the nearby lift back to our cabin on Deck 9.

Just after 4.00pm Sue and I went up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea … which consisted of a drink and a small cake. We then returned to our cabin to read before it was time to get ready for dinner, the theme for which was – somewhat ironically – tropical!

It was too cold and windy for us to have a pre-dinner drink in the Terrace Bar, so we went to the Glass House Bar instead. This was surprisingly empty, and we had no trouble find somewhere to sit. After our drink Sue and I went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner, which we ate on our own as our usual four table companions had decided to go to one of the other dining venues for a change.

After dinner we went out onto the Promenade Deck for a short walk, but the wind was quite strong and we only stayed out in the open for ten minutes before we returned inside. We were back in our cabin just after 10.00pm, and spent the next hour or so getting ready for bed and reading.

Tuesday 14th March 2017: Malaga, Spain
We were awoken at 7.30am by an announcement by the Captain. The weather system that had prevented Ventura from docking in Cartagena was still off the coast of Spain, and the port of Malaga was closed to shipping until the 45 to 50 knots wind speed dropped considerably. The forecast was that this would happen by 10.00am, and in the meantime the ship would proceed further out to sea where the sea was slightly less rough.

As we were both awake we took our time getting ready to go for breakfast. At 8.55am the Captain informed the passengers that as the weather had improved somewhat and the wind speed had dropped to 20 knots, he was planning to pick up the pilot at 9.15am so that the ship should be alongside the dock by 10.00am.

Things went according to plan, and at 10.00am Ventura was moored alongside the cruise terminal and awaiting the airbridges to be put in place.

Sue was feeling somewhat unwell, and because it was raining and lots passengers were streaming ashore almost as soon as they were able, we decided to remain aboard until at least 11.00am. We took a short walk along the Promenade Deck after breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant, and then returned to our cabin to read and to rest.

Just after 11.00am we went ashore. Luckily the airbridge kept us dry until we reached the cruise terminal, and the queue for the shuttle-bus into Malaga was under cover. We had to wait for about fifteen minutes until we were able to board the shuttle-bus, and by 11.40am we were in the just outside the dock gates.

The rain had eased off slightly whilst we had been waiting to board the shuttle-bus, but by the time we got off, the rain was torrential. We made our way towards the Cathedral, but although the walk took less than ten minutes, we were both soaking wet by the time we got there.

Sue and I decided to have a café con leche in a nearby café (the La Taberna del Obispo) …

… after which we set off in search of a taxi rank. We found one close by, and took a taxi back to the cruise terminal. The rain was still falling very heavily when we got there, and after passing through the security checks we were back aboard Ventura just after 1.00pm.

After getting warm and dry – and having a hot drink – Sue and I stayed in our cabin until 2.15pm, when we went up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for lunch. It was very crowded, but we managed to get a table in the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant, and we stayed there until 2.45pm.

Sue and I then returned to our cabin, and stayed there reading and resting until it was time to get ready for dinner. Just before 8.00pm we went down to the Tamarind Club to attend to the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party. (The Peninsular Club is P&O's loyalty scheme, and regular cruisers – like us – are invited to special events on every cruise.) Captain Banach told us all about the forthcoming changes to P&O's itineraries for 2018, and then drew a prize draw for a commemorative photograph album and bottle of champagne.

The party finished at 8.30pm, at which point we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner. After dinner we went up to the Terrace Bar in the hope that we could watch Ventura pass through the Straits of Gibraltar, but the visibility wasn't good enough to do so.

On our return to our cabin we found a letter had been delivered informing us that next morning we had to present ourselves – with our passports and a completed entry form – at the Tamarind Club at 8.15am so that we could be interviewed by a member of the Moroccan Sûreté Nationale. We therefore made sure that the forms were completed and our passports readied before going to sleep.

Wednesday 15th March 2017: Casablanca, Morocco
Because we had to be interviewed by the Moroccan Sûreté Nationale before we could go ashore, we set our alarm clock for 7.00am … but we were both awake by 6.30am. Ventura was already approaching Casablanca, and there was a slight sea mist outside.

The ship docked just before 8.00am in the midst of the commercial dock area …

… and not far from one of the Royal Moroccan Navy's bases.

