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1 P&O Cruises Ventura Cruise Reviews for Repositioning Cruises to Caribbean - Eastern from Barbados

I am surprised when I read reviews of cruises by certain P&O passengers, some of which seem to be excessively hypercritical, compared to those by people who have cruised with Celebrity, most of which are gushing with praise. I have to ... Read More
I am surprised when I read reviews of cruises by certain P&O passengers, some of which seem to be excessively hypercritical, compared to those by people who have cruised with Celebrity, most of which are gushing with praise. I have to say that in my opinion P&O are far superior in many respects to Celebrity and indeed most other large cruise lines and I will set out my reasons for saying so in this review. My partner Barbara and I have cruised with P&O on twelve occasions, most recently earlier this month in the Caribbean on Ventura. We have also travelled on Celebrity’s Equinox and Eclipse in recent years as well as on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity’s sister company, Princess and Cunard. Whilst I realise that a lot of people will have been on even more cruises than we have, nevertheless I think that my breadth of experience of cruising with several different companies enables me to provide an informed, and I hope reasonably objective, opinion on their relative merits. Most of the modern ships built for the large cruise companies I mentioned are broadly similar in structure and design and are very well fitted out and equipped to cater to the demands of today’s discerning cruise clientele. All of the above companies have launched several brand new ships in recent years and this trend seems set to continue .Where the differences arise is in the details of the overall product and service offered to passengers and this is the area in which I believe P&O have the edge. First, Celebrity’s new Solstice class ships are generally very impressive in their design and decor, but, unlike P&O’s ships, they do not have a proper promenade deck for passengers to walk around and sit on. Promenade decks have always been a traditional and stylish feature of ocean liners and cruise ships and add to the glamour of cruising in my opinion. Instead, Celebrity have a short jogging track on one of the upper decks on their new ships, but this is a poor substitute. Secondly, the entertainment on Celebrity’s ships is nowhere near as good or as extensive as that provided by P&O. On our cruises on the Equinox and Eclipse there were only three full production shows by the ship’s resident theatre company in two weeks as opposed to the seven regularly performed by P&O’s Headliners theatre company during the same length of cruise. Moreover there was only one show per night on Celebrity {obviously repeated for each of the two formal dinner sittings} varying between the production show and other cabaret artists, whereas on P&O there are three or four different shows every evening, again repeated for each of the dinner sittings. The shows performed by the Headliners on P&O are superb and are of real West End quality. In fact, most of the artists in the company have actual experience of appearing in the West End and/or on television. By comparison, Celebrity’s shows and those of the other cruise lines we have seen were of average quality. Even the production and technical aspects of the P&O shows are better. For example, on one occasion on Cunard, one of the few shows scheduled had to be cancelled because one of the lead singers had a sore throat. If this happens on P&O they have back-up recordings of all the singers so that they can mime to these and the show can go on as normal. Admittedly, Celebrity do have various musicians and bands performing live each evening around the ship as well ,but so do P&O. This last comment brings me to another criticism I have of Celebrity. Every evening in the atrium there was very loud blaring music played. The design of the new Solstice class ships is for the whole of the centre of the ship, from the bottom of the atrium up to the top decks even up to the library, to be open, which is visually very impressive ,but this means that it is difficult if not impossible to relax or carry on a conversation in any of the bars and lounges around the various decks in the centre of the ship. Even upon request they will not lower the volume. Apart from the evening entertainment in the theatres and lounges, P&O also have a lot of quizzes every day during the cruise which are very popular and which I personally enjoy very much. They also have guest speakers throughout the cruise, dancing classes , craft classes etc. I know that the other cruise companies have some of these features , but not as many and they are not as well organised. Another issue is the price of drinks on ships .On Celebrity, as is the case with most of the American cruise lines , {including unfortunately these days Cunard as well on whose ships Carnival ,their American owners, have chosen the US dollar as the on board currency}, prices are comparable to what you would pay in expensive hotels, but they also add on an automatic 15% service charge and they then rub salt in the wound by leaving a note and space at the foot of the bill for an additional gratuity. We are not big drinkers, but I know that all of this annoys many passengers. P&O by contrast charge what can be described as reasonable pub prices for drinks and they do not add any service charge.