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Sunday, 28 November 2021

Nugget 340

The super-efficient editor of THE NUGGET sent me the latest issue whilst I was on my recent cruise, and I will be passing it to the printer later today. With luck, it should be ready to be posted out to members by the end this week.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2021-2022 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

I have been to … Portugal and Spain aboard MV Ventura

Back in February 2020, Sue and I booked a cruise to Iberia aboard P&O’s MV Ventura. This cruise had not been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the cruising industry was gradually returning to normal, we had been looking forward to going back aboard a ship that we knew well to go to places that were outside the UK!

About a month ago, we were contacted by P&O and told that the suite we had booked was no longer available, and that we were going to be ‘downgraded’ to lower tier accommodation. If this was not acceptable, P&O were going to give us a full refund, but if we accepted the downgrade, we would be given £100.00 each additional onboard credit and refunded the difference in price between the level of suite we had booked and what we would have paid for the lower tier cabin we were allocated.

Neither of us was very happy with this situation and refused to accept or reject P&O’s offer until we were told what alternative accommodation we were going to be offered. Just over a fortnight before we were due to sail, we were informed that we had been allocated a suite situated immediately below the one were had originally booked … so we accepted it. Ironically, it was the suite we had originally tried to book in February 2020, which suited us down to the ground!


Thursday, 11th November: Southampton

We set off from home at 8.15am … and almost immediately hit a problem. A road traffic accident some miles away had caused major holdups on all the main roads in our area, and when the school run hit the delayed commuter traffic, a large number of traffic jams had developed across our possible routes out of south-east London. Our journey to the M25 should have taken up twenty minutes, but on this occasion, it actually took nearly an hour.

We were worried that this delay would cause us to be delayed arriving in Southampton, but somewhat unusually the traffic on the M25 was relatively light and by 10.00am we had reached the junction with the M3 and were travelling towards Basingstoke and Winchester. In fact, our journey down the M3 was quicker than normal, and just after 10.30am 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 11.00am.

After having to take a minor diversion due to roadworks in Southampton, we reached the pre-cruise COVID-19 testing centre near the Mayflower Cruise Terminal at 11.30am. We drove straight in, and by 11.45am we had parked in the valet parking area and were awaiting our test results. Our car was soon booked in, and after handing our luggage over to the porters, we went into the Ocean Terminal to begin the process of boarding Ventura. Whilst we were queuing to have all our paperwork checked (i.e. our Passports, our COVID-19 vaccination certificates, our travel insurance, our medical declaration forms, and our Passenger Locator Forms) our test result came through. As they were both negative, we were allowed to move on to the pre-boarding booking process. This involved having our Passports checked (again!), having our photographs taken for the ship’s onboard security system, and having our boarding cards stamped ‘Priority’ and ‘Approved for boarding’.

The next stage of getting aboard involved passing through the physical security checks. We had to queue (again!) in the Priority Boarding section of the waiting area until the security personnel and the ship were ready for us. Luckily, we only had to wait about twenty minutes before the queue began to move forward, and we were soon having our coats and hand luggage x-rayed as we walked through the metal detectors. Once we were reunited with our stuff, we were able to go aboard Ventura, pass through their security checks (which involved having our boarding passes checked and scanned and our masked faces compared with the photographs that had been taking in the cruise terminal), and thence to our Muster Station (the Havana Show Lounge, Deck 7 Aft), where our boarding cards were scanned … again!

Having metaphorically jumped the last hurdle, Sue and I were finally able to go to our suite and drop off our coats and hand luggage before going to the Cinnamon Restaurant (Deck 5 Midships) for lunch. This was served at our table, and we finally finished eating just before 3.00pm. We then returned to our suite – after a minor diversion out onto the open deck area on port side of the Promenade Deck (Deck 7) – to discover that all our luggage had been delivered.

Sue and I then spent the next ninety minutes unpacking and stowing all our stuff. During that hour and a half our butler – Dinesh – and our cabin steward – Eusebio – visited us and introduce themselves. We had met Dinesh on a previous cruise in December 2018, and he remembered us from that earlier encounter.

Once the unpacking was completed, Sue and I went up to Deck 15 Midships for some fresh air and to have a drink, but the area where we could sit was like a wind tunnel and there were no waiters around, so after ten minutes we went after to the Terrace Bar (Deck 15 Aft) where it was nowhere near as windy, and we were able to get a much-needed drink.

