Friday, 29 April 2011

I have been to ... Gibraltar, Spain, Italy, and Monaco

Tuesday 12th April: Southampton
We boarded MV ARTEMIS for her final voyage as a part of P&O's fleet just after midday. She has been sold to new owners and will be handed over to them at the end of this voyage.

As we have spent so much time cruising with P&O over that past few years, we are now 'Gold' tier members of the Portunus Club (P&O's loyalty scheme) which meant that we had priority boarding and access to a lounge until our cabin was ready. We were fed and watered (well, given a plate of sandwiches and free drinks) whilst regular announcements kept us up-to-date about what was happening.

At 2.00pm we were able to get into our cabin and begin unpacking. ARTEMIS is a small ship, and it was an interesting experience trying to unpack our bags in our cabin. There was just enough room for all the bags to be on the floor and the twin beds and for one person to move about unpacking. Luckily our cabin is one of the few that has a balcony, so the one of us who was not unpacking was able to sit there whilst the other did what they had to do. By 3.30pm we had done most of the unpacking, and set off in search of somewhere to get a drink before the Safety Drill at 4.45pm.

After taking part in the Drill, we returned our lifejackets to our cabin and then went down to the Promenade Deck for 'sail away'. Because this was the last time ARTEMIS was leaving Southampton as a P&O ship, they laid on a band – the Hampshire Caledonian Pipe Band – and fireworks.

The ship was also saluted by the sail training ship, LORD NELSON, and MV ARCADIA, another of P&O's cruise ships.

We then sailed out of Southampton, into the Solent, past the Nab Tower, and out into the English Channel.

Wednesday 13th April: At sea.
After a somewhat rough night passage down the Channel and around Ushant, ARTEMIS made her way southward through the Bay of Biscay. MV ARCADIA – which was on her way to Alaska via the Panama Canal – followed ARTEMIS for most the day.

My wife and I spent most of the day resting, reading, and generally relaxing. I did attend a short meeting to discuss a fund raising event that an organisation to which I belong will be running next Monday evening. This took up a little over half an hour and my wife used the time to visit the special sale of ARTEMIS memorabilia that was taking place in the ship's atrium area. As a result, we are now the proud owners of a small teddy bear wearing an ARTEMIS jumper, a small commemorative plate, a travel holdall that is fitted with wheels, two monographed picture frames, and a waterline model of ARTEMIS ... all at 90 percent of their original price!

The weather improved as the day went on, and by the afternoon it was sunny ... but not very warm unless you were out of the wind! I began re-reading Adrian English's THE GREEN HELL – A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE CHACO WAR BETWEEN BOLIVIA AND PARAGUAY 1932-35, and it again struck me how many of the engagements that took place during this conflict lend themselves to being recreated using simple wargames rule ... just like THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules I am currently developing.

I also managed to watch my favourite episode from CALLAN. (One of the joys of owning an iPad is the fact that you can download films and TV programmes onto it to watch as and when you want to.) The episode is entitled ACT OF KINDNESS, and the story features Callan fighting several Napoleonic wargames against the 'Section's' latest 'target', Heathcote Land. Unusually for CALLAN, the 'target' survives, and is shown to be a thoroughly decent - if slightly ruthless - man.

Thursday 14th April: At sea
After a much calmer night, ARTEMIS began her transit down the coast of north western Spain and Portugal. By lunchtime we were about sixty miles north west of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. During lunch we were 'buzzed' by a fast jet, but I was unable to see what type or nationality it was. All I saw was a fast diminishing tail silhouette and exhaust!

After a barbeque lunch around the main swimming pool, we went to a special lecture by Ken Vardy. He is a Belfast-born maritime historian, and the topic of his lecture was the short but eventful life of RMS TITANIC. (Today was the ninety ninth anniversary of RMS TITANIC's collision with the iceberg; the ship actually sank on 15th April 1912.)

I then spent a hour reading more of Adrian English's THE GREEN HELL before adding a couple of amendments to the current draft of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules. The latter came about as a result of some very helpful comments made by Ross Mac just before we left for this cruise.

