This short break was to accompany friends trying a first cruise. 5 days was long enough to get a feel for cruising - and to avoid the stag/hen parties on short breaks. Ventura was well presented, well maintained and with good service throughout. However, it is a large ship and could begin to feel crowded inside when the weather was poor.
Embarkation was well organised - arriving at the dock gates to settling down to lunch took about one hour. The superior deluxe balcony cabin we had booked gave plenty of space to sit inside and was just adequate for four to share the balcony when the sun shone.
Amsterdam was interesting for a first visit. We took an organised tour. The ship moors in a sufficiently central location for a walk into the city centre. The best way to see Amsterdam seems to be by water. We would spend more time on the canals if visiting again.
To spread visits to Amsterdam and Guernsey across five days means that travel speeds are necessarily slow. There were two sea days and the weather was disappointingly cool and cloudy on these days. There was sufficient to keep ourselves occupied, but there was less invested in these days than has been our experience on previous, longer cruises.
Guernsey required a trip ashore by tender. We enjoyed the time in St Peter Port, visiting Castle Cornet. Guernsey is now on our list of places to spend a little more time in order to see more of the island.
We found the service on Ventura to be very good. Cabin, waiting and bar staff were friendly and would happily engage with you if you took the time to speak with them. Food was good if not exceptional. Our experience was that the Glass House offered a great option at a small price supplement, although the service here was slow. We didn't try the more expensive specialist restaurants.
Having spent some time on Azura recently I found myself making comparisons between these two sister ships. The layout is essentially the same, with primary differences being the sea screen on Azura and the cover over one pool on Ventura. Decor was different, such that it was clear we were on a different ship. The captain and bridge crew on Azura brought far more homour - and more information - to their messages about where we were, what was going on, how things worked and what to expect of the weather. At first, I thought that the entertainment team on Azura had the edge, but there is probably little to choose - both were good.
The cabin and waiting staff were friendly on both ships - but the experience felt different - perhaps Ventura had the edge.
This short break attracted a wider age spectrum than we had experienced on longer cruises with P&O. However, there was still a pre-dominance of over 60s. This, together with the very British feel of the ship, clearly influences menu options and also the shows that are presented. There were moments where the shows seemed to be wallowing in nostalgia whilst failing to recognise that those of us alive in the 1960s have also experienced the 70s, 80s, 90s - and even the 21st Century! As a 60 year old I sometimes felt I wasn't old enough yet for P&O.
There were no significant disappointments on this cruise - with the possible exception of the weather, which was better at home! If there is one thing I would want to improve then it would be the photo service which is still print based at a time when many of us may prefer a digital option. I don't want photos to frame but would be pleased to pay for some digital photos to include in a digital photo frame or to add to my own pictures in a photobook. This is an area where I consider P&O need to find their way into the 21st Century.
Disembarkation at Southampton was the smoothest we have experienced. We left our cabin at 8.00 and were in the car driving home within 40 minutes. Our experience was that this was well organised and smoothly managed.
Overall, five days was long enough to make a real break and, at getaway fares, was great value for money.