Wednesday 31 May 2023

A change of project can keep you fresh

For sometime I’ve been working on and off on my Belle Époque project, but since work on the Second PW Compendium is almost over, I feel the need to have a change of project to keep my wargaming interest fresh.

Back during the COVID pandemic lockdown I did a lot of work on my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project, and I’ve decided to return to it for a time.

Some of the German vehicles that I renovated, varnished, and rebased during the COVID pandemic.
Some more of the German vehicles that I renovated, varnished, and rebased during the COVID pandemic.

I might even manage to fight a few battles with the figures I’ve already renovated, varnished, and rebased as well as add some more of the collection ... so watch this space for developments!

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Nugget 354

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, the editor of THE NUGGET sent me the latest issue of the journal and I sent it to the printer yesterday. I hope that it will be ready to be posted out to members by Friday so that they will be able to read it after next weekend.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the ninth and last issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2022-2023 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe, please follow the instructions on the relevant page of the website.

Monday 29 May 2023

Warship 2023

An Amazon delivery driver brought me this year's issue of WARSHIP on Thursday, and over the weekend I spent several very enjoyable hours reading it.

I have been buying this publication since 1977, when it started life as a quarterly softback magazine. It became a hardback annual in 1989, and the original softback issues were then re-bound and sold in hardback format, with four quartlerly issues in each volume. They form the backbone of my naval history and warship design collection and currently occupy well over a metre of my bookshelves.

This issue was edited by John Jordan, and contains the following article:

  • Editorial
  • A series of unfortunate events: The loss of HMS Audacious by John Roberts
  • Clemenceau and Foch: France's first modern aircraft carriers by Jean Moulin and John Jordan
  • The Italian Connection: Ansaldo's UP.41 design by Stephen McLaughlin
  • Takasago, Kasagi and Chitose: The IJN's first 8in-gun protected cruisers by Kathrin Milanovich
  • The Italian Navy and the battleship in the 1930s: Theory and practice by Michele Cosentino
  • Postwar electronic warfare system in the Royal Navy by Peter Marland
  • The German Flak Ships Part 1: The German and ex-Norwegian hulls by Aidan Dodson and Dirk Nottelmann
  • The strange fate of General Alekseev's guns by Sergei Vinogradov
  • The Battleship Massena by Philippe Caresse
  • The development of the Yokosuka Navy Yard by Hans Lengerer
  • Preparing for the next Pacific War: The US Navy and distributed naval operations by Conrad Waters
  • Warship Notes
    • 'Hidden in plain sight': The proposed conversion of the two-deck HMS Duncan to a breastwork monitor on the lines of HMS Devastation by Ian Sturton
    • Patterns of political nomenclature in the Russian and Soviet Navies by Kenneth Fraser
    • HMS Pioneer, 1945 by Kenneth Fraser
    • 'Zombies' in warship history: The first in a new series that looks at some of the 'zombie facts' that continue to stalk histories of the world's warships by Aidan Dodson
  • A's and A's
  • Reviews
  • Warship Gallery
    • The Imperial German Navy 1890 – 1918 by Dirk Nottelmann

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this year's annual but one particular article stands out as being of more interest to me than the others ... The German Flak Ships Part 1: The German and ex-Norwegian hulls. I have written several blog posts about this topic as well as mentioning them in a guest blog post on THE DAWLISH CHRONICLES website.

This is a book that I know that I will return to many, many times in the future for both information and inspiration.

WARSHIP 2023 was edited by John Jordan and published in 2023 by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 5713 2).

Sunday 28 May 2023

The Second Portable Wargame Compendium ... has been published!

I approved the latest Compendium for publication on Saturday, and it became 'live' on Amazon later on the same day!

It should now be available from Amazon in hardback, softback, and Kindle editions and on sale from Wargames Vault in PDF format.

Saturday 27 May 2023

Viana do Castelo-class patrol vessels

Whilst on my recent cruise, I saw one of the Portuguese Navy's Viana do Castelo-class patrol vessels at fairly close range. It was the Sines (P362), the third ship of a projected ten-ship class that will be built for the Portuguese Navy over the next ten years.

The ships characteristics are:

  • Displacement: 1,850 tons
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 83.10m (272ft 8in)
    • Beam: 12.95m (42ft 6in)
    • Draught 3.82m (12ft 6in)
  • Propulsion: 2 x Wärtsilä diesel engines (3,900 kW (5,200 hp) each), 2 electric engines (200 kW (270 hp) each)
  • Speed: 21 knots
  • Boats: 2 x Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs)
  • Complement: 35 (with accommodation for 32 more)
  • Sensors and processing systems: Leonardo Medusa MK4/B electro-optical fire control system; Electro-optical SAGEM / VIGY, 2x KH Manta2000 navigation radar; iXblue Quadrans inertial navigation system; Furuno Electric's FAR-3230 F-band; FAR-3220 I-band navigation radars
  • Armament:  1 × 30mm Oto Melara Marlin gun; 2 × 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns; 2 x 7.92mm MG 3 machine guns
  • Aviation facilities: Flight deck capable of handling a medium-sized helicopter (e.g. Super Lynx Mk.95)
  • Optional equipment: 3 x water cannons; anti-pollution systems

The first ship in the class was originally fitted with a Bofors 40mm L/60 gun whilst the Portuguese was awaiting delivery of the 30mm Oto Melara Marlin guns it had ordered.

There are currently four ships of this class in service (Viana do Castelo (P360), Figueira da Foz (P361), Sines (P362), and Setúbal (P363)), with another two (Funchal (P364) and Aveiro (P365)) to be laid down in the near future.

