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587 Southampton P&O Cruises Ventura Cruise Reviews

Background We are a retired couple in our 60s who have cruised about 8 or 10 times previously, only with P&O, mostly on the Oriana or Aurora, but once on Artemis. We have always wanted to go on a Maiden cruise - had imagined this ... Read More
Background We are a retired couple in our 60s who have cruised about 8 or 10 times previously, only with P&O, mostly on the Oriana or Aurora, but once on Artemis. We have always wanted to go on a Maiden cruise - had imagined this would be something unique, with special events and special entertainment. We made a reservation on the day bookings opened and got a "guarantee" cabin for the grade we had requested. We also subsequently added the one week cruise immediately following - visiting 4 ports on the Spanish and French Atlantic coast. Travel to Southampton We drove down to Southampton taking advantage of the free parking offered for this cruise. The queue from well outside the dock gates took an hour before we reached the unloading point. There was then quite a long queue (in the rain) before we got inside the terminal building. As "frequent" P&O cruisers we had the advantage of priority check-in once we were inside, but even that was quite slow due to the number of such passengers arriving. Once on board at 1.30pm our luggage arrived within a couple of hours. It may be that the long queues to reach the ship and subsequently to check-in were a result of this being the first time that P&O have had to embark so many passengers. The Ship Ventura is the first large ship in the P&O fleet - taking around 3,400 passengers I believe, as compared to 1,800 or so on the Oriana or Aurora. She is built to the standard we have come to expect with P&O - well fitted out, beautifully furnished, excellent artwork everywhere. As she is designed to attract a new type of cruise customer (families with young children), the lounges and public areas are more open and "walk-through" than we are used to and we felt the lack of quiet places to sit down in comfort and read or relax. The bars are all spacious, although the three largest - Havanna, Tamarind Club and Metropolis are regularly used for entertainment, much of which is relayed at a volume which appears to be designed for those who are hard of hearing. The theatre is outstanding - up to the class of the best London theatres, seating 750+, with comfortable seating and excellent production facilities. The Atrium and shopping area is OK with more shops and more space than we have seen on the smaller P&O ships. There is a limited library, but no dedicated library reading room as on the Oriana or Aurora. Our Cabin Our cabins - A622 on deck 12 for the Maiden Cruise and B406 on deck 11 for the one week follow-on cruise, were identical, with reasonable space, excellent furnishing, a terrific walk-in wardrobe area (more hanging space than we have seen on other ships) and a typical, adequate bathroom/toilet with shower. The cabin had a balcony with two semi-recliner chairs and a small coffee table. There was a flat screen TV, excellent tea and coffee making facilities and a fridge. Our cabin stewards were first rate as we have always found on P&O ships. One of the few snags we encountered with this brand new ship was that public area announcements could not be heard on one of the TV channels as stated, so every time anyone heard the sound of any announcement, everyone rushed to the door and stood in the corridor to listen...... A minor annoyance which should be put right quickly, we hope. The only other "snag" was, we believe, a sign of the times - some films on the TV were free to watch, others required a payment of a few pounds. Just another way that Carnival is seeking to increase income. A similar situation applied to cabin food service - some items were free, others required a payment. The TV has an "interactive" function where one can find messages (usually promoting services from the Spa, Photographers, Tours Team or Art Gallery) and a facility for checking the on-board account expenditure to date. TV channels included Sky News (UK version), BBC World and BBC Prime for nearly all of the time. One comment we would make - something to take into account when choosing a cabin with a balcony - is that the balconies on decks 10, 11 and 12 are set back from the side of the ship and are built vertically one above the other with decent privacy. But we could look straight down into the balconies of cabins on decks 8 and 9 which are staggered out (presumably give larger balcony and/or cabin size). We felt than the people on these lower decks at times felt quite uncomfortable with us looking down on them resting or having drinks or a meal. Dining There are two large self-service cafeterias on deck 15 which are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, children's high tea, an evening meal and a limited midnight buffet. In practice some food is available from 6.30am until the early hours. The restaurants are bright and airy, but with limited space for serving food and the choices reflect that limit. Seating is insufficient at peak breakfast and lunchtimes, even with the small outside area at the stern and the few tables in the area around the covered pool. Breakfast and lunch are also served in one or two of the "main" restaurants, with waiter service. This was our preference on most occasions unless we wished to have a quick breakfast before going ashore. During the daytime there are two food bars on deck 15, one serving pizzas and the other burgers. These are free of charge. There is also an ice cream bar for which there is a charge. We had an excellent pizza for lunch on one occasion, but did not sample the burgers or ice cream. There are a number of evening meal options on Ventura, but at the time of booking it is necessary to make a choice for dinner between "Club" dining (the same table every evening at one of two restaurants - Baytree or Saffron - at either 6.30pm or 8.30pm) or "Freedom" dining - eating in a third main restaurant (The Cinnamon) at a time of your choice without reservation. We had chosen Club dining second sitting at a table for 8 and apart from one or two evenings when the galley was struggling to cope, we were seated promptly and looked after by excellent restaurant staff very well. We met some people who had chosen Freedom dining and heard that at peak times it was necessary to make a reservation the day before if you wished to eat at a particular time. In addition to all those eating options, there are three alternative dining venues for which there is a cover charge. The "White Room" - conceived and inspired by Marco Pierre White, we were told - had a charge of £20 per head for dinner on the Maiden Cruise, but this had increased to £25 per head for the following one-week cruise. "East" had a charge of £15 and £20 respectively and "Ramblas" also had a charge, but we did not enquire. We heard good reports of the White Room and it was fully booked by the second day of each cruise. The menu there did not attract us sufficiently to justify the additional charge. We did eat at East and had an excellent meal from an interesting menu. There did not appear to be any difficulty in getting reservations there. We did not sample Ramblas, but friends tried the Tapas snacks available in the bar area (I think is was 3 Tapas for £2.50) and said that this was very good. Several of these would make a light lunch. The food was generally good, although there are signs of economy in the choices available and the quality of some dishes and the reduction in provision of fresh vegetables.. Beef in particular, was of poor quality on several occasions and the "standby" offering of sirloin steak at dinner was inedible on a couple of occasions. Staff were very embarrassed about this and promptly offered an alternative. Meals came out from the galley ready plated - your choice of main course on a bed of rice, pasta or potatoes with minimal vegetable decoration and the waiters then added another potato choice and one vegetable of the day by silver service. There were 4 formal and 4 informal nights on the maiden cruise and 2 of each on the one week cruise. The rest were "smart casual". We were impressed that nearly everyone made the effort to comply with the dress code on formal nights and it was a pleasure to see even small children smartly kitted out - some even in scale size DJs! We suspect that those who chose not to "play the game" ate in the cafeteria on formal nights and kept clear of the main public areas. Daytime entertainment Much is made of "Cirque Ventura" - an area on the highest deck with equipment (and trained staff) for trampoline, flying trapeze, juggling, walking on stilts, etc. Workshops are held (for which there is a charge, I believe). This will appeal to young people, but only operated in good weather. There is limited space for deck quoits and shuffleboard and 4 table tennis tables. There are - as always - many scheduled daytime activities to suit most, but not all, tastes. But with the ships spending more days in port than at sea, these activities are less important. There are 4 swimming pools - none reserved for adults only - and plenty of sunloungers, so long as you are prepared to look around and not stay close to a pool. There is a comprehensive Spa and hairdressing / manicure salon. The steam room and sauna are not mixed sex on this ship which is a shame and the facilities did not therefore appear to be used much. There was much promotion of the various massage services available. The gym / fitness center was very good, although, to my shame, I only used it three times. Evening entertainment This is a very subjective matter and our comments can only reflect our own tastes. One overall comment - we found the music much too loud, especially in the shows performed in the Havanna venue. Even in the Metropolis bar we had to move away from the area where music was being played, in order to hold a conversation. Luckily we happened to carry earplugs in our luggage and we made use of them on several occasions…! There were 3 venues in use each night - the arena theatre, the Tamarind Club and Havanna. Each venue had three performances, enabling people to see 2 of the shows if they wished, as well as having dinner. The theatre company shows were terrific - the best we have seen on any P&O ship - and contained elements of dance, song and acrobatics. There was over-reliance on the lead male singer (an excellent voice, but finding it tough to perform 3 shows a night) which was a shame because there were other members of the team with good voices as well. We had a classical pianist on each cruise and both attracted a loyal following. The Tamarind Club was billed at the Ventura Comedy Club. There was a comedian or a duo there almost every night. We suspect that P&O have some way to go to discover and retain good comedians. Comedy needs to be good and reasonably sophisticated to attract a wide audience and when comedians have to rely on bad language, smut and sex in order to present an act, that is not to our taste. We feel that this is also not appropriate for an audience which includes young children (who were still around at the shows at 10.45pm) The other cabaret acts were sometimes OK, but not of the standard we have met on previous P&O cruises. This was particularly disappointing as we had expected the Maiden cruise, at least, to be something special and to have some top class entertainers. One act that did stand out was called "Legends" on the Maiden cruise. Children's facilities We did not have children with us. On the maiden cruise there were - we believe - only about 40 children on board. On the subsequent cruise there were 400 children. We were told there will be 800 or more on board during school holidays. We understand that the facilities for children are excellent and they certainly have a large dedicated area and dedicated staff to organize their day. For passengers without children, the impact of large numbers around the pools is significant. Ports On the maiden cruise we visited Barcelona, Villefranche, Livorno (for Florence), Santa Marghareta, Civitavecchia (for Rome), Alicante and Gibraltar. On the one week cruise we visited Vigo, Lisbon, Bilbao and Brest. We booked ship excursions (actually coaches to transport us to the city and back so we could "do our own thing") for Florence, Rome and Santiago de Compostella (from Vigo). The coach service was reliable and the attendant guide good on 2 occasions and poor on one. Elsewhere we explored locally, making use of the shuttle bus provided into town where appropriate. We like to explore on foot at our own pace, not in a crowd. We research for walks and sights of interest on the internet before each cruise and always try to find a suitable restaurant for an inexpensive lunch in a non-touristy area. We usually get recommendations by posting questions in the appropriate Forum in the sister website www.tripadvisor.com There was an initial problem with disembarkation by tender at Villefranche (the first time they had done this with a full complement of passengers) and on a couple of other occasions there were problems getting ashore because of a lack of shuttle buses to take passengers out of the port area. We hope these are teething problems which will be sorted. Final Disembarkation This operation ran smoothly and once we had remembered what color our suitcases were, we found then easily amongst the vast collection in the arrivals hall at Southampton. The car was easily found and the journey out and home uneventful. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
We've been cruising now for 5 years and in that short time have managed to squeeze in around 14 cruises, mainly with P&O but also with Cunard and NCL. We have really enjoyed spending the daughter's inheritance up to now, ... Read More