By then Sue and I had gone to the Tamarind Club, only to discover that because we had changed our tour and were remaining within the confines of Casablanca, the Moroccan Sûreté Nationale no longer needed to talk to us.

Rather than sit about, we disembarked once we had returned our passports to our cabin. Our tour – which was entitled 'Leisurely Casablanca' – actually left slightly early, and our first stop was only a fifteen minute drive away. On the way we drove past the famous 'Rick's Café.'

Our first stop was at the Hassan II Mosque.

This is reputed to be the third largest in the world (The main mosques on Mecca and Medina are bigger) and can hold 25,000 worshippers in side and 75,000 outside!

The mosque's minaret is 650'/200m high, and it is difficult to grasp how tall it is until one stands near to it.

There were numerous police patrols in the area, and during our stay I saw what looked like two soldiers armed with HK MP5s on patrol with a police officer.

Our next stop was the Hotel Bellerive …

… which was situated on Casablanca's Corniche Boulevard. We were able to drink the local beverage – mint tea with lots of sugar – whilst looking at the Atlantic Ocean and the beach.

Our final stop was in Mohamed V Square, which has been the centre of local government since the French Protectorate in 1912. The square is currently being remodelled and many of the surrounding buildings were surrounded by safety fencing.

On our drive back to the ship we passed the Catholic Cathedral, which was being renovated.

We were back aboard Ventura by just before 11.30am, and because we had only eaten a croissant for breakfast, Sue and I were feeling hungry. Luckily breakfast was still being served in the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant, and we both ate some fresh fruit.

Sue and I returned to our cabin just after midday, and discussed what we wanted to do for the rest of the day. In the end we decided to take the shuttle-bus back into Casablanca, and it dropped us off near the Medina. We walked past many of the shops that form the boundary of the Medina …

… and even into the African market that is situated at one end.

Eventually our walk took us into a less crowded part of the Medina …

… where we found a small shop selling souvenirs. I bought a Moroccan Fez and a Moroccan flag, and Sue bought a shot glass, a commemorative plate, and a small wooden inlaid box. The cost – after a degree of haggling – was less that we had thought it might be, and we walked back to the shuttle-bus pick-up point feeling very pleased.

Sue and I were back aboard Ventura by 2.30pm, and after a cold drink in the Terrace Bar we went for a snack in the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant. By then we were both feeling tired, and soon after 3.20pm we were back in our cabin reading and resting.

Ventura was just leaving Casablanca when we arrived at the Terrace Bar for our pre-dinner drink, and in the dark we were able to see the green laser light from the minaret of the Hassan II Mosque which points eastwards towards Mecca.

We joined three of our table companions in the Bay Tree Restaurant at 8.30pm for dinner. (The missing person had decided to watch a football match on the ship's satellite TV link rather than to eat dinner. Needless to say his wife was not very happy with his decision.) As usual the food, company, and service were excellent, and none of us got up to leave the table until almost 10.30pm.

Because it had become quite windy whilst we had been eating, Sue and I decided to go for a walk along the Promenade Deck before going to bed. I read several more chapters of Bruce Robinson's THEY ALL LOVE JACK: BUSTING THE RIPPER before going to sleep. It is proving to be quite interesting, even though I find some of his assumptions and conclusions little better than those of the Ripperologists he seems to dislike so much. That said, he at least seems to have done a lot of research into the subject – especially into what have previously been described as the hoax letters – and has put the events surround the Ripper Murders into an historical context. For example, I had not realised that the events that led to the disgrace of Parnell were happening at the same time, not that the remains of a young women had been found in the foundations of the new Scotland Yard buildings soon after the first murder.

Thursday 16th March 2017: At sea
Sue and I were awake just before 8.00am, by which time Ventura was well on her way towards Madeira.

As it was the first sea day since we had visited Lisbon on Friday 10th March, it was to be expected that we would take things easy for the day. Nothing was further from the truth. Sue and I had been invited to attend the Peninsular Club Lunch for Baltic and Ligurian tier passengers that started at midday, and at 4.00pm were had arranged an interview with the Excursions Manager to discuss our complaint about the trip we had gone on in Gibraltar.