Tonight was one of the four formal evenings that take place during the cruise, and we went to the Captain's 'Welcome Aboard' cocktail party that took place before the evening meal. Earlier in the day the Captain had announced that due to good weather, the ship should dock in Gibraltar – our first port-of-call – about an hour earlier than expected. As we were only supposed to be in Gibraltar for five hours, this additional time means that we should be slightly less rushed tomorrow when we go ashore.

Friday 15th April: Gibraltar
The night was a warm one, and when we woke this morning there was a thin sea mist surrounding the ship. This did not stop us from seeing the coast of North Africa on the horizon as we closed on the Straits of Gibraltar, but what we did see was vague outlines of the coastline and the hills beyond. There were quite a lot of other sea craft of various sizes sailing backward and forward through the Straits, including tankers, bulk carriers, container ships, ferries, and local fishing boats.

Because our cabin was on the starboard side of the ship, we did not see Gibraltar until ARTEMIS turned in for her approach to the harbour entrance.

The approach has to be made from the south east so as to avoid Spanish territorial waters; despite both Spain and the UK being members of NATO and the EU, the 'ownership' of Gibraltar still remains a bone of contention between the two countries, and ships visiting Gibraltar take pains not to stray into Spanish waters.

The Holland America Line's NIEUW AMSTERDAM was already moored alongside the seaward side of the cruise terminal, and ARTEMIS therefore moored on the harbour side of the quay.

We were able to go ashore just after 11.00am, and it was only a short walk from the dock to gates into Casemate Square. This used to be the main parade ground, but it is now one end of Gibraltar's main shopping area.

We walked up Main Street to the Governor's residence, and arrived just as the midday guard change was taking place. The current garrison is drawn from the Ghurkhas, and as they move at light infantry pace, the whole thing was over in what seemed like a matter of seconds.

Having watched the changing of the guard, we sat down in the pub opposite the Governor's residence and had a drink before making our way back down Main Street. We did some duty-free shopping on our way back to Casemate Square, which is where we had lunch in one of the numerous restaurants around the Square. We then walked back to the ship in time to write some cards that we sent home by post. It was then time for the 'Great British Sail-away', which is just an excuse for a lot a flag waving, the singing of patriotic songs ... and the odd drink or two; I loved it!

The weather was calm but a little cold due to the strong wind as we sailed into the Mediterranean on our way to our next port-of-call, Alicante.

Saturday 16th April: Alicante
The journey from Gibraltar to Alicante was uneventful, and we were berthed alongside the cruise terminal by the time we ate breakfast. There were very other vessels in port, and other than some rowing boats and a sailing yacht, the only other vessel that was moving was the local Guardia Civil launch. It gave ARTEMIS the 'once over' as it made it's way out of the harbour.

Like many of the ports along this part of the Spanish coast, Alicante is dominated by an old fortress, in the case the Castillo de Santa Barbara. This is situated at the top of Mount Benacantil, and was begun by the Carthaginians during the third century. It has been rebuilt and extended many times since then, most extensively during the wars between the Moors and the Christians.

We took the shuttle-bus from the cruise terminal to just outside the dock gates, and we were met by some friends of ours who live about an hour's drive from Alicante. We spent the rest of the day exploring Alicante with them, including taking a very leisurely lunch in a local restaurant. The meal was enlivened by the presence of a Spanish 'hen party' who were exuberant but not overly so, and whose singing was far more enjoyable than their English equivalents would have been. They were 'accompanied' by what appeared to be a large inflatable penis ... not something I would have expected to see in a restaurant situated in the shadow of the local cathedral!

After lunch and a stroll to the beach – where we passed a monument to the Spanish Armed Forces – we had yet more refreshments in one of the beachside cafes before parting company from our friends and returning to the ship in order to get ready for the evening meal.

Before dinner I had time to watch the first forty minutes of one of my all-time favourite films, ZULU. I had downloaded it on to my iPad (along with the episode from the CALLAN TV series and several other films) just before leaving for the cruise just in case I had time to watch any of them.

Sunday 17th April: Palma de Majorca
The short journey from Alicante to Palma de Majorca (just over 170 nautical miles) was accomplished overnight, and by 8.00am we were moored next to cruise terminal in Palma's harbour.