Friday 26 May 2023

The Second Portable Wargame Compendium ... is almost ready!

The final draft of the Compendium has been proofread, the text has been uploaded to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and the cover has been designed ...

... and now all I am waiting for is the final printed proof copy to be delivered. Once that happens, I hope to be able to publish the Compendium within a matter of days.

The contents of the Compendium include:

  • Some generic Portable Skirmish Wargame rules
  • Fast Play 3 x 3 Portable English Civil War Wargame Siege Rules
  • Fighting a campaign using simple campaign rules and Fast Play 3 x 3 Portable Napoleonic Wargame rules
  • Fast Play 3 x 3 Napoleonic Portable Wargame Rules
    • Simple campaign rules
    • Campaign map
    • The story of the campaign
  • A divisional army list generator for the Napoleonic period
  • Some Variations on the Portable Napoleonic Wargame: Brigade Rules
  • “Generals commanding armies have something else to do than to shoot at one another.”
  • An easy operational campaign game for Portable Wargames
    • An example of play
  • The Portable American Civil Wargame
    • Introduction
    • The Rules
  • The Big Push: A variant of the Fast Play 3 x 3 Portable Wargame rules for the trench battles of the Western Front
  • Rules and Army Lists for Portable Wargames in the Hyborian Age
    • Introduction
    • Specific rules
    • Army lists for the Hyborian Age
  • Turn sequence activation ideas using UNO cards
    • The army commander version
    • The unit version
    • A short note about UNO
  • 3D Printing simple Portable Wargame armies and terrain: One modeller's approach
  • 3D Printing simple Portable Wargame armies and terrain: Another modeller's approach
  • Taking a bit of a Risk: Using the figures from the boardgame Risk to create armies for the Portable Wargame
  • Making your own square terrain tiles
  • Appendix 1: General’s Daily Activity Chart
  • Appendix 2: Arthur Harman’s Generalship Game Maps
  • Other books in the Portable Wargame series

The Second Compendium has 132 pages compared to the 108 pages in the First Compendium. The softback will cost £20.00, an increase of £5.00 from the price of the First Compendium, to take into account the increased number of pages as well as the increased cost of printing.

Thursday 25 May 2023

I have been to … The Point, Greenwich

All around London there are little-known gems that only a few people visit … and The Point in Greenwich is one of them.

Yesterday, Sue and I were visiting the Cat Protection shop at Blackheath Standard to drop off some clothes that we were donating to the charity, and off the cuff we decided to visit The Point. We drove across Blackheath towards Deptford and then turned right down Hyde Vale towards Greenwich. Almost immediately we turned left along West Grove, and as we descended the hill towards the River Thames, we found somewhere to park along the eastern side of The Point.

A short walk uphill took us to the entrance to The Point …

… which is a small, grassed area that is surrounded on three sides by trees.

This is a quiet haven in what is otherwise a very busy part of London … and has one of the most magnificent views across London!

The London Eye can be clearly seen on the horizon on the left of this photograph. Somewhat less clear is the Wembley Arch, which on the horizon to the right of this photograph.
Going from left to right are the BT Tower, the Shard, and the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.
Canary Wharf ... in all its glory!

At one side of the viewing platform is a memorial to Flight Lieutenant Richard Carew Reynell, who was killed on 7th September 1940 during the first major German bombing raid on central London.

Now we have found this little oasis of quiet solitude, Sue and I will no doubt revisit The Point again at some point.

Flight Lieutenant Richard Carew Reynell was born in Reynella South Australia on 12th April 1912. His father was Lieutenant Colonel Carew Reynell, a prominent winemaker, who died leading the 9th Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli in 1915.

Reynell was educated at St Peter's College, Adelaide, and then studied Agriculture at Balliol College, Oxford from 1929 to 1931. On graduating he did not return to Australia to join the family business. Instead, he joined the RAF after serving with the Oxford University Air Squadron.

After becoming a pilot he joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere and later Duxford (where he flew the Hawker Fury) before becoming an instructor with No.8 Flying Training School based at Montrose, Scotland. He then took a job with Hawker Aircraft as a test pilot, and in married Enid Marjorie Watts-Allan on 24th September 1938.

He rejoined the RAF on the outbreak of war, but remained with Hawkers until 26th August 1940 when he rejoined 43 Squadron to assess the Hawker Hurricane's performance in combat. During this time he had one confirmed 'kill' (a Bf109 on 2nd September) and several 'possibles'.

He was recalled to Hawkers on 7th September 1940 but chose to complete that day's combat missions as a replacement for another pilot who had been killed. 7th September was the first day of the Luftwaffe's large-scale daylight bombing raids on London, and Reynell was one of twelve pilots from 43 Squadron who engaged over one hundred enemy aircraft over London. His aircraft (V7527) was hit by fire from a Bf109 over Blackheath and broke apart in midair. Unfortunately Reynell's parachute did not open, and he landed near The Point. He survived bailing out, but his injuries were so serious that he died soon afterwards.

He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery but does not have a Commonwealth War Graves headstone as his family wanted to provide their own.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Souvenirs from my recent cruise

Over recent years I’ve not bought many souvenirs back from the cruises I’ve been on, but this time I did.

In Lisbon I bought a 3D greetings card kit, ...

... which contains a number of 2D representations of major buildings in the city, including:

  • The Carmo Ruins and The Santa Justa elevator
  • The Castle of Sao Jorge
  • The Belem Tower and The Monument to the Discoveries
  • The Lisbon Cathedral
  • The Rua Augusta Arch and The Commercial Square (AKA Black Horse Square)
  • The National Pantheon

These could easily be used to make 2D buildings for wargames.

