Saturday, 29 March 2014

Quick visits to Palma and Barcelona

Over the last couple of days we’ve continued to be entertained and to entertain.


We been treated to a couple of brilliant performances by Jimmy James – famous from many years ago with the Vagabonds.  Although he’s the best part of eighty he’s still a great performer.


We continue to enjoy late nights with whoever is still awake.  On this occasion we had dinner with the lovely Marie, who’s “Glampacking” her way around Europe and decided to take a last minute cruise, and then met up with the equally lovely Max, one of the ship’s photographers, for a late night drink. Marie, James, Max and Doug.


We’ve taken to sporting some rather swish colours of late – James’ cummerbund has ridden up a bit high hasn’t it! 


We docked in Palma, Mallorca on Friday morning and had a delightful walk around the city to familiarise ourselves.


The Cathedral, as so often is the case, is too big to get in view! ………


…….. but getting out of the city we got a better view of the Cathedral with the Palace de la Almundaina next to it………..


………. and before we returned to the ship for the evening we were hunted down by Laurie and David, a couple of the entertainment officers, for a pre-boarding drink.


Once on the ship it was straight up to the sailaway party for some fun and games before dinner.


This morning (Saturday) we docked early in Barcelona.  As it was our first visit to the city we used it as a familiarisation exercise as we’re going to be returning to the area in the next few weeks and will have more time for a better look around this beautiful city.  The cathedral is massive as usual but we were not allowed in as we were wearing shorts! 


The Gothic Quarter is full of the most amazing narrow streets………


…….. and, after a quick ride on the metro, we arrived at the spectacular and bizarre Temple de la Sagrada Familia which is still being built and restored.  It’s one of many works in the city by Antonio Gaudi and one we’ll definitely be visiting properly on our next visit.

The weather today has not been great but we still kept our shorts on (unlike everyone else who seemed to think winter had returned).  The wind has been very strong and the cable cars, which we’d like to have used, were not in use. And due to strong winds, the sea conditions outside to the port looks pretty choppy for the next leg of journey to Toulon. Tomorrow is another day at sea…

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Mediterranean meanderings.

We entered the Mediterranean in the dark yesterday evening with the lights of Tangiers twinkling at us from not too far away………..


……. but the sea day before was a big day for James.  He won his first shuffle board competition! Watched by Ian, Dave, Liz and Chris he was overwhelmed by the success (and had to lie down!) After four cruises he’s finally won his first gold star (and a very expensive gold star!).


At 6 o’ clock that evening we attended a concert in the Atrium by “The Ventura” Singers – made up of 100 passengers who had been practicing for this occasion for the last two weeks - and very good they were too.


We had a lovely elephant to come home to that night.


Berthing in Malaga for the day on Wednesday we started by having a walk around the central part of the city.  The cathedral is so big you can’t get a proper perspective of it as the streets are relatively narrow.  There was chilly wind blowing and, as there was so much shade due to the high buildings, it was a bit uncomfortable to walk around.


So we headed out of town (Doug posing with a lovely specimen of his favourite flower the Bird of Paradise) and took a taxi to the nearest beach………..


…….. which was wonderfully deserted and where we could enjoy the sunshine and a beer……….


…….. and a good walk along the mile or so of beach all by ourselves.


We took the local bus the 8 kilometres back to Malaga ………..


……… past Malaga’s own very quiet beach …….


……. and back “home” for dinner with friends Michele and Nigel.

2500 passengers left “Ventura” today (Wednesday) and they included virtually every single one of the lovely people we’d got to know over the last two weeks.  We’ve still got some wonderful crew members who we have great fun with so we’re not quite “Billy No Mates” but it does mean we’ll have fun fishing out some nice people, out of the 2000 that joined the ship today, to enjoy the next leg of the journey with.  We are now doing a very leisurely 12 knots towards our next port of call, Majorca.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Madeira Mooch

We arrived in Funchal, Madeira early on Sunday morning.  Although the ship was to set sail at 4 pm we had a very pleasant and relaxing few hours in the town – spending a bit of time looking the around the older parts.


Firstly, a bit more “ship talk” for the technically minded: “Ventura’s” 6 engines produce a total of 91,000 hp (same as 1000 cars). The ship has two propellers each driven by a 20,000 hp electric motor. She has three thrusters at the bow and three at the stern which can turn the ship on a sixpence – we’ve seen it happen at one of the ports and it’s quite spectacular.  The ship’s atrium (above) has a great atmosphere and is used in the evening for dancing (strangely, this huge ship doesn’t have a proper ballroom)


Arriving at Funchal was bit weird for us as we were here only 3 weeks ago on the “Oriana”.


The narrow streets of the old town are lovely to walk around – loads of cafes and restaurants.


Funchal has a great feel about it with the occasional views up the mountain side from the streets.


The main street is wide with lovely buildings and lots of trees.


It was very hot on Monday and many of the narrow streets of the old town provided some shade for us.


After a good mooch around the town (and sitting around in cafes talking to crew members who also had a few hours ashore) we made our way back to the ship (Doug still limping with his gammy knee!)  …….