After eating breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant we went to the Future Cruise Desk (Deck 5 Midships) to book a cruise that will take place later in the year. This took us about fifteen minutes, after which we went up to the Promenade Deck. Part of the deck was closed off and a number of workmen were moving large crates labelled 'water bags' from the outside deck to inside the ship. The workmen appeared to be Italian, and were working under the supervision of one of the ship's engineers.

(The water bags had been used to test the capacity and safety of the machinery that lowers the ship's lifeboats. The water bags had been filled and then placed aboard the lifeboats to simulate the weight of 150 or more passengers. The lifeboats were then launched to test the ability of the machinery to deal with the laden lifeboats. This was all part of the ship's annual safety inspection.)

By this time we were both feeling thirsty, and made our way up to the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant where we collected some drink before going outside to the seating are near the Terrace Bar. As the sun was shining, the area was rather crowded, but we managed to find a couple of seats.

By 11.30am we had returned to our cabin and had begun to get ready for the Peninsular Club Lunch. It took place in Cinnamon Restaurant, and started at midday. We sat on a table with two other couples, and our host was the Deputy Electro-Mechanical Engineer. The menu was – as usual – an example of the best cuisine available on board P&O ships. I ate:
  • White Onion Soup with Fried Shallot Rings and Parsley Oil
  • Mango Sorbet
  • Tournedos of Beef, with Slow Cooked Rib Mille Feuille and Cognac Sauce
  • Chocolate Fudge Cake, with Raspberries, Candied Walnuts, and White Chocolate Cream
  • Coffee, with Pistachio Madeleines
We left the restaurant just after 2.10pm, having first thanked our host and said goodbye to our table companions. Sue and I then went up to the Promenade Deck and sat there for thirty minutes watching the sea and relaxing.

We were back in our cabin by 2.50pm, and after looking at the guidebook for Madeira in general and Funchal in particular, we made plans for our visit to Funchal. Just before 4.00pm we went down the Explorers Desk to the meet the Excursions Manager to discuss the complaint I had made about our trip in Gibraltar.

The interview was not as constructive as we would have hoped. Rather than a simple apology that the description that had been published by P&O in January when we booked the trip did not match the itinerary we followed, we were informed that had we watched the port presentation that took place whilst we were aboard Ventura or checked with the Explorers Desk during the cruise, we would have been informed that the trip's itinerary was not what we expected it to be. Rather pointless comments, we thought, as we had booked the trip before the cruise based on the description in the brochure … as P&O recommends in that same brochure. We felt that our comments had been read … and rejected as inconsequential due to our culpable misreading and misunderstanding of the original brochure description.

We were not happy with the results. A simple apology would have sufficed; instead we left feeling that we would probably not use the Excursion Team's services again on future cruises … and we will make P&O aware of that fact.

After the interview Sue and I went for a much-needed drink in the Terrace Bar. After a chat with one of the couples we met at the Peninsular Club Lunch we returned to our cabin to read until it was time to get ready for the third formal dinner of the cruise.

Despite it being relatively cold and windy, we returned to the Terrace Bar for our pre-dinner drink, but by the time that dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant was over at 10.15pm, it was too cold to go back on deck there, and we went out on to the Promenade Deck instead.

Friday 17th March 2017: Funchal, Madeira
Sue and I were awoken at 7.15 am by the sound and vibration of the ship's thrusters being used to manoeuvre Ventura alongside the quay in Funchal harbour.

Because we woke up earlier than we had expected, we had eaten breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant by just after 9.00am. As we had not planned to go ashore until closer to 10.00am, Sue and I went up to the Terrace Bar to sit and have a drink. The Terrace Bar gave us a great view across the harbour …

… and of the seafront of Funchal.

By 9.45am we had collected our bags and cameras from our cabin, and by 10.00am we were aboard the shuttle-bus and on our way to the centre of Funchal. The drop-off point was at one end of Avenida Arriga

… and we walked along it until we reached the Cathedral ().

Once inside we were able to see the magnificent altar piece …

… and Lady Chapel, …

… as well as the richly decorated ceiling above the altar piece and transept walls.

As Mass was due to start, the Cathedral was beginning to get crowded and we left before the service began.

We walked along the Rua do Aljube, …

… until we reached the junction with the Rua 5 de Outubro and Rua 31 de Janeiro.

We crossed the junction and continued our walk down the Rue Dr Fernáo Ornelas, …

… stopping along the way to do some retail therapy.

