Saturday 29 February 2020

The Portable Colonial Wargame book: The campaign map

Starting out with the enhanced section from the original Zubia map ...

... I overlaid it with a 10 x 16 squared grid.

This gave the rough coordinates for each of the towns and villages as well as the grid square through which the local track system ran.

I then transferred these locations to a new 10 x 16 squared grid ...

... indicating the position of the main settlements using their initials and the grid squares that contained tracks with a dash (-).

I then removed the superfluous grid squares.

I then marked each town and village with a large or small circle inside each of the relevant grid squares, leaving space for additional features to be marked therein.

The next stage was to add in the course of the River Zub ...

... and to remove several grid squares that were no longer required.

I then added hills to show where the terrain would be hilly ...

... and a range of impassable hills that prohibited movement between adjacent grid squares.

I am happy with the end result, and despite few minor errors along the way, it only took me a couple of hours to produce.

Friday 28 February 2020

Nugget 324

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET from the printer yesterday, and I will post it out to members of Wargame Developments later today. With luck, it should be with them by early next week.

I have already uploaded the PDF version of this issue to the Wargame Developments website, and it can be opened using the password that was sent out to all members when they re-subscribed.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth issue of THE NUGGETto be published for the 2019-2020 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Please note that although the cover states that it is the March 2020 issue, at the top of each page of the printed edition the date is shown as March 2019. This error was not spotted until after this issue of THE NUGGET had been printed. The error has been corrected on the online electronic version of THE NUGGET.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

The Portable Colonial Wargame book: Slow progress is being made

Just when I thought that I had finally finished all the work I had to do for the Centenary History of the Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge No.4090 ... I discovered that I had to design a suitable cover. This turned out to be a more time-consuming job than I expected, and as a result, work on my PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME book has slowed.

That said, I have at least finished drawing the map that will be the basis of the simple campaign system I am going to include, and it looks like this:

I will be using this map as the basis for the stylised gridded map I will be working on next, and I want the end result to be similar to the map I produced in August last year.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

I have been to ... Cavalier 2020

Over recent years, Cavalier has been held at the Angel Centre, Tonbridge ... and it has become a place where quite a few of the wargame bloggers based in the south-east of England have a chance to meet up and have a chat.

This year, work on the nearby A21 meant that there anyone wanting to go to Cavalier had to negotiate their way around a the diversions that had been put in place. In my case, I drove along the M20 to the top of Wrotham Hill, and then used the A227 to go across country to the northern part of Tonbridge. By doing this, I hoped to avoid the worst of the possible hold-ups ... and it seemed to be reasonably successful. The journey took me just over an hour, and by 10.05am I was driving around the car park that serves the Angel Centre and the local branch of Sainsburys, looking for somewhere to park.

This took me a few minutes, and it was just after 10.10am that I was approaching the entrance to the Angel Centre.

There was no queue, and after paying my £5.00 entrance fee, I entered the main hall being used for the show.

Almost immediately I walked into Postie, ...

... Ray Rousell, Big Lee (although, since he has lost so much weight, he really ought to be called Medium Lee!), and David Crook.

We had a bit of a chat (mainly about what we had on our shopping lists), and then David and I went back to the car park to swap so stuff. (I had some excess Del Prado 25/28mm-scale pre-painted Napoleonic figures and 15mm-scale World War II figures and vehicles to pass on to David, and in return received some Del Prado 25/28mm-scale pre-painted Napoleonic cavalry, some 20mm-scale World War II figures and vehicles, and a spare hexed terrain cloth.)

On our return, we had the opportunity to have a chat with Henry Hyde before parting company to look at the various games that were at the show and to buy the stuff on our shopping lists.

Friday Night Firefight: Best of Enemies (28mm-scale Crusades participation game)

Hailsham Wargames Club: Late Romans vs Goths (28mm-scale demonstration game)

Bring on the Bad Guys: Superhero (28mm-scale Modern Pulp/Superhero participation game)

Maidstone Wargames Society: Biggles - The Island at the Top of the World (28mm-scale Fantasy participation game)

Milton Hundred Wargame Club: Der Kampf um den Krug (28mm-scale Napoleonic Skirmish demonstration game)

Deal Wargames Society: “Shall we dance ?” (20mm-scale 1933 Bowradet Rebellion demonstration game)

SEEMS: "The Colonel’s Jammed and the Gatling’s Dead" (28mm-scale Colonial demonstration game)

Cheshunt Wargames Club: "Mosquito Strike Norway" (1/300th-scale Air Combat participation game)

Society of Ancients: Battle of Paratakene (28mm-scale participation game)

Wadhurst Wargamers and role-players: Dungeons and Dragons (28mm-scale Fantasy participation game)

Tonbridge Wargames Club: Fight or Flight (28mm-scale French & Indian Wars participation game)

Crawley Wargames Club: Escape from the Aztecs (28mm-scale Jungle Chase participation game)

Cavalier remains a great local wargame show, and although it seemed a bit less crowded this year, one hopes to see it continue to be part of the wargame scene in south-east England for a long time to come.

Monday 24 February 2020

Nugget 324

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue to me last night, and I intend to take it to the printer today or tomorrow. With any luck, it should be ready for me to collect and post out to members by the end of the week.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2019-2020 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Sunday 23 February 2020

Maigret et moi

On of my abiding passions is reading crime stories, and amongst my favourites are those written by Georges Simenon about the Parisian detective, Jules Maigret.

I first became aware of the Maigret stories as a child, when I watched Rupert Davies portraying the character on BBC TV from 1960 to 1963.

Rupert Davies as Maigret.
Since then he has been portrayed on UK TV by Sir Michael Gambon ...

... and Rowan Atkinson.

Jules Amedée François Maigret is a Commissaire (Commissioner or Chief Inspector) of the Brigade Criminelle (Direction Régionale de Police Judiciaire de Paris). As such, he investigates major crimes in and around Paris (and sometimes outside that region) under the direction of an Examining Magistrate. He is married to Louise Maigret (who is usually just referred to in the books as Madame Maigret), and was born in the village of Saint-Fiacre in the Allier Department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of central France, where his father (Evariste Maigret) was the bailiff and land agent for the local landowner.

