Embarkation-smooth and fast, polite, patient staff. However, when sent to the ship, nobody explained what we had to do or where to go. When we got to our cabin, our cases were missing and we had to walk all around our deck to find our cases, which were not near our cabin!
Cabin- carpet was very grubby and needs a good clean. There were black (I presume shoe marks) all over the ceiling. Only two complimentary bottles of water in the cabin despite being three people. When we asked the cabin steward, he told us it was P&O policy. Come on P&O, three people have paid thousands between them for the cruise and you only give them two bottles to share. Annoyed on last evening to find cabin steward had packed away out toiletries and not only were they mixed up; some were not ours so god knows where he got them from. The first week we had a fresh flower in a vase, which was a lovely touch but this had been removed by the second week despite it still being in a good condition. We could never get any cold running water to clean our teeth. The shower leaked but was nice and powerful. Could not hear any of the announcements in the cabin until we opened the door to the corridor as they are not available in the cabin.
Decks- Filthy most of time. Glasses were left for hours on the floors and in some cases up to a day. Not enough tables to put drinks on. The few ashtrays available were emptied infrequently resulting in many ashtray fires. Joggers causing problems. There should be one designated deck to jog on because we saw quite a few people knocked flying by these inconsiderate people; one old man nearly went overboard as the jogger knocked him hard! If you did not move out of their way quick enough, they would run on the spot quickly behind you making you jump until you moved. There is a good gym on the ship with running machines so why don't P&O insist they use this facility or only allow jogging on one deck? Running on slippery decks is dangerous for anyone.
Sun beds- Do not bother trying to get a sun bed on the top deck as towels were seen to go out in the dark at 6am. Even children had their own sun beds, which they never used as they were too busy jumping and diving into the pools (signs clearly stated no jumping or diving)! We deliberately booked early July as we knew the school holidays were later but we did not know the Scottish school holidays had started (we will not make that mistake again). We were told there were 400 children on the ship and on the whole they were great but as usual you get unsupervised ones that spoil other people's holidays. They were racing each other up and down the stairs, using the phones around the ship to mess about, messing about in the lifts and generally running around with food or making a lot of noise. We mentioned these 'naughty' children to a member of staff and he told us that under no circumstances are staff allowed to speak to the children or prevent them from doing anything (even dangerous). They have to ring the Youth Team, who will then speak to the parents. Staff have spoken to children in the past and children have then told their parents and parents then had a go at the member of staff or complained to their superiors.
Food- Very good throughout the ship and caters for all tastes. We had no trouble finding a seat in any of the eating areas. The pizza place and burger bar are very good if you want something different. We only had to queue a few minutes whilst the pizza was cooking. Although (in the buffet) the cold plates are always hot as they have just come out of a dishwasher. The tables are often dirty and not cleaned enough. The trays are bulky and heavy before you even begin so you need a lot of arm strength by the time you have food on your plate. UHT milk and cream used throughout the ship so if you don't mind this in your drinks, desserts or cereal etc you will be OK.
Drinks- The Great Ice Rip-Off we named it. Staff fill glasses with ice, which subsequently results in less of your original drink. We paid for a pint of cola and when we poured it into an empty glass, without the ice, there was less than half a pint. Even when you ask for no ice or only one cube, they still put loads in. This is a trick that bar staff are taught to maximise profits on mixers, soft drink etc. The first week we got fruit on sticks in our cocktails but we never saw it the second week.
Costa Coffee - UHT milk is used in the drinks, which alters the taste of the coffee significantly. We had purchased about 10 coffees before we saw the sign that states you get a free piece of cake with each drink purchased. Staff had never mentioned this or offered cake previously so we had been missing out!
Staff- Very miserable on the whole. No eye contact, no smiling, no conversation, no manners, and some actually snatch a pen or receipt out of your hand. This ship had the most miserable staff we have ever encountered out of all the cruises we have been on. This resulted in us only drinking in the Ramblas Bar as Wiston there always had a smile and a wave for us. He was one of the few nice staff we met on the ship and by the middle of the first week, he greeted us by name.
Dress- Unlike previous reviews, we are not clothes snobs, as we do not want to waste all our baggage allowance on long dresses and suits. We would never dream of 'reporting' people for having jackets over the backs of their chair or the wrong dress code! One suit for the men and a couple of dresses for the ladies will suffice (for four formal nights). There were lots of people, including children, that wore football shirts in the day (we never saw this during the evening meals) but perhaps that was because there had been a tour to the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona and people wanted to show off their purchases. If you are a clothes snob then this ship is not for you as they are thankfully more relaxed on dress codes (we have been told this is because it is a family ship). Yes, some of the young girls wore shorts skirts and dresses but they looked very classy and not chavvy as previously suggested (I suggest you look up what stereotypical descriptions of chavs are and what they are supposed to wear). I am not shallow enough to judge a person by their tattoos. I like to get to know the person and not judge on appearances. We met many people who had a tattoo (young and old) and guess what?- they were lovely, some had very good jobs but unless you spoke to these tattooed people, you would never know.
Excursions-The Pisa tour guide walked too fast and I am sure the coach could have dropped us off closer to Pisa to drop us off and then parked in the coach park where we were dropped off. Two elderly people had been left behind by their guide, as they could not walk as fast as their group, so we had to direct them. Their guide should have known that they were missing. Excursions are expensive compared to what you would pay for a local taxi. My husband and son went to the Nou Camp excursion and said they were rushed round and hardly had any time to stop and look at anything but then the guide wasted time showing them the views of Barcelona, which they had not requested or paid a for. They said they would have preferred more time at the stadium. The free shuttle buses were great, although we had to pay 5 Euros each for one of them. The tenders at Monaco were a disaster. We waited 4 hours to get off and one hour in the boiling sunshine to get on. The queue to return to the ship was very, very long and only two tenders seemed to be working. We had to queue at the side of a narrow road, which was dangerous (especially for those with children) as we had to move near a drop into the water to allow cars and vans to pass us. Eventually, P&O staff brought round water and cold flannels but there were not enough for everyone in the queue. We did not get to Gibraltar because of weather conditions (we were told) but we did see that planes were taking off and landing there without any problems and a yacht managed to sail! We thought the weather excuse was a lie because we were told by a member of staff that there were too many ships in Gibraltar so we could not get into the port. The member of staff said this also happens a lot on Gibraltar ports of call. All P&O offered as compensation was a film that had been showed before or a talk on UFOs. We were extremely angry that P&O did not try and get us into another port instead such as somewhere in Portugal or France. To dock in Gibraltar is very expensive, which is why you only get a few hours, so P&O seemed to keep this saving to themselves. They could have offered a discount in the shops as everyone seemed to rush down there to buy last minute gifts and duty frees. I bet Ventura's coffers swelled that afternoon, which I believe is why they didn't try too hard to dock somewhere else.
On the whole we did enjoy the cruise but there are a few simple things P&O could do to make this a perfect ship i.e. a good clean up, more tables and ashtrays and more smiling staff.