Suitably refreshed, we returned to our suite to read and rest before it was time t go to dinner. Sue and I tried to find somewhere to sit for a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar (Deck 7 Midships) but all the seats were taken. We eventually found a couple of seats in the Glass House Bar (Deck 7 Forward), where the service was swift, and we were able to have a short chat with a couple sitting at an adjacent table.

As we had already booked dinner in the Epicurean Restaurant (Deck 17 Aft), we made our way there at 8.30pm to eat. The food was – as usual – superb, and by 10.30pm we had eaten our meal and were back on the Promenade Deck for some fresh air. By 10.45pm we had returned to our suite, and by 11.30pm we were both asleep.

Friday 12th November: At sea

Because she was having one of the domes over part of the satellite communications equipment replaced, Ventura did not set sail from Southampton until 4.00am … and at 4.30am both Sue and I were woken up by the movement of the ship as she moved into the main channel out of Southampton. Aside from this minor interruption, we both slept very well. In fact, we overslept slightly, and neither of us was awake until 8.15am. We were dressed and ready for breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant by 9.10am, and by 10.45am we had eaten and were ready to embark on a day of relaxation aboard Ventura.

Over night the ship had sailed down the English Channel, and by the time we had finished breakfast, she had reached the traffic separation scheme to the north of the Channel Islands. The weather was typical for the time of year (high winds and moderate to heavy seas) and although Ventura was experiencing some movement, she seemed to be weathering the conditions somewhat better than some of the other vessels we saw sailing though the separation scheme!

After having a walk around the ship’s shopping area (Decks 6 and 7 Midships) and paying a quick visit to the Reception Desk (Deck 6 Midships), we ventured outside onto the Promenade Deck. It was quite cold and windy, and after a short walk aft from midships, we returned to our suite to read and rest for a while. At 11.45am we went up to the Metropolis Bar (Deck 17 Aft) for a drink, and we stayed there for about an hour before going back to our suite.

As neither of use was feeling very hungry, we did not go for lunch until 2.30pm. After giving it some thought, we ended up in Waterside Self Service Restaurant (Deck 15 Aft). Whilst we were there, we had a chat with two of the waitresses from the Epicurean Restaurant, who were doing a day shift in the Waterside Restaurant. By 3.30pm we were back in our suite, after taking a short diversion via the Promenade Deck, where we were able to sit and watch the sea for about ten minutes.

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, writing, and resting in our suite. Just after 5.30pm, the officer-of-the-deck announced that P&O’s latest ship, Iona was passing Ventura on the port side of the ship.

At 7.45pm Sue and I went down to the Glass House Bar for a pre-dinner drink. We then made our way to the Bay Tree Restaurant (Deck 6 Aft) for dinner. Unlike the other two main restaurants on Ventura, which are both Freedom Dining (i.e. you can go to dinner at whatever time you wish to), the Bay Tree Restaurant provides Club Class dining. It has two sittings, one at 6.30pm and the other at 8.30pm. We always prefer the latter if it is available, and on this cruise it was.

The food and service were excellent, and after we had eaten Sue and I took a walk along the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to sleep. Before we did – however – we adjusted our clocks and watches one hour forward as the ship was going to be operating on Spanish local time until we left our first port-of-call, Vigo.

Saturday 13th November: At sea

Overnight the rough weather continued, but soon after we awoke at 7.45am, it gradually began to improve. Ventura was already well on her way across the Bay of Biscay, and the forecast was predicting better weather as the day progressed.

After breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I went to the Tamarind Club (Deck 7 Midships) to sit and read for a while.

After about forty-five minutes we were both beginning to doze off, so we went for a walk along the Promenade Deck.

Sue and I then made our way to the Arena Theatre (Decks 6 and 7 Forward), where we hoped to listen to a talk by the cruise's guest speaker.

The speaker was an expert on the music and media industries, having worked in radio for many years. His name was Steve King, and the first of his talks was entitled 'She Loves You: The Music of The Sixties 1960 – 63'.

He was an excellent speaker, who used relevant sound bites from music tracks to illustrate the story he told.

By the time that the talk was over, both of us were feeling thirsty, so we went up to the Metropolis Bar (Deck 18 Aft) for a drink. We stayed there until just before 2.00pm, at which point we returned to our suite.

