Arrived at Ocean Terminal just after 11.30 and was given a lettered ticket for check-in (previously been used to been given a card after checkin but I'm sure the numbers we are talking about for Ventura explains the difference. Most people looked like me in the terminal i.e. excited and with a daft "expectant holiday" grin but there is always a percentage of people with the expression like the Queen watching the Olympics. Why is that? You're going on a cruise!!Anyway, check-in was a breeze and we were through that and security within 20 minutes. We were directed straight to Waterside Buffet ( I was going there anyway!)Greeting staff were all very smiley.
I was very impressed the quality and variety of the buffet throughout the cruise much better than on Oriana and Oceana in my (more recent) other experience of P&O in my opinion. I can see what people mean about the congestion for the various stations at the buffet which is partly due to the "angled" nature of the different parts but also down to people "zig-zagging" backwards and forwards when they either have forgotten things or have spotted something appetising on someone else's plate(the gastronomic equivalent of the grass being greener).When particular a logjam was being created by a zig-zagger who was elbowing a member of staff out of the way I commented to the crew member you have to be slim to work here he returned a knowing look...
Anyway, for the record, I had stir fried chilli prawns which were excellent a small piece of salmon (bit dry and overcooked) lamb dopiaza which was very tasty and succulent, followed by a cream horn which was also very good.
Securing a seat was always a challenge and we usually carried our food into the Beachouse part. Both the log jam stations and seating are something P&O should consider addressing at the impending refit in my view.
We then had a bit of a potter around the open decks and went for a swim in the Beachcomber Pool with my daughter whilst my wife enjoyed a spot on a sun lounger. The roof was open for the entire cruise apart from the last night and disembarkation morning a testimony to the beautiful weather we were fortunate to have. Felt sorry for the children whose parents either didn't know or had forgotten to pack swimwear in carry on luggage.However, I can't be too smug as I'd forgotten to pack towels as of course the blue pool towels now reside in your cabin. So I snuck down to the cabin feeling a bit like a naughty schoolboy as the all clear was yet to be sounded and grabbed a couple of towels and had a sneak preview of the JF grade balcony cabin on B deck aft, first impressions were good and i was able to put our 2 cases in the cabin as they were already there.
Had lovely swim followed by a dry off on the loungers and a first drink. By then, there were plenty of loungers as most people stampeded when the announcement of your cabins are ready but we took our time .Met our cabin steward Santance who was very quiet but polite and smiley and very efficient and made a point of remembering our names every time he greeted us which I always think is nice.
Had longer inspection of the cabin (I can never call it a stateroom although the word cabin does still remind me most of an incredibly pokey 4 berth cabin on Canberra).
My wife was particularly impressed with the walk-in wardrobe which was a useful feature but I didn't get quite so excited..Liked the (pretty compact) balcony although was quite surprised that much of the varnish of the balcony rail was on the missing list.
Bathroom I would describe as compact in fact exactly the same size as an inside cabin on Oceana which was a bit of a surprise.
My daughter's bunk hadn't been pulled down but as in the other days it appeared at night time turn down .It did have a special duvet but despite being assured by P&O beforehand that all children received a welcome balloon and jelly sweets neither appeared although we did notice numerous children on the last day with balloons.
Then off to lifeboat drill which didn't seem as crowded as Oriana last year and it appeared to be taken more seriously (people were more attentive) perhaps a symptom of recent events.
After sail away ( a lovely member of staff took a photo of the 3 of us ) we decided to give the Beachouse a try. We really enjoyed the experience had a lovely table with a sea view. I had French Onion Soup with cheese crouton, The sizzler combo and apple crumble. The first 2 courses were excellent the third just ok.
We formed the impression that waiters here were being tried out to see if they were up to main dining room standard and service here was patchy, but the food I thought was very good.
We then fancied both the Soul tribute in the Arena and Fogwell Flax but plumped for Fogwell. We found him very funny his impressions were good and gags appropriate for a mixed audience.Liked his Ventura walk gag which whilst mainly visual gave the impression most have which is you are never quite sure which way you are going not helped by the numerous dead ends.
We had 2 lovely cocktails raspberry crÃ¨me brulee and gin and sherry cobbler served with a smile which always helps. Liked Havana as a venue- nice decor.
So to bed -tired but happy. Slept ok but beds quite small(I'm tall but not all that wide but wider than I was!) and not all that comfy in my view compared to Oriana last year.
Day 2-Zeebrugge.Went to Bruges last year from Oriana so had already decided to just go into Blankenberge so had leisurely breakfast at buffet. I was impressed with range of choice hot & cold options. Always found the fresh fruit to be delicious and at right stage of ripeness in particular the melon and pineapple.
There was then an announcement about 10.30 I think saying that there was a long wait for shuttle buses so perhaps people might consider delaying their departure. We had a quick look over the side and it didn't seem too bad so we went off anyway. We waited less than 10 minutes.
Weather was scorchio! We went into Blankenberge which is a popular seaside resort with Belgians, it was packed! We had a look around the shops, some fascinating cake and chocolate shops and followed the throng to the seafront. The beach is ok nothing spectacular but we went into the Serpetarium (snakes spiders etc) which was reasonably priced and well set out.
We had a nice picnic on the seafront and then a stroll on the Pier and had a Belgian Beer (it would be rude not to) at the cafe at the end of the pier.
Then we went back on the shuttle to return to Ventura.
