Having booked my (girlfriend's first) second cruise on Ventura I was a little bit concerned with the negative reviews on this site. Most were posted after Mediterranean trips and I was pretty pleased to read a review from a traveller who had just enjoyed one of Ventura's first Caribbean trips in the latter part of 2011. In it, the author spoke of snobbery from those who make the 'Butlins at sea' comments and I'd like to say that complete snobbery IS a huge factor here!
First of all, the flight was an Airbus A320, Thomas Cook charter and had T.V.s, complimentary drinks and great legroom. We landed, got straight off the aircraft and onto buses for a 30 minute drive to Ventura. I walked on carrying a transparent duty free bag from Gatwick with two litres of Russia's finest. P&O really don't mind you bringing on your own! Our cabin was ready on arrival (around 13.30) and our luggage arrived around about 17.30.
We chose set dining, eating at 18.30 most nights in the Bay Tree. The service and food were fantastic. We ate twice in The White Room (Â£20 supplement per person) and once in East (Â£15 supp.) which were both worthwhile, especially outdoor at the White Room. It looks down onto the small pool at the back of the ship.
Ventura has several great pools, including one with a roof which opens and closes depending on the weather. All have a different area 'feel' to them so you'll find something for you. I do think that it's quite ironic that the Brits go on about the Germans with their towels on sunbeds though. On sea days you need to be up early as lots of (all Brits on this ship) people seem to put towels down early and, regardless of what they do throughout the day, leave the towels there. Get a life people!!
The gym and spa are first class and the treatments very reasonably priced. We paid Â£60 to use the spa, thinking on our first day that this included use of the pool next to it. Turns out that the Â£60 is only to use the area downstairs. I wouldn't bother as most of it is various steam rooms and heated tiled beds. They actually have steam rooms just off the changing rooms upstairs anyway and the pool is for general use (as they all are).
Service is great in all areas of the ship. I think that P&O's tipping policy is very fair so didn't feel uncomfortable with that. We paid the cabin steward and dining staff who were most grateful. We sometimes also gave tips to bar staff where deserved but unlike on a previous cruise on Norwegian Epic, I only once felt that anyone was overtly seeking tips.
Drinks prices are reasonable enough with a great choice. There is a good selection of bar areas with variety and the entertainment was pretty good (not really my thing so can't be too enthusiastic!) but I think my only real criticism of our experience on Ventura is that despite there being a significant amount of guests in their teens, twenties, thirties and forties there was no bar area which catered to those looking for a wee bit more action! Actually, it's not fair to discriminate on age at all but what I mean is there is no club type environment anywhere on board. All of the bars are too generic with quizzes, karaoke, comedians etc etc and while this is great and appeals to all, it would be nice to see an area with a slightly more urban vibe! Can I suggest that the pool at the rear of the ship would be great at night with a DJ playing some nice tunes!
There is a laundrette on most floors where you can wash, dry and iron free of charge (you need to pay about 50p for powder!) so save some room in the case by not having so many clothes for some Rum!
As for destinations, we are not best to review these. We did no excursions and only wanted a nice beach or some snorkeling. These are easy to find!
If you want to do some shopping, save your dollars for St Martin where you will find the cheapest booze, cigarettes and jewellery. By the way, if you're in the market for a Breitling, Rolex or something similar... You'll get one online in UK for about the same price (about a third less that RRP)
We got delayed 26 hours coming home but that's another story!
I can't think of anything else to say except that don't listen to these 'Butlins At Sea' reviews. As the review which I read before I travelled said, they are obviously written by Cunard customers.
So please..... stay with them!!
As for the open minded, grounded majority.... you will love Ventura I'm sure!
Finally, my girlfriend (fiance' from St Martin onwards) insisted that I gave a special mention to Anthony, one of the photographers. We purchased several images which were first class. His were so good that we had to find him each night so she could get more pictures done in every outfit!