At 3.00pm Sue and I returned to the Epicurean Restaurant for a special afternoon tea. This was ‘created’ for P&O by Eric Lanlard, the famous French pastry chef, and included some unusual combinations of flavours and ingredients.

The selection for each couple included two of the following:

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

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

Curried Crab and Yoghurt Tartlet, 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 Scales and Blackcurrant Coulis

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

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

Orange Blossom and Bee Pollen Scone and Traditional Scone, with Clotted Cream and Jam

We decided to drink Darjeeling Tea with our meal, and needless to say, we managed to eat almost everything. We then retired to our suite to recover!

Sue and I emerged in plenty of time to have a pre-dinner drink in the Tamarind Club before going to the Bay Tree Restaurant for the first formal dinner of the cruise.

During dinner we had a chat with a couple at the neighbouring table. They lived in Edinburgh and had flown down from Scotland to Southampton to join the cruise. In fact, their flight had been diverted to Bournemouth Airport due to fog, and they had only just made it to the docks in time to board before the cut-off time of 4.30pm.

After dinner Sue and I went for a short stroll along the Promenade Deck, and by 11.30pm we had got all our stuff ready for our first port-of-call and were in bed reading before going to sleep.

Sunday 14th November: Vigo, Spain

We were already awake when the ship docked in Vigo at just after 7.30am.

Sue and I had an earlier than normal breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, and by 8.45am we had had our temperatures taken and had gone ashore. As we were going on an organised tour to the nearby coastal town of Bayona La Real, we were directed to the coach we needed to board by a member of the ship’s excursions team.

Our tour began with a visit to a nearby church which is located atop a hill overlooking the estuary upon which Vigo is located.

The views were magnificent, and we could easily see Ventura alongside the cruise terminal in the centre of the town.

After a short stop at the church, the coach took us by the inland route to Bayona. We stopped at the local Parador, a nationally owned chain of hotels, many of which are located in old buildings. In this case, it was located in the grounds of a sixteenth century fortress.

Our route up to the hotel took us through the restored fortifications.

The hotel is relatively modern but has been built in a style that is compatible with the original fortifications.

During our short stay in the hotel, were we given a range of local tapas and drink to try.

We were then given the choice of an hour-long guided tour of Bayona or time to wander the grounds of the Parador. Sue and I chose the latter, and walked past the main part of the hotel …

… and along the battlements …

… to the only remaining completely original part of the fortress, the watchtower.

Nearby was a reconstructed gun position …

… which overlooked the very rocky coastline.

Sue and I eventually made our way back to the entrance of the fortress, where we re-joined the coach. Just across the harbour from the coach pickup point was a reconstruction of the Pinta, one of Columbus’ ships. It was damaged on the journey back from the Americas, and unlike the Santa Maria and Niña, she had to put into Bayona for repairs.

Our drive back followed the route taken by pilgrims travelling from Portugal to Santiago de Compostella, and by 1.45pm we were back in Vigo and were going aboard Ventura. After dropping off our coasts and bags in our suite, Sue and I went up to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for lunch. We then spent some time having a drink near the Laguna Pool (Deck 15 Forward) before returning to our suite to have a much-needed rest!

At 7.45pm Sue and I went to the Glass House Bar for a pre-dinner drink, followed by a short walk along the Promenade Deck. We then ate dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant, followed by another walk along the Promenade Deck. As we were both feeling very tired, we had an early night, even though the ship’s clocks were going to go back an hour overnight as we were going to visit Portugal next day.

Monday 15th November: Lisbon, Portugal

Sue and I were awake by 7.15am, by which time Ventura was entering the mouth of the River Tagus.

I was dressed in time to go out onto the balcony to see some of the well-known sights as we sailed towards the centre of Lisbon. We passed the Tower of Belem, …

… and the Monument to the Navigators, …

… before passing under the 25th of April Bridge and past the statue of Christ.

Ventura was moored alongside the Tobacco Dock by 8.00am. Some distance away was the small cruise ship Funchal, which appeared to be out of service and laid up. We had seen her some years ago in Funchal, Madeira, during the annual New Year’s firework display, at which time she was sailing on cruises to and from Southwest England as well as around the coasts of Portugal, Spain, the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira.

