As a party of 14 it did feel a bit like herding cattle when we arrived at Southampton. Apart from one of our party having a delay in valet parking, the whole check in and embarkation process was very efficient. As a wedding party with all our additional hand luggage - dress, suits, flowers etc etc we were given priority boarding and from check in to boarding took no more than 15 minutes.
Once on board we found our cabins very easily. We had booked several cabins on the same corridor so we could be close to each other and we were all impressed with the deluxe balcony cabins. They were very clean, spacious and well appointed with plenty of wardrobe and storage space. The balconies were overlooked from above but to be honest this was never an issue. Our cabin steward Rohan looked after us very well throughout the cruise.
We had picked freedom dining as we were such a large group and we all liked to dine at different times. Generally this worked very well and we rarely waited more than 15 minutes for a table - although one night they completely forgot about my parents who had been waiting nearly an hour. Food in the Cinnamon Restaurant was excellent and there was a good choice every night. Service was good but not as friendly as when you are on club dining as you don't get to know your waiters. One of our party is a coeliac and was well catered for in all the dining venues. We also ate at the Beachouse (very good), East twice (excellent food and service) and in Ramblas (again very good).
Now onto the wedding itself! Our wedding was one of the first during the cruise and it was fantastic. From the pre-cruise planning to the on board organisation everything went smoothly. Craig the wedding co-ordinator was excellent and arranged everything as we wanted. The ceremony was performed by the captain, Alistair Clark and was lovely. We had a great photographer, Gavin and everyone has commented on how good the photos are. our post ceremony champagne reception was in a cordoned off area of Metropolis which was our favourite bar and we had a lovely waitress looking after us. The canapes were something else - best I've ever had and the wedding cake was delicious. Later we all dined in The White Room which I highly recommend for both food and service. All in all we were treated like VIPS both on the day and throughout the cruise.
Overall the cruise was very enjoyable with interesting ports of call - Barcelona, Monte Carlo (nightmare with the tender transfers though), Rome, Florence/Pisa, Palma, Valencia and Gibralter. Unfortunately due to the sea conditions we couldn't dock in Gibralter which was a real shame as it was our last stop before home. We did a couple of excursions with the kids - the Transfer to Pisa was just about right at 3 hours and the Oceanographic Park in Valencia was definitely worth visiting and was a real hit with the kids.
We didn't watch much of the entertainment but the shows we saw were good and we particularly like one of the pianists - John Wright.
Some of our party used the kids clubs and said they were first class with excellent staff.
To sum up I was a little apprehensive going away with a large group aged from 2 to 72 but there really was something for everyone on Ventura and we would definitely cruise on her again. In fact one our party has already booked for her honeymoon next year!