Sunday 30 July 2023

Inspiration from old wargame magazines

Like almost all older wargamers, I have a stack of old wargame magazines squirreled away. My collection includes three complete volumes of MINIATURE WARFARE that I acquired some years ago courtesy of David Crook.

The volumes that I own are:

  • Volume One (Issues 1 to 12): Issues 1 to 5 have card covers and are priced at 4/- and Issues 6 to 12 are printed on glossy paper and priced at 3/6.
  • Volume Two (Issues 1 to 12):: Issues 1 to 4 are priced at 3/6 and Issues 5 to 12 are priced at 85C (US cents). All issues are printed on glossy paper.
  • Volume Three (Issues 1 to 12): All priced at 4/- or 20 np (New Pence) or 85c (US cents). All issues are printed on glossy paper.

John Tunstill was the editor and publisher, and the magazine was available from Benares Road, Plumstead, London, SE18 ... which is just over a mile from where I live! (The last issue of Volume Three included a note that the publication address was changing to Burnley Road, Stockwell, London, SW9.)

Flicking through these magazines, its interesting to note that names of some of the contributors to the first three year's issues: Phil Barker, Tony Bath, John Davis, Andy Grainger, Charles Grant, Peter Gilder, Paddy Griffith, George Gush, Bish Iwaszko, Duncan Macfarlane, David Nash, Bob O'Brien, Charles Reavely, Stuart Reid, John Sandars, Jack Scruby, Ed Smith, and Malcolm Woolgar, It's quite some list of early wargamers who all played their part in the development of the hobby in the UK!

The content was somewhat different from the sort of stuff one finds in the three modern mainstream glossy wargame magazines and included some quite technical articles.

I have several articles clipped from later issues of MINIATURE WARFARE, including three by the late Bish Iwaszko about an imaginary Allied invasion of the Cherbourg Peninsula. Looking at the photographs, I remember how inspired I was by them when I first saw them.

Friday 28 July 2023

Flocking progress

I’ve been steadily working on flocking my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War collection, and I am well on the way to finishing the Germans. One thing that this work has thrown up is the need to fill a few holes in the collection, and I am in two minds as to whether to flock the Russian stuff first or to fill the holes.

I think that the answer will be to see how much work the latter will take as I suspect that I will also find holes in the Russian part of the collection.

Thursday 27 July 2023

The latest Military History Plus podcast

I managed to listen to the latest Military History Plus podcast yesterday whilst I was flocking some of my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War collection.

This episode was entitled EXPLORING COMBAT MOTIVATION and featured an interview with Dr Tom Thorpe about his research and interest into combat motivation and resilience. The discussion covered what is meant by the term combat motivation and what factors are most important in ensuring that soldiers will fight. A range of factors were covered, including small group cohesion, ideology, and coercion.

I enjoyed this discussion, especially as it included the topic of what constitutes morale, something about which my views have changed over the years.

I highly recommend the Military History Plus podcasts. I urge my regular blog readers not to be put off by some of the negative reviews that seem to have been written by reviewers who didn’t quite understand the intended scope of the podcasts.

The Military History Plus podcasts take a deep dive into the fascinating world of conflict and its impact on various aspects of society. From the grand sweep of history to the intricate details of individual battles, the joint podcasters, Professor Gary Sheffield and Dr Spencer Jones will explore them all, including delving into the ways in which war has shaped art, literature, and even hobbies like wargaming and football.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

The War Memorials Trust

Our local community centre (Shrewsbury House) hosts a weekly ‘get together’ on most Monday mornings. It’s aimed at retired people, and the programme includes a mixture of sessions, including ones about local history and charitable organisations.

Yesterday’s ‘get together’ featured a talk by the director of the War Memorials Trust, Frances Moreton. The trust was set up in 1997 thanks to the work done by ex-Royal Marine, Ian Davidson. The purpose of the trust was '… to educate the public and to foster patriotism and good citizenship by remembering those who have fallen in war by preserving and maintaining war memorials'.

The trust’s objectives are:

  • To improve the condition of war memorials, in their historic design and setting, to support their long-term preservation in-line with best conservation practice, sustainability and the challenges of climate change.
  • To increase the understanding of best conservation practice including how to maintain, protect, repair and conserve war memorials appropriately as well as raise awareness of the support available from War Memorials Trust.
  • To enhance public engagement with, and the recognition of local responsibility for, war memorials.
  • To sustain access to grant funding to support repair and conservation works in-line with best conservation practice.
  • To increase the money raised by the charity to deliver its vision to protect and conserve war memorials.