As Sue and I had booked another organised tour, we had to have breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant slightly earlier than normal. We were ashore by 9.30am, and the coach left the cruise terminal at 9.50am. The traffic in Lisbon was heavy, and it took us some time to reach the first of our stops, the King Edward VII Park. The coach stopped near to the monument that was erected to mark the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Portugal and as a reminder of the long-standing alliance between the two nations.

The vista from the bottom of the monument was impressive as it gave the viewer a chance to see both the original and the new parts of the city.

We were then taken to Estoril on the northern side of the mouth of the River Tagus. This is a famous seaside resort and was the home – at various times – of several deposed European monarchs, including the Kings of Bulgaria and Romania.

The coach dropped us off near to the beach, and after a snack of Portuguese pastries …

… in a local café …

… we had time to go for a walk along the promenade that abutted the beach.

This gave us the opportunity to look at a small castle that was built next to the beach, and which is now a private residence.

We finished our visit to Estoril with a short walk in the garden of the Casino.

We were back aboard our coach by midday, and the tour then took us along the picturesque coast road from Estoril to Lisbon. We stopped at the Monument to the Navigators for a short time, and this gave us the opportunity to see it at close quarters.

We finally got back to the Cruise Terminal at 1.45pm, and after a swift visit to the duty-free shop, we were back aboard Ventura by 2.00pm. By this time Sue and I were both feeling very thirsty, and after a quick visit to our suite to drop off our coast, bags, and cameras, we went for a drink by the Laguna Pool. We then ate a snack lunch from the Poolside Grill (Deck 15 Forward), before returning to our suite.

Soon after we got inside our suite, a large cruise liner began to sail past Ventura to moor behind her.

It turned out to be the AIDA Stella which is operated by AIDA, one of Carnival Cruise’s other cruise lines.

Ventura set sail from Lisbon at 6.00pm, by which time it was dark, and I was very pleased to have photographed her passage in as it was too dark to take anything approaching a decent photograph as she sailed out.

Sue and I remained in our suite until it was time to go for our pre-dinner drink at 7.30pm. We had a walk along the Promenade Deck first, then had a drink in the Glass House Bar. As the weather was quite pleasant, we took another walk along the Promenade Deck before going up to the Epicurean Restaurant for yet another excellent dinner. We ended our evening with that third spell on the Promenade Deck, after which we went back to our suite to read for a while before getting ready for bed.

Tuesday 16th November: At sea

We both slept well, and when we awoke at 8.00am the Ventura had already turned eastwards towards the Straits of Gibraltar.

After breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I went for a walk around the ship. Besides visiting the shops and the Reception Desk, we had a stroll along the Promenade Deck until about 10.30am, when we returned to our suite.

As we had been invited to the special midday Peninsular Club lunch for the most travelled cruisers, Sue and I were dressed and ready well beforehand. We had a stroll along the Promenade Deck before going to the Cinnamon Restaurant for the lunch and joined the queue to go in at least five minutes before midday. There were so many people in the queue that it took us nearly fifteen minutes to get into the restaurant and to be directed to our table. There were two other couples already seated there, and after everyone introduced themselves, we settled down for a couple of hours of chatting and eating.

The menu was somewhat different for the last Peninsular Club lunch that we had attended, and included the following dishes:

Starters

Crispy Fried Goats Cheese & Prosciutto, with Honey Figs, Vincotto, and Spiced Whole Almonds (Sue)

Chicken and Chickpea Soup, with Brioche Croutons (Me)

Sorbet

Raspberry Sorbet

Main Courses

Poached Loch Duart Salmon Supreme, with English Peas, Chorizo and Tomato Dressing, and Crushed New Potatoes (Sue)

Roasted New Zealand Rack of Lamb, with Crispy Bacon, Onion Potato Cake, Glazed Parsnips, and Lamb Jus (Me)

Desserts

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

Kaffir Lime Panna Cotta, with Pineapple Compote (Me)

Petit Four

Marzipan Fruits

I ended up sitting between Sue and a man from Shropshire who seemed intent on impressing me with his somewhat forthright views on a variety of topics ranging from hybrid and electric cars to the teaching of history in schools. As a result, I had very little opportunity to talk to the other people on our table, and once we had eaten, Sue and made our excuses and left.

