We wanted to do something different for our 25th anniversary and found a Caribbean cruise on the Ventura.
Money first, at a discount which effectively meant two for the price of one this represented tremendous value.
Drinks, however, are expensive, P&O clearly use drinks to make up their money. A good idea would be to try and sell more at lower prices.
Comparing Ventura to the Dawn Princess, well there is just no comparison, the Ventura is streets better is terms of options, facilities, and feeling of space.
Plus points include the ability to cope with different groups of people, of different age ranges and expectations, from young people, couples with children, older people like us, as well as making single people welcome and apparently having excellent disabled capabilities as well. There was no feeling of intrusion or confinement on board.
The non basic restaurants are excellent, particularly Ramblas (Tapas) and East, which despite a slightly odd location on board is just perfection. Service and atmosphere in each was just incredibly good.
The Oasis Spa and Fitness Centre is excellent. Great value.
Shore Excursions are very well organised and the staff exceptionally conscientious. One of the staff was so concerned about whether one of our bookings was right that he searched for us in order to double check that we had what we wanted.
Entertainment is good overall, much better than we expected.
There are some downsides. This is a Caribbean cruise, and the only concession on board to being in the Caribbean was a steel band who knew about twelve songs, which grated by day three. Otherwise, we could have been anywhere. Training the bar staff to make some Caribbbean drinks would be good, don't order a rum punch unless you are highly addicted to sugar. Actually, getting some Caribbean bar staff would be even better.
The Reception staff were with one exception worse than useless, rude, unhelpful and ignorant. We found that it was 100% better to ask our cabin steward! It doesn't help that the in cabin manual is incorrect and the online information via the cabin television is incorrect. They do not, for example, change travellers cheques despite saying that they do.
The bar staff were disappointing and there was no atmosphere in any of the bars. This made the entertainers jobs a lot harder in trying to build an atmosphere at some of the events. All lot of people would leave when the act was finished instead of staying and savouring an atmosphere, because of the bar staff. Surprising, because this must be costing P&O a lot in lost revenue.
Despite having a large number of drinks waiters wandering round, particularly on deck, it was a minor miracle if one actually asked if you wanted anything and when approached, which was the requirement in order to get served, most found it extremely difficult to comprehend what you wanted. Surprising again, because this must be costing P&O a lot in lost revenue.
The standard restaurants were pretty good, the buffet "Waterside" restaurant was ideal for breakfast. Our main dining was in Saffron. Vegetarian and Meat based dishes were good but the chefs have no idea how to cook fish, which all looked as if it was boiled for a standard ninety minutes! Back to school there I am afraid. The menus are a bit pretentious, and they do not in some cases do what they say. The waiters were reasonable although with a tendency, because of the fixed periods, to interrupt you if you happened to be speaking when they approached.
The ship offers special facilities such as weddings and renewal of vows. These seemed to be very well organised but we tried to order on board and had a bit of a nightmare, best advice, book those sort of things in advance.
Disembarkation paperwork was a shambles. By the admission of staff, 20% of passengers did not receive the paperwork or instructions. I think this is another "Reception" issue.
Having paid effectively half price we felt this was almost excellent. If we had paid full price we might have had a more critical view. The challenge for P&O is to work on the 10-15% of issues to turn this from being very very good into something world class.