In 2013 Penguin Books announced that they were going to re-publish new translations of all the Maigret novels, a task that was completed in January this year. Over the past few years I have been reading (or in some cases, re-reading) the novels in no particular order, and so far, I have finished those shown in bold below:
  1. Pietr the Latvian
  2. The Late Monsieur Gallet
  3. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien
  4. The Carter of La Providence
  5. The Yellow Dog
  6. Night at the Crossroads
  7. A Crime in Holland
  8. The Grand Banks Cafe
  9. A Man's Head
  10. The Dancer at the Gai Moulin
  11. The Two-Penny Bar
  12. The Shadow Puppet
  13. The Saint-Fiacre Affair
  14. The Flemish Shop
  15. The Madman of Bergerac
  16. The Misty Harbour
  17. Liberty Bar
  18. Lock No. 1
  19. Maigret
  20. Cecile is Dead
  21. The Cellars of the Majestic
  22. The Judge's House
  23. Signed, Picpus
  24. Inspector Cadaver
  25. Félicie
  26. Maigret Gets Angry
  27. Maigret in New York
  28. Maigret's Holiday
  29. Maigret's Dead Man
  30. Maigret's First Case
  31. My Friend Maigret
  32. Maigret at the Coroner's
  33. Maigret and the Old Lady
  34. Madame Maigret's Friend
  35. Maigret's Memoirs
  36. Maigret at Picratt's
  37. Maigret Takes a Room
  38. Maigret and the Tall Woman
  39. Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters
  40. Maigret's Revolver
  41. Maigret and the Man on the Bench
  42. Maigret is Afraid
  43. Maigret's Mistake
  44. Maigret Goes to School
  45. Maigret and the Dead Girl
  46. Maigret and the Minister
  47. Maigret and the Headless Corpse
  48. Maigret Sets a Trap
  49. Maigret's Failure
  50. Maigret Enjoys Himself
  51. Maigret Travels
  52. Maigret's Doubts
  53. Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses
  54. Maigret's Secret
  55. Maigret in Court
  56. Maigret and the Old People
  57. Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
  58. Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse
  59. Maigret and the Saturday Caller
  60. Maigret and the Tramp
  61. Maigret's Anger
  62. Maigret and the Ghost
  63. Maigret Defends Himself
  64. Maigret's Patience
  65. Maigret and the Nahour Case
  66. Maigret's Pickpocket
  67. Maigret Hesitates
  68. Maigret in Vichy
  69. Maigret's Childhood Friend
  70. Maigret and the Killer
  71. Maigret and the Wine Merchant
  72. Maigret's Madwoman
  73. Maigret and the Loner
  74. Maigret and the Informer
  75. Maigret and Monsieur Charles
I've also read some of the short stories including:
  • Maigret's Pipe
  • Maigret's Christmas
  • Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook
  • The Little Restaurant in Les Ternes
I still have some way to go before I have read all the books, but I seriously hope to manage this task over the next few years.

Saturday 22 February 2020

The Portable Colonial Wargame book: A progress report

Whilst on my recent cruise, I used some of the free time during the sea days to do some work on my PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME book.

At present, the Contents page looks like this:

As things stand at present, the following chapters are pretty well finished, although some photographs and diagrams have yet to be added:
  • 'The Gatling's jammed ...' Colonial Wargame Rules
  • 'The Widow at Windsor' Colonial Wargame Rules
  • Railways and Ships
  • A playing card-driven turn sequence
  • Heroic Leadership
  • A simple tabletop terrain generator
  • Appendix 1: Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-85)
  • Appendix 2: Heroic Leadership cards
Of the other chapters, the following are in half-complete draft form:
  • Organising and basing units
  • A simple Colonial campaign system
With luck (and some spare time over the next couple of weeks), I hope to make a lot more progress. My aim is to try to have the book ready to publish by April, but as I have written in the past, I'd rather be slightly later than rush to finish the book by a self-imposed deadline.

Friday 21 February 2020

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ): Issue 176

I had only been back from our recent cruise when the latest copy of SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen, the quarterly journal of the Victorian Military Society) arrived in the post.

As usual, the eclectic mix of articles in this issue were of great interest me, even if they did not all cover areas of military history that I normally want to read about.
  • 'Shot by a Fanatic': The Life and Death of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Henry Le Marchant (1853 - 1899) by Dr Andrew Windrow
  • The Incidents at Kurnool and Truckee by David Howell
  • The Road to iSandlwana 2019 - Brecon 2019 by Tim Rose
  • The Military Police during Queen Victoria's Reign by Toby Brayley
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Can it be diagnosed retrospectively? by John Sly
  • Book Reviews by Roger T Stearn, Rodney Atwood, and Harold E Raugh Jr
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society

Thursday 20 February 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: English Civil War

Whilst I was away on my recent cruise, Martin Smith fought an English Civil War battle using Alan Saunders' ECW variant of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. The report is featured on the game's Facebook page, and as not everyone either has access to or wishes to belong to Facebook, I have shared some of the photographs of the battle below.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Martin Smith.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

I have been to ... Spain and Portugal

Sunday 2nd February: Southampton

In the expectation that our journey would take much longer than usual, Sue and I were both awake by 6.00am, and by 7.50am we were washed and dressed, had both eaten a couple of snack bars, had each had something to drink, and had loaded our luggage into our car. Minutes later, we were on our way towards the M25 and our eventual destination, Southampton.

Because it was early on a Sunday morning, the roads were emptier than usual, and we had reached the M3 junction with the M25 by just after 9.00am. We stopped at Winchester Services for breakfast at just before 9.35am (a full hour earlier than normal!) and by 10.00am our way again.

The closure of a section of the M27 meant that we had to take a diversion ... but not the one suggested by Highways England. We turned off at Junction 13 towards Eastleigh and used a number of local roads to reach the centre of Southampton. There were a few minor delays along the way, but by 10.35am we were driving through Dock Gate 10 and were less than a mile from the Mayflower Cruise Terminal. We were directed to park outside the terminal to await the arrival of the team from the valet parking service and the porters.

The wait seemed to go for hours (it was actually about thirty minutes), but by 11.30am our luggage had been unloaded, the car had been booked in with the valet parking service, and we were in the queue to be checked-in before going aboard P&O’s MV Oceana. This took about five minutes, and by midday Sue and I had passed through the shore-side security checks, had gone aboard the ship, and were seated in the Ligurian Restaurant (Deck 5 Midships) having a drink and something to eat.

An announcement was made at 1.30pm to tell us that our suite was ready, and after negotiating the rather tortuous route from the restaurant to our suite on Deck 10 (or B Deck) Aft, Sue and I were reunited with our luggage, which had arrived in our suite before we had.

The next couple of hours were spend unpacking and meeting our butler and cabin steward. At 4.00pm we had to go down to our Muster Station (the Starlights Show Lounge on Deck 7 Aft) for the compulsory safety drill.

This took about twenty-five minutes, after which we spent a short time sorting out where we were going to eat during our cruise, as this information had not been passed on to us. Luckily, the manager of the Adriatic Restaurant (Deck 6 Midships) already knew use from previous cruises, and this information was passed on to us very quickly.

Oceana was already sailing toward the entrance to Southampton’s harbour by the time our short visit to the Adriatic Restaurant was over, and as Sue and I were both feeling a bit hungry as well as rather thirsty, we went up to the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant (Deck 14 Forward) for a snack and a much-needed drink. Suitably refreshed, Sue and I returned to our suite to finish the last of the unpacking before having a short rest.