By the time we emerged from the restaurant, it was just after 2.00pm, and Ventura was beginning to approach the Straits of Gibraltar. The coast of Morocco was very visible to our starboard side …

… and Spain was on the port side horizon.

At 4.00pm, Ventura passed to the south of Gibraltar.

Sue and I stayed in our suite until it was time to go to the second formal dinner of the cruise. We strolled forward along the Promenade Deck before going to the Glass House Bar for our pre-dinner drink. We then walked back along the Promenade Deck to towards the stern of the ship and then down to the Bay Tree Restaurant to eat.

After dinner we took yet another stroll along the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite to read for a while before getting ready for bed.

Wednesday 17th November: Cartagena, Spain

The vibration from the ship’s thrusters woke us at 7.15am as Ventura began to turn through the outer mole of Cartagena’s harbour.

She was alongside the dock just before 8.00am, and by the time we went for breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, passengers were already streaming ashore. As we had been to Cartagena many times before, we left it until 10.30am before we joined the exodus from the ship. We walked up to the main promenade …

… and across the main road that runs parallel with the promenade towards the monument to the Spanish sailors who died in the Battles of Manila Bay and Havana during the Spanish-American War.

Sue and I then walked up the Calle Major

… the town’s main pedestrianised shopping street. At the end of the street we turned right into the Calle San Fernando

… and followed a vaguely circular route back to the seafront, passing through a cool and wooded square along the way.

At one end of this square was a statue that was erected in honour of Isidoro Maiquez, a famous actor who was born in Cartagena in 1768.

After sitting for a while on the seafront, Sue and I decided to pay a visit to the local Naval Museum. We had visited it some years ago, and as we walked around, it was obvious that several displays had been changed and enhanced. (A blog post about our visit and what we saw will follow in due course.)

We returned aboard Ventura just before 1.00pm, and after resting in our suite for a while, we went up to the Terrace Bar for a drink. From there we went to the Glass House Bar, where we ate a very pleasant lunch.

We were back in our suite by just after 3.00pm and were reading and resting when the captain – Captain Patrick Maguire – made an announcement at 5.00pm that due to adverse weather, the ship would not visiting Malaga on the following day as planned. Instead, Ventura would be staying in Cartagena overnight and would not be sailing until 3.00pm on Thursday. This news was a little surprising, and rather changed our plans for the next day.

The captain repeated his announcement at 5.30pm, and at 6.00pm the ship’s Hotel Services Manager (the person who used to be called the ship’s purser!) gave more detail about the impact of the change to our itinerary, including additional trips that had been organised for our additional half-day stay in Cartagena.

Sue and I looked at what was going to be available and decided to see what the weather on the following morning was like before making up our minds what we would do.

The rest of the evening followed its usual pattern, and after a stroll along the Promenade Deck at 7.30pm, Sue and I had a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar. Whilst we were there the ship moved about 200 yards along the dock to allow space for another ship to moor behind her next morning.

As we walked back along the Promenade Deck to go to dinner, it began to rain, and when we returned there after eating dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant, the rain had intensified, and the sky was being lit up by lightening. The storm that had been predicted had arrived, and it was still raging as we went to bed.

Thursday 18th November: Cartagena (and not Malaga!), Spain

The thunderstorm had passed by the time we woke up at 7.45am, but the rain had not. The dockside was pretty well deserted and everywhere was wet from the intense rainfall.

Just after 8.15am, the AIDA Stella entered harbour and moored astern of Ventura.

Because the weather looked as if it was not going to improve in the near future, Sue and I went to the Arena Theatre almost as soon as we had finished breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant to listened to a talk by Steve King entitled ‘The Best Selling Songs of All Time (Worldwide)’.

This was both entertaining and informative, and the list included a number of surprises. It was topped by Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ which continues to sell well every year despite being nearly eighty years old!

The talk finished at 10.50am, and after a short walk on the Promenade Deck to stretch our legs and to get some fresh air, Sue and I returned to the Arena Theatre to listen to the Entertainment Manager – Leon de St Croix – conduct an interview with one of the Fleet Safety Training Officers, Trevor Trevarthen MBE.