We've been cruising now for 5 years and in that short time have managed to squeeze in around 14 cruises, mainly with P&O but also with Cunard and NCL. We have really enjoyed spending the daughter's inheritance up to now, although she is due to join me on a cruise next month (hope she doesn't get the bug too!). We were very excited about the prospect of being among the first to try out the brand new Ventura. There had been a lot of hype in the build up and we were a bit worried that we would be disappointed. How wrong we were to be worried! I'm not going to talk about the journey or the checking in, because it's hardly rocket science and is all a bit dull. I'm not going to talk about the ports of call either, as many of you will already know a lot more about them than we do! And I'm definitely not going to talk about food, except to say it was very nice, I ate too much and gained too many pounds. (But be sure to do the formal afternoon tea in the dining room at least once. Toasted crumpets! Ooh yummy.) But the ship - WOW! What's not to like? It definitely targets a different demographic from the other ships, and as 30-, 40- and 50-somethings, even though we weren't travelling with kids, our party seemed to fit in quite well. Theatre - one of the best we've been in at sea; deck space - plenty and loads of sun beds; service - excellent as usual; I particularly liked that bit where you could walk right round the front of the ship on the prom deck. Bars Our first experience on board was in the Tamarind Club. A mid-ships bar, this is nicely positioned wherever you are based onboard - not too far from anywhere. This is a gorgeous bar and was a hive of activity throughout the cruise, hosting singers, comedians, speakers, dancing and also providing a comfortable waiting area at the tender ports. It made us smile one day to see Noddy in there with all the small kids, watching a Noddy movie too! Situated at the top of the atrium, the Red Bar is an exquisite cocktail bar with an opulent feel. This is an excellent people-watching spot too and a good place to sit and watch the atrium colors change. Ramblas bar with its Spanish feel was a nice place to sit both day and night as adjacent to the bar area is a courtyard area built around a tree (is it real? LOL!) - this provided one of our regular morning coffee stops. Explorers is the 'pub' bar. This is a very nice and roomy area with the novelty of a train that runs round the top of the bar. Sitting adjacent to the casino, this is the venue for pub quizzes and the karaoke. This wasn't our favorite venue as it is the only smoking bar on board, so got a bit too smoky for us. Our favorite bar by far was Metropolis. Situated at the stern, way up on Deck 18, the view of where we'd just been was awesome. But the bonus was that the bar also has wings either side which give a great view along the whole length of the ship. This bar has large screens showing cityscapes in the evening - a different city each night - and as the sun goes down for real, it goes down over the city on the screens. The pre-dinner nibbles in here are based on the city theme for the night, and we were delighted to find that there is also a special cocktail associated with each city. We did our duty by trying them all during the course of the cruise - just research you understand. Cabins We had a mid-ships inside cabin on Deck C. Size-wise this was pretty much like any other inside cabin, but what set it apart from the rest of the fleet for us was the walk-in wardrobe area. We loved this as it was so convenient. Other nice touches were the Nick Munro-designed kettle, tea pot and cafetiere, and the interactive TV. The TV took a bit of getting used to, but I can see it being very useful and it was handy to be able to keep track of our onboard account. Lifts With over 3,000 passengers and 19 decks, we expected the lift situation to be troublesome. But we found that this wasn't too bad and the lifts themselves were very whizzy. Beware if you take a midships lift though - some of them have glass backs, so ladies, take care when adjusting your pants, LOL!!! Atrium I already mentioned the color changes of the lights in the atrium; this can create some nice effects in your photographs. We liked the bottom of the atrium best as there is a decent sized coffee shop to one side, the art gallery (Hurrah! No art auctions!) is down here too, plus the library/book shop. In the middle of all this are some comfy sofas and chairs, just the place to chill out when you've found your library book. Kids' Stuff We had a quick peek in the kids area - oh how I wish my parents had brought us cruising as kids, instead of that caravan in Mablethorpe! Kids of all ages are very well catered for and even have their own deck areas. The little night nursery was very cute too. The Cirque I've not included this in the kid's stuff as some of us had a go too! Right up on Deck 19, the bungee trampolines are surprisingly hard work, but great fun. We didn't have the nerve to try the trapeze or the tightrope walking this time though. Apparently the oldest passenger to have a go on the trampolines during our cruise was in his 70's - good for him! Conclusion Our feeling at the end of the cruise was that this ship has something for everyone. We would really like to sail on Ventura again and we are just debating whether to change one of our future cruises so we can make this happen sooner rather than later. Anyone cruising on Ventura in future, you are in for a real treat! Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed ... Read More
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed Costa, QM2, RCCL & Star Cruises. We don't like to book too far in advance and typically look for offers on the internet 1-2 months before we want to sail, so we have been lucky enough to find some fantastic deals and arrange our own airfare and independent transfers when needed. Looking for something special for Paul's 70th birthday on 17th April had become unusually challenging as many ships were transatlantic at the time and for medical reasons we can't get insurance for North America at the moment. When we found an offer for the Ventura's maiden voyage about 6 weeks before sailing it seemed to good opportunity to try P & O. Nearly everyone on board had booked up on the day bookings opened a year before, so it must have been a cancellation cabin. Although we love to try different ships we had never sailed with P & O before, mainly because most of the itineraries sail from Southampton and as I am not a natural sailor the 2/3 days sailing each way to the Med does not particularly interest me. Also, their prices are typically around 50% dearer than comparable cruises with other companies. At £1,119 each for an inside cabin this was the most expensive cruise-only fare we had paid in our 25 cruises, and as a maiden voyage on a much-hyped ship we had fairly high expectations. Travel to Southampton & Embarkation We drove ourselves to Southampton port - as we had a discounted cruise fare we were not entitled to the usual free parking offer and had pre-booked with CPS for £117. Unusually, there was a terrific traffic jam and it took us about an hour from our first sighting of Ventura to the car park drop-off point. There was no obvious reason for this and we had embarked equal -sized ships there before without any problem so it was probably just bad luck. But we had plenty of time, and once we had left our car the check-in procedure was quick and efficient and after a short wait for security checks we were on board about 2.30pm. The Ship - First Impressions Ventura is a lovely ship, almost identical in layout to the Golden & Grand Princess, that we know and love, so we had no trouble finding our way around. She was "specially designed for Britain" which primarily means that the dEcor is generally less flamboyant than on her American sisters. Our Cabin We had booked an inside guarantee and after a daily website check had found our cabin allocation about 2 weeks before leaving - R248 is towards the front of deck 14 (Riviera deck) one deck below the lido deck. Our cabin was fine, brand new, spotlessly clean, exactly as we had expected and no different from any other modern cruise ship. There are sparkling new tea and coffee facilities in the cabins along with a single rose bud and some boiled sweets in a matching steel vase and dish to welcome us aboard. 2 small complimentary bottle of water were provided which was nice. No mini-bar but drinks could be ordered from the room steward. Richard, our steward, introduced himself and was extremely efficient and pleasant throughout the voyage. Our luggage arrived promptly (although there was an announcement later in the afternoon that there had been some technical problems and luggage delivery was delayed). Room service was available but we did not use it. The menu was slightly strange - for example you could order a salmon meal for free but a chicken sandwich cost £1.50. Apple pie was free but chocolate tart £1. Toiletries provided in the bathroom included some novel items such as eye cream, refreshing balm for aching feet (extremely useful !) and lip gel as well as the usual moisturizer, soap, sewing kit etc. There was a dispenser in the shower holding a combined hair & body shampoo but no conditioner. Fellow Passengers All British, and apart from 2 couples on their first cruise almost exclusively P & O "regulars". There were a huge number of "Gold" members (150 days + on P & O, I understand) for whom a special event had been arranged with Michael Portillo as guest speaker. There were a few families but the majority of passengers were aged 60+. As cruses in general, we found everyone to be extremely pleasant and happy to share tables and to chat. There were 4 formal nights and 4 semi-formal (jacket & tie expected for gentlemen) on our 14 day cruise and the dress code was honored by everyone and we really enjoyed dressing up for a change, as so many ships have let the dress code slip. Seeing 3,000 people dressed correctly for the "Black and White Ball" night was amazing. The other theme nights were "Latino","Pirate/Tropical", 60s/70s and 80s/90s. Dining - Cinnamon Restaurant I had been pleasantly surprised on booking to have been offered the option of "Freedom Dining". Unlike Princess only one restaurant is dedicated to Freedom and as a fairly new innovation for P & O it did not seem particularly popular. Some people who had requested a fixed table had been moved onto Freedom to make up the numbers, but for us this was good as we walked into the restaurant between 8-8.30pm and were seated immediately every night without having to wait or queue at all. The restaurant manager was nice and soon got to know that we liked to share a larger table. The service was always good and we were happy to have the £1.60 daily gratuity added to our account -some people did have this removed and there were tip boxes in the restaurant on the last day for those who preferred to tip in cash. Food is very subjective, but in our opinion the menus were alright without being brilliant and the food fell broadly into the same category. We considered it overall far below the levels of quality we had experienced on most other ships. Each evening there was a choice of 3 starters, 2 soups (but no salad option apart from an "always available" Caesar Salad), 5 main courses (generally 1 fish, 1 vegetarian and 3 meat) and "always available" salmon, chicken or sirloin steak, 3 desserts plus a choice of ice cream & sorbet. A cheeseboard, coffee/tea and different nice home-made after dinner sweets were offered in addition to a dessert. The menu descriptions were not always terribly accurate but there were some interesting options such as some game dishes and an excellent lobster thermidor, but there was a distinct lack of steak, which is Paul's favorite on the American ships. In fact the only beef offerings during the 2 weeks were a couple of roast beef meals (one of which, it was universally agreed, was awful), one "pot roasted rump steak" (which also turned out to be slices of roast beef) and one braised steak. A good but small beef wellington on the last formal night was the only meal he considered to be a "proper" cruise ship steak dinner. Most nights there was at least one choice which I would have categorized as a cheap, everyday meal such as shepherds pie, toad in the hole, sausages & mash etc and not the sort of dish I would expect to find on a cruise menu. That said, these dishes did seem to be quite popular. There were bread choices listed on the menu but all that the waiters ever seemed to have when they served bread was the same old soft rolls every evening - brown or white was the only choice. Each meal came served with a garnish of potato and/or a vegetable and the waiters served another type of potato and a second veg at the table. Dining - Other Venues The Waterside is the main buffet restaurant. It has serveries on both sides of the ship identical to the Horizon Court on Princess, but on Ventura each servery is divided in half by a rope and the dishes are then repeated on the other side, so basically you get half the number of items. We found the selections adequate but limited and unexciting. There was nothing cooked to order - so eggs for breakfast came ready-fried in trays from the galley and I missed the pancakes and waffles so readily available on American ships. The lunch selection was a fairly basic, an unchanging salad bar with a daily selection of cooked meats, smoked fish etc and usually one curry (or similar), one English pie cooked in individual dishes and one or two other hot dishes. The exception was the cake / dessert section which was fantastic both at lunch and afternoon tea time every day - a large section brimming with a huge assortment of individual cakes, tarts, slices etc and warm scones at tea time. The Beach Hut is the extension to the Waterside further to the aft. The food choices were the same but I preferred this area as it was brighter, lighter, generally less crowded and I thought the food from this servery tended to be hotter. It seems a silly complaint, but the worst thing about the buffet areas on Ventura is the ridiculous trays they provide ! They are huge and heavy (even before being loaded with crockery and food) unlike the usual lightweight melamine sort, and make it almost impossible for 2 tray-carrying diners to pass in an already