Embarkation was excellent. From handing the car keys over to sitting onboard drink in hand took less than 20 minutes. We had priority boarding which no doubt helped but I heard no complaints from others.
First impressions were not great, the ship looks tired. As this was only our second cruise we could only compare it against Celebrity Equinox which had a wow factor Ventura lacks.
Our cabin was A751 an aft suite. We had high hopes for this and it lived up to them in the main. It had a superb spacious layout with a huge balcony. If I had to knit pick it would be about the level of cleanliness. Surfaces that looked ok in a dull Southampton showed they were in need of a bit of spit and polish once the sun shone. As expected at the aft end it moved a lot crossing the Bay of Biscay and was subject to vibrating fixtures at certain propeller speeds but it was a small price to pay for such a nice suite. Both the Butler and Room Attendant were great lads.
The food in the main restaurant was ok but rarely anything special. The Waterside Buffet was a free for all with such a poor selection I gave up on it early in the cruise. The wife persisted for a while but always came away disappointed. Afternoon Tea was available at 4pm in Saffron. Not my thing but a lot of folk enjoyed it including the wife. One of the perks of booking a suite is breakfast at M P Whites restaurant. This was very good and meant I could avoid the Waterside buffet. Decent burgers, pizza etc where always available around the pool during the day without any major queues. We paid a cover charge at East one night and enjoyed the meal but again did not find it anything to write home about. Another disappointment was that the only free drinks onboard were coffee and water. P&O cut backs ensure every penny is squeezed out of you where thirst is concerned. If I come across as some kind of food snob let me assure you I am anything but. I work offshore as an electrician surviving four weeks in the Caspian Sea on very poor fare (great food offshore is an urban myth) but I expect a lot more on a holiday.
We chose this cruise because we wanted 12 days of total relaxation. No ports really interested us so no trips were booked. We were pretty much last off first on every time. We wandered the shops and grabbed a bite to eat at each destination. They were all much alike in this respect except Gran Canaria had a Marks and Spencer which meant an extra half an hour stood in a street. Arrecife in Lanzarote deserves a special mention. If not for the boisterous local winos we passed on the way to the main street it would be totally forgettable.
Having read the above you are probably thinking this miserable sod wont sail with P&O again? You are possibly right but it is by no means cast in stone. I like the British slant of a P&O cruise and the entertainment was streets ahead of Celebrity. We did not attend the Arena Theatre at all but always found decent music or a comedian at Havana or Tamarind. The passengers were a great crowd and even the cheesy British sail aways were a good laugh. We made a lot of friends during this trip so arrived back in Southampton with mixed feelings.
For food, drink and opulence P&O are not in the same league as Celebrity. But for a good laugh with a crowd of Brits P&O probably cant be beat. Next year we are trying Royal Caribbean, I hope they are somewhere in-between.