It gives match-funded grants to local communities who want to clean, conserve, and/or repair war memorials. It also has an online database of war memorials across the England, Scotland Wales, and Northern Ireland that shows their location on a map as well as photographs (where they exist) and a description of the memorial.

Monday 24 July 2023

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames

During a recent visit to Bluewater with Sue, I happened to go into the centre’s branch of WHSmith and bought a copy of the latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES to read whilst she did her shopping in Boots, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer etc. (Bluewater has numerous places where one can sit whilst one’s ‘other half’ shops.)

It’s some time since I has bought a copy and there was no freebie to entice me to buy one, but I knew that reading it (or even just flipping through it) would easily fill the time I had to wait.

In my opinion, the stand-out articles in this issue were:

  • Conrad Kinch’s SEND THREE AND FOURPENCE: ALL THIS AND A WORLD WAR TOO, in which he examines the issues raised in a recent YouTube video from MIDWINTER MINIS that is entitled ‘The BIG PROBLEM with historical wargames’.
  • Jon Sutherland’s HAM & JAM: NORMANDY JUNE 6th 1944, which looks at how to recreate the glider-borne attacks on the bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River.
  • Chris Swan’s THE FIRST L.R.D.G., which is about the Senussi Campaign that took place in Egypt from 1915 to 1917.
  • David Tuck’s SCHLESWIG HOLSTEIN, which is about wargaming the wars that took place in 1845 to 1851 and 1864.

There was lots for me to get my teeth into, and as several of the above were part one of a series, I’ll be looking out for next month’s issue.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Phil Sabin’s latest air war games

Before he retired from King’s College, London, and moved abroad, Professor Phil Sabin was a relatively near-neighbour of mine. We often met and had a chat at a local wargame show, I visited his home and fought a wargame with him, and he regularly invited me to take part in wargame sessions (including Connections UK) at KCL.

One of his specialist areas of study was air warfare, and I was very interested to see that his latest games have been featured on his YouTube channel and the BoardGameGeek website.

The games are:

I have yet to try the latest versions of these games, but if past experience is anything to go by, they’ll be great wargames.

Friday 21 July 2023

Flocking the bases of my World War Two collection: A progress report

I began flocking the bases of my 20mm World War Two collection with natural-coloured cork granules a few days ago, and so far I've completed about a third of them. I've not rushed to complete this task as I'm doing a bit of reorganisation as I proceed.

I estimate that it will take me another week or so to finish this, and by then I hope to have the first draft of the latest iteration of RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES ready for some play-testing using the newly revitalised collection.

In the meantime, here are some more photographs of play-tests of the rules from 2008:

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Looking back in order to go forward

COW2023 gave me the opportunity to take part in two World War 2 wargames: Tim Gow's LITTLE WORLD WARS and Chris Kemp's NQM: NOT QUITE MECHANISED. As a result, I've been thinking about the rules I want to use for my much-planned Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.

Coincidentally, during the conference I spoken to a wargamer who had play-tested the earlier version RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES ... and that set me thinking about the World War 2 rules that I wrote before I began work on what became the PORTABLE WARGAME, RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES: TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED. These were published as an appendix to John Curry's 2009 reprint of Donald Featherstone's WARGAMING AIRBORNE OPERATIONS. I still have the MS Word file containing the rules somewhere on my computer, and I hope to print off a copy in due course to see if there is some way that I can meld elements of it with elements of the PORTABLE WARGAME.

The following are some photographs of one of the play-test battles I fought using RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES: TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED back in 2008.

Monday 17 July 2023

Military History Plus podcasts

I spent a very productive time yesterday flocking some wargame figures and vehicles whilst listening to the excellent new Military History Plus podcasts that have been created by Dr Spencer Jones and Professor Gary Sheffield.

The first in the series included a brief introduction by the creators of the podcasts as well a discussion about what constitutes military history. I found this very interesting, and although I was brought up in the age when the so-called Victorian-style of military history predominated, my personal view that the study of the subject cannot be separated from – for example – social, political, and economic history seems to be in accord with those expressed by the podcast’s creators.