In Óbidos I bought a small model of the town's fortress.

In Normandy I bought a flag of the Norman region.

Not a big haul of souvenirs, but an interesting one.

Tuesday 23 May 2023

John Ruddle's garden wargames ... on TV!

Whilst I was away on my latest cruise, Brian Cameron (a regular blog reader and fellow wargamer whom I have known for forty years) sent me a link to a short film report about John Ruddle's garden wargames that appeared on the BBC's Nationwide programme back in 1978.

The report includes some wonderful views of John Ruddle's collection of buildings, figures, and model ships as well the collection of figures that did not take part in his garden wargames.

I was able to capture some screenshots from the report, and they show some of John Ruddle's buildings, figures, and model ships in some detail.

I find this very inspiring, and I only wish that my garden did not have a 1-in-10 slope!

Monday 22 May 2023

Increased printing costs means increased book prices

On 30th June Amazon are increasing the cost of printing books published using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and this is going to mean that I am going to have to increase the selling price of the books that I have written or published by an average of 10% in order to cover this increase.

This is not an unexpected development given the current economic situation and I will attempt to keep any increases as low as possible. As far as I know, this will not affect the cost of producing electronic editions of my books and I do not expect to have to increase the price of Kindle or PDF editions.

Sunday 21 May 2023

I have been to … Spain, Portugal, and France aboard MV Ventura

Saturday, 6th May: Southampton

Sue and I woke up at 6.30am and because it was Coronation Day and we had no idea what the traffic would be like, we made sure that we had set off from home by 8.30am. As it was, the traffic on the A2 was quite light, and we reached the junction with the M25 by 8.50am. This pattern continued on the M25, and as there were no holdups due to heavy traffic or roadworks, we reached the M3 turnoff by 9.40am.

Our journey along the M3 was quicker than normal despite the fact that it was raining very heavily, and just after 10.15am we had reached Winchester Services. We stopped there for breakfast and to restore our personal comforts, and because it was far emptier than normal, we were back on the M3 before 10.45am and reached the Mayflower Cruise Terminal in Southampton Docks just after 11.10am. We booked the car in with the valet parking service, unloaded our luggage – which we dropped off with the porters – and went inside to book in.

There was a queue of people waiting to get into the terminal, but because we had booked a suite, we had priority boarding passes and bypassed it and were allowed straight in. The booking process took a matter of minutes, and by 11.30am Sue and I sitting in the lounge waiting to be called to pass through security. We only had to wait about ten minutes, and by midday we were aboard P&O’s MV Ventura.

Once aboard, our first task was to book in at our muster station, which was Muster Station E in the Havana Show Lounge (Deck 7 Aft). Once that was done, Sue and I made our way to the Saffron Restaurant (Deck 6 Midships) for lunch. The doors were closed, and a small queue had formed outside, which we joined.

We waited until after 12.30pm, and as there was no sign of the restaurant opening, I went down to the Cinnamon Restaurant (Deck 5 Midships) to see if it was open. It was, and it transpired that we had been given priority lunch tickets with the wrong information printed on them. The matter was quickly sorted out, and by 12.45pm Sue and I were seated at a table with five other people and were ordering lunch.

The lunch menu included:


Oak-smoked Duck Breast with Pickled Carrots, Coriander and Cherries. (Both of us)

Main Courses

Pan-roasted Barramundi Fillet with Tarragon Crushed New Potatoes, Fine Beans, and a Sauce Vierge. (Sue)

Carved Sirloin of Beef with Tomato and Bacon Jam, Sweet Potato Fondant, Tobacco Onions, and a Béarnaise Sauce. (Me)


Selection of British and International Cheeses, Banana Bread, Black Grapes, Mulled Apple Jelly, with Fine Cheese Biscuits. (Sue)

Sticky Muscovado Sponge Pudding with Candied orange and Mascarpone Cheese. (Me)

Petit Four

Elizabeth Truffles.

We had a very enjoyable chat with our table companions until 1.30pm, at which point Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck (Deck 7) for some fresh air.

We then made our way to our suite, which was on Deck 8 Aft. Our luggage had been left in a somewhat haphazard way along the corridor leading to our suite, and it took me about five minutes to find it all and get it to our suite. Sue and I then began the process of unpacking our bags and stowing their contents in the various wardrobes and draws that were available.

We had finished by 3.30pm, and after a short rest we went up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant (Deck 15 Midships) for a drink and a piece of cake. We had returned to our suite – via a short visit to the Promenade Deck – by 5.00pm, and soon afterwards we were visited separately by our Cabin Steward (Joshua) and our Butler (Anil). They both introduced themselves and asked if there was anything that we needed and then left us to rest before it was time to get ready for dinner.

Sue and I had a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar (Deck 7 Midships), followed by a short walk along the Promenade Deck. We then went up to the Epicurean Restaurant (Deck 17 Aft) for our first dinner of the cruise. The dinner menu included:


Alaskan Snow Crab, Langoustine, and Salmon Caviar Cocktail with Pea and Chervil Custard, Parchment Bread, and a Cucumber Mojito. (Sue)

24 Hour Slow-cooked Ox Cheek in a Bone Canoe with Parsley Sponge and Beef Flavoured Mayonnaise. (Me)

Main Courses

Black Cod and Canadian Cold-water Lobster Tail with Avruga Caviar Gratin, Bouillabaisse Fondue, Bee Pollen Dressed House Salad, and New Potatoes. (Sue)

Redman Limousin Irish Beef Fillet with Confit of Smoked Cured Bacon, Celeriac and Horseradish, Mushroom Purée, Oyster Emulsion. Triple-cooked Chips, and Mixed Vegetables. (Me)


Crêpes Suzette with Vanilla Pod Ice Cream. (Both of us)

Petit Four

Chocolate Truffles.