crowded environment. Once you do find a table there is nowhere to put the trays and the staff who are so keen to force them into your hand when you enter the buffet are less keen to collect them up - although by the end of the cruise a number of us had become "tray avoidance experts" !. Frankie's Pizza bar is situated between the pools and the pizza were cooked to order in a few minutes and lovely. There is also a burger bar which we tried once and it seemed OK but we are not burger experts. We did not try any of the other dining options. East had an interesting oriental menu with a £15 per person cover charge and seemed to be quite busy. The White Room seemed rather out of the way on a high deck at the back of the ship. We went to look on the first day but could not find a menu (they don't display menus outside the main restaurants either). I think the cover charge was £20 each and we might have been tempted if Marco Pierre White had been on board himself - many people like us were surprised he was not there for the maiden voyage. We spoke to 3 or 4 couples who had dined in his restaurant and liked it, apparently the service was exceptional. There is also a Spanish Tapas bar in the "Ramblas" Bar. This area did not seem to be well used at all which is a shame as I thought it was rather nice. Entertainment We found the evening entertainment to be very good. Shows were repeated 3 times, at 7.15pm, 8.45pm and 10.45pm which was wonderful as it gave the opportunity to see 2 shows. We tended to see our first choice of entertainment, usually the main theatre show, at 7.15 then eat and then see a show in one of the other venues at 10.45 if we were not too tired. It was interesting that many of the P & O regulars that we spoke to were disappointed by the entertainment. There were perhaps too many comedians, and some were better than others, but there was always another type of show instead and we found at least one every night that we thoroughly enjoyed, and as you only get one show on most ships the second one was a bonus anyway. The Production shows were all excellent and original, especially "Chronicles" and "Plunder" - the latter takes place near the pool and I don't want to give too much away but it would be best seen from the deck above, we were near the pool bar and did not have a good view or sound quality but the show is fantastic. In addition to the main show in the Arena Theatre there was generally a gameshow and/or comedy act in the midship Tamarind lounge and a music act in the Havana nightclub at the back of the ship. These were also repeated 3 times per evening. An excellent young classical pianist called Maria King was one of the most popular entertainers, performing several times with some varied programmes and not all classical, she had a lovely personality too - some people said she was funnier than the comedians !! The cruise director was very pleasant but his role seemed to be purely an introducer/announcer rather than an entertainer or personality in his own right. Daytime entertainment we considered quite poor. There was an excellent history lecturer on board but apart from him there was little of general interest, the only regular quiz was at 11pm each evening, although in the last couple of days they did add in a couple of afternoon events. There were the standard spa-sales-based talks and some computer and camera courses (which I think were chargeable) but nothing that particularly appealed to us. The "Horizon" daily newspaper looked full of events but many were multiple-listings, eg the Cirque Ventura's bungee trampoline (which cost £3 for about 5 minutes) was listed every hour. The best event of the cruise was the "British Sail Away Party" from Gibraltar, which was a bit like Last Night of the Proms and nearly everyone was on deck. Children Very few on our cruise and the ones that were on board seemed to spend most of their time with the various childrens' clubs. Apparently 300 children were due on board on the next cruise and up to 800 in the summer ! The childrens' facilities are well advertised and probably good. Noddy even put in an appearance at the welcome party !! The Ship - A Little More Detail Ventura has 4 pools, a small one on the back terrace, two main pools on the lido deck (one with a retractable roof) and a lovely "endless pool" in the spa area where you can swim against the current. The sunbeds around this pool were the only ones to have cushions, the ones elsewhere on the ship being less than comfortable. No ship can have everything, but the facility we missed most on the Ventura was a card/games room. There were non-hosted bridge & whist games in one of the restaurants at certain times but the only place to play a private game was in one of the bars or in the buffet restaurant. We heard others bemoaning the lack of a cinema, dance floor and chairs on deck. But Ventura has a lot of good points too, most of the public rooms (with the exception of the Havana lounge where many of the seats have blocked views of the stage) are very nice, comfortable and friendly. Bar prices seemed very reasonable compared to the ships we are used to, at about £2.50 for a pint of beer, spirit or glass of wine. Cocktails started at about £4. There does not seem to be an additional "gratuity" added to bar bills which is a pleasant change. Likewise you tip the cabin steward (and anybody else you wish) in cash at the end of the cruise whatever you see fit, there does not even seem to be a recommended amount. Again, this seems far more like a tip than the fixed $10 day (or whatever) added to the bill on most ships which has become more like an addition to the cruise cost than a gratuity. Ports of Call I intended this review to focus on the ship, as there is a lot of information already on CruiseCritic.com about the standard western Med ports that we visited - Barcelona, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Villefranche & Gibraltar. There were also 2 new ports for us. Santa Margherita which I had considered to be the jumping off point for Portofino but in fact was a really lovely Italian resort in its own right. We tendered right into town and had a lovely day exploring the interesting shops, harbor and beaches. Alicante was our second new port and had a lovely long beach but other than a lovely harbourfront promenade the town seemed rather grotty. I suspect the better area would have been along the beach towards Benidorm where the hotels seemed to be located. Another time we will take the tram that ran from the shuttle bus drop-off and explore in that direction. This was a maiden cruise and we had expected some hiccups but the only real problem we encountered was at the first tender port where apparently there had been some technical problems with some of the tenders and it caused a huge queue. There were also long queues to get on and off the ship at some other ports and going by the anger expressed by a lot of passengers I gather this is not a usual P & O failing, so I am sure the organization will improve with a little time and experience. Summary I do not intend this to be a negative review - Ventura is a nice ship, we enjoyed our cruise very much and would be very happy to sail on her again. However, I don't think we are likely to take many P & O cruises for the very same reasons that we have not done so in the past - namely itinerary and price. This was a good cruise without being particularly memorable and there was nothing that made us feel we had had good value for the extra money over other cruise lines. That said, for anyone who likes several sea days on a larger ship and prefers not to fly then the Ventura will be a good choice. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Hi, I am new to this site, I have read many of the posts but have only just joined. I thought I would post a positive view of Ventura to maybe reassure those still to sail on her. It's a bit long. We cruised on her third cruise ... Read More
Hi, I am new to this site, I have read many of the posts but have only just joined. I thought I would post a positive view of Ventura to maybe reassure those still to sail on her. It's a bit long. We cruised on her third cruise Canaries Discovery and it was one of the best cruises we have ever had. We have cruised mainly with P&O on most of the ships in the fleet and as a family group are made up of two over sixty and two mid thirties so can give a good overall experience. Two members of our group have previous sailed on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Sea's, which is the same size as Ventura and were a little concerned before we went that we would not like the ship, as we hated Navigator. We need not have worried Ventura is a beautiful ship well laid out and is a cut above, in our opinion, to Navigator. We arrived at the port earlier than ever before before check in had opened, no problem getting into the port. The queue was outside the door but when we finally got to the door we were quickly directed to the Gold desk which was empty and we were on board in about 15 mins. You enter the ship for the first time at the atrium and being gold members of P&O we were directed in The Tamarind Club for gold drinks, this was a definite wow first impression. We had a cabin on P deck for the four adults in our party and it was very spacious compared to some of the other cabins we have had on the other P&O ships. The new style open plan walk in wardrobe is a huge improvement we usually struggle to get all our clothes hung up. Drawer space is severely lacking but the shelves in the walk in wardrobe do make up for this. Bathroom is snug but adequate, open shelves instead of a cupboard but a decent size. Temple Spa shower gel instead of the previous Molton Brown, OK but we did prefer the Molton Brown and will be taking our own in the future. The position of this cabin turned out to be ideal, just off the atrium so no long walks from one end of the ship to the other and it was handy for many of the public areas. Tazzine/atrium. Tazzine is a great coffee bar, which utilizes the squishy atrium seating as well. Good range of coffee and snacks. Very popular. The Atrium spans three decks and has mood lighting which changes colors and thus changes the look of the area. Well used at the bottom with seating for Tazzines and could also be used a s seating for the library. Chapter One. Library/Book Shop. Small and no seating, but it is very light and open plan and extra seating is not really appropriate as there is plenty in the Atrium. As a bookshop it was in my opinion very lacking in bog standard paperback holiday reading (I run a bookshop I should know) Very heavy on notebooks and gift books which all have their place in a book shop as long as it is big enough for it not to impact on the book range. Lots of Macro Pierre White cookbooks. Cybersudy Didn't use this, wandered in late one night just to see what it was like, plenty of machine and well laid out. Art Gallery. This in my opinion is a welcome addition, rather than random pieces appearing and those dreaded art auction, pieces are displayed properly and are not of the usual artists seen on all the other P&O ships. Talks were given and at no time did you feel pressured into buying, it was more about learning about the art. It is situated just off the atrium and as our cabin was that way we walked through several times a day and the people in there are very friendly. Cinnamon Restaurant. This was the freedom dining restaurant and we only used this restaurant once, for the Gold Portunus Lunch. As with all the restaurant it was well laid out and tastefully decorated. Saffron Restaurant This was one of the club dining restaurant and the one we used for breakfast, again well laid out decorated and done out in light wood. Bay Tree Restaurant This was our restaurant and it is slightly awkward to get to. You have to go up to Prom deck walk to the back and then go down a deck, as this cannot be accessed any other way. Strange at first but we soon got used to it. (Did hear a lot of moaning about this though) Shops A fair mix of stuff, however the daily specials were very repetitive. Red Bar. The Red Bar was one of our favorite places, expensive drinks in the evening and coffees during the day. Comfy chairs and squishy sofas. Cool dEcor with columns of lights and red smashed glass tables. Ramblas Only used this bar one, seem at little under used on our cruise, very nicely set out with several separate areas. A drink under the olive tree is a must. Theatre This was smaller than we thought it would be but we never had any problems getting a seat, middle show very popular. The Tamarind Club. This was a sumptuous lounge, excellent for the afternoon films and was then used mainly for the comedy club in the evening. Very popular. Used for dance lessons during the day. Havana We spent quite a bit of time in here during the evening, mainly for the shows which were great. Metropolis This was our favorite bar for the evening, you do have to get in there quickly as due to its size and popularity it soon filled up. The video wall is brilliant, granted some places were more interesting to look at than others and the need to change the picture more often but it was a great talking point. Cirque We kept meaning to go up here but never managed it. The Beach House/Waterside. A little disappointing on size and choice, a lot smaller than we had expected but we managed OK. Should have been more like Arcadia. Frankies Pizzeria/Grill. Excellent venues for alternative lunch food. A little limited on choices and a few menu changes would have been nice. Pools. We swim every morning at 7ish and so tried all the pools to find the one we liked best. Never tried the one at the back but the Laguna pool was our favorite. All the pools are very deep and we could not touch the bottom in any of them. Tried out the endless pool, very good idea but the design of the bottom of the pool is poor. Thermal suite One of our party used this every morning and found it be be OK but did miss the hydrotherapy pool that you get on Arcadia. Deck Space. We thought the promenade deck was a little on the thin side but adequate to walk around, the bit at the front was fun. There was no shortage of sun beds and lots of different areas depending on what you were looking for. Food/Drink The food was excellent, we did not use East or the White Room as the menus did not appeal. The range of drinks has improved and it was fun trying all the new cocktails Staff. We had brilliant staff where ever we went, much more friendly than we have experienced in the past. There was a lot more staff working the decks so you never had to wait long for one to wander past your sun lounger. Overall. Ventura is a great addition to the P&O fleet and she should be viewed as a ship in her own right and not compared to the others in the fleet. We have noted several things that we feel would have worked better from the other ships but do not compare her in any other way. There were only 137 children on board when we cruised on her and it may feel a different ship with a lot of children on board but there are plenty of places to go for a bit of peace. Go to have a good time and you will. Hope this helps reassure those still to travel. Cheers Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Just got back from the second cruise of Ventura - P & Os new - and much hyped - cruise ship. This was our ninth cruise - tried different ships and different lines and - what a shame - this was our least enjoyable. We weren't ... Read More
