This was our second P&O cruise, the first being in December last year on the Azura. We booked about six weeks before sailing and got what I thought was a good deal on an inside cabin. However one week later, for a very short time, the same website was offering an outside cabin with balcony for the same price. A little frustrating but what can you do.
Cabins were ready as soon as we got on board and half our luggage got to it before we did. Our cabin steward Sharon was quick to introduce herself but we saw very little of her during the trip. Because of P&Os sensible policy regarding bringing drink on board, we asked Sharon for a bucket of ice to be delivered around 5.00pm each evening and she was happy to oblige.
The layout of the Ventura is identical to the Azura so it took next to no time to familiarise ourselves and were pleasantly surprised by the general decor of the ship, which I thought was presented in a more tasteful fashion than the Azura. Throughout the trip there seemed to be intermittent problems with the lifts which often led to long waiting times. It was not helped by several kids who thought it would be a good game and took delight in making sure that lifts stopped on every floor.
As far as food was concerned, we had requested a table of six for the second sitting and were delighted to quickly make friends with the other two couples on our table. While I found the service from our waiter Gilbert to be excellent, we were a little dismayed one evening when he was quite rude to a guest when she complained about her steak being underdone. He implied that she got what she ordered although this was not the case. Other than this one incident, service was faultless. I am a big meat eater and my wife prefers fish, we were both very happy with the variety and quality. We were not happy with the cold toast at breakfast!!
Other reviews have already commented that some of the staff were quite rude and I would mirror this observation, especially the staff in Costa Coffee. Equally frustrating was the delay in ordering drinks from the roving waiters. Their practice was to walk around offering their service but not returning to the bar to fulfil orders until they had multiple requests. This meant that quite often you would have anything up to a fifteen minute wait before drinks were delivered.
Entertainment throughout the trip was varied and of a high standard. I did feel that both the magician and the comedian who performed twice during the cruise were unable to match their first nights performance. In both instances the second show was not as good as the first. I would also like to single out two members of the entertainment team. Firstly the Cruise Director, simply because he was almost invisible. Apart from welcoming us aboard on the first night, the only other time I saw him was drinking in the bar on the last night. He made one announcement a day over the public address system where his attempt at humour was at best very poor. He left everything else up to his team. Perception is reality and in my experience he was useless.
Conversely, Andrew Lazarus contributed greatly to our enjoyment of the cruise and I would single him out for special praise. He has only been doing the job for a year but if he sticks at it he will have a long and successful career.
The cruise had all the usual Atrium sales. Interestingly the day before we arrived in Gibraltar, a duty free port, the on board duty free shop took a further 15% off its prices. I am not complaining as I got a great deal on Bushmills Whisky. This saved me time shopping in Gib and we were able to spend a few hours on a rather dirty beach instead.
Most of the other ports were very nice to visit and Lisbon was a delight to sail into and out of. We didnt go on any organised tours as I think they are overpriced and offer little value. If you are not scared of engaging with the locals you can normally get to see what you want to for considerably less. Of course you run the risk of not getting back to the ship in time but proper planning should remove this issue.
While this was a family friendly cruise, I particularly liked the Adults only areas and the pool with no kids allowed.
In summary, I felt that it would have been nicer to stay a couple of hours longer in each port, perhaps the ship could have sailed a little faster to compensate. Some of the visits, especially Gibraltar really were whistle stop. It is always possible to nit-pick but when all is said and done cruising still represents fantastic value for money. Over the seven years that I have been cruising there is little doubt that standards are dropping and corners being cut. Unfortunately this is the way of the world and P&O are just as guilty as any other cruise line. This will not stop me cruising again and I cant wait for my next one (January next year). Perhaps I will get warm toast!