As a Family with two secondary school age boys we are tied to the summer holidays and as such price has increasingly become an issue,we have previously visited Florida but it was going to cost £8000 this time, so we thought we would try a P&O cruise having been recommended by a friend. We booked a 14 night Mediterranean cruise on Ventura departing 30.07.11, a year in advance as we were advised that Famly cabins would go quickly and certain discounts/free parking were included.However as the time approached for the cruise I noticed that P&O were discounting and offering free balcony upgrades in order to fill the ship. I contacted P&O asking if we could change our obstructed view cabin for a balcony cabin etc, we were informed we could but would have to cancel our origional cruise and re-book with a £500+ cancellation fee charge. Having already paid just over £5000 for the cruise I didn't want to spend anymore so left it as it was but felt annoyed before even setting foot on Ventura.
We travelled down to Southampton the night before and stopped at the Novotel Hotel being very close to the terminal.The following morning we arrived at the terminal and were quickly dealt with by CPS parking staff who removed our cases to the Ventura and removed our car to a secure parking area,the collection process after the cruise was also very efficient.We then went into the terminal which has an airport feel,but unlike an airport within ten minutes we had been seen by very polite staff/processed and entered Ventura, being sent to the Waterside restaurant on deck 15 whilst awaiting the cabins to be prepared.Initially as all passengers were sent there it was very busy but we had our first taste of Ventura food which was very good.
The Waterside and Beach Hut restaurants on deck 15 are self serve and one or the other is usually open, we did find however that they felt a bit tired around the edges compared to the Bay Tree and Saffron restaurants which is where we mainly dined during our cruise, both these restaurants are waiter service and are very clean with excellent staff and food.
We had opted for Club Dining and took the second sitting in the Bay Tree,for our 6 course evening meal. Having eaten in a number of quality restaurants over the years I would say that the evening meal you receive would attract a price of £50 a head in a similar land based restaurant, given this and all the food you receive on board I quickly appreciated the value for money the cruise offered, this before you consider entertainment etc. My initial grumble about cabin upgrades soon evaporated as we settled into cruise life.
With regards to entertainment there is always something going on and to suit all tastes, we were most impressed with the ship's 'HEADLINERS' who put on a number of westend style shows.
During the day and especially sea days there is a large choice of activities,you can use the gym,health spa,cinema,go to a talk ie photography/history talk/wine tasting etc. My two boys were kept busy with the REEF youth programme,drama,circus skills etc,there really was something for everyone. With regards to land excursions we did find them very expensive, we only went on one being a trip to Rome this was £177 for a family of 4, we usually made our own way to other tourist spots, ie PISA,we took a coach from the Livorno Tourist Information Centre which worked out at 65 euro's return to Pisa as apose to £108 for the P&O Pisa coach. One of the best days was Monaco, the Ventura moored just off the harbour area and transported us from the ship using the ships lifeboats,it was great to just take in the sights and sounds of Monaco and Monte Carlo,especially the numerous boats/ships/supercars.
Port Review: Alicante was typical coastal Spain, reasonable seafront,lots of shoe and jewellery shops, nothing special but okay for a leg stretch.
Although we enjoyed going ashore it was always nice to return to the Ventura especially for afternoon tea Saffron restaurant 16.00hrs, would I cruise on the Ventura again, you bet.