Just got back from the second cruise of Ventura - P & Os new - and much hyped - cruise ship. This was our ninth cruise - tried different ships and different lines and - what a shame - this was our least enjoyable. We weren't expecting miracles from the Itinerary "Iberia" - done most of it before and knew it was nothing special - we came for the ship, but they might have told us Brest (in the rain) was closed for a Bank Holiday - we were lucky and heard it from early returnees. NB all transport was free - a plus point. It's actually a little difficult to nail down the reasons for our reaction - because nothing was terrible - or even poor - but then most of it was "fair" , with a little "good" thrown in. Cabin (balcony) was a good thing - reasonable size, fair layout - as good as most and better than one or two. Service was fair without being exceptional. Freedom dining was bit half-hearted - you could turn up and wait - or pre-book - which was a limited sort of freedom. Food in the restaurants was fair to good - but never outstanding - with oddly limited choice(3 starters?)We had pre-booked the White Room - (NB it booked out for the week the first night)that was good but not outstanding compared to other speciality restaurants on other ships)WE didn't try the speciality Oriental, East, which seemed over-priced at an extra £20 or the Spanish (OK at extra £5)They messed up my pre-booking and confirmation at the White Room something rotten - took 5 trips to get it right. The buffet restaurant was over-crowded and also severely limited in choice. Entertainment during the day, except for that for children, was almost non-existent - at least for our sort of thing - talks etc. Saw very little of any entertainments staff generally. Evening entertainment was mixed but on the whole a plus. The headline act of Brian Conley was excellent, and the dance and gymnastic troupe we thought outstanding. There was a show and another act each night and each gave three shows (a first for us). Some of the comedians in the Comedy Club were awful,and a special talk by Mark Williams really very poor - was he nervous or just terrible without a script? The public rooms and the Atrium and theatre were - OK again - never something special. If you saw the advertisement for the "special Scalextric" you were expecting something special - no, it was a track set up in one of the show -rooms - a bit pathetic really. I'm sure I saw a "puff" for a 3-D cinema - must check - there were films run in one of the show rooms but no actual cinema and no 3D. TV was a bit lazy - the channel for the Cruise Director never had anything on it for the whole cruise - other channels had "interactive" choices but all the good films were an extra charge,- quite a lot for children. The pools - there were several - two outdoor. My wife likes it warm so only ever uses indoor. The indoor pool was small and usually held lots of children. The Spa one was smaller and the current machine was broken throughout - she enjoyed the steam rooms though. I know they like extensive reviews here but I find them tedious so I'll close. When I re-read this it's difficult to explain why it was (as it was) a disappointment - but most experienced cruisers had the same reaction. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
We went a Ventura cruise for two weeks in the Med. We are experienced P&O cruisers aged early 50s. The basic facts, as objectively as possible: Embarkation was fairly swift a Southampton but the ship left port late due to ... Read More
We went a Ventura cruise for two weeks in the Med. We are experienced P&O cruisers aged early 50s. The basic facts, as objectively as possible: Embarkation was fairly swift a Southampton but the ship left port late due to underestimating the amount of baggage to be loaded. The ship is huge and 90% of it is done very well. Two spacious show lounges plus the theatre. Unfortunately, despite P&O adding an additional performance at each of the shows (three times a night instead of two) the theatre and lounges are not enough for 3,200 passengers. The old activities of flower arranging and making a corsage for Ladies Night have been replace with computer skills, circus lessons, etc. Shore excursions were fine from our perspective and there is a much wider choice than a few years ago. We tried the new "Freedom Dining" option which worked reasonably well although "freedom" meant 7.00 pm or 9.00 pm usually and only if you booked at 8.00am two days in advance. Entertainment was a mix of good and bad...not sure the punk rock group was such a good idea. Martin Gold was quite a funny comedian but some of the others were rubbish. Steward service in the bars was good. The ship did not seem as clean as other P & O ships. Now to my subjective view. Ventura is essentially Butlins at sea. P& O have made a great mistake with this ship with their obvious intention to grow their business outside of the established model. I may be wrong but only if they think they can fill this ship every cruise with families with children, and then only those who are happy that there is no control over their children. It is full at the moment because P&O's loyal cruisers are trying it out as well as their new demographic group. In the whole two weeks we were on board I did not hear one "cruiser" say anything other than they would never cruise on her for a second time. We ourselves have cancelled a cruise on Ventura booked for next year. Children are everywhere, the lounges, all the pools, Jacuzzis used as paddling pools....family friendly maybe...but not children controlled surely!! It just doesn't have the feel of the other ships...like it has dropped down a class. No risk assessments can have been done as children as young as two are allowed to jump into the pools without supervision. I wonder when the first major accident will happen. None of the pools are shallower than 6 feet and the very small children's paddling pool was closed throughout the cruise. There are no adult only bars. The poor replacement for a Crows Nest bar on other P&O ships (Metropolis) was full with children running and playing. Very sophisticated...NOT. There are not enough sun beds even though they are packed in like sardines and, unlike other P&O liners, no one stops the "towels on the beds mentality". Ironically the famous P&O non-common sense rule comes into play here as well. We had a massive balcony with two tiny non-reclining chairs and a small table. If all the balconies had had decent seating the pressure on the sun beds on deck would have been alleviated. We warned the reception desk on the second day that using automatic hand cleaning dispensers in the buffet instead of the good old method of a member of the crew proffering it would lead to a Norovirus outbreak and it did on the fourth day. Drinks menus disappeared, as did salt & pepper cellars and the buffet was served to you. In fact anything that might transfer germs. Another classic case of stable doors and horses bolting! The only exception was the ice cream vendor who continued to use his fingers to add sprigs of mint to ice creams at all times. Even after we reported it twice!! The reception desk needs a special mention. An example..and by no means the only one. We complained about our TV not working five times. Eventually an office came down and told us it wasn't working. Duh! In the end I fixed it myself by rebooting the interactive system. Whatever was said to reception went in one ear and out of the other. A classic "lights on but nobody home". The dinner menus have lost the option to have a steak, chicken, salmon option to the table d'hôte although I am informed it is still available on a wink wink nudge nudge system. The problem with a bigger ship becomes apparent in port. Getting on and off is more difficult with longer queues. At tender ports especially this resulted in long waits onshore to get back to the ship. I have seen a review of this cruise already which was basically thumbs down but they did make the point that if people didn't like the kids why cruise on a Family Friendly ship. I think the point was missed. We don't mind well behaved children on a cruise. We used to take ours. But this is a ship where any complaint about children is greeted by the response that it is "up to the parents". In this day and age that is laughable. And what adult would risk going into a small pool filled with children in today's climate...not I for one. Children rule on this ship. And they will do until next season when P&O will see the cancellations and the poor bookings and think again. We had 230 children on board. I was told this will increase to 600 in the school holidays. I pity anyone sailing on Ventura then. God bless Aurora...she still has children...but is never taken over by them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
We took the second cruise from Southampton - Iberia cruise all along the Atlantic coast to Lisbon. Ports called at: Vigo, Lisbon, Balboa and Brest. The crew were unused to treating passengers - when asked for milk in the buffet for my ... Read More
We took the second cruise from Southampton - Iberia cruise all along the Atlantic coast to Lisbon. Ports called at: Vigo, Lisbon, Balboa and Brest. The crew were unused to treating passengers - when asked for milk in the buffet for my coffee I was shown the pre-packed little cartons - not what I wanted and it took a while to get the staff to understand that I wanted "real" milk - and help was not offered without asking! We waited in traffic for 2 hours to get to the ship and onboard - the docks at Southampton are not used to dealing with 3 very large ships. (Queen Victoria-3000 passengers and the Independence of the Seas- 4000 passengers (maiden voyage) and us with 3000. Makes me tired just thinking of all the numbers!! Room very clean - but overall the ship seems very bland - no wow factor - aimed at the family market - so there is a large area purely for children - no adults. The casino shares space with a general use bar - no real comfortable seating - and noisy - they held the bingo here and with all the slots going it was hard work. The smell of smoke and the haze it created not good either Bar staff in general did not seem terribly interested in serving you - in fact in the theatre we gave up and sent the men out to get the drinks - hope it improves. The entertainment was excellent - they had one night only well known faces ( for UK people) and the caliber of the onboard entertainers was good - Chronicles was the only thing I did not like too much - a personal thing. Sea days did not seem to have any activities. Shops very expensive. Food - hit and miss when it was good it was very good - if not very plain and boring - the staff again did not engage with us - except for our wine waiter Roel - excellent - by the second day we were ordering our wine for the next day and getting the bar ordered for the men. 5 stars to him!! If you wanted the new Marco Pierre White onboard restaurant - tough it was fully booked before we left! We asked about lunch service on sea days - NO! The SMELL - yuck - the Tamarind Bar had a problem for 4 nights with the overpowering smell of sewage - it got worse - and then completely disappeared! We found general seating on the ship to be hard and modern - hope it wears in a bit - the bar at the back on the top - Metropolis was great for the backdrops ( moving to different areas of the world, themed nightly). My husband not happy that bars closed - even when it was full of people still drinking! The Havana Club needs a refit immediately - the lined lights are awful and you cannot see over them to the stage or dance floor! This was a first for me on a P&O ship and lots of people complained about the lack of service, smell and told us that Aurora and Oriana were much better and not to judge the whole fleet on the basis of this cruise - so I shall pass the information along! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
This was our 2nd P&O cruise, the 1st one was on Arcadia and we have cruised a number of times with Celebrity and RCI.I am 38 and my husband is 45, no kids. We chose this cruise as it was only 7 nights and would give us a chance to try ... Read More
