We stayed overnight the Premier Inn at Southampton. On Sunday morning we went down to the docks and had the first site of the Ventura which seemed absolutely enormous. We were immediately directed to an area where our car was booked in and the luggage taken by a porter, after the car keys were handed over the car was taken by CPS to a secure car park.
We entered the embarkation lounge and we were given a card with a letter K and sat down to wait our turn which soon came then after booking in and having our photo taken we joined the queue to board the ship and were soon eating a lovely buffet lunch on board while waiting for our cabins to be ready.
The call soon came to say they were ready and we went off to find it and were pleasantly surprised to see our luggage already inside and waiting for us. We had cabin C609 which was midships and had a balcony. The cabin was very clean but a little smaller than we imagined. The balconies on C deck are larger than the others and there was plenty of room to stretch on the two reclining chairs with footstools.
The ship is enormous and we did get lost several times whilst on board but handily we had been given a map of the ship along with our cruise card which is used to pay for all goods and services on board along with being our cabin key.
We mainly dined in the freedom restaurant on board which was Cinnamon and found the food to be excellent every time. We aren't used to dining in posh restaurants and didn't know if we would like it but we were soon put at ease. We asked the maitre d' for a table for two and he gave us a lovely table which we asked for every night and after a couple of days he remembered us and happily waved us straight to our preferred table. We did notice that some tables for two were on bench seats which were a little low so we were glad we hadn't been shown to one of them. Freedom dining is just that, you can choose the time you want to eat but we went more or less the same time every night. The waiters were very friendly and eager to please and make sure we had everything we wanted. A particular mention goes to our wine waiter Neil and food waiters Dominic and Sachin they were absolutely marvellous we can't praise them enough. Even though we had Â£40 each deducted for tips we gladly gave them an envelope each with a little extra to show our gratitude. The service in the restaurant was like a well oiled machine plenty of staff on duty all had their particular jobs and knew exactly what to do and the service was very quick.
We went to the Ramblas Spanish restaurant one night and paid a supplement but were a little disappointed by the meal so didn't go back, we also went to the Beach House restaurant which is waiter service at night with a more traditional menu and although it was ok we missed the fine food in the main dining room.
There were 4 formal nights which most people observed the rest were smart casual with a couple of themed nights. i.e. Black and white and Tropical.
For breakfast and lunch we mainly used the buffet restaurant which was fine and we always managed to find a table. On a few occasions we ordered continental breakfast for our cabin to have on the balcony which was nice, we also had snacks a couple of times from room service and it was always good. We noticed in the buffet that there were always plenty of staff on duty and they were very busy clearing tables immediately they became vacant and keeping things generally clean and tidy.
Our cabin steward was friendly and when asked if we could have ice and lemon she brought us some every day. The cabin was kept really nice and tidy as she came in twice a day to make beds and clean etc.
We spent a lot of time sunbathing on deck and could generally find a sunbed although not always right beside the pool but that wasn't a problem. There are four pools on board with bars and the waiters will bring drinks to you at your sunbed while you relax. The bars on board are all waiter service but there are plenty of waiters around and we never had long to wait for a drink.
We went to a few shows in the various venues, all of which were very good especially the musicals.
The shore excursions were again very well organised and very enjoyable with local guides who always managed to make it enjoyable.
The end of the holiday came all too soon and the disembarkation was as smooth as the embarkation, we had a card with a time when we could embark this was done with the minimum of effort and we wondered how on earth we would find our luggage amongst that of 3,000 other passengers but again P&O had obviously done it all before and the luggage was put in deck order so we just had to find the luggage from deck C and there it was waiting for us.
Overall the cruise was marvellous, we would love to go again and wouldn't hesitate to use P&O and recommend it to others.