Sue and I then crossed the Rua do Visconde de Anadia and Rua Brigadeiro Oudnot so that we could visit the local market, the Mercado dos Lavradores.

We made our way upstairs …

… to a shop that sells the local delicacy, bolo de mel (honey cake) … which we bought!

We then paid a visit to the fish market …

… before walking through the lower part of the market where the shops selling local produce are situated.

From the market we walked towards the sea along Rua Brigadeiro Oudnot and then turned left into Rua Dom Carlos I.

A few hundred yards along the road we came to the Madeira Story Centre …

… where we spent time on the second floor looking at the exhibits in the Centre before going to the third floor to eat lunch in its restaurant.

For a starter we both ate some bolo de caco, a local leaven bread that is cooked on a hot stone and served with garlic and herb butter. For her main course Sue ate a locally-caught fish that had been grilled, and I ate an espetada. This comprises cubes of beef fillet that has had garlic and salt rubbed into it before it is gilled over a wood fire on a skewer of linden wood. Mine was served with milho frito (deep-fried cubes of maize), salad, and fried potatoes.

We had finished eating by 2.30pm, and although it was raining very slightly, we began to walk back to the shuttle-bus pick-up point …

… along the seafront. Our route took us across the Plaça da Autonomia

… and along the Avenida do Mar e das Comunidades Madeirenses.

When we reached the Avenida Zarco, we saw a sign that indicated that a military museum (the Museu Militar da Madeira) was open in part of the Palácio de São Lourenço, which is the residence of the Island Governor.

Unfortunately the museum forbade photography of the exhibits, which is a great pity as they were well presented with most having captions in Portuguese and English.

As we left the museum, one of the staff told us that the tour of the Governor's Palace was about to begin … so we joined the small party of visitors who were waiting in the entrance to be taken around. Our guide did not speak English, but we were provided with some very useful notes that told us about the building's history. Photography was not permitted in the Palace, which was a great pity as the rooms we visited were magnificent.

Our tour had finished by 3.30pm, and within ten minutes of leaving the Palace we were aboard the shuttle-bus and on our way back to Ventura. By the time we back onboard the ship we were both feeling rather thirsty, and went up to the Terrace Bar … just as a rainstorm started. Luckily we were able to find somewhere under cover, but with the rain came a cold wind, and by 4.15pm Sue and I were back in our cabin.

Ventura left Funchal not long after 5.30pm, and almost immediately began to experience rough weather and strong winds. Sue and I chose to have our pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar because it was so wet and windy on deck, and although the sea was not as rough after we had finished eating dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant as it had been before, we decided to restrict our after dinner breath of fresh air to a walk along the Promenade Deck.

We were back in our cabin by 10.30pm, and by 11.00pm we were in bed trying to read … which was none too easy as the ship was moving quite significantly. Luckily Sue and I are good sailors, and the movement was merely irksome and inconvenient.

Saturday 18th March 2017: At sea
Overnight the combination of high winds and heavy seas led to Ventura suffering from a very jerky roll. It was more akin to the movement one finds on the London Underground than at sea, and needless to say, both Sue and I had an interrupted night's sleep.

Luckily the day was going to be spent at sea, so we were able to have a bit of a lie in before getting up to get ready for breakfast. In fact we did not reach the Bay Tree Restaurant to eat breakfast until 9.45am, but because we were sat on our own, the service was quite quick and we were finished by 10.15am.

Sue and I decided that we would watch the lecture by the maritime historian Ken Vard entitled 'The Forgotten Greats'. Because we expected the venue – the Havana Show Lounge – to be crowded, we retrieved our Kindles from our cabin and were seated in the Show Lounge by 10.30am.

This proved to be a wise decision as by the time the lecture began at 11.15am, there were only a few vacant seats left.

We have attended some of Ken Vard's lectures on previous cruises and as usual he was on great form. He talked about Brunel's Great Britain and Great Eastern as well as the German transatlantic liners that were built just before the First World War. He also covered the history of Fascist Italy's attempt to win the Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossing and the fate of the Nazi Party's 'Strength through Joy' cruise ships. He finished with a brief history of the Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Britain.