The interview was entitled ‘A British Serviceman’s Story: From HMS Coventry to Boots On The Ground in Afghanistan’ and covered Trevor Trevarthen’s service in the Royal Navy from his enlistment at the age of eighteen until he retired. His service included the Falklands War (where he crewed an general purpose machine gun aboard HMS Coventry and survived her sinking), working aboard a number of Royal Navy and US Navy warships (including HMS Ark Royal, HMS Invincible, a Leander-class frigate, three different Type 23 frigates, a number of Type 21 frigates, and a Type 22 frigate), and attachment to the Royal Marines both in support of operations against Somali pirates and on the ground in Afghanistan. The interview was supposed to last forty-five minutes but was still going well over and hour and fifteen minutes after it started at 11.15am … and it could easily have gone on even longer!

By the time we left the Arena Theatre at just after 12.30pm, the weather had improved somewhat, and Sue and I discussed going ashore for a hour or so. In the end we decided not to, and after a short spell on the Promenade Deck, we went down to the Saffron Restaurant (Deck 6 Midships) for lunch.

We shared a table with two other couples and spent a very pleasant hour and a quarter eating and chatting. After we had finished our meal, we went up to the Promenade Deck again to discover that the weather had continued to improve.

Sue and I had returned to our suite by 3.00pm and were just in time to hear the captain announce that the ship was about to set sail and that the pilot was already aboard.

Followed by the pilot cutter, …

Ventura carefully negotiated her way out of the harbour entrance, and by 5.00pm she was well on her way towards Gibraltar.

As usual, Sue and I started our evening with a stroll along the Promenade Deck before having a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar. This was followed by dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant, and we ended our day with a final walk along the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite to read and eventually to sleep.

Friday 19th November: At sea (and not Gibraltar!)

Overnight the weather was poor, and we were woken up several times by the ship rolling and pitching quite violently. We finally gave up trying to sleep at about 7.00pm, as the vibration from the ship’s propellers and thrusters was making everything in our suite vibrate.

By this time Ventura had picked up the Gibraltar Pilot and had lines to two tugs. Over the next hour she edged herself towards the dockside at Gibraltar …

… and at 8.00am she was almost touching the quay … but even with the thrusters going at maximum power and with the assistance of the two tugs, the wind was so strong that she could not actually berth. Eventually it was obvious that Ventura was not going to be able to get mooring lines safely in place, and she veered away and began to make her way out towards the open sea.

At 8.30am the captain made an announcement that the ship would not now be stopping in Gibraltar as it was unsafe to do so. Furthermore, as the weather conditions were predicted to get worse, he was not going to make a second attempt to berth the ship, and his plan was to take her out into the Atlantic as quickly as possible so as to leave the area of bad weather.

After eating breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I returned to our suite to collect our Kindles. We then took a short walk around the ship’s shops on our way to the Arena Theatre, where Steve King was doing a second additional talk entitled ‘I Bet You Think This Song Is About You’, starting at 10.30am. In it he described the inspiration behind several well-known songs.

The talk ended at 11.15am, and Sue and I went up to the Metropolis Bar to have a drink and to read. Just before midday the captain made an announcement about his intentions regarding the ship’s course for the rest of the day. He explained that now that the ship was in the Atlantic, he intended to turn south and take Ventura along the coast of Morocco, staying about twenty miles offshore.

At some point later in the day – hopefully when the bad weather had passed to the east – he would reverse course and head towards Cadiz, with the intention of docking there on the next day as planned. Apparently, Cadiz was currently unable to accept cruise ships, and the Queen Elizabeth – which was supposed to be there today – had aborted her visit and was also standing out to sea to avoid the worst of the weather.

At 12.30pm we returned to our suite to read, and after a short while Sue went off to visit the ship’s shops. After she returned just before 2.00pm, we went up to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for lunch. Once lunch was over, we sat for a time near the Laguna Pool, where we chatted with another passenger.

We were back in our cabin by 3.15pm and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting. At 6.00pm the captain announced that the ship would soon be turning around and making her way northward towards Cadiz, and at 6.30pm the Ventura began her turn to starboard.

At 7.30pm, Sue and I went for a walk along the Promenade Deck and then went to the Glass House Bar for a pre-dinner drink. We shared a table with another couple and had an interesting chat with them until 8.15pm. At that point they left to go to the Arena Theatre, and Sue and I walked back along the Promenade Deck to the lifts that served the aft end of the ship. By 8.30pm we were in the Epicurean Restaurant, where we ate another superb meal.