This was our 2nd P&O cruise, the 1st one was on Arcadia and we have cruised a number of times with Celebrity and RCI.I am 38 and my husband is 45, no kids. We chose this cruise as it was only 7 nights and would give us a chance to try the much anticipated new P&O ship. Embarkation at Southampton was relatively smooth although we did arrive a little bit too early to park the car so had to wait half an hour or so until previous passengers had finished disembarking! The ship: The design of the ship doesn't 'flow' too well, mainly because of the different dining rooms, you have to walk down to the Bay Tree because the galley is in between. We did miss the grand multi level dining rooms of RCI and Celebrity; also there is no background music whole you dine which would have been nice. We also missed the lack of a walking/jogging track on the open decks, again this is due to the fact you can't walk all round the pool decks on one level. However the main pool does have a retractable roof which makes it an all weather venue. Public Rooms: We thought the choice of bars was fantastic, we especially liked the Metropolis at the top of the ship with its video wall of a different city sunset every evening with themed cocktails and drinks to match, very sophisticated! Ramblas was also a great venue and we enjoyed the tapas (£2.50 for 3). The Tamarind Club and the Red Bar are also very opulent, swish drinking venues! The atrium doesn't have an immediate WOW factor but it's a pleasant area with four huge black granite arches and comfy sitting areas. Entertainment: The entertainment was outstanding; I think they must have fit 2 weeks worth of shows into one. The production shows were all highly enjoyable especially Masquerade a Andrew Lloyd Webber extravaganza and the Saturday Night Fever show was as good as the West End. The couple who do the acrobatics and aerial performances were amazing and they featured in all the production shows. Brian Conley came onboard in Lisbon and packed the theatre with his hilarious show. There was also the Dusty Springfield tribute and the actor Mark Williams (from the Fast show and Harry Potter films) gave a talk about his career as well as live bands in various venues so really there was no chance to be bored in the evenings! The food: On the whole we enjoyed our meals. We ate in the Bay tree restaurant although there were only 4 of us on a table for 8. There should have been others but they didn't show so I felt sorry as the waiters would be down on their tips. The food was very good and well presented and we enjoyed all our meals there. We ate in the White Room and was glad I pre purchased the gift package at the price of £46.50 for dinner for 2 with a bottle of red or white Chilean wine as it worked out cheaper than paying £20 per person just for the dinner. The service in there was very good and it had a nice relaxed atmosphere. We enjoyed the food although I wasn't wowed like I am with the specialty restaurants on the Celebrity ships, but a very pleasant evening all told. We didn't dine at East, the Asian specialty restaurant purely for the fact we had such good meals in the dining room although we would have dined there if we were on a longer cruise. The buffet restaurants were an improvement on the Arcadia's limited choices, the Beach House being better to navigate than the Waterside as you couldn't walk from one side to the other without having to go all the way out and back in again! We didn't dine there very often but when we did we enjoyed the food especially the curries! Our cabin: We chose a balcony cabin on C deck which proved to be a good choice as the balconies on this deck are double depth to the other decks. It was a nice quiet area towards the aft, our cabin steward, Cezar did his job very well and we liked the tea and coffee tray which you don't get on any of the American ships! The interactive TV kept freezing up but they seemed to have rectified this by the end of the cruise .When it worked there were loads of film and TV programmes and music videos to watch on demand. You can also check your on board account. Fitness facilities: The Oasis pool was supposed to be a relaxing adults only area but there is a sports court above it so the atmosphere is somewhat spoilt by the sounds of golf balls and the like! Also the endless pool feature was not working due to it being damaged by rough weather on the previous cruise, which brings me to another comment. I have read that the ship doesn't handle rough seas too well. We were very fortunate to have very calm seas but one of the spa staff commented that a lot of people were sea sick when the ship was in rough seas because of the flat bottomed design. I have to say that we once saw the Golden Princess (same design as Ventura) pitching and rolling terribly whilst we felt very little movement on the Zenith which was a much smaller ship, so there may be some truth in that. The gym was well equipped with all the latest fitness equipment. They did run some fitness classes, like Pilates, Zumba and spinning but these required you to sign up for 3 at £21.00, I was a little disappointed that they didn't have any free step or aerobics classes although I'm sure they will have on longer cruises. The spa was extensive and expensive; they even had a qualified dentist who would whiten your teeth for £198! Some of the treatments were discounted by 20% on port days. Ports visited: After a day at sea we arrived at Vigo in Northern Spain. The main attraction from this port is Santiago de Compostela and there were many ships tours offering this, however we decided to just have a wander around the old town and sample the wonderful seafood the region is famous for. About 5 mins walk from the ship is an area where they sell plates of fresh oysters for 8 euros a dozen and my husband was in heaven! It was nice to mingle with the locals and enjoy a glass of wine or 2! The next day we arrived in Lisbon after a spectacular approach under the suspension bridge. We took the free shuttle bus into the city centre and again sampled some of the local fare and wandered around the streets. After a nice sunny calm day at sea we arrived in Bilbao, Spain. The ship docks 10km from the town centre so another free shuttle service was provided. We really liked Bilbao and could definitely spend a weekend there; the old town was wonderful with lots off trendy tapas bars and great shops. Another attraction here is the modern Guggenheim art museum which the old couple on our table thought was a complete waste of time, of course if you are into modern art I'm sure it is a must see! Our final port of call was Brest in France which was unfortunately a bit of a let down as it was raining and also a public holiday in France. The majority of shops and cafes were closed so we would have been better off staying on the ship! I'm sure when the sun shines and the shops are open its a completely different place. Disembarkation: This went very smoothly, we were off the ship by 9.30 and the car park was only a short walk with a luggage cart,(porters were available if needed). In conclusion, we enjoyed our week on the Ventura, if we could find a ship with the design of Royal Caribbean, the food and service of Celebrity and the entertainment and reasonably priced drinks of P&O that would be the perfect combination, until then we will just have to keep sailing on all of them! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
I have just returned from the Baltic Splendours cruise - my first foray into this type of holiday. I travelled with my husband and both of us are in our early 50's, so fell fairly in the middle of the age range of those on board. ... Read More
I have just returned from the Baltic Splendours cruise - my first foray into this type of holiday. I travelled with my husband and both of us are in our early 50's, so fell fairly in the middle of the age range of those on board. Check In We were due to embark between 2 and 4pm and joined the queue at about 2.01. We then sat in a queue of traffic for very nearly an hour. We had chosen the on-port parking as we thought it would be easier but having seen the busses all speed past the cars we would choose an off-port parking scheme another time. However, once we had handed our car and luggage over the check-in process was very quick and efficient. We found our cabin easily and one of our cases was waiting for us. The other two turned up within the hour. The cabin struck us as more spacious than we were expecting. We liked the way there was an open hanging area as I would imagine doors would be a bit of a nuisance in a confined space. There were enough hangers for our use. There is a cupboard with 5 shelves in, which also contained the safe, two bedside tables with two drawers each and another large cupboard with one shelf in the dressing table/desk. In addition there are some small open shelves. We found the storage so adequate that we did not use the cupboard in the desk at all. There was a tray of sweets, a single rose and tea/coffee making facilities with biscuits. The tea, coffee etc were replenished every day. The bathroom was compact but with plenty of space to put everything. Two large towels, two small towels and two flannels were provided. There were also two blue towels for use by the pool. There was a lot to read in the bathroom as there were little labels on everything but I welcomed the invitation to put towels to be changed in the shower otherwise they would be left, as I think it is such a waste to change them every day. Our cabin steward looked after us royally and was always friendly and polite when we met him. I did not sleep very well the first night as there was a constant sound, very like a large fan. I thought at first it was just the climate control fan but gradually realized that our cabin was next to the funnel. If you look on the deck plan and your cabin is next to a large blank area then this is it. As the noise is a constant one I soon got used to it and after the first couple of nights slept much better than I do at home. Dining As we had booked fairly last minute we were on the Freedom Dining option. We started booking every day but as we tended to eat early soon found out that this was not necessary, although I understand there was sometimes a wait if you wanted to eat at around 8.30. We thought the food was excellent. The choice was not wide (only 3 starters, for instance) but we were never unable to find something we fancied. Having said that we are open to new experiences and tried several things that we had never even heard of before and lots that we had not experienced before. I would imagine that people who were "meat and two veg" type of diners may have struggled sometimes and fast foodies definitely would have, but then they had the choice of going to the self-service restaurant. The waiting staff were attentive and mostly very efficient. I did hear one person say that she felt they were not as attentive because you didn't have the same waiter every night and so they were not trying too hard for their tip. I felt this was a very cynical point of view and did not find it to be borne out by any of the staff we had. We were served with cheerfulness and flashes of delightful senses of humor, which were always appropriate. Sometimes we dined with others on a larger table and met some delightful and charming people. Others were quite hard work and once I very nearly got up and left when one man was not only moaning about everything and everyone but when we said we were having a very nice holiday started lecturing us on why we couldn't possibly be. For breakfast and lunch we used the Waterside and Beach House self service restaurants. It was sometimes quite difficult to find a table, especially for the first couple of days. However, most people were happy to share and it was another good way to meet new people (I twice missed things I wanted to go to because we had met such lovely people and were enjoying talking to them). It also seemed to get easier as the cruise went on, so whether meal times became more staggered or whether people were taking their food elsewhere to eat I don't know. We also used the Saffron restaurant for a waiter-served breakfast on one occasion, which was very nice but we preferred the self-service. We also ate at the White Room, which was an absolute delight. Everything was cooked to perfection and served beautifully. We tried to book again, but they were full. We did not use East (but heard good reports of it) or the Ramblas tapas bar (where we understand the choice was a little limited) Entertainment We found this to be mixed. There were six "comedy nights" in the Tamarind bar, each consisting of two comedians. Each two did a set each for two nights and then two new ones came on board, so we saw six comedians in all. Some were very funny and some died a rather horrid death in full public view. It's all down to personal taste, I suppose, but given the age of the audience "lager lout and shagging" material did not hit the mark and perhaps the booking of that particular comedian was a mistake. The Ventura Theatre Company worked their socks off. We didn't see all the shows but I think only missed one. They did 4 different shows in the course of our cruise, three times each night they were on. Sometimes the material they had to work with was better than others but they really did try their best and mostly succeeded very well. It was hard to get a seat in the theatre for the middle show but if we couldn't get there early just went and did something else first and went to the late show. The other entertainers in the theatre were generally good and Gary T Thompson was brilliant, as were the Soul Brothers. Bars They are plentiful and varied. We favored Tamarind and Metropolis, but it wasn't always easy to get a seat. Tamarind had a band that played music to dance to, Metropolis had a jazz band and a video wall showing realtime images of various cities by night. There were also: Ramblas which had a Spanish theme and was very handy for a drink after the theatre; Exchange which was supposed to be like a pub and was the only bar you could smoke in so we tended to avoid it; Red which very often had a pianist tinkling the ivories and was very laid back; Tazzine which was a coffee bar with delicious hot chocolate and Havana which was the largest and most underused. The seating in Havana was surrounded by waist high partitions, which meant that when seated you couldn't see the stage properly. It was also used for the family entertainment and as they were rather thin on the ground on our cruise, always seemed to be rather empty. The bar waiters circulated frequently and efficiently. Swimming etc There are four pools, which when weather allowed