This meal lasted from 8.30pm to 10.15pm and was – as usual – superb. We then went down to the Promenade Deck for a final breath of fresh air before going back to our suite to get ready for bed.

Sunday, 7th May: At sea

During the night, Ventura sailed down the English Channel and was well on the way to Ushant when Sue and I woke up at 8.00pm.

Overnight the ship’s clocks went forward by an hour to match the time at our first port-of-call, Santander in Spain. Unlike so other cruisers, we didn’t oversleep, and by 9.15am Sue and I were in the Epicurean Restaurant eating breakfast.

After breakfast Sue and I paid a quick visit to the shops, where we bought several coronation souvenirs, including a special teddy bear for Sue’s collection and a bowtie for me. This was followed by a walk around the Promenade Deck and a very quick visit to our suite to collect our Kindles. We took them with us to the Arena Theatre (Decks 6 and 7 Forward) as we wanted to get seated by 10.30am.

The reason why we had to be in the Arena Theatre so early to hear the first talk by one of the two guest speakers was due to the fact that the speaker was Valerie Singleton … and we knew that it would be a full-house!

Valerie was introduced by the ship’s Entertainment Manager, John Bartram …

… and when she began talking at 11.00am, there were very few unoccupied seats in the theatre.

She spoke for just under forty-five minutes and told the enthralled audience about her time as a Blue Peter presenter.

After listening to – and thoroughly enjoying – Valerie Singleton’s talk, Sue and I spent a short spell on the Promenade Deck before going to the Saffron Restaurant for lunch. We shared a table with three other couples, and the conversation made the whole meal a very enjoyable experience.

Sue and I had finished eating by 1.30pm, and then paid a second visit of the day to the ship’s shops, this time to buy some perfume. We then went up to the Havana Show Lounge to listen to the second guest speaker of the the cruise, Michael Kushner.

His talk was entitled THE BLETCHLEY PARK STORY: A JOURNEY TO STATION X, and in it he told the story of the origins and work of the Government Communication and Cypher School and its development into the present-day Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). He covered the story of how the Enigma and Lorenz codes were broken, how and why the product of Bletchley Park was used and by whom, and the development of Turing’s Bombe and the first every digital computer, Colossus.

The talk finished at 2.45pm, by which time Sue and I were both feeling thirsty. As a result, we went up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for a cup of tea and a small cake. Once we had finished, we returned to our suite to read and rest until it was time to get ready for the first formal dinner of the cruise.

The evening started with a ‘Welcome Aboard’ reception held in the ship’s atrium (Decks 5, 6, and 7 Midships) that was hosted by the ship’s captain, Captain Alan Hawkins. Sue and I were able to find seats in the Red Bar, where the waiters plied us with copious numbers of free drinks … mostly House Champagne.

The reception ended at 8.30pm, and by 8.40pm we were seated at our table in the Bay Tree Restaurant (Deck 6 Aft). The meal had a coronation theme and was of the usual high standard. Our two food waiters – Mac and Kumar – and our wine steward – Savio – were very attentive and provided the excellent service one can always expect from P&O’s restaurant staff.

After dinner, Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck where we had a very pleasant conversation with a young man who was reading Oscar Wilde’s THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY. It turned out that he had an interest in military history and was a TV and film producer who was learning his craft making TV adverts and short documentaries.

We were back in our suite by 11.30pm, and asleep by midnight … and the ship’s movement was so smooth that you would not have known that we were sailing across the notorious Bay of Biscay!

Monday, 8th May: Santander, Spain

Sue and I woke at 7.50am, just as the ship was moving alongside her berth in Santander.

After eating breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, we sat on the Promenade Deck until 10.00am and the first rush of passengers going ashore had gone. We then collected our bags and cameras from our suite and made our way to the gangway at Deck 5 Midships. There was a short queue to get off, and by 10.20am Sue and I had made our way ashore, through the cruise terminal (Estacion Maritimo) …

… and were sitting in the Plaza de Machichaco looking at a map and trying to decide where to go. In the end we went inland up Isabel II towards the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. As we did, we passed two sets of steps to our left …

… and our right …

… the latter leading up to the local cathedral, the Cathedral of Santa María de la Asunción.

One side of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento was dominated by the Town Hall …

… which is known locally as the Casa Consistorial.

Having had a short rest in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Sue and I walked around the back of the town hall to the Mercado de La Esperanza.

Before going in, we paid a visit to the very busy street market situated at the back of the market building.

The inside of the main market building was much quieter, but it was full of stalls selling all sorts of food.

After our visit to the market, Sue and I walked along Juan de Herrera

… until we reached the Plaza Pedro Velarde.

By now both of us were feeling thirsty, and we stopped for a drink in the Café de Velarde.

Once we were feeling refreshed, Sue and I walked through the archway leading out of the Plaza Pedro Velarde

… and along the pedestrianised street until we reached the Mercardo del Este. This market has mainly been given over to the supply of top-of-the-range foodstuffs, bars, and small art galleries.

From there we walked back towards the main seafront, crossing the Calvo Sotelo before entering the Jardines de Pereda, which is dominated by a large monumet dedicated to the Cantabrian novelist and Carlist politician José María de Peredant.