At 8.00pm, we went to the Magnum Bar (Deck 7 Midships) for a drink before dinner, followed by a very short walk along the Promenade Deck (Deck 7). Thirty minutes later we joined the queue to go to dinner in the Adriatic Restaurant. After dinner, Sue and I returned to the Promenade Deck for another short walk, and then decided to explore some of the public areas on Deck 8 that we had not yet visited. Once our curiosity had been satisfied, we went back to our suite to get ready for bed.

Monday 3rd February: At sea
Overnight the sea conditions were somewhat rougher than expected, and both of us woke up a couple of times during the night. When we finally got up at 8.00am, Oceana was still in the English Channel, and moving at just under 12 knots through a moderately rough sea with low cloud affecting visibility.

We ate breakfast in the area within the Ligurian Restaurant that is set aside for passengers travelling in suites, after which we paid a visit to the Reception Desk (Deck 5 Midships) to collect an additional copy of HORIZON, the ship’s daily guide to what’s on.

Several things relating to our membership of the P&O loyalty scheme – the Peninsular Club – had not been in our suite when we had come aboard (including vouchers for free glasses of champagne), and Sue and I decided to pay the Loyalty and Future Cruise Desk (Deck 7 Aft) a visit to find out if replacements could be delivered. We had to wait some about twenty minutes before we could be seen, and this gave us the opportunity to have a chat with some passengers from Belfast.

The member of staff we spoke to was able to help us, and by 10.30am we were back in our cabin reading and resting. We had just got comfortable when the sound of low flying jet aircraft could be hear overhead ... and seconds later fighter jets ‘buzzed’ the Oceana at a height of about 300m. Due to the low cloud it was difficult to identify what aircraft they were, but from the fleeting glimpses that I had, they appeared to be French.

By midday, Oceana was in the traffic separation zone off Ushant, and was beginning to turn into the northern part of the Bay of Biscay. The ship’s movement began to be more pronounced, and the cloud turned into mist and thin fog. By 1.30pm, Sue and I were beginning to feel thirsty and a little hungry, so soon afterwards we left our suite to go in search for somewhere to have a drink and to get something to eat.

We found spare seats in the Tiffany’s Bar (Deck 7 Midships) and had a drink there before venturing out onto the Promenade Deck for a breath of fresh air. Although it was not raining, it was much colder than we had expected, and we only stayed out there for a few minutes. On returning inside, we went up to Café Jardin (Deck 8 Midships) – one of the ship’s restaurants – where we ate a snack lunch.

After lunch Sue and I went for a walk around the ship’s shopping area, but found little of interests, and by 3.00pm we were back in our suite reading and resting. At 5.45pm our butler paid us a visit to deliver some canapes and to check that whether or not we needed anything. Once he had gone, Sue and I wrote up our respective cruise logs before it was time to get ready for dinner.

We had our pre-dinner drink in the Yacht & Compass Barand (Deck 7 Forward), and after dinner Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air. It was not very warm, and it had been raining, so we only stayed there for a short time before returning inside and going back to our suite. As the ship’s clocks were being reset to local Spanish time, our alarm clocks and watches were all turned back an hour before we went to bed to read for a while before going to sleep.

Tuesday 4th February: At sea
Overnight there was some movement as the ship continued to sail across the Bay of Biscay towards Vigo. Despite this, Sue and I both slept fairly well and had not trouble getting up when our alarm clocks went off.

The sun was just beginning to come up, and the sea looked somewhat calmer than it had been on the day before, although the cloud cover looked unchanged.

After breakfast in the separate area of the Ligurian Restaurant reserved for passengers with suites, Sue and I went for a walk around the ship. The sun had begun to break through, and it was possible for use to go out onto the open deck for a short time. We then returned to our suite, where we read and rested until midday announcement by the officer-of-the-watch. By then we were both feeling rather thirsty, and we went down to the Yacht & Compass Bar for a drink.

It was very pleasant in the bar, and we stayed there for nearly an hour, by which time we were both beginning to feel hungry. As we had enjoyed our previous day’s lunch in Café Jardin, we returned there for a light lunch again. This was a very leisurely meal, and we did not leave until just after 3.30pm. Sue and I ventured out onto the Promenade Deck, but the clouds obscured the sun, and the air temperature was lower than it had been earlier in the day.

In the end, we decided to return to our suite, and we stayed there until it was time to get ready for the first formal dinner of the cruise. This was preceded by the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party, which was held over three floors of the ship’s atrium (Decks 5, 6, and 7 Midships).

Just before the Captain – Captain Christopher Bourne – began his welcoming speech, a female passenger who was standing next to us suddenly collapsed, and we – along with an couple and some members of the crew – gave what assistance we could until the ship’s Emergency Medical Team arrived. They checked her over, and decided that she was not seriously ill, but recommended that she return to her cabin and go to the ship’s Medical Centre on the following morning for a fuller examination.

The dinner was a special one devised for P&O by Marco Pierre White, and included one of our favourite dishes … Beef Wellington! As usual, the service in the Adriatic Restaurant was superb, and the food – especially the Beef Wellington – was very much to our liking.

Sue and I finished our meal just before 10.00pm, and after having a brief chat with two couples on neighbouring tables, we went up to the Promenade Deck. It was colder than we had expected, and we were back in our suite by 10.15pm. We read for a while before getting ready for bed and were both asleep well before midnight.

Wednesday 5th February: Vigo, Spain
Oceana moored alongside the cruise terminal in Vigo at 8.00am.

It was still dark she arrived, and it did not begin to get light until 8.45am. At that point we could see that the ship had moored portside to the quay, which gave us a view of the local yacht club and ferry terminal.

After breakfast and our daily visit to the Reception Desk, Sue and I returned to our suite to get ready to go ashore. Just before 10.00am we went down one of the ship’s gangway to the cruise terminal ...

... which brought us out next to a large shopping centre.

Rather than walk straight ahead and uphill, Sue and I turned left and walked along Calle Montero Rios and then turned inland up Calle Castelar. Our route took us to the Plaza Compostela ...

... in the centre of which was a small park. The park was in the process of being fitted with a huge pergola, and in the centre was a statue of Admiral Mendez Nunez.

The plaza was surrounded by many impressive buildings, some of which dated back to the so-called Belle Epoque.

We walked further inland by the Calle Colon ...

... until it reached a junction with the Calle Principe., where we turned right.

This eventually led us to Porta Do Sol, which is dominated by an aluminium sculpture of a merman which was made by the Galician sculptor, Francisco Leiro.

This was complimented by some interesting topiary which had been shaped into small dinosaurs!

From the Porta Do Sol, Sue and I headed back towards the seafront, passing as we did an interesting fountain, ...

