I will try to be positive but it's quite difficult. You just got the impression that P&O and the crew found this ship just a bit beyond their capabilities. You also feel Royal Caribbean would have had no such problems.
We have only cruised once before - two years ago on Navigator Of The Seas. A great ship, well run. But we liked the Baltic city itinerary and fancied being a bit "posher" with P&O (or so we thought).
So let's start with some positives:
- The evening meals in the formal restaurants were great. Food was good quality and hot. Good choice. This was the best part of the ship.
- We also enjoyed the made to order pizzas near the pool. The buffet restaurant seemed to be liked by many but it was poor compared to Royal Caribbean.
- Freedom dining: This worked well on the whole and we'd certainly take this option again.
- Bar prices are reasonable - basic pub prices.
- The deck space is good. Lots of sun beds in a variety of locations but also options for chairs and tables.
- Good variety in the entertainment locations and seminar options.
- A well equipped gym. I loved the mountain bikes with the screens to race round various tracks.
- Contrary to other reviews we've seen, we actually liked the cruise's entertainment director - his jokes were corny but funny.
There are a number of good things on Ventura but some things you shouldn't have to experience:
- Getting late into ports. We lost two hours of our visit to Copenhagen due to lateness and then being docked miles out from town despite all the information saying we would be close to the Mermaid statue. Spoilt our plans for the day as there wasn't enough time. We were also late for the next port.
- Queues - everywhere. At least this was the case during the first week. For breakfast, lunch, dinner; to get off the ship, to get a ticket for the shuttle. Seemed to get better in the second week, but that may have been that we went later to everything and avoided the queues.
- Lateness of programmed events. On several occasions we were kept waiting whilst previous events were running late.
- At one point, as paying customers, we were kept waiting outside the Tamarind Club for the Salsa class whilst a band rehearsed. That was extremely poor.
- A dirty ship due to lack of cleaning (see below).
- The worst reception staff I've ever come across. Never helped once. They were content to simply say, "Your steward should deal with that" and never make sure it was dealt with for you. If you wanted a form they never had copies at reception. Instead you even had to see your cabin steward for the memo detailing how you should tip your steward! We logged a fault with our bathroom on the second day - and then again on the fifth - but nothing was ever done about it.
Add to that that we were told on arrival on the ship that they had experienced the dreaded Novo virus from the end of the previous cruise and would need to put various measures in place. I'm not qualified to know whether the measures they took were sensible or appropriate but they certainly impacted badly on the cruise experience. These measures included:
· Making the self-service Waterside buffet restaurant into a served one. This meant staff standing serving everything in a space not designed for them - causing congestion.
- Closing the Beach House restaurant - because they were using the staff at Waterside. This didn't open for the entire cruise.
- Not vacuuming anywhere. So by the end of the cruise the cabins and corridors were really dirty. In the last few days some passengers, including myself were getting bitten.
- Introducing bacterial hand wash - as if this was not standard practice.
- Cancelling the Captain's Gala. Additionally the captain was not to be seen by anyone until into the second week. Rumours were going round that he wasn't on board - he was that invisible. He took the Sunday service on the second week and was never seen again.
Our cabin was fine. We only went for the basic inside cabin - we don't intend to spend our cruise in there. The same cabin type on Navigator meant a bigger space with a sofa, but we liked having the fridge plus tea and filter coffee.
We enjoyed the dance classes and the opportunity to practice in the evenings. But the dance floor was woefully small and unable to cope with the numbers.
On the whole the entertainment was fine. The shows were good but some of the solo singers were "samey". The ships group, Powerhouse, were excellent. Talks were good - we particularly enjoyed hearing Derek Redmond. Entertainment was more varied and better quality on Navigator.
We did enjoy the cities visited - Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn and Oslo all excellent.
Overall, great places to go, but there's got to be a better ship to see it from. You never felt there was anyone that really cared what you thought or that everything was okay for you. Another itinerary, with better weather and no stomach virus going around, maybe others will think the ship is great.
At the end of the day we went to some great places and ate lots, morning noon and night. So can't be a bad way to spend two weeks. Will we cruise again? Yes - in a couple of years, probably. On P&O? Possibly, but they are quite far down the list now. We'd prefer to go back to Royal Caribbean. On Ventura? Seems very unlikely.