It was then only a short walk back to the Estacion Maritimo, and Sue and I were back aboard the Ventura by 1.15pm. After a short visit to our suite to drop off our bags and cameras, we went up to Breakers Bar (Deck 16 Forward) for a cold drink. Whilst we were there, we shared a table with a fellow seasoned cruiser, and spent an interesting time exchanging stories of our experiences.

By the time we left Breakers Bar it was after 2.30pm, and Sue and I decided to have some lunch. The queue for the poolside grill were quite long and in the end, we opted to eat in the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant. Once we had finished, we returned to our suite, and we stayed there reading and resting until it was time for dinner.

Sue and I went down to the Promenade Deck for a pre-dinner stroll, which we followed with a drink in the Red Bar. At 8.30pm we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner, which was another special menu to celebrate the coronation. Afterwards, Sue and I returned to the Promenade Deck for another breath of fresh air before going back to our suite to get ready for bed.

Tuesday 9th May: At sea

During the night the Ventura sailed slowly along the northern coast of Spain at a very leisurely 12 knots.

As we had been invited to the Peninsular Club lunch for passengers in the top two tiers of the loyalty scheme (Sue and I are in the Baltic tier, which is the second highest), we ate a very light breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant. We then went to Reception to collect a spare copy of the ship’s daily programme (Horizon) and to buy some special commemorative biscuits as a present.

Although it was a bit overcast, Sue and I then spent a pleasant time on the Promenade Deck and then in the Metropolis Bar (Deck 18 Aft) before going back to our suite to get ready for the lunch, which was held in the Bay Tree Restaurant and that started at midday. As a result, we missed Valerie Singleton’s second talk of the cruise.

The menu was the same as the one we had at the last Peninsular Club lunch that we had attended, and included the following dishes:


Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon, with Deep Fried Nori, Crispy Capers, Citrus and Red Onion Salad. (Both of us)


Champagne Sorbet. (Both of us)

Main Courses

Pine Nut-Crusted Fillet of Sea Bass, with Crushed New Potatoes, Toasted Parsnip Purée, and Samphire Shoots. (Sue)

Porcini-Crusted Tournedos of Beef, with Pommes Anna, Creamed Celeriac, Courgette Ribbons, and Grain Mustard Jus. (Me)


Cheeseboard, with a selection of Regional, British, and Continental Cheese with Biscuits. (Sue)

Dark Chocolate Mousse, with Amarula Cherry Compote and Caramelised White Chocolate. (Me)

Petit Four

Vanilla Bean Fudge (but what actually turned out to be Turkish Delight!).

We should have shared our table with three other couples, but only two of them turned up … and they were great table companions. In fact, we enjoyed talking to each other so much that we were almost the last people to leave the restaurant at 2.30pm. As a result, we missed Michael Kushner’s second talk about Britain’s espionage agencies.

After lunch Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck, where we had a chat for thirty minutes with another person who had been at the lunch. He had been on a trip to a nature park during the stop in Santander and showed us the pictures that he had taken. We were so impressed that we decided that if we ever returned to Santander on a future cruise and this trip was still available, we would book it.

Sue and I were back in our suite just after 3.00pm, and other than for a short break later in the afternoon when we went out onto the suite’s balcony, we stay there reading and resting until our butler paid us a visit at 6.15pm.

We then got ready for the second formal dinner of the cruise. Our evening followed a similar pattern to previous ones, starting with a walk on the Promenade Deck, followed by a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar. We then went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for dinner, after which we had another walk along the Promenade Deck before returned to our suite to prepare for the next day’s visit to Vigo before going to bed.

Wednesday 10th May: Vigo, Spain

Sue and I were awake slightly earlier than usual as we had booked a trip that was going to leave at 9.30am. In fact, we got up just as the Ventura came alongside her berth in Vigo, and the engine noise and vibration would have woken us up anyway.

After a somewhat quicker breakfast that usual in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I went ashore to join the other passengers who were going on the trip. It was entitled ‘Galician Gardens, Castles, and Wine Tasting’, and the first stage was a journey through the Galician countryside …

… to the Castle of Soutomaior.

The castle was begun in the 12th century and has been rebuilt several times during its history.

Inside the castle there were three models that showed the development of the castle from the 12th century …

… to the 15th century, …

… and then to the 18th century.

Our trip also took in a walk through the castle’s extensive grounds, during which we were able to see an example of a Galician grain store.

We then all reboarded our coach which took us to our second stop at the Palace of Rubianes.

Our guide …

… took us on a walk through the grounds of the palace that included looking at an example of the crosses placed to mark the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostella, …

… and other Galician grain store, …

… many of the rare plants and trees as well as the vineyards and an artificial pond built in the classical style.

Our walking tour finished at a high point in the gardens from where we could see the Bay of Vigo.

Our guide then led us past the palace …

… to the family’s private chapel …

,,, and then on to the oldest building on the estate, which is now used as a shop and café.

There we stopped for some much-needed refreshments (wine, olives, tortilla, Galician pie, and local cheese) before we got back on our coach for the trip back to the Ventura.

When we got back to the dock at 3.00pm, we discovered that the MSC Virtuosa had docked behind Ventura

… and that its passengers were trying to get back onto their ship at the same time as we were. The queues to get through the security checks were huge, and Sue and I only managed to get back to our suite by 3.30pm.

After dropping off our cameras and bags in our suite, Sue and I set off for some food and refreshment. After trying Breakers Bar – which was jammed to overflowing – and the Terrace Bar (Deck 15 Aft) – which was also full – we ended up having a snack lunch in the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant and a drink in our suite.