The second podcast was mainly taken up with an interview with Dr Sarah-Louise Miller, a historian specialising in the history of intelligence and espionage, and particularly the importance of women in these areas. There was also an interesting discussion about the relationship between academics who are seeking to make history more accessible and the mainstream media.

I thoroughly recommend this podcast to those of my regular blog readers who enjoy listening to wide ranging discussions about military history. I understand that the creators have already recorded a series of podcasts that will be released regularly, and I have bookmarked their website in my favourites so that I don’t miss any.

Sunday 16 July 2023

I have been to ... the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre community day

Every year, the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre opens up its site for a community day. This gives them the opportunity to showcase the work that they do both at the centre and in the community, and this event took place on Saturday, starting at 10.30am.

Sue and I arrived just before the start, and after parking our car we went inside, registered that we were there, and signed up for two sessions. The first was a 'Behind the Scenes' tour that was concentrating on some of the toys and games in the museum's huge collection (the museum has over 2.5 million items of which 90% is in storage at any one time). This started at 11.00am after a short poetry recital by a local poet, Joel Sydenham.

After a short visit to the climate-controlled room in which the pastel drawings and paintings are kept, we passed on to the area where the uniforms and textiles are stored. There we saw:

  • An example of a tiny doll in the uniform of a Great War WREN (Women's Royal Naval Service).
  • The teddy bear (named Humphrey) that was taken around the world by Tracy Edwards when she led the all-female crew of the yacht Maiden during the 1990 Whitbread Round the World Race. (They came second in the race.)
  • A glove puppet of the Devil from a traditional Punch & Judy show.

The next stage of our tour took us to the 3D storage area, where we saw:

  • A whistle carried by a female passenger aboard the Titanic. (The passenger gave it to a crewman of the lifeboat she eventually boarded).
  • A board game named 'The sinking of the Titanic', which was produced by the Ideal Corporation in 1978. 
  • An eighteenth century jigsaw map of the World that was used to teach children.
  • A set of bone dominos in a bone and wooden box that was made by French prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars.

Once our tour was over, Sue and I took a break outside before visiting the Mystery Room. This contained a number of maritime artifacts that visitors were allowed to handle, and we were then encouraged to write a poem and to tell a story about what we had chosen to pick up by the poet who had given the recital earlier in the day.

We then had a walk through the garden that is maintained by local schoolchildren (with the aid of volunteers) before attending a short speech by the mayor (Councillor Dominic Mbang), who then made a number of presentations to volunteers and local young people who had taken part in projects at the Centre.

At 1.15pm Sue and I (along with several other people, including the mayor) went up to the Reseach Room to listen to a short talk Simon Stephens, the Curator of the Ship Model and Boat Collections. He talked briefly about the sheer range and size of ship models in the museum's collection and then gave us the opportunity to look at a late nineteenth century toy model of a turreted ironclad ram ... which has now become my favourite ship model!

People were still arriving when Sue and I left at 2.00pm, and it looked as if the day had been a very successful event. Our thanks go to Khursheed Hussain, the museum's Collections Engagement Producer, the staff of the museum who were on hand to talk to attendees, and the volunteers who made the whole event so memorable.

Saturday 15 July 2023

Tintin en espagnole

 As I mentioned in my recent cruise blog post, whilst I was in Coruña I bought three Spanish-language editions of some Tintin books. They were LA OREJA ROTA (THE BROKEN EAR), ...



In the Spanish editions, Snowy is known as Milu (the French version of which [Milou] was also the name of Georges Remi/Hergé's first girlfriend!), Captain Haddock is Capitain Haddok, Thomson and Thompson are Hernandez and Fernandez, and Professor Calculus is Professor Tornasol (which is Spanish for litmus or sunflower).

Friday 14 July 2023

To flock or not to flock, that was the question

Some time ago I mentioned in a blog post that I was considering flocking the bases of my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War and Napoleonic collections with natural-coloured cork granules, and over the past few days I have been experimenting with some of the former to see what the end result would look like.

Figures and vehicles with green-painted bases looked like this ...

... and those with cork flocked bases looked like this.

