Arriving at Barbados Airport, we were hit by the heat and the wonderful welcome. We were then escorted quickly and efficiently to a bus which took us to our Ship, The Ventura, along charming country lanes. Our first glimpse at the Ship left us with mouths wide open. It was enormous and so impressive. The embarkation process was swift and before we knew it, we boarded the vessel with our account cards.
The ship was very easy to navigate and we were soon in our cabin. The cabin was beautifully appointed with a fridge, tea and coffee making facilities, and dressing table, lit bedside tables and a balcony, from which we enjoyed the views of the Bridgetown harbor and a wonderful sunset. We did find that the cabin was made up with twin beds, but we informed our cabin steward, Angel, and she said that during dinner she would remake the bed into a double.
We didn't even have to worry about our bags, as we were told they would be brought directly to our door. So we took the opportunity to explore the ship and have some dinner in our allocated restaurant, Cinnamon.
We had chosen the option of Freedom dining, which meant that you weren't restricted to a certain time, this for us was by far the best way, as it allowed us to make the most of the plentiful activities available.
The Cinnamon restaurant provided a diverse range of dishes, along with an extensive wine list. The food was always delicious and served in a very prompt and professional manner. There were tables of two available as well as larger tables, giving you the choice of an intimate meal or an opportunity to meet fellow passengers.
For a more informal meal, at any time of the day or night, there were the buffet style restaurants, Waterside and Beach House. Again, the standard of cuisine was very high, and was a good option for varying appetites, as it is self service.
A must are the Select Dining restaurants, Marco Pierre White's 'White Room', and East, serving Pacific Rim cuisine. We enjoyed dinner at each and the food was of the highest quality.
There are many activities available throughout the day and night, including dance lessons, circus workshops, quizzes, fitness programmes, computing classes, golfing tuition, concerts... the list is endless, and it is just up to you as to the level of involvement. For us, we didn't do masses but it was always easy to join in, as a list of the daily schedule was published in the on board newspaper, Horizon.
For those passengers concerned about the presence of children on board, there are equally as many activities organized for them, so much so that we hardly noticed them at all.
There were a wide variety of shore excursions, tailored to the needs of every age group. We only did a few but they were very well organized and meant that you didn't have to worry about the time and when you had to be back on board. We visited Virgin Gorda whilst in the British Virgin Islands, a trip that we can both highly recommend. The beaches here were idyllic and we really didn't want to leave.
Another benefit of the shore excursions organized through Ventura was that they are cost effective due to the transport being provided for you to and from the venue, similar trips can be taken but will usually mean more money, and again, no guarantee that you will be returned to the ship in a timely fashion.
For quieter days, especially those spent at sea, we chose to make use of the deck areas for sunbathing and swimming. There is always someone at hand to serve you a refreshing cocktail or two! The service provided by the crew is first rate. You never want for anything.
When it came to disembarkation, the process was very easy, all bags were taken straight from your cabin door to the plane and left you with a very relaxed trip back.
All in all, the cruise was totally different from how we had anticipated, and dispelled our stereotypical ideas. We really enjoyed it, the first class service, a wonderful ship and a great climate. For a first time cruise, we hit the jackpot and would recommend it to anyone of any age.