Ventura set sail for Lisbon at just after 4.15pm, and this gave me the opportunity to have a proper look at the MSC Virtuosa, …

… which is much bigger than Ventura.

After a much-needed rest in our suite, Sue and I got ready at 7.00pm for dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant at 8.30pm, Our meal was preceded – as usual – by a spell on the Promenade Deck and a drink in the Red Bar. The sun had only just gone down when we left the restaurant at 10.10pm, and we were able to sit on the Promenade Deck and watch night fall before going to bed.

Thursday 11th May: Lisbon, Portugal

Because we were going to Portugal next – which is in the same time zone as the UK – the ship’s clocks were turned back an hour … with the result that Sue and I woke up earlier that we had done on the previous four days.

During the night Ventura had sailed south from Vigo, and at 7.00am she was just beginning to turn towards the mouth of the River Tagus.

She finally moored alongside the old Tobacco Dock at 8.30am, which gave us a great view downriver towards the sea and across to the other side of the river.

It also gave us a good view of the main Portuguese naval base on the other side of the River Tagus.

Because Sue and I had woken up slightly earlier than usual, we were in the Epicurean Restaurant well before 9.00am …

… and in time to hear the announcement that all the formalities were completed, and passengers could go ashore as soon as they wanted to.

Sue and I decided to wait on the Promenade Deck for the initial rush to finish, and we disembarked just as a major crew drill was taking place at 10.00am. A shuttle-bus arrived just as we left cruise terminal, and we decided to take it into the centre of Lisbon. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake as, due to roadworks and diversions, it took a route that looped around the centre of the city before dropping us off in Largo Martim Moniz.

This was not where we had been dropped off before, but the amp we had been given in the cruise terminal helped us to find our way via Dom Pedro IV Place (Plaça Dom Pedro IV) …

… to Rossio, …

… where one of Sue’s favourite fabric shops is located.

From there we walked down the Rua di do Ouro (Gold Street) towards the waterfront and the famous Black Horse Square. On the way we passed the famous Victorian Santa Justa elevator.

Once there, we had a drink in a local café/restaurant (Antártida

… before going around the corner to the Lisbon Shop, where we bought a few small souvenirs. Sue and I then went across the square …

… until we reached the main road that led back to the cruise terminal.

Sue and I spent several minutes in the duty-free shop in the cruise terminal before walking back to Ventura.

Whilst we had been ashore, another cruise ship – the AIDA Stella – had moored in front of our ship.

By the time were back aboard and had dropped off our bags and cameras in our suite, it was just past 2.00pm, and we decide to go up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for a light lunch and a drink.

Sue and I then went down to the Promenade Deck to sit for a time watching the world go by, and we did not return to our suite until after 3.00pm, by which time we were ready for a bit of a rest.

During the late afternoon, an announcement was made that due to the wind direction, the ship’s thrusters would have to be used at regular intervals to ensure that she remained alongside the dock. What we had not realised at the time was that this would mean that they would be used all night … but that was something that we did not discover until later.

Sue and I had booked dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant, and at 7.30pm we went to the Red Bar for a pre-dinner drink after taking a short stroll along the Promenade Deck.

It was a different menu from our previous dinner, and included:


Duo of Cured Smoked Salmon: Aged 21-year-old Malt Whisky Loch Fyne and H. Forman & Son’s Famous London Cure Oak Smoked Salmon. (Both of us)

Main Courses

Whole Dover Sole a la Meunière with Maître d’Hôtel Butter Sauce. (Sue)

Redman Limousin Irish Beef Fillet and Ox Cheek with Smoked Croquette Potatoes, Cabernet Sauvignon Glazed Grelot Onions and Salt-baked Heirloom Carrots. (Me)


Elements of Summer Trifle, including Blackberry Jelly, Tarragon Meringue, Raspberry Roulade, Clotted Cream, and Fried Custard. (Sue)

Banana and Peanut Butter Cannelloni with Muscovado Sugar Ice Cream, Rum Jelly, and Key Lime Gel. (Me)

Petit Four

Chocolate Truffles.

After dinner we went for some fresh air on the Promenade Deck and – after preparing for our next day’s trip to Óbidos – we went to bed.

Friday 12th May: Lisbon, Portugal

Sue and I were woken up at regular intervals during the night by the vibration and noise caused by the thrusters. Hardly an hour went past without them being used, and at times the vibration alone was enough to shake us awake. As a result, we slept very badly and were awake when our alarm clock went off at 7.15am.

Whilst I was waiting for Sue to get ready, I went out onto our suite balcony and saw a Portuguese Navy patrol vessels (the Viana do Castelo-class patrol vessel Sines [P362]) sail past Ventura.

By 8.00am, Sue and I were in the Epicurean Restaurant having breakfast, before going ashore at 8.35am to join the other passengers who were going on the trip to Óbidos. It was entitled ‘Charming Óbidos’, and the coach ride from Lisbon to Óbidos took seventy-five minutes.

When we disembarked from our coach, our guide took us through the Town Gate, which shelters an oratory dedicated to Our Lady of Piety.

She then led us along the lower of the two streets through the town, the Rue Josefa de Óbidos. Our route took us past the Town Hall …

.. which used to be a local vicar’s residence.

Next to it was St Peter’s Church. This was originally built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1755. It was rebuilt in the baroque style, as its altar shows.

We then walked on to the town’s main square. On one side of the square was the pillory that was formerly used to administer public punishments and humiliations.

On the opposite side of the square was St Mary’s Church …

… which was built on the site of a Visigoth temple. It was subsequently used as a mosque and rebuilt as a church.