After a leisurely breakfast we went ashore and took the shuttle-bus into the centre of the city. As it was Palm Sunday, almost everywhere was shut. We had a gentle stroll around the area near the Gothic cathedral – and a drink in a very chic cafe/restaurant nearby – and my wife bought some decorations made from palm leaves as well as some postcards and small souvenirs.

I managed to find a small magnetic chess and draughts board and playing pieces, which I immediately bought with the intention of trying out the current draft of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules at some point in the cruise. If it works, it will be my first ever travelling wargame design that I can take almost anywhere I go.

We returned to the ship in time for a late lunch, and I spent the rest of the afternoon on our cabin balcony finishing reading Adrian English's THE GREEN HELL and then watching the rest of ZULU. Both the book and the film gave me lots of ideas for scenarios that I can use my portable wargame, and hopefully I may manage to write some of them down tomorrow whilst we are sailing towards Sorrento and the Bay of Naples.

During the evening we went to a special show that featured the comedian Tom O'Connor. He has a reputation for being a very amusing performer, who relies on observational humour rather than just telling a string of jokes. He was exactly what we expected, and his hour-long show whizzed by.

Monday 18th April: At sea
When we awoke the weather was sunny but the cold wind made it uncomfortable to stay out on deck for any length of time. As a result we spent most of the morning in one of the larger public rooms reading our books and – in my case – watching the opening scenes of THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (another of my favourite films).

The afternoon followed a similar pattern to the morning, although I did spend some time jotting down ideas for a short story that I hope to write in the near future. It is based on fictionalised versions of some of the events that happened during my father's and father-in-law's Army service in the Far East after the Second World War, with some additions of my own.

We also had to prepare for the charity fund-raising event that was scheduled for the early evening. As it was a formal night (i.e. guests are expected to dress for dinner) this took longer than normal. A week of large quantities of good food and drink tend to lead to one's clothes 'shrinking' during the course of a cruise, and this requires more time to be spent 'dressing' (which is a polite way of saying that it takes more time to fit oneself into one's clothes as the cruise goes on!).

Tuesday 19th April: Sorrento (Naples)
Because we had booked a trip to visit Herculaneum, we were awake and dressed earlier than usual. Not only did we have to travel by coach from Sorrento to Herculaneum, we had to travel by ship's tender from where the ship was moored offshore to Sorrento's harbour, and then by minibus from the harbour to the town centre where we picked up the coach.

Herculaneum was, in some ways, more impressive than Pompeii. Because Herculaneum was buried under twenty metres of mud, many of the walls remained upright and some wooden objects were preserved. As a result, one has more of a feeling of what the town was like just before the eruption engulfed it.

During the short break between the end of our tour and the beginning of the coach's return trip to Sorrento I managed to buy a small reproduction of the Castel dell'Ovo, a two thousand year old fortress that overlooks the Gulf of Naples.

When the coach dropped us off in Sorrento we decided to have lunch before returning to the ship. As we were in Southern Italy were both ate pizzas washed down with some local wine.

The trip back on the minibus from the centre of Sorrento to the harbour was eventful. The previous shuttle-bus broke down just in front of the one we were on, and ours had to reverse the wrong way up a one-way street and out onto a roundabout in order to get around it. The driver then decided to try to break the record for a return trip down the narrow and winding road. Who needs an amusement park ride to scare you when you can get the same experience trying to stand upright on a bus that is being driven at break-neck speed down hill and around hairpin bend corners?

Wednesday 20th April: Civitavecchia (Rome)
After another uneventful night's journey from Sorrento to Civitavecchia, we were again up early to catch our coach to Rome. Having visited the city before on a guided tour, we decided that this time we would take the 'Rome on your own' option. P&O organise the coach to and from the city, but you decide what to do whilst you are there.

The coach drop-off and pick-up point was just outside St. Peter's Square, and we arrived there at about 10.45am after a two-hour journey (it should have taken ninety minutes, but a traffic jam on the main road into Rome slowed our progress considerably.)

We decided to walk from the Vatican City to the River Tiber, and then along the river bank to the Castel Sant' Angelo.

This is now a museum, and at the time of our visit it was being guarded by a member of the Alpini.