In my opinion the results of this 'experiment' were pretty conclusive ... and it looks as if I'll be spending some time over the next few months flocking the bases of my existing Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War collection.

As to what I will do about my Napoleonic collection ... well, that remains to be decided.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

I have been to ... Spain and Portugal ... and NOT Guernsey

Saturday, 24th June: Southampton

As is normal on a day we are going on a cruise, Sue and I woke up at 6.30am and by 8.15am we were on our way to Southampton. The traffic on the A2 was quite light, and we reached the junction with the M25 by 8.40am. Despite a short delay on the M25 due to a broken-down vehicle, we reached the M3 turnoff by 9.45am.

Traffic on the M3 was about the same as usual and just after 10.05am we had reached Winchester Services. We stopped there for breakfast and to restore our personal comforts, but due to much larger number of people who had also stopped for a break, coupled with problems with the coffee machine at Costa Coffee, we did not resume our journey until nearly 11.00am. Roadworks between Winchester and Southampton slowed us down and we did not reach the Mayflower Cruise Terminal in Southampton Docks until 11.50am. 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 no queue of people waiting to get into the terminal, and because we had booked a suite, we had priority boarding passes and were allowed to go straight to the booking-in desk. This process was quicker than normal and by 12.15pm Sue and I had passed through security and were aboard P&O’s MV Ventura.

Once aboard, we booked in at our muster station, which was Muster Station E in the Havana Show Lounge (Deck 7 Aft), and then went to the Cinnamon Restaurant (Deck 5 Midships) for lunch. Within a matter of minutes Sue and I were seated at a table with three 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)

We had an enjoyable chat with our table companions until 1.50pm, at which point Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck (Deck 7) for some fresh air.

At 2.00pm we then made our way to our suite (the Palermo Suite), which was on Deck 10 Aft. This was the first time we had been allocated this suite, and its arrangement was slightly different from the one we were in on our previous cruise. It had a seating area with a desk, sink, tea & coffee making facilities, a hi-fi sound system, and a TV, …

… which could be separated off from the sleeping area (which also had a desk and another TV) …

… by a curtain.

A mirrored door was the entrance to the walk-in wardrobe, next to which was the door into the shower and bathroom.

A WC was accessible from both the shower/bathroom and the main seating area.

The main windows of the suite were actually sliding doors that gave access to the balcony.

Our luggage had already been left outside suite, and once I brought it inside, Sue and I then began the process of unpacking our bags. We finished this task by about 3.30pm, at which point 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 4.15pm, and soon afterwards we were visited separately by our Cabin Steward (Vincy) and our Butler (Anil). Anil had been our butler on our last cruise, but Vincy was new to us, and we had a short chat with both of them before they went off to see the other passengers they are servicing on this cruise.

Ventura was scheduled to sail at 4.30pm, but her departure was slightly delayed, and she did not begin to move away from the dockside until almost 5.00pm. As she made her way out of the dock and down to the Solent, it gave an avid ship watcher like me plenty of time to see and photograph the other ships that were in Southampton on that say. These included the preserved steamship SS Shieldwall, …

Manxman (a ferry owned by the Manx Steam Packet Company), …

... MSC’s MSC Virtuosa, …

… the RO-RO ferry Hartland Point (which operates from the military port at Marchwood in support of the British armed forces), …

… the Red Funnel Line’s Isle of Wight ferry Red Falcon, …

… P&O’s Iona (with the Red Funnel Line’s Red Kestrel moored just behind her), …

… the Japanese vehicle carrier Antares Leader, ...

… and several harbour tugs (Svitzer Eston, Svitzer Bargate, and Svitzer Harty).

The weather was so nice that I stayed on our suite balcony until we had sailed most of the way to the pilot station at the Nab Tower. Along the way I saw Calshot Fort, …

… Cowes on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight, …

… Norris Castle (and NOT Carisbrooke Castle as I first thought!), …

… Osborne House, and …

… the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth.

I also saw one of the new Wightlink Ferry’s hybrid ferries, Victoria of Wight

… and a Royal Navy D-class destroyer.

During her passage towards the Nab Tower, Ventura passed between two Victorian sea forts.