On the third side of the square was the former portico that had house the town’s market.

At this point our guide took us back toward the town’s gate along the other main street, the Rua Direita.

This narrow street was crisscrossed by a number of equally narrow side streets.

By this time we were no longer being guided and had about an hour of free time to explore the town. After buying a few small souvenirs, Sue and I found a small café that was selling our favourite Portuguese pastries!

Suitably refreshed, we made our way back towards the Town Gate …

… and through it into the small square outside.

From there we could see the aqueduct that was commissioned by Queen Catherine of Austria in the sixteenth century to ensure that the town’s numerous fountains had a regular supply of fresh water.

We re-joined our tour party at midday in the town car park, and by 1.30pm we were back aboard Ventura. Sue and I decided to have a short rest in our suite before going up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for lunch and a drink.

After lunch we spent half an hour on the Promenade Deck before paying a visit to the Loyalty and Future Cruise Desk (Deck 5 Midships) to raise a query about the forthcoming Peninsular Club Party … but the queue was so long that after fifteen minutes we gave up and returned to our suite to read and rest for what remained of the afternoon.

The Ventura set sail from Lisbon for Porto at 5.30pm, and by the time we went for our pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar, she was well out to sea. The weather had begun to take a turn for the worse, and we were unable to take our customary walk along the Promenade Deck before dinner, although we were able after we had eaten. Sue and I were back in our suite by 10.30pm, and asleep well before midnight.

Saturday 13th May: Porto, Portugal

Overnight the sea was quite rough, and although I slept fairly well, Sue didn’t. As a result we decided not to bother to go into Porto but to stay close to the ship and to have a walk around the Matosinhos area. By 8.00am the ship had moored in the port that serves Porto, the Port of Leixões, and by 8.30am passengers were allowed to go ashore.

We ate breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant and by 10.15am Sue and I had passed through the cruise terminal and were on the shuttle-bus to the port gate. On leaving the port, we turned right, straight onto the promenade that runs along the beach of Matosinhos.

The sun was bright and there was hardly any breeze, and it was very relaxing walking along the wide promenade. About halfway along it was a temporary stand that was advertising the Rally de Portugal (The Portuguese Rally).

On the far side of the bay we could see a small fortress, …

… but by this time we were feeling hot and in need of a drink. All of the local cafés and restaurants were preparing for lunch, and it proved impossible to find somewhere to buy a drink. As a result, Sue and I walked back to the dock gate and then to its left. This took us past a monument to region’s most revered religious relic, the Senhor do Padrão which is also known as the Senhor do Matosinhos.

From our previous visit to Matosinhos we knew that this area was full of bars and restaurants, …

… but these were also all getting ready for Saturday lunch. In the end we gave up trying and returned to Ventura. We were back aboard by 12.30pm, and after having a drink in our suite, Sue and I went down to the Saffron Restaurant for lunch.

This proved to be a bit of a mistake as the main course that we ordered (fish and chips to share) was – to be blunt – pretty awful. Luckily, the starters and desserts were fine, but everyone else who ate the same main course complained about it.

After lunch, Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air, but as Sue was feeling very tired after her previous night’s interrupted sleep, we went back to our suite so that she could rest.

Sue slept until just after 4.00pm. When she woke up, I made her a cup of tea and we ate a couple of pastries that we had bought in Lisbon on the previous day. We then watched the unmooring operation, which – because of the high wind – required the use of a tug to assist the Ventura to turn around in the dock.

During the day my stoma had been giving me problems, and by the time we went to have our pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar and dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant, I had had to change my bag several times. As I had no idea what was causing the problem, I took some of the medication prescribed for me to use when this happens, and by the time we went to bed, the situation seemed to have resolved itself.

Sunday 14th May: At sea

In preparation for our next port-of-call (Cherbourg, France) the ship’s clocks went forward again by one house at 2.00am. Luckily, Sue and I were asleep at the time and had altered our watches and clocks before going to sleep on the previous evening.

Despite some rough weather, overnight, the Ventura ploughed on at nearly her maximum speed, and had rounded Cap Finisterre and was well into the Bay of Biscay when we woke up at 7.30am.

As this was the last sea day of our cruise, Sue and |I had several things that we wanted to do. After breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, we visited the ship’s Duty Free Shop (Deck 6 Midships) to buy some cigarettes for an old friend. We then spent about ten minutes on the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to collect our Kindles. We then made our way to the Arena Theatre to make sure that we had seats to see Valerie Singleton be interviewed by the Entertainments Manager, John Barham.

This interview finished at midday and Sue and I set off to find somewhere to sit and have a drink, a task that proved impossible as every internal bar was shut and every seat was already taken. In the end we returned to our suite for a drink and to do the daily crossword.

At 1.30pm, Sue and I went down to the Havana Show Lounge to watch Michael Kushner deliver his third talk of the cruise. It was entitled SPIES, LIES AND DOUBLE XX AGENTS THAT MADE D-DAY WORK …

… and finished at 2.45pm … just in time for Sue and I to get to the Epicurean Restaurant for afternoon tea at 3.00pm.

The menu for the tea was included:

Herb Lobster Roll, with Celery, Chives, and Dill in a Brown Butter Brioche.

Corn-fed Paprika Chicken Ciabattina, with Heirloom Mushrooms.

Beetroot and Vanilla Smoked Salmon Shortcrust Pastry Tart, with Dill and Caper Cream and a Beetroot Wafer.

Pistachio Financiers, with Rose-scented Cream Cheese and Persian Rose Petals.