We left the restaurant at 10.30pm and went back to the Promenade Deck for a breath of fresh air. Whilst there we had a chat with another couple we had spoken to several times during the cruise as well as with the Entertainment Manager, Leon de St Croix. We returned to our suite at a little after 11.15pm and were in bed by midnight. By this time Ventura was well on her way back to the southern coast of Spain and on a course towards Cadiz.

Saturday 20th November: Cadiz, Spain

The passage to Cadiz was very calm, but Sue and I were woken up earlier than we had expected by the vibration of the thrusters as the ship docked alongside.

Daylight was just beginning to illuminate the seafront as Sue and I went to breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant.

We had finished eating by just after 9.30am and decided to wait until the initial rush of passengers going ashore had subsided before we went for a walk in Cadiz. We sat for a while on the Promenade Deck, and then paid a short visit to the Reception Desk. Once that was over, we returned to our suite to get ready to go ashore.

We disembarked just after 10.30am, and after walking across the main road we made our way through the square containing the monument to the 1812 Constitution …

… and into the maze of narrow streets that makes up the old part of Cadiz.

This eventually took us to the Calle José del Toro, the location of Terra Media (Middle Earth), a games and collectibles shop. I managed to find an interesting two-player generic wargame, which I hope to try out when I get home. A few doors along the street is a branch of ‘Flying Tiger’ – an international chain selling stationery and novelties – where Sue bought several interesting Christmas decorations. We then took a leisurely stroll through the narrow streets of Cadiz until we reached the waterfront.

We were back aboard Ventura by 12.30pm, and after dropping off our coats, bags, and purchases, we went up to the Laguna Pool to have a drink. From there we went to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for an early lunch.

Sue and I were back in our cabin by 2.00pm, and we remained there resting and reading until it was time for Ventura to leave Cadiz at 5.30pm.

After a chat with our butler, Sue and I began getting ready for the evening, and at 7.30pm we went for a walk along the almost empty Promenade Deck. We were somewhat surprised to see the sky being regularly lit up by lightening, but as we could not hear any associated thunder, assumed that the storm was some way off.

The rest of the evening passed pretty well as normal, with us having a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar and then dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant. The lightening was still visible when we returned to our suite at 10.00pm, and only stopped just after we went to bed at 11.15pm.

Sunday 21st November: At sea

Overnight Ventura had maintained a speed of just over twenty knots, and when we awoke at 7.45am, she was off the Portuguese coast to the north-west of Lisbon.

After breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and spent some time on the Promenade Deck enjoying the sun before taking a walk around the ship’s shops. We bought two large bagsful of various chocolates as gifts to the staff in the Epicurean Restaurant, which we took back to our cabin. We then went to the Arena Theatre in plenty of time to get good seats for that morning’s talk by Steve King.

His talk was entitled ‘Those Were The Days: The Music of The Sixties 1967 – 69 …

… and it was – as usual – extremely good. Steve King is certainly one of the best guest speakers we have seen on over sixty cruises, and his preparation and delivery are second to none.

The talk finished at 12.15pm, and Sue and I went back to the Promenade Deck, where we sat for nearly thirty minutes. We then returned to our suite before going to the Metropolis Bar for a drink.

At 1.30pm we went down to the Waterside Self Service Restaurant for lunch, after which we ventured out to the area near the Laguna Pool. Unfortunately forward movement of the ship added to the prevailing wind was causing a ‘wind over deck’ effect that made the area feel as if we were in a wind tunnel. We stuck it for a time, but by 3.00pm we were back in our suite, where we began some of the sorting out we needed to do before beginning our packing on the next day.

At 6.00pm the captain announced that Ventura would be rounding Cape Finisterre at 7.30pm, and she did so just as Sue and I left our suite to go to the Promenade Deck for a breath of fresh air. We followed this with a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar, and then went to the Bay Tree Restaurant for the third and final formal meal of the cruise.

By the time we left the restaurant, Ventura was already in the Bay of Biscay, and the sea conditions were beginning to change for the worse. The ship was rolling and pitching, and the wind speed over the deck had risen to such an extent that it was unpleasant out on the Promenade Deck. Our after-dinner stroll was rather short, and by 10.30pm we were back in our suite and preparing for bed.