... and ancient stone archway, ...

... some narrow streets, ...

... and a local church.

By this time, we had reached the newly built walkway over the Oyster Market, where a ceramic map of Vigo has been used to decorate one of the entrances to the market.

Sue and I then crossed into the shopping centre near the cruise terminal ...

... using its escalators to descend to road level. We them passed through the shore-side security checks, and by 12.45pm we were back in our cabin. We dropped of our bags and coast and went up to the Riviera Bar (Deck 12 Forward) for a drink.

This overlooks the main swimming pool and sunbathing area ... which were almost deserted.

One we had quenched our thirsts, we went through to the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant, where we ate a light lunch. After that Sue and I went for a walk along Deck 12 until we reached the Terrace Bar (Deck 12 Aft), and thence to our suite for a rest.

At 4.30pm, Oceana cast off from the dockside, and began to sail out towards the open sea. Thanks to the much-improved weather (it had reached 20°C just after midday and the cloud that had filled the sky earlier in the day had dispersed)), Sue and I were able to watch this from our suite balcony. The local Pilot left the ship once Oceana was clear of the main harbour area ...

... just about the time that the wind began to increase, and the air temperature dropped.

We remained in our cabin until it was time for us to go for our pre-dinner drink. On this occasion we chose the Yacht & Compass Bar, mainly because there was plenty of room to sit and it gave us the opportunity to watch the passengers who were making their way to the Footlights Theatre (Deck 7 Forward).

Sue and I ate an excellent meal in the Adriatic Restaurant and had the opportunity to chat we other couple who were sitting at nearby tables. After dinner we went up to the Promenade Deck for our usual breath of fresh air before we returned to our suite to get ready for bed.

Thursday 6th February: At sea
Overnight the sea was rough, and both of us were woken up several times by a sudden change in the ship’s movement. As a result, we were both feeling quite tired when we awoke at 8.00am.

Oceana had made good progress since leaving Vigo and was off the coast of the southern half of Portugal when we woke up. It started to get light as we prepared to go to breakfast, and by the time we had ordered our food, it was positively sunny. This did not last, and when Sue and I had finished eating and paid our usual visit to the Reception Desk to collect an additional copy of the ship’s daily guide to what’s on, we went up to the Promenade Deck. There we discovered that the wind was reducing the air temperature to a level where it was too cold to sit there for very long. That, and the sight of rain squalls ahead of the ship, convinced us to return to our suite.

We stayed there until it was about 1.15pm, when we ventured out for a drink and a light lunch in the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant. Sue and I followed lunch with a short spell in the open air near the Riviera Bar. We were fairly sheltered from the wind, and stayed there until approximately 2.50pm, when we returned to our suite.

Sue and I spent a relaxing afternoon in our suite, and as the day wore on and the ship turned towards the Straits of Gibraltar, we even managed to spend a bit of time on the suite balcony.

The evening dinner was the second formal one of the cruise, and after getting ready we had a pre-dinner drink in the Yacht & Compass Bar. The meal was held in commemoration of P&O’s membership of a prestigious gastronomic organisation (La Chaine de Rotisseurs).

After dinner Sue and I had a short stroll along the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to sleep.

Friday 7th February: Malaga, Spain
This was my seventieth birthday!

After a rather disturbed night’s sleep (the ship experienced some rough seas as she passed through the Straits of Gibraltar), Sue and I were awake just before 7.30am. Oceana was just berthing as we got up, and by the time we were ready to go to breakfast, the sky bridges had been put in place and passengers were able to go ashore.

After opening my birthday cards and presents, Sue and I decided to wait until the rush to go ashore was over, so we went up to the port side Promenade Deck to watch passengers disembarking along one of the sky bridges.

We then crossed to the other side of the ship, which gave us a view across the harbour.

By 10.45am, the rush was over, and by 11.00am Sue and I were aboard the shuttle-bus that took us from the ship to the dock gates. These are situated next to the Plaza de la Marina, which is close to the centre of the city. We crossed the main roads that run along the seafront (the Paseo de Cintura del Puerto and the Paseo del Parque) and made our way towards the Catedral de Santa Maria de la Encaracion.

Not far from the cathedral I found a shop that I had looked at during a previous visit to Malaga. Besides selling flags and haberdashery, the shop sold militaria ... and I was able to buy a Spanish Foreign Legion gorillo (or tasselled sidecap) for a very reasonable price.

Our route took us to the Plaza de la Constitution ...

... and then along the marvellously decorated Calle Marques de Larios.

A statute of the Marques marked the end of the calle.

Sue and I decided that we wanted to have a drink before returning to Oceana, and as we knew of a café that was only a few hundred yards from the statue, we walked there, and both had a café con leche.

Almost next door to the café was a fountain, ...

... which was outside the Episcopal Palace.

Our walk from the café towards the dock gates took us near to the botanical gardens that line both side of the Paseo del Parque.

The park contained some interesting examples of trees and shrubs from around the world, interspersed with statues, including one that seemed to be dedicated to Andalucian culture.

It was on display against a titled backdrop that dated back to 1922.

After our walk through the park, Sue and I took the shuttle-bus back to the ship, and by 2.00pm we had dropped our coats and bags off in our suite and were having a much-needed drink in the Riviera Bar. From there it was a short walk to the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant, where we ate a very light lunch.

We were back in our suite by just after 3.00pm, and after a short discussion, Sue went down to the Loyalty and Future Cruise Desk to book a cruise that will be taking place in 2021 aboard MV Ventura. I remained sitting in the sunshine on our suite balcony, where I tried to read whilst resisting the temptation to doze off!

Whilst I was sitting there, I noticed that a Spanish Navy Patrol Vessel was moored some distance away across the harbour. It was the Tagomago (P22), one the three Anaga-class patrol vessels that are still in service with the Spanish Navy.

This practical design has done good service over the years, and although armed with obsolete, second-hand weapons (a 3-inch/76mm gun and a 40mm Bofors Gun ...

... that were retained after the original ships they were fitted to were scrapped), they were cheap to build and operate.

Once Sue had returned to our suite, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. As we had booked dinner for 8.00pm in Café Jardin in order to celebrate my birthday, we had to be ready for our pre-dinner drink in the Yacht & Compass Bar slightly earlier than usual.

The Italian-style cuisine served in Café Jardin was very much to our liking, and started with a sharing platter of olives, cheese, salami, prosciutto ham, and flatbread, served with mustard fruits. Sue then had a seafood risotto and I ate a slow-cooked, feather-blade steak with roasted Mediterranean vegetables and mashed potato. The trio of desserts turned out to be much larger than expected, and Sue only managed to eat one. (I managed to eat three … but my excuse was that it was birthday!)