We crossed the Tiber via the Ponte Umberto I, and made our way from there to the Piazza Navona, in which is situated the Fontana Del Quatro Fiumi.

We then walked through the back streets to the Piazza Di Montecitorio (which is where the Palazzo Di Montecitorio – currently the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies – and an ancient Egyptian obelisk are situated) and then on to the Piazza Colonna, where Trajan's Column takes pride of place.

From there it was a short walk to the very crowded Trevi Fountain.

By now it was time for lunch, so we made our way back through the heavily guarded Piazza Di Montecitorio to the Piazza Del Rotonda, where we ate a very tasty piazza whilst sitting in a restaurant that overlooked the Pantheon.

We the decided to make our way back towards the Vatican City. One thing that was very noticeable was the very heavy and very visible presence of various police and security forces. This included Carabineri in numerous booths at various junctions and armed troops outside some government buildings.

Once we were back across the Tiber we spent some time progressing up the Via Della Conciliazone, where there are a series of life-sized bronze statues that illustrate the Twelve Stations of the Cross. We then crossed the 'border' (basically a gap in the railings that run across the open end of St. Peter's Square) into the Vatican City. Even at 3.30pm the five-deep queue to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel went all along one side of the colonnade that encloses two sides of the Square. We chose not to join it, and went off to find a quiet cafe where we could cool off and get a much-needed drink.

We then returned to the pick-up point, and were back on the coach by 4.30pm. The journey back was slightly faster, and we were back aboard ARTEMIS by 6.00pm. We set sail for our next port-of-call, Monte Carlo, at just after 7.00pm, but the Captain announced that possible rough weather or high winds might prevent us from landing there.

Just before turning in for the night I was able to finish watching THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. Although I must have watched fairly recently, there were bits of the film that I had forgotten, and watching it on the iPad and listening to the soundtrack via earpieces made it an even more enjoyable experience than watching it on the TV.

Thursday 21st April: Monte Carlo
Despite predictions of high winds and possibly bad weather, the journey to Monte Carlo was smooth ... well it seemed very smooth, but we were both so tired that we would probably have slept through a gale.

However, on arriving in Monte Carlo the sea had a profound swell. After several attempts to bring the ship's tenders alongside the pontoons on the port side of the ship so that passengers could be disembarked, the sea state made this impossible. The starboard pontoons were then deployed, but by the time they were operational, the disembarkation process was well behind schedule.

We finally made it ashore just before 11.00 am after a rather rough trip in one of the ship's tenders, only to find that most of the seafront near to where we disembarked from the tender was being prepared for the forthcoming Monaco Grand Prix.

We managed to find our way around the considerable amount of building work that was taking place, and made our way into town. We spent some time just wandering around, and paused for a short break in one of the numerous cafes. As we walked back towards the seafront it was obvious that the sea conditions had worsened, and we decided that it would be safer to go back to the ship for lunch rather than eat ashore and risk travelling back later in the day.

On a way along the quayside we saw a variety of different pleasure craft moored in the harbour, ranging from luxury motor yachts that looked only slightly smaller than our cruise ship to small rigid inflatable boats. Of particular interest were two very sleek black powerboats, that looked like they would not look out of place in a film about drugs runners; very 'Smugglers Blues'!

Our trip in the tender back to ARTEMIS was extremely 'lively' (which is a polite way of saying that it was very rough, with the tender pitching and rolling, often at the same time). However, the waves were higher and more frequent as the afternoon went on, and it became increasingly difficult for the tenders to come alongside the landing pontoons to off-load their passengers.

After a considerable effort – and some excellent ship handling by the Captain and his officers – all the tenders were recovered, and ARTEMIS set sail for its final port-of-call, Barcelona.

After getting ready for the third formal dinner of the voyage (and the pre-dinner Portunus Club cocktail party), I watched the first part of yet another of my favourite films, THE AFRICAN QUEEN. Like THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, it was directed by John Huston, and it's male star – Humphrey Bogart – had originally been cast as one of the two adventurers when Houston had tried to get THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING made some years beforehand. THE AFRICAN QUEEN was based on a book written by C S Forester, and he and Rudyard Kipling - who wrote the short story that THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING is based upon - are amongst my top ten favourite authors.

