Bonded luggage meant that we left Gatwick and didn't see luggage again until the cabin. Even taken from plane direct to port - very good. Not experienced that before. Was a little worried about the Thomas Cook flight P & O had chartered, but it was absolutely fine. We were really well looked after, and had plenty to drink. We had paid extra for extra legroom, and that was nice as we are tall.
Boarded the Ventura with ease and were shown around our cabin by our lovely friendly steward. The room was just lovely with champagne, chocolates,fresh flowers all waiting for our arrival. The tea/coffee making selection was replaced twice a day, and having that early morning cup of tea was a big bonus for me. Mind you, even if it wouldn't have been there, room service was SO efficient and always arrived bang on time. We ordered room service several times when we were on sea days and then it made it a nice leisurely start to the day. It's free, but we would give a tip to the waiter. We usually asked our steward for the ice bucket to be ready for us on return to the cabin in the afternoons and then we could have a nice cold drink on the balcony. He was very good at remembering we wanted that.
We chose freedom dining (we always do) and that worked really well. Either we could chose to dine on a table for two, and maybe wait with a pager for a little while, or join others, and then you would normally be seated immediately. We mainly used the main waiter service restaurants, as we don't really like buffet, but food was good there on the odd occasion we ate there. We dined in the White Room on our Ruby Anniversary, and that was superb. It was a formal evening also, so everyone was dressed up, and the atmosphere was really good in that restaurant. Also we dined in Ramblas and East, and both were exceptionally good. All come with cover charge, but really worth a try for a special meal.
Wine packages were available, and we actually used our onboard spend to pay for those. It does make the wine cheaper to purchase the package, but then P&O prices are pretty good against other cruise lines. On the subject of alcohol P&O allow you to take it onboard (other cruise lines don't), which meant that as the ship sailed away, then we could sit on our balcony and have a pre dinner drink....or two!
The shows were about the best we had seen on any of our cruises. Ventura seem to have a very good song and dance team onboard. Shows were usually twice a night (sometimes three) so you could fit in your meal around them.
Unfortunately, we couldn't dock at Grand Turk. The captain tried, and circled 3 times, but wind speeds were too high to make it safe (think Easterly force 7). Having said that, we couldn't feel a thing onboard. The Ventura seemed to cope with the all that very well. Now, recently having heard about the Costa ship, maybe he made a very sensible decision.
Had a fabulous sail away from Antigua, with everyone on P&O waving union jacks at the Princess sistership opposite us, and singing all the songs like Land of Hope and Glory. From our balcony we could see that everyone on top deck had them and their voices were booming out. Not sure what the other ships thought of us, but it was one of those 'proud to be British moments'.
Well, all I can say is don't listen to people moaning, and just enjoy all that the Ventura has to offer. You certainly won't be bored. This cruise was just lovely, and we met many friendly people at the meal tables and had lots of fun.
If there is anything that is perhaps a slight negative, I would say that the Indian staff aren't anyway near so friendly as the Phillipino staff we have encountered on other cruise lines. Don't get me wrong - they all did a splendid, efficient job, but there was no laughing or joking with any of them, well except for our room steward. I think they were just too busy with their jobs.
Sadly, after a lovely cruise, we had to leave for home (had heard news of snow in UK!). Then oops! our plane developed a problem with its nose wheel, and after hours of trying to fix it, the captain gave up hope and got us off the plane. Now this is where I take my hat off to P & O again. As soon as they got their staff into position, and the terrible chaos at the airport was sorted (staff didn't realise what was happening), we were all escorted to coaches which took us to beach front hotels in Barbados, given meals, and then picked up the following day. I had visions of sleeping in the airport all night, but no. Thank you P&O - good job done. Couldn't have been easy to get 300 odd passengers sorted into hotels etc at short notice.