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


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

Jamón Pata Negra Ibrico de Bellota with Aged Manchego Cheese, Fine Spanish Olives, Country Bred, and Freshly Pressed Almond Oil. (Me)

Main Courses

Olney Grounds 14oz Beef Rib-Eye Steak for Two, with Madeira and Béarnaise Sauces, Fried Onion Rings, Cooked Cherry Tomatoes, Thick-cut Chips, and Wilted Spinach. (Both of us)


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 we have come to expect – superb. Sue and I 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, 25th June: At sea

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

The sea was very calm considering that we were in the northern part of the Bay of Biscay, and a small RO-RO ferry that sailed behind us created almost no bow wave as it cut through the waves.

After breakfast Sue and I paid a visit to the shops, where we bought a new baseball hat for me. (I had forgotten to pack the one I usually wear on cruises, and as we were expecting to go ashore several times in places where the heat and light from the sun can be very intense, it made sense to get one so that I could avoid the chance of sunstroke.)

This was followed by a walk around the Promenade Deck before we went to the Arena Theatre (Decks 6 and 7 Forward) to listen to the guest speaker, Roger Evans. He was introduced by the Entertainments Manager, Leon De St Croix …

… and spoke for nearly forty minutes about CYBERWARFARE, CYBERESPIONAGE & CYBERSABOTAGE.

After listening to – and thoroughly – enjoying Roger Evans’ talk, Sue and I spent a short spell on the Promenade Deck before going to the Glass House Bar (Deck 7 Forward) for a drink. We then returned to our suite for a rest before going to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for lunch.

After lunch, Sue and I returned to our suite to read and rest until it was time to get ready for the first formal dinner of the cruise. Thanks to the excellent weather, we were able to make good use of our balcony even though it was partially in the shade.

Sue and I were ready early and went down to the Promenade Deck to look at the sea …

… and to have a short walk along the deck from aft to the midships.

The formal part of the evening’s events started with a ‘Welcome Aboard’ reception held in the ship’s atrium (Decks 5, 6, and 7 Midships). This was hosted by the ship’s captain (Captain Hudson) and his officers. Luckily, Sue and I were able to find seats in the Red Bar, …

… where the waiters plied us with free drinks … most of which were 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 menu was one of the better ones that P&O regularly use, and included gravlax, Beef Wellington, and Cherries Jubilee. Our two food waiters – Rabi and Prem – and our wine steward – Edwin – were extremely attentive and provided the usual excellent service one expects from P&O’s restaurant staff.

After dinner Sue and I went back up to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before returning to our suite to get ready for bed. We had to turn in slightly earlier than usual as the ship’s clocks were being put forward by an hour as we were going into a Spanish port – Vigo – on the following morning and the ship would be operating on local time rather than British Summer Time. We were also booked on a tour (La Toja by Trolley Train) that was leaving Vigo at 10.00am and knew that we had to have eaten breakfast and made our way ashore by 9.45am at the latest to be sure not to miss it.

Monday, 25th June: Vigo, Spain

Sue and I woke at 7.00am, just as the ship was moving up the estuary towards her berth in Vigo.

After eating breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, we 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 9.40am Sue and I had made our way ashore, gone through the cruise terminal, and were boarding our tour bus.

Our coach took us along the coast road to O Grove where we changed over to the trolley-train. This then took us over the bridge from O Grove to La Toja before taking us on a circular tour of the island. (La Toja is THE resort for the rich and famous of Galicia, and besides having several luxury hotels and a casino, it has many large houses and apartments that are used as weekend retreats and/or holiday homes.)

After our trolley-train tour, we disembarked and went into one of the luxury hotels (the Louxo La Toja Hotel) …

… for a drink and some excellent tapas.

Suitably refreshed, Sue and I went for a walk around the area near the hotel. This took us along part of the sea wall …

… and through a small park …

… in which was situated the Chapel of Saint Caralampio (Capela de San Caralampio).

This is an amazing building whose external walls are decorated with inlaid scallop shells.

We then made our way back to the coach pick-up point, and by 1.30pm we were on our way back to Vigo. The journey back took just under and hour, and by 2.45pm Sue and I were in the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant. Unfortunately, we had reached the restaurant just as it was changing over from lunch to afternoon tea service, and the choice of food available was rather limited. We did manage to find something to eat but were very grateful for the fact that we had eaten some tapas in La Toja!

By 3.30pm we were back in our suite, and thanks to our early start, the loss of an hour’s sleep, and the disappointing lunch, we both fell asleep.

