We cruised on Ventura 3-17 December 2010; our second time on P&O and our first Caribbean cruise although we have been to this part of the world many times for hotel-based holidays.
We flew from Glasgow on a chartered First Choice plane with exclusively Ventura passengers on board. We paid the extra £99 each way for the premium seats, which was worth it for the extra leg room. You also get free drinks which you don't get in economy but of this flight everyone got free drinks courtesy of P&O. It was a real bonus to check-in our cases at Glasgow and then not have to handle them again until they were delivered to our cabin and no delay at the airport in Bridgetown as we were taken by coach to the check-in at the port.
Our previous P&O cruise was on Azura which is almost exactly the same lay out as Ventura. We were in a balcony cabin at the stern of the ship on Deck C - we had a large balcony. The cabin was excellent with loads of room for our clothes.
As we had experienced on Azura, the food was very good in the main restaurant. We were 'freedom dining' and ate in the Cinnamon Restaurant most nights. We rarely had to wait for a table for two, even at busy times. The restaurant manager was excellent; he was always attentive and made you feel very valued.
We tried 'The White Room' which was well-worth the extra £20 per head. However, we found the food very rich. 'East' was also excellent, £15 extra for this one. We ate here twice and the staff were very friendly and helpful. We tried 'Ramblas' the tapas bar once and it was of a very high standard and inexpensive. We tried to have lunch there on our last day but it was closed.
The disappointing dining experience was breakfast at the Waterside or Beach House buffets. We have been in better works canteens; the serving area is too narrow and it was very claustrophobic, especially during the peak serving times. The buffet areas need to be redesigned to make them more open; P&O could do worse that look at how Royal Caribbean manages to solve this problem. The choice at breakfast was also poor; only white toast and no bagels.
We were concerned about stories of badly behaved passengers on Ventura on previous cruises. Although some of the people on the ship didn't exactly look like respectable 'cruisers' we didn't experience any problems; most people we met were very friendly. Not too many children around either. Not too many problems getting sun beds, even on sea days, although the beds around the main pool were very close together. We usually got beds on Deck 19, sports deck, and was generally quiet; we don't think some people even knew there were beds up there.
One issue that was debated throughout the cruise was whether or not there should be Christmas decorations up or not. The captain decided that there would be none until the 17 December for the next cruise and there was hardly any Christmas music played either.
No jogging track which is unfortunate. You can jog right around the ship on Deck 7 but there are usually lots of smokers there to get in your way. The deck is under cover as well so you can't enjoy the sunshine.
The entertainment was hit-and-miss.; lots of 'dancing' related shows in the main theatre - not our cup of tea. Some of the tribute acts were good, especially Laura Butler who did two separate shows, first as Amy Winehouse and then Cher. The Freddie Mercury tribute was rubbish. There was a Scottish comedian, Anthony Scott, who we were warned could be offensive - he certainly was and he alienated most of his English audience within 2 minutes. It would have helped if he had been funny but he wasn't.
We booked several excursions with P&O and without fail they were very well organised and we thought excellent value for money. One highlight was a snorkelling trip to 'Champagne Reef' in Dominica, snorkelling over the site of an active volcano; fantastic array of colourful fish.
We weren't sure about P&O after our Azura cruise but we really enjoyed this one, we have already booked the same cruise for next December.