We thought that we would try a fortnight in the Eastern Med/Adriatic and see Venice from a reasonably big boat before the rumoured restrictions are put into place. Now this is neither our first cruise with P&O, nor our first fly/cruise on the Ventura, also we understand that change must happen, but there are certain things we look forward to on cruises, certain standards met, etc. We take it as a given that once on-board, all any cruise line is interested in is our money, and this used to to politely done, now it is just blatant. From our point of view, Ventura has very nearly lost all 'Britishness' it once had and its patently obvious that the parent company Carnival Corp. has totally failed to understand P&O's major customer group i.e. the British.
First the ship is looking very tired now, the much publicized refit was not very visible except for the normally empty, pretentious and overly expensive 'The Retreat' (same as the Azura), and in my opinion a total waste of space. The refit has not physically changed the old Rambalas/Tapas bar and is thankfully not a copy of that horrible creation on Azura, but is now also called the ‘Glass House’. There was visible damage to many wooden fittings in public areas, missing tiles around the pool(s) area, and peeling surfaces of the pool itself.
Deck 15 food the pizza, burger/hotdog, self-service area, and the ‘Beachhouse’ does not appear to have changed. We did not try the ‘White Room’ this time because we thought the cover charge was extortionate, but we heard rumours that is was not that busy. We did try ‘East’ and the ‘Glass House’ once each, both were expensive but the food was well cooked and very tasty. This is the first time that we had been allocated ‘freedom dinning’ and the ability to eat when it is convenient is very attractive (unless you have to wait – of course), however the service we received here was definitely not silver service, mostly it was rushed with side plates and cutlery often missing from the tables, glassware was not properly dried or polished. Most times missing items (including butter) were replaced from nearby tables while the occupants were still eating. The quality and presentation of the food was somewhat less than it had been on other cruises, e.g. the main dish was presented fully plated and therefore you had no opportunity to have fewer or more vegetables as you wished, also the medium-rare beef always seemed to be a bit too rare.
Drinks were as previous P&O cruises i.e. of reasonable prices compare to other cruise lines. But it should be noted that on the Genoa-Venice leg of the trip all purchases are subject to Italian VAT @ 22% extra – because the ship does not leave EU waters for those 7 days.
As always the entertainment was of mixed quality, from very good to very poor. Now this is a very subjective subject and I will not expand too much further, suffice it to say many did not appreciate comedians who told the audience that "he did not care ... what they thought" and/or using swear words and lewd comments in front children. It was noticeable that day-time talks, recitals, craft classes etc were greatly curtailed.
Normally we fly with the P&O charter carrier, but this time we elected to fly with BA the consequence of this entailed a certain amount of claiming baggage and transferring it ourselves to allotted points for onward transport, we were resigned to this hardship. It is our opinion that P&O/carrier interface was poorly managed from P&Os end, as all the problems appeared to be of P&Os making and this made embarkation and dis-embarkation at best chaotic and at worse shambolic.
All in all, we found that this cruise the destinations were great, the ship was missing something and definitely lacked the old romance/sparkle of previous and felt slightly niggardly and of reduced quality.