Sue and I woke up just before Ventura was due to leave Vigo, and we decided to go down to the Promenade Deck to watch her sail out. A Guardia Civil patrol boat was circling behind the ship, and eventually followed her until she left the harbour.

Ventura finally left the dockside a little later than expected, …

… and by 6.00pm Sue and I had returned to our suite … just in time to see the pilot boat overtake the ship at high speed.

Our evening was uneventful, and after a walk along the Promenade Deck, Sue and I had a drink in the Red Bar. Because the weather was so pleasant, we walked back out along the Promenade Deck to the doors leading into the lobby where the stairway and lift down to the Bay Tree Restaurant are located. After dinner, Sue and I returned to our suite as we were both feeling rather tired, and by 11.00pm we were both sound asleep.

Tuesday 27th June: Lisbon, Portugal

Overnight the ship’s clocks went back an hour as our next port-of-call – Lisbon, Portugal – is in the same time zone as the UK. As a result, Sue and I woke up in time to see the lighthouse at the entry to the River Tagus …

… and a Portuguese Navy patrol boat (the Viana do Castelo-class patrol vessel Figueira da Foz [P361]) sailing in behind Ventura.

Whilst Sue and I got ready for breakfast, Ventura made her way upriver to her normal mooring at the cruise terminal at the old Tobacco Dock.

After breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I went down to the Promenade Deck to sit and watch the world go by until we felt like going ashore. During our time out on deck we saw the ship’s garbage being collected for disposal …

… and an ambulance arrive to take off someone who required shore side hospital treatment.

Just before 11.00am we returned to our suite, collected our cameras and bags, and went ashore. It was very hot and we kept as close to the river’s edge as possible so that we could catch whatever breeze there was.

Along the way we saw two old, preserved Tagus river barges, one of which has been converted to carry tourists on river cruises.

We reached Black Horse Square a little after 11.30am …

… and decided to have a drink in one of the local cafés. As it was so hot (it was reaching towards 32°C), we both had a freshly pressed orange juice and a pastella de nata in the ‘Can the Can’ café.

Because we had visited Lisbon only six weeks before, Sue and I decided that rather than get any hotter just walking around doing window shopping, we would return to the ship. Out walk took us just under thirty minutes (we were by no means hurrying!) and gave us the opportunity to see the ship in all her glory …

… moored near to the rather austere-looking cruise terminal.

Having passed through the shoreside security checks, Sue and I made our way through the duty-free shopping area …

… and back aboard Ventura. We went straight back to our suite, where we spent the next couple of hours chilling … both literally and metaphorically!

Sue and I stayed in our suite until 3.30pm, when we ventured up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea. We then spent twenty minutes on the Promenade Deck watching passengers and crew who had been ashore return home whilst at the same time having a chat with the Pakistani Petty Officer who was overseeing two crew members who were in a cradle painting part of the ship.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting before getting ready for dinner. Sue and I went down to the Red Bar for a pre-dinner drink via the Promenade Deck at 7.30pm … and back along the deck at 8.30pm to have dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant. We returned to the Promenade Deck after dinner to enjoy the fresh air and were back in our suite by a little after 10.00pm. We watched the news on the suite’s TV for a time, but by 11.00pm we were both in bed reading, and soon afterwards we fell asleep.

Wednesday 28th June: Porto, Portugal

The sound and vibration caused by Ventura coming alongside the dockside in Leixões.

This port serves as Porto’s seaport and is close to the suburb of Matosinhos.

As we had not gone into Porto during our last two visits to this part of Portugal, Sue and I decided that on this occasion we would. We had an early breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, and after collecting our bags and camera from our suite, we went down to the Promenade Deck to see how busy the disembarkation was. In the end we decided to wait until things had calmed down a bit before making our way to the sky bridge to the cruise terminal.

It took about ten minutes to walk from the ship to the shuttlebus pickup point, and we only had to queue for about five minutes before we were on our way to Porto. The journey in took less than thirty minutes, and by 11.00am we had been dropped off on the southern bank of the River Douro.

This is very much the touristy part of the city, and the mainly pedestrianised road is lined with cafés, restaurants, small souvenir shops, stalls selling artisan crafts, and ticket booths for the various river cruises.