Monday 22nd November: At sea

Overnight the ship ploughed on across the Bay of Biscay at a speed of seventeen knots into winds that were gusting between fifty and sixty knots. The sea had a four-metre swell as well as waves as high if not higher, and the overall effect was to produce a movement that was very unpredictable and often violent. It was very difficult to sleep, and when we finally gave up trying at 7.30am, it looked as if the ship had only managed to reach the middle of the Bay of Biscay … and that we had many more uncomfortable hours ahead of us!

We got ready as slowly and carefully as we could. Walking around the suite was difficult and bending down to get something from a cupboard or set of draws was downright dangerous at times. Nevertheless, we were ready to go for breakfast by just after 9.00am.

After breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and went to the Future Cruise Desk (Deck 5 Midships) to transfer a booking for a cruise to the Baltic we had booked for 1st May 2022. We had decided to go on a different cruise that was taking place on MV Britannia to Madeira and the Canary Islands at about the same time. The transfer took about twenty minutes to organise, and then we went out onto the Promenade Deck, where the sea seemed to have calmed somewhat.

By this time it was just after 10.30am, so we returned to our suite, collected our Kindles, and made our way to the Arena Theatre to get seats for Steve King’s last talk of the cruise. It was entitled ‘I Guess That’s Just The Way The Story Goes’ …

… and told the background to a number of famous hit records. He finished his talk just after midday, and with some reluctance Sue and I went back to our suite to begin packing our luggage so that it would be ready for collection later in the day.

By 3.00pm we had finished all the packing we could do and went up to the Epicurean Restaurant for afternoon tea. Like the tea we had eaten earlier in the cruise, this was ‘created’ for P&O by Eric Lanlard, the famous French chef.

The selection for each couple included two of the following:

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

Beetroot and Vanilla Smoked Salmon Short Crust Pastry Tart, with Dill and Caper Cream and a Beetroot Wafer

Corn-fed Paprika Chicken Ciabatta, with Heirloom Tomatoes

Pistachio Financier, with Rose Scented Cream Cheese Frosting and Persian Rose Petals

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

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

Verrine Mont Blanc, with Crunchy Meringue, Blackcurrant Preserve, Dark Rum and Sweet Crème De Marron

Raspberry and Raw Cacao Scones and Traditional Scones, with Clotted Cream and Jam

As on the previous occasion, Sue and I decided to drink Darjeeling Tea with our tea, and we managed to eat almost everything. We then returned to our suite to recover!

Despite going at nearly 20 knots since leaving Cadiz, the headwinds and heavy seas seemed to be hampering Ventura’s progress across the Bay of Biscay. At 5.00pm she had entered the traffic separation scheme at Ushant, the point that marks the transition from the Bay into the English Channel. The captain had predicted that the weather would improve as we moved up the English Channel, but Sue and I hardly notice any difference as we prepared for our last dinner of the cruise.

Despite the ferocious wind that the ship was pushing her way through, we were able to go for a short walk along the Promenade Deck before having our pre-dinner drink in the Glass House Bar. We returned there after we had eaten dinner in the Bay Tree Restaurant, by which time the wind speed had diminished somewhat. We the then went back to our suite, packed the last remaining bag that was to be offloaded at Southampton, put it outside our suite door, and then got ready for bed.

Tuesday 23rd November: Southampton

I woke at 3.30am and realised that the ship was no longer moving and that the engines were silent. A quick look out of the window showed that we were near the Nab Tower and were in the process of picking up the Southampton Pilot. Almost as soon as I went back to bed, Ventura began to move again, and by the time I fell asleep, she was moving slowly toward Southampton Docks.

Sue and I were woken at 6.30am by the sound and vibration of the thrusters as Ventura turned and reversed alongside the Ocean Terminal, and by 7.15am, we were dressed and ready to go to breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant. By 8.00am we had eaten and returned to our suite to pick up our coast and hand luggage. Sue and I then made our way to the Saffron Restaurant to await our disembarkation.

This began at 8.40am, and by 9.00am we had retrieved our luggage from the baggage reclaim hall, passed through the Customs and Border Force checkpoint, and were collecting our car from the valet parking service. A little after 9.15am we had reached the M3, and other than having a short stop at Winchester Services for a comfort break, we did not stop until we reached home at 11.45am. By midday I had unpacked the car, and we were having a much-needed drink in our living room.

Our first foreign cruise in nearly two years was over ... and we were already planning for our next one!