He overran his time slot by nearly fifteen minutes, and we did not leave the Havana Show Lounge until just after 12.15pm. By this time Sue and I were feeling thirsty, and because it seemed to be quite windy outside, we opted to go to the Glass House Bar.

In the end we stayed there drinking and reading for an hour, at which point we decided to go to lunch. After a short detour via our cabin to drop off our Kindles, Sue and I went up to Deck 15. It was too cold and windy to have something from the Grill or the Pizza Bar near the Laguna Pool (Deck 15 Midships), so we went through to the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant instead.

After lunch we ventured outside to the Terrace Bar in the hope that its sheltered location would mean that it would be pleasant to sit there for a while, but although the sun was shining, the wind was eddying around the back of the ship and making it rather blustery and cold. We stayed there for about fifteen minutes before deciding to go back to our cabin to get warm again and to do some reading.

As the afternoon progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse, and with it came increased movement of the ship due to winds of up to 50 knots. In the end, except for the odd foray outside for some fresh air, Sue and I stayed in our cabin until it was time to go to the Epicurean Restaurant for our second select dining experience of the cruise.

We toyed with the idea of having a pre-dinner drink in the Terrace Bar, but in the end we chose to go to the Glass House Bar. It was not too crowded, and we were able to get a drink quite easily. We sat there watching people walking past on their way to the Arena Theatre until it was time to go up to the Epicurean Restaurant for dinner. (Interestingly the passengers going past were on their way to see a show that did not start until 8.30pm … and some of them were so keen to get a good seat that they were prepared to get to the theatre nearly an hour beforehand.)

Sue and I reached the restaurant a little before 8.00pm and we were shown to our table by the senior waiter. The meal was very good, and the two hours we spent there seemed to slip by very quickly. (I ate Ibérico ham, cheese and olives for my starter, followed by a 28-day sirloin steak with triple-cooked chips, onions, garlic, and a Madeiran jus, and a glazed banana and rum dessert that was served with popcorn and a peanut butter comfit. Sue ate a plate of green and white asparagus with pressed ham and two types of cooked egg (coddled and poached) as her starter, followed by a whole Dover Sole on the bone, accompanied by seasonal vegetables. She finished with a dessert that consisted of all the elements of a traditional trifle served as separately on the same dish.)

After dinner we thought about going down to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air, but chose to go to the covered area near the Laguna Pool instead. It was so cold and windy that we stayed there just a matter of minutes before going down to our cabin, where we sat for an hour or so before going to bed to read and to sleep.

Sunday 19th March 2017: At sea … with another short diversion to La Coruña
The weather had not apparently changed much overnight, and Ventura had continued to make her way up the coast of Portugal. By 8.00am – when Sue and I were both awake and getting ready for the day – the ship was roughly level with Porto.

We had a leisurely breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant followed by a very short spell on the Promenade Deck. Sue and I then visited the Reception Desk (Desk 6 Midships) to collect a printout of our on-board account before taking a look around the ship's shops. Sue bought a few small items, and then we returned to our cabin as there seemed to be nowhere to sit in the public areas. (Walking through the various bars whilst looking for somewhere to sit, I was struck with how miserable some people manage to look when they are sitting reading. I don't expect everyone to sit there with an inane grin on their face, but some people manage to contrive a disgruntled look on their face regardless of the circumstances.)

At 12.40pm Captain Banach announced that Ventura was diverting her course towards La Coruña as there was a patient in the ship's Medical Centre who might need to be offloaded in order for them to get urgent medical treatment. He told everyone that it was expected that Ventura would reach La Coruña between 7.00pm and 8.00pm, and that her stay would be as brief as possible.

By 1.00pm we were both feeling in need of a change of scene, and we went down to Deck 7 and walked through to the Havana Show Lounge. We stayed there until 2.00pm, when Ken Vard arrived to present a lecture entitled 'The Loved, The Damned, and The Forgotten: The story of the Titanic and her sisters'. Although we had heard it on a previous cruise, we stayed to listen to the lecture, and did not go up to lunch until it had finished at 2.50pm.

Sue and I then went up to the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant for a late lunch and a drink, and by 3.40pm we had returned to our cabin. The on-screen map showed that Ventura was much closer to land and was on course for La Coruña.

All afternoon and into the early evening the ship got closer and closer to La Coruña.