Sue and I walked from the drop off point to the end of the Ponte Luiz road and rail bridge across the River Douro.

One section of the river’s bank was lined with preserved examples of the sailing craft that used to ply their trade along the River Douro.

Having undertaken some retail therapy on our way back from the bridge, Sue and I decided to have a café con leche and a pastella de nata each in one of the riverside café/restaurants. The service was very slow, but the food and drink almost made up for it, and although I doubt if we will go back there again, the Nata d’Ouro certainly sold excellent pastries!

Sue and I were back aboard the shuttlebus by 1.00pm and had returned to the cruise terminal by 1.40pm. The return journey was slower than the outward one as we were trying to travel during the Porto lunchtime rush-hour, but at least the coach was comfortable and air-conditioned.

Once back aboard Ventura we went along the Promenade Deck to sit for a while in the warm breeze before returning to our suite. We then stayed there until 3.00pm, when we went up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea. This was followed by another short break on the Promenade Deck, but as the breeze had turned colder, we only stayed there for a short time before going up to our suite to rest and to read.

Just after 5.00pm our butler paid us a visit, and he had only been with us a few minutes when the ship’s captain made a ship-wide announcement. Apparently, the weather forecast for Guernsey – which was to be the last port-of-call of our cruise – was predicting strong winds and the possibility of rough seas. As passengers were going to have to be tendered ashore, this meant that P&O had decided to change the cruise itinerary and Ventura was going to visit Coruña on 29th June rather than Guernsey on 30th.

To be honest, this was no great surprise to Sue and I as we know that cruise ships visiting Guernsey often experience weather-related difficulties … and as we both like La Coruña, we were not upset by the change.

At 5.30pm Sue and I went out down to the Promenade Deck to watch Ventura sail out of Leixões. We then paid a visit to the ship’s shops before going back to our suite to get ready for dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant.

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. After our drink we took another walk along the Promenade Deck before going up to the Epicurean Restaurant at 8.30pm.

The evening menu in the Epicurean Restaurant was different from the one we ate on the first night of the cruise, 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, Ball Potatoes, Mixed Vegetables, and Asparagus. (Sue)

American Grain-fed Aged Angus Sirloin Steak, with Portobello Mushroom Ragout and Béarnaise Sause, Cherry Tomatoes, Deep-fried Onion Rings, and Thick-cut Chips. (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.

We had finished eating by 10.15pm and returned to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before going back to our suite to get ready for bed.

Thursday 29th June: Coruña, Spain

The downside of the diversion to Coruña was that overnight the ship’s clocks had to be advanced by one hour so that the ship was operating at local time when we arrived in port at 8.00am.

It seemed quite misty as we sailed in and by the time Ventura had docked, the mist has resolved itself into light rain.

Sue and I had a leisurely breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, after which we went out onto the Promenade Deck to judge how cold and wet it was. We decided that we would wait until the weather had improved somewhat and stayed in our suite until just before 11.15am.

By 11.30am Sue and I were sitting in the paved area near the new casino …

… and close to a very large fountain.

After having short rest (and for the rain to stop), Sue and I set off for a walk through the park that runs past the old casino and parallel with the dockside.

At the end of the park was a floral clock … which actually told the time!

Sue and I them returned in the direction of the ship but on the opposite of the main road. Eventually we reached the pedestrianised shopping street that runs slightly inland ...

… and we continued along it until we reached one of my favourite shops in La Coruña … the comic and collectables shop!

The shop was having a sale on certain items, and I managed to buy Spanish-language editions of three Tintin comic books for the price of two … 9.90€.

By this time Sue and I were feeling thirsty and walked down one of the side streets to the paved area near to the cruise terminal. We sat of the terrace of the Gasthof café/restaurant …

… where Sue had a glass of excellent local wine, I had a Coke Zero, and we shared some tapa and a tiramisu … all for just 11.10€.

We then walked back to the ship and were back in our suite by a little after 2.00pm. Sue and I stayed there resting and watching TV until just after 3.00pm when we went up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for afternoon tea. We were back in our suite by 3.50pm … at which point the ‘lost’ hour of sleep finally caught up with us and we both had a doze.