After dinner we were both feeling very full, and we needed to take a break out on the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite. It turned out to still be quite warm outside, and it was a very pleasant place to sit for a while.

Once back in our suite, we both got ready for bed, but then sat reading until about 11.30pm in order to ensure that our dinner was properly digested before we went to sleep. Sue and I finally fell asleep at around midnight.

Saturday 8th February: At sea
The sea was very calm overnight, and we both awoke refreshed from a good night’s sleep.

After eating breakfast in the Ligurian Restaurant and our daily visit to the Reception Desk to collect a copy of HORIZON, Sue and spent some time looking around the ship’s shops for a few gifts. We then went out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air.

It was relatively warm and pleasant on the Promenade Deck, and we stayed there for some time before we returned to our suite to read until it was time to get ready for the midday Peninsular Club Lunch in the Adriatic Restaurant (Deck 6 Midships).

The Peninsular Club Lunch is a special lunch for regular cruiser passengers, and forms part of the reward package for loyal customers. As usual, each table was hosted by a senior member of the ship’s staff, and on this occasion our host was the ship’s Chief Engineer. Like all good – and stereotypical ship’s engineers – he was a Scot from Glasgow, although he now lives in Shropshire.

The menu was specially created by the ship’s Executive Chef, and we ate the following:
Crispy Fried Goat Cheese & Prosciutto, with Honey Figs, Vinicotto, and Spiced Whole Almonds (Sue)
Chicken and Chickpea Soup, with Brioche Croûtons (Me)
Raspberry Sorbet
Main Course
Poached Loch Duarte Salmon Supreme, with English Peas, Chorizo and Tomato Dressing, and Crushed New Potatoes (Sue)
Roasted New Zealand Rack of Lamb, with Crispy Bacon and Onion Potato Cake, Glazed Parsnips, and Lamb Jus (Me)
Cheeseboard, with a selection of Regional, British, and Continental Cheese with Biscuits (Sue)
Kaffir Lime Panna Cotta, with Pineapple Compote (Me)

After lunch, Sue and I then went to the Promenade Deck to get some fresh air, and despite the large number of people taking part in a charity event – ‘Trek the Deck’ – for the Teenage Cancer Trust, it was very pleasant to be sit on deck in the sun watching the walkers striding past.

We stayed there until just before 2.30pm, when we returned to our suite to read … although Sue and I both dozed off for a time, thanks in no small part to the excellent lunch that we had eaten.

Because the England vs. Scotland International Rugby Union game had been shown on the TV screens in various bars throughout the ship, we discovered that we were unable to find seats in the Yacht & Compass Bar for a pre-dinner drink. After trying several other bars, Sue and I ended up in The Monte Carlo Bar (Deck 8 Midships), which is situated next to the ship’s casino.

After dinner we went up to the Promenade Deck, where it was just possible to see lights of buildings on the Spanish mainland twinkling on the horizon. The air temperature was warmed than expected, and it was pleasant enough to stay there chatting to other passengers until it was time to returned to our suite to get ready for bed.

Sunday 9th February: Barcelona, Spain
Oceana’s arrival in Barcelona required her to turn around in order to dock, with the result that Sue and I were woken up slightly earlier than expected due to the vibration caused by the use of the ship’s thrusters. After a somewhat leisurely time getting ready for breakfast, we went down to the Ligurian Restaurant for something to eat.

After breakfast, Sue and I paid a visit to the Reception Desk to pick up a spare copy of HORIZON and to check whether or not the local authorities required us to take our passports ashore with us, or whether an EU Driving Licence was acceptable as an identity document. Apparently, the EU Driving Licence and EU Health Card were not acceptable ... but my Freedom Pass – which was issued by Transport for London – was!

Sue and I decided to wait until 10.30am before going ashore, and by 11.00am the shuttle-bus had deposited us near Barcelona’s Word Trade Centre. In front of this building was one of the main towers that carries the Transbordador Aeri cable car across the harbour area and up towards the upper slopes of Montjuic.

Sue and I walked the short distance towards the Columbus Monument ...

... passing the local antique market as we did so.

We crossed the very busy Passeig de Josep Carner in the direction of the Museu Maritim de Barcelona ...

... which was our destination. (We had visited the museum several years ago whilst it was being remodelled, and expected quite a few changes. We were not surprised to find that there had been!)

We entered via the new entrance ...

... and after paying our entrance charge of €10 each, we began to explore the museum.

Right by the entrance was a small exhibit of lead figures. Some of these had been used to depict a fight with pirates ...

... whilst other showed examples of Spanish Naval uniforms through the ages.

Our tour next took us to an exhibit entitled ‘Seven Vessels, Seven Stories’.

We then passed on the look at ‘Shipyards and Galleys’. This told the story of the seven hundred-year-old Royal Shipyards of Barcelona (Drassanes Reials de Barcelona), and included a model of the original buildings ...

... as well as a photograph of those that remain.

The centrepiece of this part of the museum is a full-size replica of the Royal Galley that took part in the Battle of Lepanto (1571).

The next gallery looked at the history of Catalan shipping in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.

By this time both Sue and I felt in need of some refreshment, and after a swift visit to the museum’s shop, we went to the in-house Restaurant Norai for a café con leche, which we drank in the museum’s garden.

On display in the garden are the bridge-house of the schooner Santa Eulàlia.

The schooner is over one hundred years old and had now been restored to her original condition ... which is why the bridge-house now resides in the museum’s garden. The Santa Eulàlia now forms part of the museum and is moored near the museum at Moll de la Fusta.

Also, in the garden is a replica of Narcis Monturiol’s submersible, the Ictineo I, which was built in Barcelona and launched in 1858.

By the time we got back to the shuttle-bus pick-up point, it was after 2.00pm, and by 2.30pm we had reached the cruise terminal, passed through the security checks, and had reboarded Oceana. After taking our bags and cameras back to our suite, Sue and I went to Café Jardin for lunch. After lunch, we spent a short time on the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to read and rest until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Because of the queue of passengers waiting to go to that evening’s show in the Footlights Theatre (Deck 7 Forward), it was impossible for Sue and I to get to any vacant seats outside the Yacht & Compass Bar to have a pre-dinner drink. We therefore retreated to Tiffany’s Bar, where we were able to find several empty seats and tables, and where we could order a drink.

As usual, we ate dinner in the Adriatic Restaurant, and because it was relatively empty, we had to opportunity to spend some time talking to our waiter (Savio) and wine steward (Daniel). After leaving the restaurant, Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite. We both read for a while before getting ready for bed, and we were bot asleep before midnight.

Monday 10th February: Valencia, Spain
Docking in Valencia’s harbour required use of the ship’s stern thrusters, as a result of which, Sue and I were awake just after 7.15am.

We ate breakfast in the section of the Ligurian Restaurant set aside for suite passengers, after which we went to the Reception Desk and then up to the Promenade Deck. We stayed there in the sun until after 10.00am, when we returned to our suite.