After dinner we went to another of the special shows than P&O had organised for this cruise. The star was Petula Clark, and we expected that the venue would be packed; it was. Unfortunately the audience where we were sat to could not hear her performance with a great deal of clarity. This may have been due to technical reasons or to the fact that her voice is not as strong as it used to be and could therefore not compete very well with her backing musicians. We left feeling rather disappointed with the show, which was a great pity as she had obviously worked hard on what must have been one of her increasingly rare solo performances.

Friday 22nd April: Barcelona
After a fast passage to our last port-of-call, Barcelona, we arrived to find the weather overcast and the temperature somewhat less than we have become used to of late. ARTEMIS was moored in a different berth to the one P&O have used on previous occasions, and we were much closer to Montjuich than expected.

By the time we went ashore, it had begun to rain. We walked up the Ramblas, but because it was Good Friday, almost everywhere was closed. In the end we found a bar where we could sit out of the rain and drink coffee whilst we watched people walking by. After about twenty minutes the rain eased, and we began our walk back to the ship. Our journey took us past the Maritime Museum, which was open ... well you could go in – which we did – only to discover that the main building was shut for renovation. After a quick look around the excellent shop, we made our way back to the ship. On our way out of the museum we went past a scale reproduction of an early Spanish submersible, the ICTINEO I, which was built in 1859.

After lunch we had some spare time before the final 'sail-away' of the voyage ... and for ARTEMIS as a member of the P&O fleet. This was due to take place on the forward top deck of the ship, and we hoped that the weather would improve slightly beforehand so that it would not be cancelled. During the time between lunch and 'sail-away' I managed to watch the rest of THE AFRICAN QUEEN, but when we went on deck to take part in the 'sail-away' the weather had worsened, and it was moved inside to the Horizon Bar.

Just as the ship moved away from the quay, the rain stopped, and most of those passengers who had gone to the 'sail-away' went out on deck to wave goodbye to Barcelona. As ARTEMIS sailed out of the port she passed four other cruise liners, MSC SPLENDIDA, THOMSON DREAM, COSTA DELIZIOSA, and COSTA SERENA.

The improvement in the weather was short-lived, and once ARTEMIS reached the open sea, the rain returned and the ship began to pitch and roll. This was not too uncomfortable, but it did mean that you had to take a little more care when moving about the ship. The weather remained like this until we went to bed.

Saturday 23rd April: At sea
The weather improved slightly overnight, and we awoke to cloudy sky and a moderate sea. The coast of Spain was visible on the starboard side, but much of the detail was too hazy to make out exactly where we were.

After breakfast we went to an event entitled 'Artemis Remembered', which was a series of stands representing each of the ship's Departments. The stands illustrated the role each Department played in the efficient running of the ship, and included everything ranging from the bridge navigation system to the engine room controls.

After that we spent some time reading in one of the main bar areas before preparing for the special Portunus Club 'Gold' tier lunch. This was the last lunch of its type aboard ARTEMIS and was therefore a very special occasion. We sat with the Senior First Officer (the third most important deck officer on the ship after the Captain and Deputy Captain) and three other couples, and had a most enjoyable meal.

After lunch we sat on the cabin balcony reading and watching the numerous ships that we passed. These were most tankers, bulk carriers, and container ships, with the occasional coaster and fishing boat. We passed through the Straits of Gibraltar from the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean just after 6.30pm.

Shortly afterwards we attended a special St. George's Day concert in one of the ship's larger lounges. The programme was devoted to music that was quintessentially British, and ended with a mini-'Last Night of the Proms'.

After dinner we went to the show, which was entitled 'Down at the Old Bull and Bush'. This was an attempt – not always a successful one – to reproduce the atmosphere of the Victorian and Edwardian music hall. Like the Curate's egg, it was good in parts.

When the show was over it became obvious that the sea conditions had worsened, and the swell had increased considerably. We therefore went to bed expecting that the night might not be a restful one; we were not disappointed.

