This was probably at least the 20th cruise we have taken, many with P&O. We sailed with Ventura last in February 2011. Some unpleasant surprises for us this year.
On the ship itself more sunbeds have been crammed into every available space. Our favoured very small area had 7 beds last year and 10 this time..far too many for the space.
Changing sterling into dollars is now a nono. Historically P&O always set a fair price. This year it was a fixed 1.42$ to Â£1 when the tourist rate was $1.50. The buy/sell margin was also excessive.
Perhaps the most annoying introduction came in a leaflet delivered to our cabin during the first week advising us to purchase a seat for the return flight so that we could "guarantee sitting together". Over the years we have observed the simple principle of booking in early for a decent choice of seats, and since the same passengers are returning as flying out to join the ship there is no logical reason not to mostly keep the same seating. The implied threat that unless you buy you may not get the seating together is the latest example of adding value and I find it a shabby exercise well beneath the standards I expect from what used to be our Flagship fleet.
Ventura seems crowded perhaps overcrowded during days at sea. Food standards are lower in all casual venues, and of course excursion prices continue to increase to a level well past good value. The sightseeing message must be do your own thing ashore, use local buses, or get a taxi for 4.
Next years brochure shows an even more restricted choice of ports with no Ocho Rios or Grand Turk. Its almost like being on the Ocean Village again!!
Why on earth doesn't P&O go the whole hog. Use Ventura as an Ocean Village style casual family cruise option, and use Azura as the casual/formal/traditional option. It must make more sense from a marketing perspective especially as it would seem that the Azura world cruise is cancelled for next year.
One last point. In common with many other customers I am very unimpressed with the plan to introduce pre-paid gratuitities. I tip for a service received not anticipated. I have written to P&O about this receiving a less than satisfactory "explanation" from Customer Services. The new brochure does suggest that you can "vary the amount", but the response to my letter failed to clarify this or even mention it.
Will we sail on Ventura again? Not anticipated. Some things need to change for the better, and we have little confidence that they will.