Golden Chocolate Sphere, with Dark Chocolate Mousse, Framboise Macerated Raspberries, and Chocolate Genoese.

Blueberry Yoghurt Cheesecake, with Blackcurrant Jam Centre and a Graham Cracker Base.

Verrine Mont Blanc, with Crunchy Meringue,

Blackcurrant Conserve, Dark Rum, and Sweet Crème de Marron.

Raspberry and Raw Cacao Scones and Traditional Scones, with Cotted Cream and Jam.

By the time we finished our afternoon tea, we were both very glad we had not eaten any lunch as we both felt rather full. We did try going out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air, but it was so windy that we gave up and returned to our suite.

At 5.00pm Sue and I began getting ready for the Peninsular Club Party, which took place in the Havana Show Lounge at 7.30pm.

Once the party had finished, Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck for a short time before going down to the Bay Tree Restaurant for the last formal dinner of the cruise. This ended at 10.15pm, and after a short stroll along the Promenade Deck, Sue and I returned to our suite to get ready for the trip we were taking at our last port-of-call, Cherbourg.

Monday 15th May: Cherbourg

Despite our concerns that the predicted bad weather would prevent Ventura from docking in Cherbourg, these proved unfounded, and by the time we went to breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, the ship was already moored alongside the cruise terminal.

The terminal had been built at the beginning of the twentieth century, and looked very much as it would have done when the last passengers who joined the ill-fated RMS Titanic would have seen it.

Sue and I had booked a trip entitled ‘Cotentin D-Day Landing Beaches’ and joined our coach at 9.30am. It set off almost immediately for the first stop, which was the Azeville gun battery. This was constructed close to the village of that name and formed a part of the German Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications.

The battery was one of the first built by the Germans on the French coast, with construction starting in 1941. It originally had four French-made 105mm guns of First World War vintage in open gun pits, …

…but over time these gun pits were replaced by concrete casemates.

An attempt was made to disguise the casemates by painting them to resemble local buildings.

The battery’s casemates were constructed in a line …

… and joined by underground tunnels.

They were also protected by a number of pillboxes, although this one looked more like an observation post or gun control position.

Our trip then went to Utah Beach Museum via the Crisbecq Battery, which is sometimes called the Marcouf Battery.

Our stay at the museum was relatively brief, …

… although we were able to examine the LCVP or Higgins Boat that is on display outside.

For there it was a short walk up to the top of the dunes, from where one could see part of the landing beach.

Not far from the Higgins Boat was an M4 ShermanEasy Eight’ tank …

… which looked as if it was a post-war model.

There were numerous monuments along the seafront, including the Higgins Boat Monument, …

… the U.S. Navy Normandy monument, …

… the American Soldiers’ Monument, …

… and the 1st Engineer Special Brigade Monument.

Our coach then took us to Sainte-Mère-Église, which was captured on D-Day by a mixed force drawn from both the 82nd and 101st US Airborne Divisions.

We began by visiting the church, which dominates the town’s main square.

An effigy of a paratrooper hanging by his parachute from the tower of the church …

… commemorates Private John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment who hung there for two hours before being captured by the Germans. He was later released when the town was captured by members of his regiment’s 3rd Battalion.

Inside the church …

… there are two stained glass windows …

… that are dedicated to the men of the 82nd and 101st US Airborne Divisions and their part in the liberation of France.

Just across the road from the church is the Airborne Museum. On entry one is greeted by an M4 Sherman tank …

… and a German 88mm Flak gun.

We began our tour of the museum by visiting the building dedicated to the Waco glider.

Inside is an example of the glider …

… which contains two tableaux showing what it must have been like inside one as it went into combat.

The building also contains an example of the ubiquitous Willys Jeep.

Sue and I then made our way to the building that houses an example of a C-47 Dakota transport aircraft.

This is displayed as if it were just being boarded by paratroops before the D-Day airborne assault.

By the time we had finished looking at the Dakota we had to make a choice, either to visit the Overlord exhibit …

… or have lunch in a nearby café.

As it was already well past 2.00pm and we had not had anything to eat or drink since breakfast, the café won!

The coach returned us to the Ventura at 3.30pm, and after having a short rest, we had to begin the process of packing for our disembarkation on the next morning. This took us about an hour, after which we had a somewhat longer break to rest and recover before we had to get ready for our last dinner of the cruise.

As on all the previous evenings, Sue and started with a short walk on the Promenade Deck, followed by a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar. At 8.30pm we went down to the Bat Tree Restaurant, where we ate a great meal that included whitebait and Chicken Kiev. Afterward we bade farewell to the waiters who had given us such excellent service, and then – after a final walk along the Promenade Deck – we went back to our suite to get ready for bed.

Tuesday 16th May: Southampton

Overnight the ship’s clocks went back by an hour to British Summer Time. This ensured that we got an extra hour’s sleep. However, our sleep was interrupted twice, once at 3.30am when the ship picked up the Southampton pilot at the Nab Tower and again at 6.00am when she began to manoeuvre alongside the Mayflower Cruise Terminal.

Sue and I were in the Epicurean Restaurant by 7.30am, and by 8.00am we had eaten breakfast, thanks the staff who had served us, and had picked up our hand luggage from our suite. We made our way down to the Priority disembarkation point just as it was announced that we could go ashore, and by 8.30am we had collected our luggage and our car and were driving out of the valet parking car park.

Our journey home took just three hours, and that included a comfort break at Winchester Services. The traffic was bit congested in places, but most of the time I was able to drive at a steady 60mph to 70mph.

We arrived home physically tired but mentally refreshed from our latest cruise … and we are already looking forward to our next one!