were well used. The Oasis pool is for adults only but all the others are family pools. One had a roof that could be open or closed as weather permitted. The Oasis pool was supposed to have a machine that created a current for continuous swimming but it did not work for the whole of our cruise. Pools and Jacuzzis were often roped off - presumably for cleaning and maintenance. The gym was well equipped with plenty of machines of torture. We did not use the hair and beauty facilities. The sun decks were well equipped with plenty of sunbeds and we never failed to find one when we wanted one. Excursions As this was our first cruise we booked excursions in most of the ports, but next time I probably wouldn't. In most cases there was either a shuttle bus (sometimes free) or a hop-on hop-off tour (and quite often both) that would get you to the city center or around the major sites. Having said that we did enjoy the excursions we took part in and for St Petersburg it was by far the easiest thing to do because of having to purchase an individual visa if you were not part of an organized group. The worst one was probably Tallinn, where the guide used a remote microphone and we all had headsets. Unfortunately the pitch of voice of the guide and the questionable quality of the equipment made it very difficult to hear what she was saying and I came away feeling I new nothing of the beautiful city. That one I would definitely do by myself with a guide book. The Bad Bits Sorry, but nothing is perfect and there were some things that were not done well. It did say in the book that was sent out in advance of the cruise that a photocopy of the picture page of your passport was needed if you were doing an excursion in St Petersburg. Unfortunately it did not say it anywhere near the excursion pages but in the small print at the front. Being a voracious reader I saw it and went prepared but many, many people had to queue for a long time to get photocopies on board. Big print on the St Petersburg excursion pages would have completely prevented that happening. In general the size of the public spaces was not enough for the number of people on board. For instance the dance floor in Tamarind could really only take about 50 people comfortably. This one is really petty, but worth a mention. The knives for dinner were simply not sharp enough. They must be almost new but they had no cutting edge. This sometimes gave the impression that meat was tough but once you had hacked your way through it the chewing was easy. The staff on Reception failed, on each occasion that I went there, to give anyone their full attention. I work on a reception desk so I do know a bit about it. They were always listening in to what their colleagues were doing and nearly every time the person who was supposed to be helping me would wander off and get involved with another person's query without being asked to. This meant the queue was much longer than it ever needed to be. The excursion to Tallinn was advertised as being one-and-a-half hours walking. Two evenings before they sent out a flier saying this was a misprint and it was in fact 3 hours of walking. The flier invited anyone who may have difficulty with this to visit Explorers and talk to them. Only - when you did go to Explorers it was to find a notice on the desk saying that they were closed until 7pm of the day after next making it almost impossible to speak to them before the excursion. Poor. There was not a great deal of entertainment laid on during sea days. Films were shown but usually for those not going ashore on excursion days. It would have been very nice to have put a couple of extra on for sea days as the weather was very windy and it was not always possible to be doing something outside. The Tate Modern talks were OK but the other major thing offered was digital photography and some of those had a "nominal" fee (sometimes as nominal as £20). I did go to some interesting talks on Russian art but would have appreciated more for adults to do that was not a quiz or bingo. In conclusion We had a lovely holiday and really enjoyed sampling so many different countries. We thought the food excellent, the staff hard working and the entertainment good to excellent. We also met some lovely people whose company we enjoyed. However, I feel that P&O are in danger of falling between 2 stools here. They are pushing the family side of Ventura and seem to have failed to realize that a lot of their loyal cruising customers would also want to sample her delights. Nearly all of them are saying that they will not go on her again so P&O will have to find a new customer base for her and children are at school for a lot of the year. One of the main gripes of the regulars was that the captain was not much in evidence, which was certainly true. We didn't mind but lots of people did. And therein lies the rub, really. We did meet some very pleasant sociable people but I have to say that by and large I have never met such a load of old moaners in my life and it is that which would put me off cruising as my next holiday. We got to the stage where we avoided questions like "are you having a nice time" and "is this your first cruise" because it seemed to start people off on a rant. I think the lady behind me in a queue once was a fine example. As she stood behind me she said "Another queue. It's all queuing on here. I'm fed up with it". There was one other person in front of me! No wonder the captain kept a low profile! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
What excitement to think that we had managed to book on to P+O's largest ship ever. This is a British ship and Helen Mirren had named her only in April.Our Travel agent arranged for us to be picked up at the house by mini bus and then ... Read More
What excitement to think that we had managed to book on to P+O's largest ship ever. This is a British ship and Helen Mirren had named her only in April.Our Travel agent arranged for us to be picked up at the house by mini bus and then taken to Magor Services where we joined many other people all going to Southampton on the Ventura. We did not arrive until mid afternoon and with so many people to cater for the ship had set sail before we had our cases delivered to our cabin. We were not shown how to get to our cabin so we found it quite frustrating. We had booked club dining and asked for second sitting which we were told was fine. When we looked around the cabin we discovered a notice saying they were pleased to allocate us "Free Dining". This is not Free at all as one has to book the previous day. If you do not book but just arrive, then you could find yourself waiting a long time for table. We booked for 7p.m. each night and had no problem getting a table but as it was a different table each night you never knew who you would be sitting with. This was disappointing as you never got to know anyone really well and as we were just a couple we more often than not found ourselves on a table with a foursome who had come together. Sometimes this was great but at other times we found ourselves 'left out' and just talking to ourselves. We discovered that there were a lot of other people who had booked club dining and found themselves with "freedom dining" but there was nothing we could do about it. Our balcony cabin was at the rear of the ship and if we wanted to go to anything at the front we had a long long walk. Freedom dining was on deck 5 and we were on deck 12, so the first night we decided to walk down the stairs but when we got to deck 6 we could not go down any further. One then had to go back up to deck 7, walk along to the centre of the ship and only then could we go down to deck 5. This was very confusing and even at the end of the cruise one could find people who were lost. The food was excellent and extremely well presented and if you did not like anything on the menue you could always ask for a steak or salad. The self service restaurants (there were two of them, so one was always open) had a good variety of meals and snacks but no custard or real cream. The scones in the afternoon were freshly baked but very small and the pot of cream was synthetic!!! This was the first time I have tasted chocolate eclairs with synthetic cream. The children seemed very well catered for and we rarely saw them on the ship unless accompanied by a minder. Compared with The Royal Caribbean ships the shows were very poor and we only managed to get seated during the middle show once. It seems a very small theatre for the amount of people although they do put on three shows the last one does not start until 10.45p.m. I would suggest that you take any medicines and tablets that you think you could possibly need with you as there is very little in the small shop. So if you want asprins,something for a sore throat, a bad back etc etc you would have to visit the medical centre and see the doctor. This costs £40 plus the cost of the tablets(much more expensive than you get back home in the chemist. As the excess on insurance is generally £50 cheapest a few more items in your case would prove well worth while. The cabins were quite large with a walk-in wardrobe (take some more hangers!!)and you can keep four large cases under the twin beds. The beds were comfortable and I believe that if you asked your cabin lad you can have them pushed together to make a double bed. Some of the ports we took excursions but on others we were so close to the town that we either walked or took the shuttle bus. The shuttle buses were free except for the one into Helsinki which cost 20 dollars but you could pay in pounds. We enjoyed the excursions we did take except for one in St Petersburg The Seige of Leningrad" which was first of all going around an old ice breaker ship- the smell of stale tobacco smoke was not very pleasant, and then around a large museum. This was quite interesting but by the time the Russian guide had her say then the translator it took a very long time and we spent over an hour or more. A lot of people asked to go outside as there were few seats and it did get very repetitive. It would have been better to cut this short and then to maybe go to the commemorative cemetery where they have the flames lit continually. So on that trip we did not see anything of St Petersburg and there is so much to see. As each port of call used a different currency we decided to just have some euros and this was taken by all of them although in St Petersburg they did like you to have American dollars(unless you had roubles of course). My 4 favorite ports of call were Stockholm - loved by most people with it many islands joined by over fifty bridges, a beautiful city but expensive. Then St Petersburg which has so much that one can never see it all. Tallinn which has an old town with cobbled streets and is so so pretty and relatively unexpensive. A shuttle bus took us into the old town and there is plenty to see and plenty of eating places. Then last but not least was Warnemunde, an East German sea-side resort which seems to be getting onto the itinerary of our ships at last. It is only a very short walk from the dock and there are loads of small shops, cafes and boat trips and train trips - I suggest you do your own thing again. The library is quite comprehensive but there are no seats and there is not anywhere that one can exchange books. Most people take some reading matter with them and when finished would like to swap it for another book. We used the computer room a lot and this was never full and the person in charge was very helpful whether you are a complete beginner or more advanced. The dance floor is very small especially considering the size of the ship and the 3,000 odd passengers. Plenty of bars and places for coffee, chocolate etc. The gym is large and has lots of different machines and one could always find a free one to use. Plenty of sun loungers and there were always plenty free. With five pools, one now allocated for adults only there is never a problem when you want a swim. The weather was kind to us most of the time although it was too windy to go into Copenhagen which was a disappointment. A smaller ship would have had no problem. Summing up - a Baltic trip is a must and I would not have missed it for anything but would certainly not go back on the Ventura. Of all the people we spoke to or heard talking there were only two who said they would have another cruise on the Ventura. As this was our first trip with P+O we were told numerous time not to judge P+O by this ship ?????? Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Please enter your review. Well mum and I are home and dry after a fantastic cruise on Ventura and here is my report. I will concentrate on the ship itself and not the ports of call, as it's easy to find out about the various ... Read More