By 6.30pm the shore of Spain was clearly visible on the starboard side of the ship, and as it became dusk the lights of buildings began to twinkle in the gloom.

At 7.05pm Ventura passed the famous Torre de Hércules (Tower of Hercules) lighthouse just outside La Coruña …

… and by 7.15pm the ship had slowed to 5 knots and was just outside the harbour entrance to pick up the local Pilot. The Pilot Boat then escorted Ventura into the harbour.

Ventura made slow progress into the harbour, …

... and by 7.45pm she was still some way from the cruise terminal.

Sue and I were dressed for the final formal dinner of the cruise and were up in the Terrace Bar as Ventura finally docked alongside at 8.10pm. The ambulance had picked up the casualty that was being evacuated as we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner at 8.30pm, and by the time we had ordered our meal the ship was already making her way out of La Coruña towards the open sea.

After dinner we had a short stroll along the Promenade Deck before going to our cabin to get ready for bed. Just before turned the lights out I checked Ventura's position on the on-screen map display, and she was already steaming at just over 19 knots into the southern part of the Bay of Biscay.

Monday 20th March 2017: At sea
Considering the area's reputation for bad weather and poor seas, Ventura's passage overnight through the Bay of Biscay was quite uneventful. We woke up around 8.00am, and although the ship was rolling slowly, the sea seemed to be relatively calm and the wind had dropped.

We had eaten breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant by 10.15am, and after a short spell on the Promenade Deck, Sue went for a look around the ship's shops for any late bargains and I went back to our cabin to collect our Kindles. We met up again near the Tamarind Club, and from there we walked along Deck 7 to the Havana Show Lounge.

We wanted to get there well before 11.15am so that we could be sure to get seats for Ken Vard's last lecture of the cruise. It was entitled 'End of an era', and dealt with the last of the great ocean liners to be built.

He finished just after midday, and by 12.10pm we had begun packing. We took a break at 1.00pm for a much-needed drink in the Terrace Bar, but by 1.30pm we were back in our cabin to finish packing the last of the luggage that needed to be put outside our cabin before we went to dinner. This did not take us very long, and just after 2.00pm Sue and I went to the Beach House Self-Service Restaurant to eat lunch.

We spent the rest of the afternoon – other than for a short visit to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for tea – in our cabin reading and resting. As the afternoon had progressed, the weather had gradually improved, and although the ship still had a slow roll, the clouds had thinned and the occasional patch of blue sky was visible.

Just before 8.00pm Sue and I went up to the Terrace Bar for our last pre-dinner drink of the cruise. Despite the fact that the weather was pleasant and the air temperature was seasonally high, the area around the bar was almost empty. As a result we were served very quickly and had finished our drinks by 8.20pm. The lift took us straight down to the Bay Tree Restaurant, and within minutes we were sitting out our usual table with our four table companions.

The food and service were of their usual high standard, and the conversation around the table covered what we had seen and heard during the cruise, and what cruises we had booked to go on next. Finally it was time to take our leave of both the two couples we had shared a table with and the two waiters who had served us so well. This is always a rather sad thing to have to do, but parting company with people you have got to know and share experiences with is part and parcel of cruising.

We were back in our cabin by 10.40pm, having first had a short walk along the Promenade Deck. The final pieces of luggage was packed and put outside the door for collection, and soon after 11.00pm we were both in bed reading prior to going to sleep.

Tuesday 21st March 2017: Southampton
The sound of Ventura docking at 5.45am woke us up ...

... and we were ready to go to breakfast in the Bay Tree Restaurant at 7.45am. Even though it was still early, the docks were already bustling with life.

We had finished eating by 8.20am, and by 8.30pm we were queuing to go ashore. For once we were able to find our luggage without too much difficulty, and by 8.50am we had reached the valet parking area and were loading our luggage into our car.

The traffic in Southampton was quite light, but once we reached the M3 it became a lot heavier, and it did not begin to ease until we reached Winchester. We stopped off for a short break at Winchester Services to buy enough food to last us for a couple of days, and then resumed our journey home.

We made good progress until we were less than five miles from home, when we were caught up in a traffic jam that was the result of a major accident earlier in the morning. Despite this hold-up we were home by 12.20pm … and already looking forward to our next cruise!