Sunday 24th April: At sea
A combination of north-easterly winds, heavy seas, and the need for passengers and crew to move about the ship in safety and reduced discomfort reduced the ship's speed from it's usual cruising speed of 20 knots to just under 14 knots. She remained at this speed until lunchtime, when it was gradually increased to 19 knots. This did little to reduce the level of difficulty passengers had moving about the ship, and the closure of the Promenade Deck confined many to their cabins or the inside internal public spaces.

Halfway through the morning we went to see an interview with Lionel Blair that was conducted by the Cruise Director. He was very entertaining as well as being quite self-deprecating and modest about who he had worked with and his achievements within show business.

After lunch in the main dining room, we returned to our cabin and I was able to try our the latest version of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules using the small magnetic chess set I bought in Palma de Majorca and the dice application on my iPhone. I set up equal forces for both sides, with the eight Pawns representing Infantry Units, the two Knights representing Cavalry Units, a Rook representing an Artillery Unit, and the King representing a Command Unit.

Of the three battles that I fought, White won two and Black one. No obvious problems arose during these impromptu play-tests, and the changes – especially those relating to artillery fire at close range – worked well. One lesson I learned was to try to avoid attacking an Artillery Unit with less than three Infantry Units or two Cavalry Units; if fewer Units were used they ended up being 'pinned' before they could engage the Artillery Unit in Close Combat.

I also spent some time re-reading the Appendix to H G Wells' LITTLE WARS. The appendix is entitled 'Little Wars and Kriegspiel', and it sets out Wells' ideas for fighting a larger-scale version of his LITTLE WARS rules that could be used by the British Army. It contains the basic ideas that Paul Wright has developed into his FUNNY LITTLE WARS rules, and makes for very interesting reading.

Before dinner we went to the last formal function of the cruise (and for MV ARTEMIS as a P&O ship), the Captain's 'Artemis Farewell' party. A majority of the people on the cruise had travelled aboard ARTEMIS many times, and it gave all of them the opportunity to say goodbye to a small but much-loved vessel ... 'The Little Ship with the Big Heart'.

After dinner we had a drink in one of the lounges before going to bed. The weather had not abated, and we expected another night of interrupted sleep. We were not disappointed!

Monday 25th April: At sea
At about 6.00am ARTEMIS rounded Cape Finisterre in Northern Spain and entered the Bay of Biscay. Within a very short time the worst of the sea swell had abated, and the wind dropped somewhat. The sea was by no means smooth, but the ship was able to increase speed to just under 21 knots.

However the previous day's bad weather had had an effect on ARTEMIS' average speed, and she was behind schedule. In the past it had taken her just under 36 hours to sail from Vigo in Northern Spain to Southampton, but in order to arrive in Southampton by 6.30am on Tuesday morning she had to make the same journey in about 24 hours. It was very unlikely that she would manage to do this, and we expected an announcement from the Captain at some time during the morning about a revised arrival time.

The announcement came at midday. Rather than arriving at 6.30am, it was expected that ARTEMIS would tied up alongside at Southampton at sometime around 11.00am.

Before the midday announcement we spent some time reading in one of the large public areas as well as making preparations to pack our luggage. I was also able to spend some time writing up some notes about H G Wells' 'Little Wars and Kriegspiel'. It struck me that some of the rules he outlined may have uses in conjunction with other wargames rules, and that a set of word-processed notes might be of use at sometime in the future.

After lunch we began the process of packing, but we took a short break to watch Cunard's QUEEN MARY 2 pass ARTEMIS on her way from Southampton to the Canary Islands. We then attended Ken Vardy's second lecture about RMS TITANIC. This contained additional material – including recovered film footage – that he had not been able to show attendees at the previous lecture due to technical problems.

We then returned to our packing, most of which was completed by 5.30pm. This gave us time to relax for a couple of hours before our last dinner aboard ARTEMIS. After dinner we went to the last show being put on by the Entertainment Department. It told the story of P&O since it was founded 175 years ago using a combination of words and music, and was one of the best shows of it's type that I have seen during a P&O cruise.

On our return to our cabin we found out the final arrangements for disembarking tomorrow. Originally we were supposed to dock at 6.30am, but the delay caused by the bad weather we had been sailing through had put this back to 11.00am. As it usually takes at least ninety minutes to unload all the luggage and for the immigration checks to be processed, we knew that the earliest we would disembark would be close to 1.30pm, as we do not qualify for priority disembarkation.