Please enter your review. Well mum and I are home and dry after a fantastic cruise on Ventura and here is my report. I will concentrate on the ship itself and not the ports of call, as it's easy to find out about the various destinations from travel websites and books. What I will say is, all the ports we visited were beautiful, with the one particular little gem which I will include later in this report. So... let's starts at the beginning with check in. We arrived at the terminal at 11.00am and joined a short queue of cars for the CPS car park, this gave us our first view of the ship and my goodness she's a big girl, totally dominating the terminal and quayside. No sooner had we arrived than the queue was surrounded by car park stewards, women with clip boards taking details and signatures, and men ready to drive away the cars. They dealt with about eight cars at once and the operation was very slick with this large number of stewards to speed up the process. So, by 11.15am we were at the end of a short queue in the check in hall. Since my last visit in November last year P&O have upgraded the check in desks and added many more, again to speed up the process and deal with the large volume of pax that a ship like Ventura carries. Check in started at 11.30am, half an hour earlier than usual and, with the greater number of desks, was very efficient. Check in complete, we cleared security and were on board Ventura and sitting in the Waterside self service buffet by 11.55am. Now that was what I would call a smooth pain free check in. After a light lunch we set off to explore our new home. This was where the fun started, I was navigating and decided to start at the top and work our way down. Wow was a word I used many times as we explored what this ship had to offer. The fun bit was getting lost and trying to get back to a methodical tour of the public rooms. Metropolis was our first stop almost at the top of the aft end of Ventura on deck 18. Here is a bar that oozes chic, a sort of reverse version of a crows nest bar (already dubbed the Crows Arse by many previous pax). With panoramic windows with views over the aft of the ship and "bridge wing" style windows affording great forward views down the length of Ventura. Then there is the much publicised video wall at the back which during the day showed videos of underwater scenes and sometimes flames and in the evening you are treated to a nightime vista of various cities of the world, including Sydney, New York and Paris with each night showing a new city. The bar menus and coasters changed each night to reflect the city shown on the video wall. The evenings in here are punctuated by performances from musicians, giving this bar the atmosphere of a jazz club. Down now to deck 17 and a peep into "The White Room" again very chic and elegant in shades of bitter chocolate and creams. This was a room I didn't use during this cruise so cant comment on either the food or service. Deck 16 houses the spa, hair salon and gym. The spa is quite large with very good facilities on offer though I only used the sauna and "Oasis Pool". Other pax commented on how fantastic the thermal suite was so that's one to try when I return to Ventura next year. The gym has a fantastic view over the bows of the ship. I felt this room would have served better as a true "Crows Nest". The "Ivory Suite" is situated adjacent to the spa and is the ships wedding venue, a very nice intimate room with stunning floral displays constantly on show. The childrens facilities are situated to the aft end of deck 16 and on this occasion were always a place I was visiting tomorrow and "tomorrow never comes" so I cant comment about them. Down to deck 15 "Lido Deck" and the pools and self service restaurants. Starting all the way aft we have the "Terrace Bar" and pool, a small pool in an amphitheater setting of tiered teak decks that give access to the " Cirque Ventura" to those wishing to tackle the climb up steep stairs to deck 19. This pool was always relatively quiet, providing a nice little sun trap and place to sip a cocktail of the day as we set sail from our various ports. Inside from the "Terrace Bar" is the family restaurant "The Beach house", very smart with red and white striped upholstery and light wood giving the room a bright, light and airy feel. Here the menus was much the same as the "Waterside" with various extra items to tempt the children on board. The "Waterside" has a very similar atmosphere to the Plaza on Oceana and is decked out in shades of light blues and sea greens with some fantastic mural paintings along the walls. Here was the venue of choice for most pax for breakfast lunch and afternoon tea. The tables are very interesting with marine charts of various areas of the globe. The salt and pepper pots are very touchy feely and I loved the stone vases with twigs. These venues still need some sort of vessel on the tables to put your used tea bags in and empty butter packs etc, this is lacking across the fleet not just Ventura. You are provided with a large tray and the choice of a hot or cold plate as you enter the self service area. You are also given a cotton napkin which is no bigger than a very small handkerchief and of very little use. The food is of a high standard with all the usual self service food items on offer. Forward now to the main pool areas and through automatic sliding doors into the "Beachcomber Pool" and bar. This is the pool with the sliding roof making it an all weather venue. Here the sunbeds are the adjustable metal framed variety and the pool is surrounded by what I presume are supposed to be light houses which neither light up or house anything. A few palm trees or other greenery wouldn't go amiss in here, just to take the stark edge off the space. There is also an upper gallery which opens out onto the upper outside deckspace. The next area moving further forward is the "Laguna Pool" which houses "Breakers Bar" on the upper deck with the "Laguna Bar", "Frankies Grill" and "Frankies Pizzeria" poolside. The grill serves the usual burgers and chips etc. whilst you can get fantastic pizzas freshly made to order from the pizzeria. Here are the usual plastic sun loungers with teakwood tables to sit at and enjoy your food. All the way down now to deck 7 "Promenade Deck". Starting aft there is the "Havana Club" a latin themed venue which doubles as a cabaret lounge and the ships nightclub. I personally found a lack of atmosphere in here and could not understand why they had surrounded the seating areas with walls which prevent you from seeing over when seated at the table. Visually the room was very attractive but I found this venue to be my least favorite on the ship, but that is only my opinion. The photo gallery carries you along the starboard side of the ship and is huge with lots of techno wizardry for you to print your own pics from your digital camera,or even to burn your own cd's. You can also order official photos from the touch screen computers situated here. Here is also the entrance to "East" the stunning asian fusion restaurant which carries a cover charge. I did not have a meal in here as mum is not partial to spicy food and leaving mum to dine on our usual table would have meant me sitting alone like Billy no mates, so I'm saving "East" for my cruise on Ventura with Ged next year. Onward through the photo gallery and we come to "The Tamarind Cub" a stunning show lounge decorated in rich purples and burnt orange. There is a walk through feel to the rear of the club but as you move further in, towards the stage, you are surrounded by stunning fabrics with beautiful brass lamps and brass railing separating the various levels all topped by the most stunning chandelier above a circular settee with large cushions reminiscent of an Arabian palace harem. The "Tamarind Club" serves as a lecture venue and cinema during the day and a cabaret show lounge and dance venue at night. It is in here that the comedians appear (there were two featured in one show) and from what I saw and from what I heard from other pax throughout the cruise, the comedians were terrible. On one semi-formal night the two comedians wore jeans and t-shirts, scruffy ones at that, with scruffy trainers on there feet. P&O need to address this if they want to keep the standards of dress up on this ship. Into the atrium now and wow what a stunning atrium it is. This atrium is very classy with black granite arches and sweeping stairs joining the three decks, and glass lifts that that take you all the way through the ship, although the views are only to be had in the three decks of the atrium. The lighting mood is changed throughout the day, with the colors ranging from cool blues through oranges reds and purples, depending on the time. Here on deck 7 you find yourself at the top of the atrium with the "Red Bar" on the port side, another stunning venue upholstered in various red fabrics and bronze voille drapes. Here also are stunning crystal beaded pillars and chandeliers with red cracked glass tables. This is the place to relax in the evening with a cocktail served in the most glamorous glasses (how long they'll last, I don't know they are very delicate indeed) and listen to the romantic piano. Opposite on the starboard side is on of the many shops on board. Forward again to "Ramblas" the Spanish themed area which spans the ship and is in three distinct sections, the starboard side houses the bar and relaxed seating area and the "cavern" another alternate dining venue with a small cover charge. On the port side is more relaxed seating with a large tree at its heart along with the perfume shop and the florist. "Ramblas" is perfect for visiting in the afternoon and partaking in "tapas" ( a £2.50 cover charge applies) and indulging in some of the great wines on offer. At selected times during the day and throughout the evening a classical guitarist plays, further enhancing the Spanish feel to this great venue. Next you arrive in the upper area of the stunning "Arena Theatre" a state of the art theatre staging some stunning new shows, more of which later. On deck 6 we find the "Exchange Bar" and " Fortunes Casino" spanning the whole ship. The casino is on the port side and the main bar area is on the starboard side. This is the only public area on the ship where smoking is allowed and at peak times you literally cut your way through a pea soup fog of stinking smoke, which meant we avoided this part of the ship like the plague, using only the casino on a few occasions which is shielded from the smoke to a good degree. The "Saffron" and "Baytree" restaurants are situated further aft. The "Saffron" being our club dining venue and decked out in light wood tones. The "Bay Tree" being much darker in rich tones of mahogany. On down to deck 5 and the home of "Tazzine" the coffee and chocolate bar. This is a very light airy cafe style area with large windows allowing lots of natural light into the abse of the atrium. Here also is the library "ChapterOne" which is well stocked but does not have any seating area. The future cruise desk and loyalty managers desk is here along with the tours desk "Explorers". The Cyb@study is here too and looked well equipped though I believe the connections are quite slow. Perhaps the main feature of this deck is the Art gallery. A very inviting gallery with works of art changing daily and all that is displayed is for sale with the price shown, so no cheap and tawdry art auctions to suffer, and no art work cluttering the passageways. This was a "Tate" themed cruise so there were many art experts onboard giving advice and lectures on the many aspects of art. The floor of the atrium has many comfy sofas and relaxing chairs to sit in and watch the world go by. Finally the "Cinnamon Restaurant" is situated aft of the atrium and is similar to the "Saffron" being decorated in light wood. The "Saffron" & " Baytree" are club dining venues and the "Cinnamon" is the freedom dining option. So that's the ship as it appears, generally a stunning ship with lots of stunning art work to admire as you explore and get lost, trying to find your way around. Now the cruise experience as I found it. As already mentioned, check-in was totally pain free and quick. Cabins were available from 2.00pm. Our cabin was E223, advertised as an outside obstructed view cabin. The cabin was very spacious with a great walk-in wardrobe, a real plus. There was a decent sized cupboard but only four small drawers in the main part of the cabin, and a larger, long, narrow cupboard with shelves and the safe, in the walk-in wardrobe. The bathroom was on the small side but perfectly adequate with good lighting. On arrival there were samples of "Temple Spa" products to enjoy, I particularly liked the scented space spray. The tea a coffee making gear was stunning in chrome with a cafetierre as well as a tea pot, all this being on a mirrored unit topped by the T.V. shelf with the fridge located in a cupboard below. On arrival there was a bon bon dish with sweets and a small vase with a single rose, a very nice touch. The T.V is now fully interactive, from which you can watch pay-per-view films and also order room service, in cabin booze, and check your account. There is also a full array of free to view TV shows and the usual news and info channels. So where do the problems lie? Well some with the organization of certain things, but mostly with the passengers who refuse to read their given information, or having read it choose to ignore it. This was an excursion intensive cruise with most of the pax choosing to do organized trips and hereby lies the problem. The staff set up desks in the Tamarind club to hand out excursion stickers for the first couple of ports and it was absolute chaos. First of all there were too few staff on hand to help too many pax who all seemed to turn up at the same time despite having staggered times published for the collection of stickers. This caused huge and mostly unnecessary queues to develop and completely block the walkways, this in turn irritated the pax and mutiny was threatened on more than one occasion. Eventually , but only for Russia, more staff were drafted in and more desks were set up in "Havana" to help cope with the sheer volumes of pax getting their treasured stickers. To give you an idea of the size of some of these tours The Hermitage tour on day one of St Petersburg had 22 separate coaches and there were similar numbers of coaches for other tours throughout the cruise. So the crew need to open more tickets desks in totally different areas of this ship to help avoid the chaos which ensued. When going ashore independently I followed my T.A's advice and waited till well after the main rush and in all cases strolled off the ship and onto shuttles where required without any fuss or hassle whatsoever. Shuttle buses in Helsinki had to be paid for at 8 euros return which angered many pax but in all other ports, where shuttles were required, it was free. Maybe that's unique to Helsinki, I don't know. theatre was another subject of pax moans and groans, but again most of the queuing problems where caused by the pax themselves with many turning up for the middle show 45 mins before the first show had ended. We had no such problems turning up 15 mins before curtain up and sitting towards the front in the stalls for the late show. The shows where on the whole superb with the theatre being used for cabaret artists as well as full production shows. The best show for me was "Chronicles" a mixture of singing