Discovering Ventura in a week: Ventura Cruise Review by Norman Kerridge
Overall Member Rating
Discovering Ventura in a week
Destination: Baltic Sea
This was one of those late offers which was too good to miss, had four ports which despite all our cruising we had not visited and was our first on a fairly new P and O ship and our first with P and O since the Worldie in 2008 since when we have been with Cunard, RCI and Celebrity
Sat 5th June
We left Chelmsford at 0930 and my inbuilt SmartNav certainly earned its keep on this 130 mile journey. It found delays on the M 25 where the M1 joins and took us across on the A404 to rejoin further down, then before the M3 junction and we had a trip bringing back memories down the A30 before rejoining the M3 which had a further problem in the Winchester area which meant a further deviation eventually arriving 3 ½ hours later. One of our table companions lives 10 miles nearer and it took him 4 ½ hours.
Then we were stacked in lines by CPS not helped by getting a text from Iain on the Independence of the Seas saying More he and Lynn were having their first drink of the day.
Once in the terminal building we were directed to the assisted disabled check in which was so busy we were asked to sit and wait so opted to use the Gold Members' check in which took just a couple of minutes and so looked forward to our first ever Goldie drinks. Wrong !!! None available.
We found our disabled balcony cabin which was superb as expected and ventured up to the buffet lunch where at least I could buy a proper English beer. On the way back we tried the disabled access out onto the Promenade deck but I got stuck and Rosemary was amused when the passenger helping me said "take it steady Pop" !!
After lifeboat drill the Captain allowed Grand Princess and Independence sail out past us and I could just imagine Iain and Lynn enjoying their Diamond free drinks !!
We were on second sitting dinner in the Saffron restaurant and had a lively table for eight but we found it strange they were all British. After the first night the waiters encouraged me to take my scooter to within a couple of feet from the table. On the way someone shouted "there's Norman on his scooter" and disappeared. We thought it might be Iain's friends who were also on the ship but turns out they were lurkers on WLC (told us their names but of course I have forgotten them). We did meet Iain's friends later in the week in La Rochelle
Sunday 6th June
A comfortable crossing of the Bay of Biscay and although Rosemary went to Line Dancing we didn't do much at all.
I did ring housekeeping as we didn't have our bath robes. A house keeping officer soon appeared to say we were not entitled to robes as these were only for those in superior balcony cabins and above and our super cabin was not a superior grade and even our Goldie status didn't qualify for one. I explained that our friends on Oriana had them but he replied that on Oriana they only had standard cabins anyway. I asked to speak with a senior officer to explain that P and O's policy was so outdated compared with RCI, Cunard and Celebrity but all that happened was they said my complaint would be logged and sent to shore side. Come on P and O get with it !!
We did like the idea of the pre dinner 7.30 pm shows and noted that P and O now serve drinks like they do on the American ships and there are aircraft style drinks tables. We can't remember having seen Mike Doyle before but he was brilliant. This was followed by the Captain's cocktail party which we were surprised was held in the atrium with no seats available although I was on my scooter. Drinks flowed freely provided you wanted gin and tonic or white wine. We did learn there were over 1100 first time cruisers on this ship.
Dress code was fairly OK in the dining room but not too good in other parts of the ship.
Monday 7th June La Curuna
Moored very close to town we had a walk by the Marina and as the sun came out realised we had left the sun screen in the cabin so had to get some from a local chemist after which we continued across the peninsular to the beach. There was a magnificent promenade with wonderful disabled access and also a vintage tram which followed the coast but curiously no bars or restaurants so we wandered back to the ship for lunch.
Our Goldie presents arrived today which were two boxes each containing three miniature bottle of spirits - a nice change from the rubbish we have had in the past.
Again we went to the pre dinner show which was Martin Daniels. I first saw Paul his dad before he became famous and Martin tonight was so funny I and the lady sat in front of me had tissues out to wipe the tears of laughter from our eyes. Disabled access to the theatre was superb although there were no designated seats for carers like we found on Oriana.
We started going for after dinner drinks in the Metropolis and the first night the video wall was was set in Sydney right where we were berthed on Aurora and Oriana so that brought back memories.
There were other entertainment venues one of which was Tamorind but we could never get a seat in there and the Exchange pub which we both found was a depressing place and the train never was working - the barman said it was the effect of volcanic ash !!
I should have said I am finding the food at dinner quite acceptable especially as I found out the a prawn cocktail is always available as a starter. I was surprised when I asked for a steak knife because of my arthritic hands to be told they do not have steak knives on this ship !! The waiters were very good though and always asked if I wanted the meat cut up.
Amazing having found out that one couple (American) who were on our table on the Constellation will be with us on the first leg of our Celebrity Equinox Cruise next January one couple on our table this time are booked on the second leg of that same cruise.