…….. to enjoy the regular sail away party and much needed cocktail. It’s a bit difficult to see in this pic where the ship ends and Funchal begins!

Today (Monday) the ship is doing a brisk 20 knots and heading for the Straights of Gibraltar, which we’ll pass through at 10 o’ clock tonight.  Then it’s on to Malaga for the first of our Mediterranean ports of call. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Sun, Sea and G & T.

Life on board ship goes on apace – we’ll be in Madeira tomorrow morning after some 3000 miles and six days at sea.  There’s been plenty to do: shuffle board and deck quoits included of course! We’ve indulged in an hour or so of sunshine every day and James is as brown as a berry but still continues to get lost on board!


We continue to get wonderful towel arrangements by Alberto, our cabin steward, who also (without asking) keeps us topped up with ice and lemon for our pre dinner gin and tonic.

We had an exhibition and demonstration of the ships “workings” in the atrium yesterday…….


….. the vegetable and fruit carving demo was a wonder to behold……


……. and the finished articles were amazing……..


……. sorry about the picture quality!


James was best interested in the mechanics of course – this is one of the engine pistons on display (there’s a pair of spectacles on top for a size comparison) and here are a few facts for the technically minded:-

Ventura weighs 116,000 tons (same as 95,000 cars) and is as long as 3 football pitches.

She carries 3.2 million litres of fuel and, at 20 mph, she moves 14 feet for each litre used. For the 3 weeks that we’re on board she will use $1.5 million of fuel.


You don’t get many of the ship’s propellers to the ton!


We’ve also been to 2 wine tasting lectures by the ship’s sommelier. Attending with our friend Michele we learnt a lot about the choosing of wine (and how best to consume the stuff!) and it became a great responsibility to then taste all the wines and consume all the nibbles – so much so that we forgot to take a photo of the proceedings, so here’s one of the aftermath.  Madeira here we come!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Mid Atlantic antics.

These are a few pics of the great time we’re enjoying on board “Ventura” as we sail serenely across the Atlantic.  The sea has been amazingly calm all the way so far so its a very calm atmosphere aboard.


We’ve enjoyed dressing up a couple of times for dinner so far – James going for vivid pink instead of the usual understated pale version on this occasion.


The shows by the “Headliner” theatre company are as good as ever……..


…….. with time left after the show to enjoy a drink and live music with friends Nigel and Michele.


Doug and Michele have managed to get some dancing in as well……….


and the fabulous sunsets provide a great backdrop to an evening drink on the terrace with Nigel and Michele before dinner.


Part of last night’s “Headliners” show had the undivided attention of the ladies (and some of the men!) doing the Full Monty - then it was down to the nightclub ………


……… for a terrific performance by American singer Jeff Dingle as Bruno Mars.


A lot of us were up dancing to Jeff’s great voice – and here’s Doug pretending to be a babe-magnet!


Here’s a brilliant member of staff, Laurie, who works very hard hosting our daily deck quoits and shuffle board competitions and who scrubs up very well for his evening duties.


As yesterday evening in the nightclub moved on Doug and Laurie (centre) lead us in doing  “Whigfield” and the “Macerana” ……. and, in doing so, had a little bit of an accident ………


……. and ended up with a very painful twisted knee! Oh well – all in the course of enjoyment!

We’ve another two days at sea before reaching Madeira.  We enjoy spotting the flying fish, which fly a surprisingly long way before returning to their proper environment but no dolphins of whales so far.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Antigua antics!


Just thought we’d include a pic. of “our” aft deck at night.  It’s quiet and balmy at this time of day and wonderfully relaxing for an after dinner drink.


We berthed in Antigua early yesterday (Monday) morning and disembarked to the sound of a steel band (much to James’ delight!).


We took a kidney bruising ride on a local bus to the charming “English Harbour” – yes, the bus is full and yes, there’s no way to get off except for several passengers getting out to let someone off!  A 40 minute, devil-may-care ride for almost £1- pretty good value!


The English Harbour is where Admiral Nelson was in charge for a while and where he had his ships prepared before Trafalgar and where,for the couple of centuries before, it was a haven for ships sheltering from the hurricanes.


After a time at the dockyard we got a nice man to take us across to a very lovely and deserted beach ……….


……… that there was no one around and we were able ………


……. to have a luxurious skinny dip and enjoy the sun shine!


When we rang the nice man he came to get us back to English Harbour and then another bone shaking (and great fun) bus journey………


…….. back to “Ventura” where she dwarfed everything around her.


On board we had the “sail away” of all sail away parties – everyone had Union flags to wave as we sang ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Rule and Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.  We sailed out of port waving good bye to the passengers on the German “Mein Shiff” berthed next to us (they were very gracious and danced and waved back to us in time to our music!).  The photo is of Max, one of the ship’s photographers and great fun at the party.


These are two people enjoying themselves as the ship leaves Antigua and the party goes on.


A little later and we are treated to the most perfect of sights – sunset over the island of Montserrat with the top of its famous volcano in the clouds.

Today, Tuesday, we embark on six trans Atlantic sea days before our next port of call in Madeira.