Sue and I decided to avoid the usual rush to get off, and did not leave our suite to go ashore until almost 11.00am. We did not have to wait for a shuttle-bus, and by 11.30am we were walking across the Pont dels Serrans towards the Torres dels Serrans.

The Pont dels Serrans crosses the Jardi del Turia, a park that has been created over the river that runs through the centre of Valencia.

(The river now runs through a long tunnel under the park.)

We had decided that we would like to visit the Central Market, as we had not been able to go there on our previous visits to Valencia. Along the way we passed Valencia’s toy soldier museum (L’Iber: Museo de los Soldaditos de Plomo) … which was shut, as it only opens at weekends.

The Central Market (Mercat Central) is a very large and impressive building, and we spent quite some time just wandering around it and admiring the stalls and its architecture.

Most of the stall inside the market sold food, but outside there was a smaller general market selling clothes, shoes, sweets, and all sorts of miscellaneous goods.

Sue and I then wandered through numerous narrow alleys ...

... and small squares ...

... until we reached the Plaça de la Reina, one end of which is dominated by the city’s cathedral.

Inside the small park in the centre of the Plaça de la Reina were some small chalet-like booths selling jewellery and other small items.

After spending some time looking at what was on sale (and buying a pair of silver earrings), Sue and I continued our walk past the cathedral and into the Plaça de la Mare de Déu, one side of which is dominated by the Basilica de la Mare de Déu.

By this time, we were both feeling thirsty, especially as the temperature had been rising all the time we had been in the centre of Valencia. (It reached over 25°C just after midday!) We therefore decided to go to a café/restaurant we had used on a previous visit. We had to walk past the Palau Generalitat (the seat of Valencia’s government) to get to the Plaça de Manises, the location of a branch of the ‘Maria Maniles’ chain.

The service was appalling (it took twenty-five minutes to actually place an order!) and it became very obvious that they wanted the table we were using to serve lunches rather than drinks. We were finally served nearly forty minutes after we had sat down, and took our time over our drinks.

By the time we got up to leave, Sue and I realised that it would be well after 2.00pm before we got back to the ship, and it was likely to be 2.15pm before we had lunch. On our way back to the Pont dels Serrans and the shuttle-bus pick-up point, we passed a café/restaurant called ‘La Maruja’.

We ordered a couple of drinks and some tapas (tortilla, gambas in garlic sauce, and patatas bravas. The tapas were all freshly prepared, exceptionally good, and the service was excellent!

We finally got back aboard Oceana just before 3.00pm. Sue and I were both feeling very full and rather tired, so we went back to our suite to cool down. At 5.30pm the ship’s captain announced that we were about to set sail … and that the air temperature of the ship’s bridge had reached 28°C at 2.00pm!

At 7.45pm Sue and I went down to the Yacht & Compass for our pre-dinner drink, only to find that there were no seats to be had. We therefore made our way to Tiffany’s Bar, where there were several different places where we could sit.

After another excellent dinner in the Adriatic Restaurant, we ventured out onto the Promenade Deck. Although it was colder than it had been during the day, it was quite pleasant to be able to sit in the open air for a while. By 11.00pm we were back in our suite and getting ready for bed. Sue and I read for a while, but eventually we both feel asleep after a most enjoyable day.

Tuesday 11th February: At sea
The ship had a very calm passage along the Spanish coast, and the movement was almost imperceptible.

Because it was a sea day, Sue and I were able to take our time getting ready, and did not go down to breakfast until nearly 9.15am. After eating, we paid our daily visit to the Reception Desk, followed by a stroll along the Promenade Deck. This was almost empty, as we were walking along the side of the ship that was in the shade.

We returned to our suite just before 10.30am, and spent the next hour reading. We then got ready for a special wine and food pairing lunch that was taking place at midday in the Ligurian Restaurant. This was served to us by our wine steward and the two waiters who serve us breakfast.

The meal comprised:
Chicken Caesar Salad comprising Romaine Lettuce, Parmesan, Croutons, Whole Anchovies, and Caesar Sauce, served with a glass of Italian Prosecco Superior DOCG Asolo Col Vittoria
Main Course
Cajun Spiced Flank Steak, with Baby Leaf Salad, served with a glass of South African Sauvignon Blanc, Vergelegen, Stellenbosch
Mango and Kiwi Meringue and Chantilly Cream, served with a glass of Mango Muscadelle, Mr Mango
Cheddar, Double Gloucester, and Danish Blue Cheese, served with a glass of Portuguese Sandeman 10 Year Old Tawny Port
A glass of French Tattinger Brut Reserve NV Champagne

We left the restaurant just before 2.00pm, and made our way to the Promenade Deck for some much-needed fresh air. We sat there for a while as it was warm, and did not get back to our suite until after 2.30pm. Sue and I then spent most of the rest of the afternoon reading and dozing either in the suite or on the balcony.

Just after 6.00pm, Sue and I began to get ready for the third formal dinner of the cruise. Neither of us hurried, and by 7.40pm we were ready to go to the Yacht & Compass Bar for our pre-dinner drink. For a change, there were plenty of seats, and we were able to sit and watch people walking past on their way from the Adriatic and Ligurian Restaurants to the Footlights Theatre.

The food and service for the formal dinner was excellent, and Sue and I were able to spent some time talking to our waiting staff and some of the passengers who occupied nearby tables. We finally left the Adriatic Restaurant at just before 10.00pm, and then went up to the Promenade Deck. We had hoped that we might be able to see signs of Gibraltar on the horizon, but although there was plenty of moonlight, Oceana still had some way to go before we would be able to see anything. We therefore returned to our suite to get ready for bed, in the hope that we would be able to see Gibraltar before we fell asleep. Unfortunately, it was still not on the horizon when we finally went to sleep just before midnight.

Wednesday 12th February: Cadiz, Spain
We were awoken at 7.15am by the sound and vibration of the ship’s thrusters as she manoeuvred alongside the dock in Cadiz.

It was rather overcast as Sue and I went to breakfast, but by the time we had eaten and made our way up to the Promenade Deck, the sky had begun to clear, and the sun was beginning to shine. We therefore decided to go ashore, and by 10.30am we had left the cruise terminal and were walking towards the centre of the city.

We had visited Cadiz several times before, but this was the first time we had docked next to the new cruise terminal. It was only a matter of a few yards from the terminal to the dock gates, which are located on the Avenida del Puerto. Immediately opposite the dock gates is a small park, in which is situated the local Tourist Information Centre.

Once across the park, we reached the Plaza San Juan de Dios (which is dominated by the local town hall or ayuntamiento ...

... where a small craft market was being held.

From there, Sue and I walked through the narrow pedestrianised streets ...