Tuesday 8th June Bilbao
Free shuttle buses were provided (they had taken the trouble to phone me earlier to say that disabled transport might not be available but with Rosemary's help I can get into a coach and the scooter goes in the luggage compartment) but as the weather was cloudy and the bus journey time was 45 minutes we decided to just have a wander round the marina area and beach and returned to the ship for lunch before it rained. Wednesday 9th June La Rochelle
I've just found a note on my iPod that there were horrendous queues for breakfast in the buffet area yesterday morning - something I've not come across on other ships.
P and O again laid on free shuttle buses for the 20 minute journey into town. They were using a mixture of coaches and bendy buses and the latter had driver operated electric ramps so fine for disabled users.
After a wander round we chose a tent covered outside restaurant where Rosemary had her long awaited Moules and chips and being boring like I am joined her with a mushroom omelette all of course washed down with wine. During this time it was raining but they extended the tent top to cover my scooter.
Fortunately it had stopped by the time we left and just as well it had as we met Iain's friend who introduced himself and warned us of a very lengthy shuttle bus queue. My word indeed it was and it disappeared out of sight around two street corners !! Everyone of course was moaning and there were no taxis to be seen and we felt sorry for oldies having to stand whilst I was sitting on the scooter. I suppose it was just over half an hour before we boarded and on sailaway the captain apologised and said it was due to some of the French bus drivers deciding to go to lunch.
Thursday 10th June Brest/Quimper
We had booked the P and O tour to Quimper (a one hour journey)where the coach just drops you off for three hours and I would confirm that P and O still offer the best service to disabled passengers on tour. Stickers delivered to the cabin the night before and a big personalised reserved poster on the front seat of the coach.
As Amanda and Karen had commented a few weeks ago it is a lovely place but unlike for them the weather again was not too good. However, we found a creperie and indulged. After a big savoury one we both plumped for the sweet one which is flambEed at the table and served with ice cream.
Well it was Rosemary's birthday and we had decided not to pay the £25.00 per person for the White Room as the menu did not excite (MPW was on board until we got to Bilbao). On Oriana Rhodes it was only £15.00 reduced to £10.00 for your birthday. East appeared nearly empty most nights but I don't like Indian food anyway. Oh and the waiters do not sing at the table now unless you pay for it (I presume) as one or two did have the singing during the week.
Friday 11th June Guernsey
At last the weather started to improve and we met our friends from the dinner table on the last Worldie who live there. We only had to wait about 15 minutes to be called for the tender and they didn't hesitate to load my scooter onto the tender (Cunard please note !!). Then when we got a call from our friends who we weren't able to contact whilst waiting to say they were picking us up P and O took the scooter back to the ship for me.
Saturday 12th June
We had tickets for a 9.00 am departure and were called 15 minutes early. The porter loaded the car with my spare keys while I waited at the CPS kiosk and unlike the journey down we had no problems and were home in 2 ½ hours.
I am really trying to make any criticism constructive so let's start off with the positives.
This cruise in a super disabled access cabin was only £78 per day (after our credit) P and O wine prices were cheaper than others and so were the drinks although the latter can be offset by the strength of the drinks. P and O also let you take on board drinks to have in your cabin P and O are amongst the best for looking after their disabled passengers (once you can persuade them to let you have a disabled access cabin). For official tours they are THE best. The entertainment was very good and being on second sitting we enjoyed the pre dinner shows. The CD Leon de la Croix is the best afloat. Ventura had good disabled access except for getting out onto the Prom deck Despite recent postings on cruise sites the food was good and the silver service they have retained was welcome. The price for alternative dining was high however. Having tea and coffee making in the cabin is also a welcome P and O treat (but I have read somewhere that Eclipse will offer this) Free shuttle buses
As for the ship itself the main problem was getting lost !! We have a lot of experience of big ships but were still getting lost on the last day. The big problem was that you can't walk right through the ship and not all lifts go to all areas all of which was not helped by very poor signing. Finding a sign was one problem - reading it was another.
The ship as I have said was packed and finding a seat in the alternative entertainment venue was almost impossible (Tamorind ?) The exchange pub didn't appeal to either of us but we both enjoyed the ambience and music in the Metropolis.
The buffet area was again very crowded and not once did anyone offer any help (except Rosemary of course !) We were used to P and O charging for fruit juice at lunchtime but they also charge for ice cream and I also noticed flicking through the room service menu that a lot of items were at an extra cost. Bar service in the buffet was good however.
We did enjoy the experience but found five ports in five days was hard work and we were unfortunate with the weather. I can understand lovers of Oriana and Aurora not liking this ship and I thought maybe P and O were trying to compete with RCI but Amanda on WLC suggested that they are trying to fill the void being left by Ocean Village.
Maybe the next decent offer we get from P and O will be on Arcadia but we do now have three booked on Celebrity
Norman Kerridge June 2010
PS I do have my video on line http://www.vimeo.com/13427851 Less