We booked the cruise through P&O and their after sales service was very good, the few questions we had were answered promptly, booking the shore excursions on line was easy and we did this in early December to make sure we got the ones we wanted. For car parking we used CPS at Southampton and then got the train to Gatwick to fly out, this was easier for us on returning to the UK and the service we got from CPS was very good and we would recommend them. For money changing we used Travelex on line a few weeks before going, the rates onboard are not that good. There seemed some confusion onboard as to what currency was used where. The port guidance P&O issued for some ports said that it was the US Dollar whereas it was the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, though to be fair USD are accepted in most places but this confusion didn’t help as we had lots of ECD.
The flight out was a Thompsons charter flight and we couldn’t fault the service, the crew were helpful, the food not bad for in flight catering and the drinks and snacks not too badly priced. Steer clear of the movies unless you take your own headphones, we couldn’t hear a thing. Also we book seats towards the back of the plane and the overhead lockers here are used by the crew.
Embarkation was not good. We landed at about quarter to three in Barbados and didn’t get onboard until after 6. Perhaps the prior experience with NCL had soiled us but the process was very very slow with P&O seeming unable to cope with the number of passengers that were embarking, they must have know how many were coming? We were also only given one map of the ship between two with ‘not enough’ for one each, I presume we were supposed to get lost together or only the person with the map could get lost.
We knew what to expect onboard as we had visited the ship on one of the open days that P&O hold. The bags made it from the Gatwick to the cabin without us seeing them, full marks to P&O for this service, the bags probably got onboard quicker than we did.
After the two weeks onboard we still couldn’t fault how clean and well kept the ship was, the public areas are very busy on sea days but were spotless the next morning.
For excursions we went to Grand Anse Beach which was a fantastic way to spend the first morning, the rainforest tour in St Lucia, this was interesting but you wont see much wildlife, swimming with Stingrays in Antigua which was very good, and a boat and coach tour in Tortola, well worth doing.
Shopping was ok, duty free alcohol prices are good and if you want a drink in your cabin do not buy at Gatwick, wait until you get too the Caribbean, its much cheaper! Would we go back, well we’ve already booked for next year on the Azura as the Ventura isn’t coming back to Southampton and we liked the fact that we didn’t have to worry about shopping and weight restrictions when we were on holiday!
Overall it was a great experience, a few gripes about the entertainment as are set out below but P&O work very hard to make your holiday complete.
The entertainment was mixed. The bad points first; you have to get to a venue early for a show or act, nearly an hour early in some cases, and then the set is no longer than 40 minutes which leaves you then going to the next venue and waiting for an hour. This was even worse on formal nights as there seemed to be no purpose to dressing up, other than to dress up! We watched Headlines once and they were dire, the show was called ‘Relax’ and was set to 80’s music. Given the 80’s was one of the most diverse time musically and for dance a handful of songs with the same dance moves to them was little better than a school play.
Of better quality was Steve Larkins as Mercury Rising, one of the best tribute acts we had seen. The Tom Jones impersonator was ok, though he seem more nervous than anything, Jimmy Love as Elton John was worth the wait. On the more variety/comedy side Matt Edwards did some good magic, Steve Tandy was pretty funny while Peter Piper was fantastic. Dynamite Grove did several turns and for a young group had a huge range of music, full credit to them, while Into the Drift were very slick and worth the listen.
Overall the entertainment was well below what we had experienced on NCL but the waiting times and the short sets was the most frustrating and P&O should note not all of their passengers are over 70.
For general entertainment on the sea days it was, again frustratingly, the same formula each day, we wanted to learn bridge but this started at 10 every morning, which meant we would have to get up at 8. Come one P&O, people are on holiday and how much effort would it take to move the times around a little!
Bar prices onboard were good a round costing only 5p more than at home! The variety of drinks was more than wide enough and while we did some damage to the list of cocktails I’m not sure we finished them all.
Shopping was ok though some prices were mind bogglingly high. They do special promotion days at sea and these are worth looking out for.
We read mixed reviews about the dining before we left and we spoke to a few people who complained about the food while we were onboard, I can only presume they were eating somewhere we never found. The food was great, we ate in the Cinnamon Restaurant 3 times, and had one bad meal which was when my partner asked for the light choice to be served chicken and chips! Otherwise the food was excellent, East just about worth the cover charge, Las Ramblas (now gone) well worth the charge and the buffet restaurant we couldn’t fault. Chips and tomato sauce are just what you need at 1.30am, and we were the only ones to think that! I was amused to see some people fair sprint for the buffet when it opened, perhaps they were burning calories, but there is no need to hurry, we always got a seat and we ate well every meal, with the one exception, not bad for four meals a day for two weeks. As for the moaners, do you really eat better than that at home?
The cabin was well laid out with ample storage. The pictures on the wall were of St Ives and we wondered if P&O put pictures on the wall where all the guests are from to make them feel at home. Our cabin steward, Cristos, was attentive but not in your face and he must have got fed up waiting for us to surface on sea days. The tea and coffee making facilities are good and well stocked, nice to have a brew when you want one. We had limited towel animals, 2 in two weeks, perhaps because we go up late we were being punished, but the cabin was always clean.
The service was the best we have ever received any where we have been. We could not fault it. All of the crew were helpful, smiling and attentive, the Captain, a G&T man, was amusing, and clearly proud of his crew. We heard one passenger call them all useless as there were no spoons in the buffet one morning, we’d been at sea for 5 days at this point and I’m sure Columbus had these problems, and one chap at supper moaned about the service but we just couldn’t see it. Top marks here P&O.