We booked rather late for this cruise through Gills Cruises about 10 days before they went bust. Fortunately the money we paid was already in the hands of P&O. At the time of booking it was on a guaranteed cabin basis. The cruise start end and dates were 3rd September and 15th September 2011.
The allocated boarding time was 1530 with check-in closing time of 1545. If I had planned my departure from home using these times , a traffic disruption on the M25 , which could last a few hours, would have resulted in missing the boat. We left home early and our car was collected from us by 11.50 am. The check in process was straight forward and by 12.20 pm we were on board. Nobody asks you for the allocated check in time. We have noticed this on our other cruises from Southampton and Dover.
We paid for out tickets on a guaranteed basis and was told by Gill Cruises that a cabin number would be allocated on check-in. In fact we had a letter from P&O with our cabin number -- deck 5 starboard side, within 20 steps of the atrium.
It would have been an excellent cabin, except that we suffered from terribly loud noises and vibration for many hours on the 1st, 2nd and 5th nights, and the 1st day at sea. I was tempted to sleep on the sofas in the atrium. After 2 sleepless nights I assumed we were over the worst. I only complained when the loud noises reappeared on the 5th night. Without any hesitation, the person I complained to, told us that the noise was due to the stabilisers being in operation. The sea was choppy , hence the need for stabilisers. She obviously has had the same complaint before. She apologised that she could not move us, because there were no empty cabins available in our price category. We were in Cabin P321 on deck 5, and I have come across (on cruise reviews) that cabin P323 has also been a problem cabin for the same reason. ( See links below). You could be lucky and not have any noise problem if sea had been calm and stabilisers are not deployed. Cabin P321 is in the vicinity of where the pilot gets on board to take the ship into port. You can expect to be woken up with a loud whining noise and banging while preparations are being made for the pilot to come on board. The noise only lasts a couple of minutes , very early in the morning, and we had no problem with it. It was barely a whisper compared to the noise generated by the stabilisers.
The several performances by the Headliners group of singers/dancers were excellent. So was the comedian Martin Gold. Another comedian Ray Turner was mediocre. He relied on picking on the passengers and was not funny. However, he was a better singer than a comedian. He was due to appear again on another night and I am sure many of the passengers would have chosen to go to another venue than put up with him. On the morning of the night he was due to perform again , there was an announcement that he would not be able to do so because he was unwell. We were told that he was taken to hospital when we docked at Gibraltar. Sue Holderness (Marlene in Fools and Horses) gave us an entertaining talk about her experiences on that show. The ship does not have a dedicated cinema and so films were shown in the theatre on sea days. Two of the films shown had been released in the UK after the cruise in September.
We ate at the Waterside buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch. Although we had opted for Freedom dining, half our dinners were at the buffet restaurants. The variety and quality of food was very good.
We never bothered with any excursions but we always went ashore and walked around the town. Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome) are the only ports where P&O provided a free shuttle. In Gibraltar you could take the local shuttle for which you have to pay, or it would take about 15-20 minutes to walk to the main street.. I wonder if any one noticed that almost all shops in the main street of Gibraltar and owned and operated by Indians. They also own and operate shops outside the main street..
The ship docks in the town at Ajaccio, and in the case of Villefranche the ship's tender drops you in the town. At Barcelona we took the free shuttle bus into town. In Civitavecchia the shuttle bus drops you at the port gate
It was well organised and we got off the ship at 10.30 am, slightly earlier than the allotted time of 10.45 am. It was a short walk to where our car was parked.
We had booked our parking with CPS (Cruise & Passenger Services) and it was an efficient operation. The cost for the 12 days was Â£130.
Correspondence with P&O
I have written to P&O about the noise problem which others have mentioned on cruise reviews. Complainants have been told by the staff on board that the noise was due to the stabilisers. P&O head office will not mention the word "stabilisers" no matter how many times you mention the word in your letters. They dismiss the noise problem by saying that what is scarcely noticed by one is a problem to another. Initially I was offered Â£200 discount on a future cruise to be taken within 12 months. After my second letter asking them to investigate the problem for the benefit of future occupants of "problem cabins, they sent me a cheque for Â£200. I still think there is a noise problem in some cabins on deck 5, when stabilisers are deployed, but P&O does not want to know. It is unbelievable that a 21st century liner is being operated with horrendous noise within some cabins. I have had experience in noise surveys in a petrochemical plant an a boiler house , and the noise level in the cabin would be considered unacceptable in the work environment, let alone sleeping accommodation. Unfortunately people do not complain or their complaints are dismissed and are offered ear plugs. I too did not complain after putting up with the first 2 sleepless nights , and only did so after the 5th night when the noise started.
Other relevant Ventura reviews
This extract is from the above link :
"Cabin was excellent, and our cabin steward was very efficient. However, would suggest cabin on a higher deck (we were on deck 5), as when weather is rough, the extra stabilisers they use to steady the ship make a horrendous noise all through the night which dramatically disrupts sleep."
Beware of guaranteed cabins. Ours was a guaranteed cabin and we were told that cabin number would be allocated when we checked in at the dock. We received our cabin number a few days after the book and not at the time of booking. After our experience, I have become cynical about guaranteed cabins. I suspect that "problem cabins" are allocated closer to the cruise date when most of the other cabins are sold out. If there are any cancellations closer to the sailing date, the people allocated the less desirable guaranteed cabins are then offered other cabins that become available in the same price category.