My sister and I have just come back from a two-week cruise of the Western Mediterranean on the P&O ship Ventura, and although it was generally a good experience, we did not enjoy it as much as other cruises we have taken on the Oceana, the Aurora and the Adonia.
The ship itself was fine, and all the crew we met were quite outstanding: we had two wonderful waiters, Romeo and Deepak, at our table in the Saffron restaurant, and our wine steward Angel was also very pleasant. We did not see much of our cabin steward Sidney, but he kept our cabin immaculate. We often went to the Red Bar in the evenings for pre-dinner cocktails, sitting at the bar, and the staff there were always very friendly.
We went to The Glass House several times there for both lunch and dinner (and also once for a wine-tasting event), and the staff there were always excellent: both friendly and knowledgeable about wine. On the second evening we had dinner there I noticed that the restaurant manager took my dessert from the waiter as he was carrying it towards our table so that he could serve it to me personally.
We also had both dinner and lunch in the East restaurant: both the food and the staff were excellent.
We can not understand why some reviewers say bad things about the P&O staff; we suspect that those people must behave in an offhand or rude manner towards the staff, and so receive minimal service in return. We were amazed to hear one woman say that she had been to Reception and demanded that the tips be taken off her account; in contrast, we gave additional tips in cash to our waiters and stewards, as we thought they were so good.
The food was generally of a high standard, and the entertainment was mostly good: we saw several excellent shows in the Arena theatre put on by the 'Headliners' company, and there was a very good duo called 'Into The Drift'
to whom we listened a number of times in the Atrium and the Metropolis. There were also two reasonable pop groups, 'Supastition' and 'Dynamite Groove', and a singer who was good as long as she was singing - but her "patter" between songs was dire!
The passengers, on the other hand, left much to be desired. Here are some of the things we encountered:
An old (and grossly fat) woman sat by the Oasis pool sounding off at the top of her shrill voice, who then said "There's some ignorant people on this ship!" Ah, the irony of it!
People wandering the decks (and even the lifts) with plates of food from the buffet.
A woman at afternoon tea in the restaurant who swigged Lucozade straight from the plastic bottle, and kept saying "Ta, luv" to the waiters.
Two women, complete strangers both to each other and everyone else at the table, who exchanged intimate details of their respective daughters' pregnancies over the breakfast table in loud voices.
A bearded, pony-tailed, hippy type who, on a smart casual evening, was seated in the Atrium wearing a pair of scruffy jeans with a large tear across one knee.
A woman at lunch who thought that four formal nights (out of fourteen) was "a lot", though she supposed that it was all right for those people who liked to dress for dinner. She then said that the previous night (one of those formal nights) she had felt unwell, so her husband had gone to the restaurant by himself - and since he was on his own he thought he could just "slip down in shirt and trousers", despite the dress code being "black tie".
We thought the general standard of dress was poor: some of these people could manage to dress for "black tie" nights acceptably, but did not understand that "black and white" should still be tasteful - and turned up looking like Hollywood's idea of mafiosi, with white jackets, black shirts, white ties and spats; and they seemed to have no understanding of "smart casual" for the non-formal nights. We can only imagine what it must have been like in the 'Waterside' self-service buffet, if the people who actually troubled to go to the restaurants were like that.
There were also a lot of tattoos on display - far more than we have seen on other P&O cruises - and a surprising number of people smoking. In general, the passengers seemed rather uncouth.
We encountered very few people whom we considered to be nice, and with whom it was possible to have a pleasant conversation (again, very different from our other cruises). There must be something wrong when by far the nicest people on a ship are the crew, not the passengers!
Next time we cruise, we will try the Oceana again; but if we find that it has gone down-market, and is now the same as the Ventura, we think that in future we will have to go up-market to another cruise line.