Our daughter now being 10 had said she wasn't going to the kids club, but a note had been left offering the chance to pick up a free gift between 6 and 7 in the Peninsula room. She was seduced by this and received a nice "Reef" holdall. The staff then "sold" the club in a gentle way pointing out the benefits and doing the "I know you're 10 but going round with Mum and Dad all day must get boring give us a chance" .It worked as she asked to go back to have a look after dinner and went every night after that.
Some people have mentioned that there are no cocktail parties for cruises of less than 7 nights but whilst that is true of 2 nighters, I am happy to confirm we did have a "reception" party in the Atrium with free drinkies.
We timed our escape just before everyone else to sample Cinnamon freedom dining.
The Food was excellent and the service was good too. I had Mushroom and white wine soup(one of the nicest soups I've ever had),Glazed Duck which was nice(portion a bit small but then I'm greedy) and Fresh Strawberries with Whipped Cream, Toasted Flaked Almonds and a Warm Chocolate Biscuit which was lovely, followed by good cheese board.
The wine waiter appeared promptly and we had a nice bottle of Montepulciano D'Abruzzo.
My daughter then went off to the kids club and was introduced to the other kids, we kept coming back to check on her and were told to go away (you are cramping my style).
We had a drink in Metropolis and enjoyed the views (and the cocktails).
As a change of scene we also tried Ramblas, we loved the decor and atmosphere in there and had a glass of red propping up the bar .I do hope the rumours of Ramblas possibly being replaced during the refit are unfounded as we loved it.
Had a huge buffet breakfast(as usual) today the Beachouse server part was open previously only used for seating at breakfast ,expect that was because the venue just got busier and busier.
Had a quick look at Terrace Pool my daughter keen to try this later as Laguna and Beachcomber were very packed the previous day.
Took shuttle into centre and had a mooch around the Hotel De Ville nice gardens and fountains. Planned to get shuttle back to 2nd stopoff-Docks Verdon (big out of town shopping centre)but jumped a taxi instead very pleasant taxi driver who seemed pleased to have English passengers, his English was excellent(far better than my French).My Daughter headed for what appeared to be the French rival to Toys r Us La Grande Recre which stocked some Monster High items(her latest great interest) that are not available in the Uk and therefore will afford her some bragging rights back home.The centre was like many out of town centres although built in an old dock area the exterior of the building had more charm than usual and it was nice and cool on a very hot day.
We had a lovely sandwich and cake from a Boulangerie although my daughter insisted on having hers from Subway(sigh)
We then returned onboard for a swim in the Terrace Pool and a pleasant dry off in the sun on the wooden stepped area, whilst having afternoon tea from the buffet(jam and cream scones-my idea of heaven, cheese & pineapple toastie-yum and duck and hoi sin wrap-also yum) and drinking "mocktails"-Bananberry Crush ( Strawberry, fresh banana and pineapple juice) which excellent bit like a smoothie and Longboat Fizz( Ginger beer and lime juice) which sounds wrong somehow but was very refreshing actually and worked.
We then went to the Beach House for a 2nd time but more people had cottoned on to this option so we were sent away with a buzzer but it did buzz bang on the time we were given.
This time I had Buffalo wings which were ok nothing special and the Steak which was excellent. However, the service was much less attentive second time around and we were basically forgotten and people after us "overtook" us and had their sweets before we had even got to plate clearing of our main. In fact our waiter was physically absent for ages. We gave up in the end and went to the buffet for cheese and biscuits and a coffee.
We struggled to find entertainment we were interested in tonight and apart from the clash on the first night, this was a theme and normally I've felt it to be a strong point of P&O.
My daughter went to Kids Club again and enjoyed putting her own mocktails together.
A further buffet breakfast (again excellent fruits) and then off by tender (took a while with ticketing system but seemed much better organised than when we were here on Oceana).
We had arranged to meet my Mum's lifelong friend here she's from Guernsey and was an evacuee who lived with My Mum and they have stayed firm friends ever since and her daughter which was bittersweet as my Mum has dementia which has now progressed to the stage we felt we couldn't bring her with us, we have taken her with us on 4 previous cruises since My Dad passed away.
I did feel guilty (especially today)but Mum did love hearing about the lovely time we had.
We had a whole tour of the Island which has some truly beautiful coves and beaches.
We went to Port Soif beach which is beautiful and had a picnic made by our hosts including egg sandwiches with eggs from her own hens and Gache for pudding (a type of Guernsey fruit loaf-very Moorish with real butter).We also swam in the sea which was bracing but lovely.We then went to Bordeaux -not France but Guernsey style a lovely cove with a view and had a drink outdoors.There were some people painting the bay which was a lovely tranquil scene but all I could think of was the fast show character Johnny who paints everything black!
We then headed back to St Peter Port having a lovely view on the way of Ventura and stopped off to buy some Gache back home.Our hosts were wonderful and very proud of the Island and they have every right to be.
It being our last night I had fully planned a formal restaurant meal but encouraged by others i went to see what the buffet had to offer and succumbed.
Had Tomato and Basil soup(nice butt Basil a bit overpowering followed by Roast Beef and all the trimmings which was very nice although they were a bit skinny with the meat and I had to do an Oliver and ask for more.I also snuck a steak and mushroom pudding on my plate and this was sublime.
Had 2 Banoffee pies (they were very small your honour) and cheese and biscuits for "afters".My daughter asked to go to kids club so we went to see Martin Gold who we thought had a big build up but Fogwell Flax was funnier he wasn't bad but not that good either.Nice to be able to sit and relax though and have drink in your seat.
We were ready for bed before our daughter!She came back with a goody bag which nice a few games in it-Pairs-Uno etc.