... to the local cathedral, the Catedral Nueve.

We continued our walk past a small street market ...

... and eventually reached the Mercado Central.

This comprises a modern central building ...

... surrounded by a Roman-style colonnaded market.

Sue and I then walked along the more narrow streets until we reached the University of Cadiz Medical Faculty and the imposing Gran Teatro Falla.

Our route then took us to the Avenida Dr Gomez Ulla, which we crossed so that we could walk through the Parque Genoves. Inside the park was a monument the the soldiers killed during the Moroccan campaign of the early 1920s.

The park runs along the old seaward ramparts of the city, and from there we could see a Spanish Navy Santa Maria-class frigate on the horizon. (This is a locally built version of the American Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate.)

Once Sue and I had reached the end of the promenade that runs alongside the park ...

... we turned inland past the park’s gates ...

... and into the labyrinth of small squares ...

... and narrow streets ...

... that led us to the Plaza de San Antonio.

More narrow streets ...

... took us back to the Avenida del Puerto, where we could see Oceana.

It was just before 1.30pm when we got back to the cruise terminal, and after passing though through the shore-side security checks and the duty-free shop, we made our way aboard the ship.

After a quick visit to our suite, Sue and I went up to the Riviera Bar for a drink. By this time the cloud had returned, and the air temperature had begun to drop. After our drink, we had lunch in the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant before returning to our suite to rest. During the afternoon the weather didn’t change a great deal, although by the time Oceana prepared to set sail, it looked as if it might rain in the near future.

Sue and I had our pre-dinner drink in the Yacht & Compass, and even managed to listen (and quietly answer to ourselves) a quiz about the 1980s and 1990s. Our memories did not let us down, and we got sixteen of the twenty answers right.

After eating dinner in the Adriatic Restaurant, we ventured outside onto the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite. It was quite windy, and the sea appeared to be rougher than it had been when Oceana set sail from Cadiz. This bore out an announcement made earlier in the evening by the ship’s captain in which he told us that forecast was for turbulent weather overnight. In fact, by the time we went to sleep just before midnight, Oceana was noticeably rolling and pitching.

Thursday 13th February: Lisbon, Portugal
The captain’s prediction regarding the weather was right, and both Sue and I had our sleep interrupted several times during the night due to the ship’s sudden lurching movement.

This was not – however – the reason why Oceana was delayed getting into Lisbon; that was due to the local Pilot’s Union deciding to have a meeting that closed the harbour until they had finished their discussions!

This actually synchronised quite nicely with our plans, which were to eat a champagne breakfast as the ship sailed into port. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and we had to forgo sitting on our balcony whilst eating breakfast as it was raining heavily. In fact, the rain kept falling for quite some time, and at one point Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck to see if it was likely to improve.

It finally stopped just before 11.00am, and we hurriedly made our way ashore to visit Lisbon’s Museu Militar.

This is situated a matter of a few hundred yards from the cruise terminal, and we had crossed the busy main road between the terminal and the museum – the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique – and entered the building by 11.15am.

Our visit lasted quite some time, and as we left, the rain began to fall again. Rather than try to walk back along the main road, Sue and I used one of the inland roads where there was marginally more cover from the rain.

Along the way, we came across a small street market, which we had a quick look around.

By this time the rain had become heavier, and Sue and I managed to get back to the cruise terminal before it got even worse. In fact, it became so heavy that the view of the famous 25 Abril Bridge the statue of Christ the King was totally obscured.

After a short time resting in our suite, Sue and I went up to the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant for a late lunch. In fact, it was so late (after 3.00pm), that the only food available was afternoon tea …but this was actually a welcome change from the usual sort of lunch that we eat.

Once we had eaten, we spent some time having a drink in the Riviera Bar. By this time the rain had begun to ease, and by 5.00pm we were back in our suite and the sun was shining! The weather remained good until after Oceana set sail at 5.30pm, and it remained so as she made her way down the River Tagus towards the sea.

During the early part of the evening, the captain announced that in order to avoid the worst effects of Storm Dennis, which was making its way across the Atlantic towards Europe, he intended to increase speed to 20 knots so as to place Oceana ahead of the worst of the storm front. He did, however, warn everyone that we could expect considerable movement overnight as the waves were predicted to be 4 to 5 metres high for most of the night.

At 7.45pm, Sue and I made our way to the Starlights Show Lounge in order to attend the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party. After the party ended at 8.30pm, we had a short spell on the Promenade Deck before going into dinner. Once dinner was over, Sue and I returned to the Promenade Deck, where the weather was not too bad.

Friday 14th February: At sea
As predicted, the weather overnight worsened, especially after midnight. Sue and I were woken up at about 1.30am by the sound of our balcony door slamming open as the ship rolled to starboards … and then slamming shut as the Oceana rolled back to port. In the end, I had to make my way somewhat unsteadily across the suite to the door so that I could lock it shut. It was difficult to get back to sleep due to the excessive rolling and pitching, but eventually Sue and I were able to get some rest, albeit being interrupted several times.

We finally go up at 7.30am, and discovered that the Oceana was already approaching the traffic separation scheme off Cap Finisterre in north-west Spain.

We were in breakfast before 9.00am, but did not eat much as we had a galley tour booked for 10.00am. We managed to fit in a trip to the Reception Desk and a short spell out on the Promenade Deck before the tour began. We joined the other passengers going on the tour in the Adriatic Restaurant, where we were all given something to drink whilst we were given a short introduction and safety briefing.

There were about forty people who had booked to go on this tour, and we were split into two groups. Each group was accompanied by at least two senior managers from the Food and Beverage Department, who conducted their groups around the galley, stopping at various section where we were addressed by a senior member of the galley staff.

Once this part of the tour was completed, we all returned to the Adriatic Restaurant, where we were given another drink and a selection of canapes and desserts. Sue and I finally left at 12.20pm, making our way back to our suite via the Promenade Deck.

At 2.00pm, Sue went off to a gin tasting event which was being held in the Adriatic Restaurant. Once she had returned, we went up to the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant for some afternoon tea. By the time we returned to our suite, the waves had diminished in height, and although there was still quite a lot of movement, the ship seemed to be pitching and rolling far less than earlier.

Sue returned to the suite at 3.30pm, and soon afterwards we went up to the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea. We then went out to the Riviera Bar for a drink before returning to our suite.

At 6.30pm, the captain made an announcement over the ship’s communication system regarding Oceana’s arrival in Southampton. Despite the attempt to arrive in Southampton ahead of Storm Dennis, this was no longer going to be possible. The pilot station at the Nab Tower was going to be shut due to the bad weather, with the result that Oceana was going to have to divert to Brixham in Devon(!) to pick up an emergency pilot. This would – in turn – delay the ship’s progress to Southampton, and it was predicted Oceana would not be mooring alongside until midday of Sunday, six hours later than expected. The captain also announced that overnight the weather was going to worsen, and it was expected that waves of over 5m would cause considerable pitching and rolling.

