This was our first cruise after recommendations for many years from parents. My wife and I have travelled fairly regularly and enjoyed many foreign holidays in the past before our daughter "flew the nest" We decided to book with P&Oafter seeing an advert in the newspaper severalweeks earlier and getting what we felt was a very good deal.
Before travelling we were in two minds after reading the many reviews some of which were and are very damning. We wished we had booked a ship that catered for adults after reading about Chavs and children but at least we were outside main school holiday periods (exc Scotland).
We stayed o/n in Southampton and woke up to beautiful weather on departure Saturday. The whole embarkation process was first class, much less stressful than flying and by mid day we wer sitting on deck enjoying a drink and light lunch.
We had been allocated an inside cabin at random. This turned out to be at the rear of the ship. we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cabin which afforded us everything we needed and was very well looked after by our cabin steward Priyal consistently. no complaints at all. Our cases appeared outside our room swiftly with no issues.
Throughout our trip we found the standard of cleanliness around the ship excellent. Of course from time to time there were dishes and glasses on tables but we found these generally to be cleared away quickly, certainly as quick as in pubs etc at home and similarly the restaurant dishes were removed promptly. Having familiarised ourselves with the ship in early days we found the decks to be easily accessible and although it has to be said the crowded nature of the main swimming pools was not to our liking (sunbeds generally unavailable) we did find that in the adults area at the front of the ship we could generally find a place to sunbathe without reserving beds with towels at all. Quite often we sat on deck 7 (the only deck that circumnavigates the ship)and found occasional joggers and walkers no problem and certainly no bumping and banging as reported elsewhere. We did attend the Gym which we found to be excellent and with equipment of a high standard. we joined up for the spa area at the beginning of our cruise but at £90 found this to be poor value as we hardly used the facility. Similarly we had a massage treatment which, whilst good, was quite expensive.
It was only the Scottish kids on the cruise (perhaps we would avoid Scottish school holidays too) but generally if you accept that Children will be children we had no problems.
The food was a real success. We ate in The Bayleaf Restaurant on a table for 2 second sitting. The food and service was superd throughout. For breakfast we chose to eat in one of the main service restaurants as the buffet style restaurants tended to get crowded at peak times with free tables at a premium. that didnt suit us although when we did eat there the food was again excellent. we upgraded twice to the White Romm for dinner and found the experience excellent value for money.
We were very surprised by the drinks. English pub prices were the norm so no rip off there. A great selection of bars for every taste and as with all areas of the ship we found staff very efficient cheerful and customer friendly. Much better than our normal experience at home.
We found the dress code to be part of the experience and enjoyed the formal nights very much. Everybody seemed to adhere to it and in fairness, being a keen football fan myself, I saw hardly any football shirts during the day (I can remember one Burnly shirt on an adult and maybe a Leeds one) apart from the kids who you expect to wear them. Overall our fellow holidaymakers left a very good impression which is some feat with over 3000 strangers sharing the facilities for 2 weeks.
We only partook of one trip-the trip to florence which we found to be good and very informative although the heat in July was oppressive. The rest of the time we ventured out ourselves. The Monaco excursion was difficult as it took us soom time to get off the ship but we understand the cause to be a combination of the rough bay and busy nature of the port, something that is perhaps outside P&O control. The queue to get back to the ship in mid afternoon was horrendous and with no shelter but we merely walked the short distance to a bar, cooled down with a drink or two and returned when the queue was merely 10 deep! We were disappointed not to get to Gibralter but there is plenty of free entertainment available on the ship that we were able to take advantage of.
The activities/entertainment on the ship were varied and we enjoyed the organisation of it all. Communication was excellent with the daily newsletter alerting in advance of the following days activities.
Having had some reservations before we went we found a lot of the negative comment to be untrue on our cruise. We both thoroughly enjoyed it as did everyone we spoke to, some of whom had travelled on The Ventura before. We will certainly travel with P&O again and it probably wont be on the Ventura purely because we will want to try another ship.
We started with a clean slate and open mind and had a great time.