We were awoken by the captain’s announcement that the ship was about to leave Coruña, and soon afterwards we had a visit from our butler, who was carrying a plate of canapes … in this case, smoked salmon. Sue and I had an interesting chat with him before he had to go to service some of his other suite passengers.

At 7.30pm, Sue and I went down to the Promenade Deck for a walk. Although the weather had taken a bit of a turned for the worse, the sea was still not too rough and the wind too strong to make it uncomfortable out on the open deck. We then went to the Red Bar for our usual pre-dinner drink, and then ventured out on deck again before going to the Bay Tree Restaurant for the second and last formal dinner of the cruise.

We had finished eating by 9.30pm and were able to go the dance exhibition by members of the Food & Beverage and Housekeeping Departments in the ship’s atrium. Once this was over, Sue and I went back to the Promenade Deck for our last, brief walk along the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite to watch TV for a short time. We were in bed by 11.00pm and asleep soon afterwards.

Friday 30th June: At sea

Overnight the ship had sailed nearly two-thirds of the way across the Bay of Biscay.

Once breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant was over, Sue and I went for a walk around the ship’s shops, where we bought a couple of items. We then went back to our suite and packed our two suitcases and partially packed one of our holdalls. By then Sue and I were in need of a drink, and after walking around the numerous bars – all of which were crowded due to it being very windy out on the open deck – we eventually found a couple of seats in the Red Bar. Over a much-needed cup of coffee, Sue and I read for about an hour before going back to our suit via a short spell in the fresh air on the Promenade Deck.

We stayed in our suite reading and resting until it was time to go up to the Epicurean Restaurant for afternoon tea at 3.00pm.

The menu for the tea was not the same as it was on our last cruise and included:

Pancetta and Porcini Eclairs, with Mature Cheddar, Maple Roasted Pancetta Cream, and a touch of Chilli.

Parma Ham Brioche, with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Extra Virgin Olive Pearls.

Curried Crab and Yoghurt Tartlets, with Seaweed Crisp.

West Indies Dark Chocolate Tart, infused with Caribbean Spices.

Mango and Sweet Saffron Crème Patisserie Verrine, with Cardamom Biscuit, Mango and Mint Salsa and Blackcurrant Jus.

Red Velvet Pop Cake, with White Chocolate and a Sweet Cream Cheese Centre.

Pistachio and Forest Berry Petit Choux Pastry, with Rose Water, Pistachio Crackling and Lychee Pearls.

Orange Blossom and Bee Pollen Scones and Traditional Scones, with Clotted Cream and Jam.

This was served with a choice of tea, which in our case was Darjeeling.

We had finished eating by 3.35pm and were much in need of some fresh air and a little exercise, so Sue and I went down to the Promenade Deck for a short walk before returning to our suite to carry on with our packing before chilling out until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Our evening followed its usual pattern: A short walk along the Promenade Deck, followed by a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar, and then another stroll along the Promenade Deck before going to dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant.

It was a very good meal, and afterwards we were able to thank our waiters – Rabi and Prem – as well as our wine steward – Edwin – for the excellent service they had provided. Sue and I then took our final stroll along the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to get ready for our last night aboard Ventura.

Saturday 1st July: Southampton

Overnight the ship’s clocks went back by an hour to British Summer Time, and this should have meant that we had an extra hour’s sleep. Unfortunately our sleep was interrupted twice, once at 3.30am when the ship picked up the Southampton pilot at the Nab Tower and for a second time at 6.00am when Ventura began to turn so that she was port side when she moored alongside the Mayflower Cruise Terminal.

Sue and I were in the Epicurean Restaurant by 7.15am, and by 8.00am we had eaten breakfast, thanked the staff who had served us every morning, and had collected our hand luggage from our suite. We then made our way down to the priority disembarkation point – the Red Bar – just in time to join the other priority passengers as they went ashore. By 8.45am we had collected our bags from the luggage reclaim hall, passed through border control and customs, found our car in the valet car park, and were on our way out of Southampton Docks.

Our journey home took about three hours, and that included a comfort break at Winchester Services. The traffic was bit congested in places (particularly the junctions between the M3 and M25 and between the M25 and A2), but most of the time I was able to drive at a steady 60mph to 70mph.

We arrived home before midday feeling physically tired but mentally refreshed from our cruise to Spain and Portugal … and we are already thinking about booking our next cruise!