Tuesday 26th April: Southampton
When we awoke just before 7.00am, ARTEMIS was still making her way towards the Isle of Wight. ARTEMIS picked up the pilot off the Nab Tower just before we went into breakfast at 8.00am, and not long afterwards she turned into the Solent. As usual, the journey between the mainland and the Isle of Wight was relatively slow, with criss-crossing ferries competing for space with small pleasure craft and large container ships in the very busy sea lanes.

During the final part of her final 'sail-in' to Southampton, ARTEMIS passed the latest addition to the P&O fleet, MV AZURA.

She was then escorted in to her final berth by a tug which saluted her with jets of water from her fire hoses.

ARTEMIS final moored alongside just after 11.00am. We then had to wait whilst the UK Border Agency cleared everyone aboard the ship and all the luggage was off-loaded and prepared for collection from the baggage hall. This took some time, and the first passengers to disembark did not do so until 1.00pm. We left ARTEMIS for the last time at 1.30pm, and after a fairly uneventful trip home via the M3 and M25 (including a stop to have lunch at Dorchester Services) we got home at 4.15pm.

10 comments:

  1. Excellent read!

    How did you feel listening to a talk about a liner that sank while you were sitting in one?

    I did a similar cruise on Ventura a couple of years ago but it stopped at Elba rather than Sorrenta, and my son and I climbed the very large hill to see Napoleon's residence. Pretty basic inside with a few momentos but still fascinating to think that the great man had been there.

    Next cruise for us is in September on Independence of the Seas - Spain Portugal and the Canaries, and I can't wait!

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  2. Kingsleypark,

    I am glad that you enjoyed reading this particular blog entry.

    We were supposed to visit Elba (on Aurora) a few years ago, but bad weather prevented it. I am envious that you have been there and managed to see Napoleon's home, and I hope to go there one day.

    Our next cruise will be a 'back-to-back' on Aurora, going to Norway first and then back to the Med. Your September cruise sounds interesting. We have done Spain, Portugal, and the Canaries several times (but always with P&O) and always find something new to see and do when we are there.

    Cruising is a most relaxing way to travel, isn't it?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Great travelogue Bob, next best thing to being there. I'm afraid the only cruise's I've taken were when I was young and involved standing watch on the bridge. This sort sounds very relaxing.

    Interesting to hear the "oldest wargame" being used for a newer style game.

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  4. I forgot to ask, did the lecture include any coverage of the fate of the iceberg?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkWj6VhSoBM

    -Ross Mac

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  5. Hi Bob,

    Sounds like a great time was had and I loved the pictures. Perhaps a compendium of your cruise journals could be a possibility for when you retire!

    An excellent read with some very amusing touches and I shall look forward to reading your next one!

    All the best,

    DC

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  6. Ross Mac,

    Having been on the bridge of a new(-ish) cruise liner once, it all looked too computer dependent for my liking. That said, our Captain said that he preferred the older ships (he had commanded the old QE2 previously) that had open bridge wings because they gave a better ‘feel’ when manoeuvring the ship, especially in port.

    My first ambition had been to join the Royal Navy when I left school, but my eyesight let me down, so I envy the opportunity you had to con a warship.

    As to using a magnetic chess set to try out ideas for The Portable Wargame … well it was too good an opportunity to miss!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Ross Mac,

    He did have a photograph taken of an iceberg some days after the sinking. The 'berg had long black paint marks on its side, and it is surmised that it was the one that Titanic hit.

    All the best,

    Bob

    My wife and I both have family links to the Titanic. One of her relatives was a crewman (a chef) who did not survive; a relative of mine played one of Titanic's officers in the film 'A Night To Remember'.

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  8. David Crook,

    I doubt if a collection of my cruise 'diaries' would be of great interest to anyone, but you never know ...

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Sounds like a wonderful holiday. Give my regards to the Ghurkas.

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  10. Conrad Kinch,

    I would do ... but they don't encourage talking to them when they are on guard duty!

    All the best,

    Bob

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