Sue and I had an uneventful evening, and our usual pre-dinner drink in the Yacht & Compass was followed by the last formal dinner of the cruise. The Adriatic Restaurant was barely half-full, and we were able to chat for some time with the waiters who had been serving us throughout the cruise. After dinner we ventured out onto the Promenade Deck, which was less windy and somewhat warmer than we had expected. By 11.00pm, Sue and I were back in our suite, and within thirty minutes we were both asleep.

Saturday 15th February: At sea
As predicted, the weather got a lot worse overnight, and both of us woke up several times due to the effects of the ship’s more violent motion. When we finally decided to get up at 7.30am, Oceana had only just passed Ushant at the mouth of the English Channel ...

... and the sea was showing signs of the Force 8 storm we were in.

Getting ready took longer than usual as standing up and moving about was made difficult by the often violent movement. The ship was rolling and pitching quite significantly and often without much warning.

After breakfast, Sue and I paid a visit to the shops, where we were able to buy a new P&O collapsible travel bag. We already own an earlier version, and over the years have found it to be very useful.

On our return to our suite, we began the process of sorting everything out for packing. Just after 10.00am the captain made an update regarding Oceana’s arrival in Southampton. The plan he had outlined during the previous evening – diverting to Brixham in Devon to pick up a Southampton pilot – was still being followed, but that it was unlikely that the ship would moor alongside the Mayflower Cruise Terminal much before midday, and possibly even later.

This was followed up with a printed set of disembarkation instructions. These indicated that the normal disembarkation procedure would be followed … but delayed by six hours. We were not required to leave our suite until 11.00am (the usual time is 8.00am), and we were informed that our projected disembarkation time was 1.45pm.

After sorting out most of our stuff prior to packing it, Sue and I decided to go for a drink. Almost everywhere we tried was full, and in the end we went up the Riviera Bar, which was shut due to the bad weather ...

... and then to the Plaza Self-Service Restaurant ... which was almost empty.

We were able to have a quiet drink just before the midday lunch ‘rush’ began, and by 12.15pm we had begun packing our first case. Once all three cases had been packed, Sue and I wanted a break, and we went to the Café Jardin Restaurant for lunch. The meal and service were excellent, and when we left at 2.20pm, it was beginning to fill up. Before returning to our suite, we went out onto the Promenade Deck. Although it was raining very heavily, and the wind had reached Force 9, it was quite sheltered on deck. What was disturbing was the fact that the visibility had got a lot worse, and we began to have doubts as to whether or not the ship would be able to pick up the pilot at 4.00pm as planned.

We had finished packing two of our three holdalls by 3.15pm … at which point we collapsed into our armchairs and had a much-needed rest. At 4.00pm the captain made yet another announcement. This time he informed us that the ship was approaching Brixham ...

... and would pick up the pilot at 4.30pm. In order to do so, Oceana would have to turn, and that the Force 9 wind would be hitting the ship’s side. This might cause her to heel over to one side and would make movement around the ship difficult … and possibly dangerous. Passengers were strongly advised to find somewhere to sit down until the pilot was aboard and the ship was able to resume course for Southampton.

At 4.32pm, Oceana suddenly slowed down ...

... as she reached the rendezvous point with the pilot cutter.

After about fifteen minutes of erratic movement, the ship began to gain speed, and soon afterwards the captain announced that the pilot had successfully boarded the ship, which was now on course for Southampton.

Because of the traffic control system that operates in the English Channel, Oceana first had to sail southwards away from the south coast to join the eastward bound traffic lane.

By the time Sue and I had drunk our last pre-dinner drink in the Yacht & Compass, had eaten our last dinner in the Adriatic Restaurant, and said goodbye to the staff who had served us as well as the people we had met during the cruise, Oceana had made her way across the Channel towards the French coast to join the eastbound traffic lane.

We went to bed hoping that she might not experience too much violent movement overnight … but expecting that she might.

Sunday 16th February: Southampton
There were some spells of quite violent movement overnight, but for most of the time the ship pitched and rolled reasonably gently, and both Sue and I slept reasonably well. When we woke up at 7.30am, Oceana had begun to turn northwards towards Southampton, having sailed along the French coast overnight.

Because the ship was six hours behind schedule, Sue and I treated the first part of the morning as if it were a normal sea day. We ate a last breakfast in the Ligurian Restaurant, said goodbye to the waiters who had served us, and then returned to our suite. At 11.00am we finally quitted our suite in order to give our cabin steward time to get it ready for its new occupants, and set off to find somewhere to sit.

This proved to be problematic, as the area around the ship’s atrium – which is where we had been directed to sit whilst waiting to disembark – was full of people who were intending to self-disembark at Southampton (i.e. those passengers taking all their luggage with them when they got off the ship). After a fruitless search, we eventually ended up in the under cover area near the Riviera Bar ... where we were able to sit in the dry watching the rain pouring down.

Oceana finally docked at just after midday, and at 12.45pm the self-disembarking passengers began to descend the single gangway off the ship. Sue and I then made our way down to the ship’s atrium, where we were able to find somewhere warm to sit. By 1.30pm all the luggage had been taken off the ship and placed in the baggage reclaim hall, and a few minutes later Sue and I disembarked.

By 1.45pm we found our luggage, passed through Customs, and had reached the car park where our car had been stored by the car valet parking service. In a matter of minutes, we had loaded our luggage into our car, and had set off for home.

Storm Dennis was making its effects felt, and the rain was incessant and made driving difficult. We decided to stop for lunch and to buy some food at Winchester Services on the M3. The choice was limited (we were told that they had not had the expected deliveries because of the ongoing bad weather) but it was sufficient for our needs. We re-joined the M3 by 3.00pm, and were making reasonable progress until we reached the area near Fleet, where surface water on the motorway was causing traffic to slow down and occasionally stop.

The twenty-minute delay meant that we did not reach the junction with the M25 until 4.20pm. At first, we managed to make reasonable progress, but not far from Reigate the traffic came to a stop. Over the next ten minutes, numerous emergency vehicles sped past us, and the overhead traffic signals instructed all vehicles to move over into the two inside lanes. After a thirty-minute delay, the traffic began to move again, and some miles later the reason for the delay became apparent. A black BMW saloon car had obviously been in collision with a police 4 x 4, and both vehicles were in the outside two lanes of the motorway surrounded by five police cars and two ambulances.

From then on, we had no further delays to our journey, and at just after 6.00pm we parked our car outside our house and began unloading our luggage.

During the cruise I read the following books:
  • PLAIN MURDER by C S Forester
  • MAIGRET AND THE YELLOW DOG by Georges Simenon