My wife Tracey ,daughter Olivia (11) and I decided to treat ourselves to an Italian cruise aboard the Ventura in August 2014. It was our first cruise so we were a little naive to some things but thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The good points;
The food was mostly excellent! We dined in the Cinnamon restaurant in the evening as we had excellent service from the friendly and efficient waiters and wine steward. We used the upper deck restaurants for breakfast and lunch, so we could stay dressed casual. The food here was very nice, but not as good as the formal restaurants. We are early risers so we did not find breakfast and lunch much of a busy hassle. The biggest problem at times was finding an empty table, once you had chosen what to eat. Juice is only served at breakfast, chilled water during the rest of the time. Of course there is coffee (very nice) and tea of all flavours served during all hours. I found all savoury dishes tasty, but some of the sweets were a little lack lustre.
We are not wealthy, but found the prices of wine, beer etc, reasonable to that what you would pay at home. Pint of beer £3.50 average bottle of wine with evening meal £18 -£20 and cocktails £5.50.
We found the entertainment very good, especially the ventriloquist who was brilliant.
All of the waiters around the pool and in the restaurants worked very hard and always there to get you a drink or take away dirty plates and glasses.
I found all of the guests, from all walks of life to be very friendly and respectable. We try our best not to be judgemental with other people and as such we found everyone friendly and easy to talk to. I just do not understand some people who deem to judge other people because of their appearance and who just seem to nit-pick at every minor point. If you want friendly and respectable company to accompany a family friendly cruise, the Ventura is for you. If you prefer a ship that is more geared to formality and peace and quiet, then maybe choose a smaller and a more expensive ship.
We visited Sorrento on the trip to the farm (we were the last to get on the trip). Well worth it and Sorrento is so picturesque. We did not pay for the excursion to Dubrovnik, just paid for the shuttle bus to get us there. It’s a small town you can explore easily yourself. This is well worth visiting and for ‘Game of Thrones ‘fans, there is a guided tour showing you the locations of some scenes. Finally, Venice is a must and I was very pleased to manage to get places for this visit that included a ride on a gondola. However, it would have been much cheaper to just pay for the shuttle boat to get you onto land and make your own way around. As we entered St. Marks square, the bells began to ring and it was just magical. This is a memory that will stay with us forever.
Tips for a better cruise;
We had to wait a few hours for our luggage to be delivered to our cabin once on board – about 2-3 hours. Our cabin steward helped and brought them to us within half of an hour of asking him to find them. We will remember to pack our bathing costumes in our hand luggage next time, along with a few toiletries.
We struggled to get onto some of the excursions as we had not pre-booked on line before the holiday. Florence and Pizza were completely sold out. We could have tried to make our own way, but Florence was over an hour away and we were a little nervous of getting back in time for the ships departure so we stayed on board. However, it was very relaxing during the day and plenty of room to relax and explore the ship.
We had an internal cabin, which was adequate with just enough room for the 3 of us. However I think we would get a bigger room for a 2 week cruise. We actually saved approx £500 in one week booking an internal cabin this instead of getting a balcony and a bigger room, which we were pleased with. If you are booking a balcony room, ensure that it is not overlooked and a higher deck would give you better views. We were on the Riviera deck near the top of the ship, which was great as we were near the pool decks. Our cabin steward Angelo was very friendly and nothing was too much trouble.
Our extras including drinks, photos and excursions etc. came to approx £650 in one week. We only had 1 bottle of wine with our evening meal so we didn’t bother with the drinks package and we had the benefit of ordering what wine, spirits or beer etc. we wanted without sticking to a pre-ordered package. I think when you buy a package deal with wine, drinks ice cream etc. it just makes to drink more.
Finally during days at sea the pool area is naturally very congested. Get up early to get a bed near the pool or you will struggle. Yes the beds are placed close together, but they are comfortable and big enough for you not to be touching your neighbour. We slept in one day and found no beds by the pool, but an older couple near us gave up some of their beds that they were saving for the kids, which I thought was a very kind gesture. People do place towels on the beds, but the ship’s rules state that you can remove them if you wish.
I think my wife and I would like to cruise again as it is our silver wedding anniversary next year.