Through the Storm -The Cruise - December 2017
The Ugly, the Bad and the Good.
After the storm in the Bay of Biscay, Lisbon was a Sight for Sore Eyes.
The Cruise Begins.
I’ve just finished a cruise on a P&O liner called Ventura. We went to Portugal and Spain with a final stop at Gibraltar before sailing back home. In all, the cruise lasted for twelve days. It was a very enjoyable holiday. Even in December, the weather is warm. Well, warm for a Northern European like me. The Mediterranean people were all wearing coats. Perhaps we tourists stood out like sore thumbs in our shorts and sandals.
We left Southampton on the 9th of December at night. We cruised out of the Solent by the Isle of Wight and then into the Channel. It was evening. Carol and I explored the ship. We went to dinner in the Saffron Restaurant at about 6.45 am.
Nothing eventful happened during the first night. There was football on the TV. I watched this and went out onto the balcony to look out at the sea. It was a calm night and the sound of the sea was soothing. After a moment of reflection, I went to bed. The next day came. We were up bright and early and went to the upper deck's canteen. The food was great and there was plenty to choose from. This became the order of the day while at sea. A cabin attendant cleaned our room every morning and every evening. The service was excellent.
We had past Brest, off the coast of North-West France, and we were into the Bay of Biscay. When night came, we went to the restaurant and noticed the huge ship was rocking about. The weather was getting stormy and windy. When Carole and I returned to the cabin, the intense weather grew stronger. We were on deck eleven with a balcony cabin. I looked through the window of our sliding doors. Even in the night, I could see the white surf of the sea. It looked vigorous and forceful. I instantly developed a respect for how powerful the sea is. Never had I witnessed such a storm at sea. I had done a couple of rough channel crossings from Dover to Calais. However, this storm was something else. Every time that I crossed the Bay of Biscay in the past, I had been fortunate to cruise in kind weather and a serene sea. This was my fifth time crossing and I was to learn how strong the wild sea can be. I’m sure this was not the worst storm a veteran sea traveller has ever witnessed. But, for a casual holidaymaker like me, it was a meaningful baptism to the volatile sea.
As I moved away from the sliding doors of the balcony, I had to stop Carole from falling over. The huge ship was listing to port. It must have listed about twenty degrees. That is just a guess, but it seemed much more. I steadied my wife and clutched a corner unit. We were listing to port and our cabin was port side. I was staring through the balcony window again at the tempestuous sea. For a moment it crossed my mind that we would list too far and the cabin doors would smash against the violent sea. It was unnerving. What was actually happening seemed logical, once the Captain explained after the manoeuvre. The huge cruise liner Ventura was turning about to face the oncoming 100-knot winds. We did not realise this at the time. I was having visions of the famous movie, The Poseidon Adventure.
Once the Captain had turned Ventura into the oncoming wind, the ship straightened up. However, the huge vessel still jolted as it hit the waves head-on. The Captain came over the loudspeaker and explained the manoeuvre. The fear subsided and I was left awestruck by how powerful the sea is. I kept having flashbacks to my original wonder at the size of Ventura. This was when she was docked at Southampton. We were all getting ready to board her for our cruise holiday. Then to think how water could make such a formidable vessel seem minor and insignificant manifested. I lay on the bed in the darkness. We had closed the curtains to the sight of the thrashing waves. I was no longer afraid. I just lay there unable to sleep. We rolled slightly and jolted back and forth to the crash of waves against the front of our titanic vessel. We did not get too much sleep. It went on for hours deep into the night. I can’t remember when it stopped. Perhaps I did doze off temporarily. We woke to a clear blue day. The sea seemed a little choppy but nothing like the storm.
We learnt that we had been through a violent cyclone. The Captain had ridden the storm with great skill and had now turned the ship about and was upon the original course for Lisbon in Portugal. Several people had been injured in the storm. Some were so unnerved that they were going to leave the ship at Lisbon. I don’t know for sure if they did. There was much talk but the dust may have settled after the event. It was certainly an experience. Especially when the ship was listing due to coming about. I imagine as the Captain turned Ventura into the oncoming wind, there was the moment when the starboard side was hit by the full force of the wind. I still can’t get over the fact that such a huge ship could list so far in the sea winds. It was fearfully awesome.
After the Storm.
Dinner and Stories of the Storm.
The next evening at the restaurant, Carole and I sat down to dinner. We had an older lady whose arm was bandaged. She had cut it from her wrist to her elbow when she fell over during the storm. A man said he was clinging hold of the bar and saw another lady in a wheelchair topple over. As the ship listed, people stumbled with the tilt. The wheelchair hit a table and the lady was tipped out. The man clinging to the bar explained that his other hand was firmly gripped on his pint of beer. He went to some lengths to explain how he was able to turn the glass with the vessel’s tilt and refrain from spilling a single drop.
We all looked at the more humorous aspects of the storm. The lady in the wheelchair was helped up and she was fine after the event. She laughed it off and continued with the cruise. The lady with the bandaged arm was the same. It seemed Carole and I was fortunate to be in our cabin. We went back to our quarters after dinner and retired for the night. I watched a football match before going to sleep.
When I woke the next morning it was still dark but the lights of Lisbon were glowing in the night. As I went out onto the balcony, the Ventura was passing under the huge bridge that spans Lisbon’s wide river. By the time we docked the darkness was gone. The morning presented a clear blue sky and promised a pleasant day. There was a slight morning chill, but nothing like I would expect for December. Also, another delightful surprise was in wait. This was my third visit to Lisbon via cruising. I love the place and it never disappoints me – ever!
The Bridge at Lisbon.
700th anniversary of Portugal’s Navy.
Lisbon is a Sight for Sore Eyes.
There was an array of Portugal’s navy in the River Tagus. We were told it was the 700th anniversary of Portugal’s Navy. This was an obvious cause for a historical celebration. The city centre is very close to where Ventura docked. One can walk into town from the ship. We knew the way as Carole and I have enjoyed the city on other occasions. Every time I’ve been to Portugal, it has been in the month of December and the weather has still been warm. I think that is why I love the city. The morning chill was subsiding and there was an expectation. Obviously due to the coming afternoon celebration of the nation’s memorial event. As we approached the open square that looks out over the River Tagus, we saw a long canopy covering an array of chairs. This was for Portugal’s various heads of state to celebrate the Navy’s 700th anniversary. I would imagine Portugal’s supreme head of state was there too. (I don’t know if they have President, Prime Minister or what the name is.)
We spent the morning looking around the city shops and then sat down for a cup of coffee. Once back on board the ship, I could not resist taking photos of some of the military ships. There was also a replicated Portuguese galleon. The type of ship one might have imagined Christopher Columbus sailing in. The day had become warm and we later went up onto the open deck and gazed out over the River Tagus while eating lunch. The violent storm was now a fading memory. I love ships and found this to be a wonderful sight. As I looked at the tiny replicated historical Portuguese sailing ship, I could not help wondering how such vessels braved the tempestuous seas when crossing to the Americas. Especially after the violent storm, we had passed through. I was looking down at a tiny wooden vessel. It might as well have been a rowing boat next to Ventura. It certainly made me think of the seamen of later days. There would be another wonderful replicated ship during my cruise. One that I would be able to board and walk about on. But that will be another story.
Replication of a Historical Galleon from Portugal.
I Think This was an Italian Ship.
Portugal's 700 years of Maritime History.
© 2017 colin powell