{ P&O’s general service charge for the cruise overall is also set at a much more reasonable level than Celebrity’s}. Furthermore P&O will let passengers bring on to the ship bottles of wine and spirits purchased ashore to drink in their cabins, whereas Celebrity and Royal Caribbean and I believe most of the other cruise lines will confiscate these and do not return them until the end of the cruise, presumably so that passengers will carry on paying their exorbitant prices for drinks on board. One simple area where P&O provide a thoughtful touch is in providing tea and coffee making facilities in your cabin so that you can have a hot drink whenever it suits you. Celebrity will of course like most cruise lines bring you such drinks via room service free of charge, but this can take some time and the drinks when they arrive are never as hot or fresh as if you had made them yourself. P&O also provide room service, but they know that passengers like to have the option to make their own hot drinks when they want them. Celebrity have now introduced kettles and tea and coffee on their cruises from the UK, but not elsewhere in the world. P&O also provide free launderettes with ironing facilities on each deck on board all their ships so that passengers can wash, iron and press clothes if they wish to, which is very helpful on fly cruises where there are flight luggage restrictions so that passengers who have kept their clothes to a minimum can do a wash half way through the cruise. Celebrity do not do this, and so passengers have to pay their laundry or pressing charges. Another area where P&O excel is in their service in getting passengers to the Caribbean in the winter months where their two large ships Azura and Ventura are stationed. They organize dedicated charter flights from several UK airports which fly straight to Barbados. The process of getting from the plane to the ship is seamless. You do not have to go through any formalities at the airport in Barbados. Instead, you are whisked from the plane straight on to a coach to the ship and you are usually on board and in your cabin within an hour. You do not have to collect your luggage from the airport since this is delivered direct to your cabin. Contrast this with all the other cruise lines where you have to fly, often indirectly, to Florida, go through all the hassle of American immigration, retrieve your own luggage, stay in a hotel overnight and then finally transfer to the ship the next day. There is no comparison. The quality and variety of the food provided by all of the major cruise lines are broadly similar, but most of them now have specialist a la carte restaurants in addition to the main dining rooms and buffet restaurants, which offer menus prepared by, or restaurants named after, famous chefs. These specialist restaurants have a separate cover charge, but again we have found that the American cruise lines generally charge more than P&O, who again offer better value. To be fair there are certain features on the other cruise lines which P&O do not have. For example, on Celebrity, the lawn club areas with real grass on the top deck, on Cunard the very traditional afternoon tea dances, on Royal Caribbean the ice dancing rink and ice shows and on Princess the mini golf putting course. However, the preponderance of areas where P&O excel and are superior to the others is telling. These various matters when considered together do in my opinion make a big difference and I think go quite some way in explaining why I think P&O, while far from being without fault, are still nevertheless the best cruise company to travel with. As with a lot of cruise companies, regular passengers have noticed certain areas where they have cut back on some details and services to save costs ,but this is probably as a result of the competitive pricing they have had to adopt to market and sell the cruises given today’s economic climate .However, I think that they still offer the best overall cruise experience. The combination of formal and informal themed evenings on their cruises is just right and their sailaway parties are the best. I know that they are owned by Carnival, like Princess, Cunard and some other brands, but to their credit Carnival seem intent on maintaining P&O’s unique and traditionally British style of cruising. I am looking forward to travelling on P&O’s new superliner Britannia next year which promises to raise the bar for standards still further. To summarise, I do hope that people who have cruised with P&O and who sometimes like to have a little moan, as we all do from time to time, will reflect on the issues I have raised and realise that P&O are not so bad after all. If you are reading this as a regular traveller with Celebrity or another cruise line, then why not give P&O a try.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Ventura Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 3.0 3.9

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