dancing and circus skills in an hour of pulse racing African rhythms using spectacular sets and some very clever puppetry reminiscent of Disneys "The Lion King" . Other shows included "Saturday Night Fever" based on the film of the same name, "Grande Illusion" a rock magic show and "Masquerade" a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber. All these shows were stunning and for the most part well received but still people whined "the music's too loud", "the songs aren't well known", " the lightings too flashy". The only cabaret I went to see was an old fave of P&O, Gary T Thomson who was, as usual, very funny and an excellent singer impressionist. As I mentioned earlier the comedy club in the Tamarind was poor with lots of pax walking out during the comedians slot. The comedy was of a very poor nature with scruffy comedians probably more at home in the comedy and working mens clubs at home where they can swear to get the laughs. Other entertainment seemed to be well received with a few cabaret spots from good singers in both "Havana" and "Tamarind club" Now to the way the ship handles in bad weather. I have read many reports about how Ventura is very unstable even in relatively calm conditions. Well let me tell you, at the start of this cruise and for a couple of days we had far from calm conditions, with force 9 gale battering the ship, and she coped very well with nothing more than the usual pitch and roll one would expect. On the odd and very rare occasion there was this strange movement which I will describe as a shimmy and was felt more strongly when high up in Metropolis. This high wind prevented us visiting Copenhagen and meant we had to anchor off Nynashamn and tender ashore for our visit to Stockholm, this also meant a 45 min drive by coach to get into the city. At its strongest the wind had Ventura listing quite strongly to port, this was most obvious when passing under the great belts bridge and the wind was hitting the ship broadside on. This also caused a lot of hilarity as I tried to push a fellow pax in his wheel chair against the slope of the decks. Most pax did comment on how stable the ship felt in this bad weather. Dress code!!! Now this caused a lot of raised eyebrows. 99% of pax adhered to the suggested dress code for the evening with one or two glaring exceptions, but those who chose to dress as they felt fit (in jeans and t-shirts) stood out like sore thumbs. Now for the raised eyebrows, the dresses from the ladies ranged from the stunningly elegant to the pantomime dame (you know who you are). One outfit of note was a black number (nothing unusual there) topped of with a PINK and BLUE fascinator towering above a head of ringlets, which would not look out of place at Ascot . This was removed in the theatre, very slowly, helped along by several people with the whole theatre agog at the spectacle which ended with loud cheers as the offending high rise headgear was finally removed. The OTT pantomime dames outfit (complete with huge train) was topped off by an illuminated fibre optic explosion emanating from pinned up hair. Each to their own is a phrase which springs to mind. Now to more serious matters and one which will lavish praise on P&O. Mum and I were on this cruise with with another couple, Pat & Derek. Derek is disabled and needs full time use of his wheelchair. Having registered with the disability crew they were taken from their transfer coach and checked in without the need to queue, they were then taken by the mobility crew member straight to there cabin. Now Pat & Derek are veterans of several cruises and this was their best experience with Dereks needs being fulfilled perfectly by P&O. His needs as a diabetic where catered for fully and with great efficiency and the cabin facilities where the best they had ever encountered, with oceans of space and a fully wheel in bathroom. Disabled toilets where at every level on the ship and all were very convenient to all the bars and other venues. This has impressed them so much that they are cruising on Ventura again as soon as possible. I think I've now covered most things except the little gem of a port I mentioned at the start. This port was Warnemunde in Germany and is a delightful little town with a great beach, but it was the sail away from hear that put the icing on the cake of this whole fantastic cruise. Ventura was the largest ship that the port had ever had and our arrival had been heralded in the local press (a German man told me this when we were sat in a cafe). Our arrival prompted thousands of people to come and look in awe as this huge ship dominated this cute little port. Then came time for the sail away and the crowds descended onto the port and the quayside to wave us off. As Ventura slipped her moorings the port authority played Andrea Boccelli's "Time To Say Goodbye" through the public address system and two port employees waved giant hands as we slowly pulled away from the dock. All the pax on the ship responded with a huge cheer and a round of applause. As we pushed back further from the dock a flotilla of small boats and pleasure cruisers packed with people surrounded the ship tooting there horns madly with the ship responding with hilarious results as her whistle almost blew the small boats from the water. All along the waters edge the thousands of people cheered and waved us off with a small band joining in to the strains of the music, this made for a very moving experience with more than a few hankies drying up tears both on shore and on the ship. Many of the pax were waving their union flags and I spotted one or two being waved by the Germans it was a moment I will never forget. But here is the twist to all this...In the welcome on board pack, in the cruise overview, a "Great British Sailaway" was scheduled for this port, but on receipt of the Horizon paper, I noticed the sail away was no longer in the line up for the day. Whilst in the town I bumped into the cruise director Mr Invisible otherwise known as Nigel Travis, and asked him why we were no longer having the sail away party. His answer was that he cancelled it as he thought it politically incorrect for us to be waving union flags to the strains of Rule Britannia as we sailed from a German port. He had scheduled it for our last port of Zeebruge where it p****d down with rain and not a single person was shore side to wave us off. How pathetic Mr Travis. Anyway the Germans showed us how to have a great sail away and Mr Invisible didn't take into account that most people had flags to wave anyway from the Southampton sail away. I shall be posting my pics and a video as soon as all the editing is complete and hopefully you will capture some of the atmosphere that this delightful German sail away gave us all. So there you have it, a long report that I hope most of you sailing soon on this ship will find useful , I'm sure some pax on the same cruise will see things differently but this was the cruise as I saw it. Yes there are small problems which need to be sorted but beyond that she is a fabulous ship. Don't sail on her if you're unsure about a big ship 'cos she's huge but do try her if you want a great cruise experience with the friendliest of crews, serving up fantastic food and wonderful entertainment. With only a couple of exceptions, P&O have got it just about spot on with Ventura and I can't wait for the next time I step on board this lovely ship. If you want me to clarify any aspect of this report or have any other queries about Ventura send me an e-mail or private message and I'll try my best to answer your question. If you've got this far without nodding off, thanks for taking the time to read my report and happy cruising to you all. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Ventura Canaries July 2008 This is our fourth cruise the last on being with the century of the celebrity line to the Baltic, great ship great cruise, so I thought at£3000 more the p and o Ventura would be fantastic, I was wrong! ... Read More
Ventura Canaries July 2008 This is our fourth cruise the last on being with the century of the celebrity line to the Baltic, great ship great cruise, so I thought at£3000 more the p and o Ventura would be fantastic, I was wrong! Firstly the reception at Southampton was poor, We arrived 4 hours early due to flights, we were ignored for 3 1/2 hours the facilities were very poor with no one willing or able to take our bags, there were about 5o people in the same boat. When I asked if we could sit some where sit, could someone take our bags? I was told by one of there reps what I already knew, we were early and no they couldn't take the bags, but were we excited? Em no! Disappointed, uncomfortable yes, excited ,no. It did not impress us particularly as other people were getting the 5 star treatment, future customers apparently, to see if they would book for future trips Those of us that had parted with their hard earned money well they could just wait outside! The Ship The ship its big too big ,it rolls like an old man on skates,even on a milk pond if windy it cant get into some ports because its too big,(we missed Lanzarote). It's also too big because they is a staff ratio of only 1/3 on all other ships we have been on its been 1/2 this means that the cabins are tided, not really cleaned The public areas ,particularly the public toilets are disgusting, with poo on the seats and floor! This is the only ship I have been on where they do not insist you use hand gel When entering the main dining, so prepare for tummy upset down the line There are not enough sun-beds and they were so desperate to fill the ship i think they have let anyone on, a friend of mine has experienced fing and blinding over sun-beds with the only pool patrols being waiters selling drinks. There are several pools and one we use had enough chlorine to turn the kids eyes red and their swimmers green. There is no sign of security to keep an eye on some who look like they would be happier on a beach in Ibiza. The British staff are as pleasant and helpful as you would find at Woolworths the Filipino and Indian staff are much better as are the spa and internet staff. A word of warning the camera memory card viewer wiped out half my photographs and damaged the card, apparently that was my fault! The food is good but the dining experience, in fact everything is not as good as our previous Celebrity cruise. To sum up too big too dirty, too bad ,P and O have got it badly wrong and their Customer service is very poor, the loading manager was very rude and unhelpful to my wife when we were disembarking, funny that! Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
Day 1: Friday 1st August 2008 - Southampton We left home at about 7.30 this morning. Traveling to Southampton was relatively painless, although there was no Terry Wogan today; he is on holiday AGAIN, so Johnny Walker is filling in. There ... Read More
Day 1: Friday 1st August 2008 - Southampton We left home at about 7.30 this morning. Traveling to Southampton was relatively painless, although there was no Terry Wogan today; he is on holiday AGAIN, so Johnny Walker is filling in. There was some queuing traffic heading into Southampton, but other than that we managed to escape most of the Friday travel chaos and arrived at about midday. Before going to the docks, we went to the West Quay shopping centre so that I could buy some flip-flops. That was a mistake... As we pulled into the docks, we were directed to join a long queue of cars waiting for Ventura. We have never had to wait to board a ship before and this was very annoying (for Ian). We were waiting for about an hour before we could get out of the car and check-in. Apparently, the company that handles the parking and baggage were expecting over nine hundred cars for Ventura. This was in addition to all the other passengers for the other two cruise ships that were in-dock today; clearly they need to improve their systems. Next year, we will have to make sure that we arrive as early as possible. Check-in was very efficient, as usual, considering the number of passengers joining Ventura (3,500). This year, they took our photographs for the ship's records and Ian was able to pre-authorize his credit card. We boarded very quickly, avoiding the photographers this year. The cabins were ready by this time (2.30), so we quickly dropped off our hand luggage. Our cabin this year is an inside twin, again, although it seems bigger than on previous ships. As you walk in, the bathroom and wardrobe is on the right. There is then a dividing wall with a large desk and mirror, as well as a fridge and storage. The beds are against the back wall of the cabin. There is a small coffee table, with a small bowl of sweets (!) and a fresh rose (!!). The overall design is quite contemporary, although there are still not enough coat hangers. We could also have used some more drawers, as the hanging space is much larger than we really need. There are lots of mirrors and the air-conditioning is fairly efficient. The bathroom is small but efficiently designed. The cabin will be more than adequate for our needs. The next job was finding somewhere to have lunch. The ship was providing refreshments in the two buffet restaurants at the rear of the ship on deck 15. Our cabin is on deck 10. There are nineteen passenger decks on Ventura! It is far bigger than any of the ships we have previously sailed on. We chose to go the Beach House restaurant, the family buffet. The dEcor is informal and light, with a candy-stripe theme, but the carpet is already stained by careless passengers. Marco Pierre White has "given the menu his own twist", although the food is still fairly standard for this type of eatery. There were several hot options, including a pie, curry and fish. Of course, Ian had ham and chips. I had the same, but also had some salad with mine. We both chose an alcoholic beverage as we are now on holiday; I had a glass of pinot noir, and Ian had a cocktail of the day (a Harvey Wallbanger). We tried sitting outside at first, although there was a strong breeze, so we moved back indoors. After lunch, we decided to explore the ship. We started at the rear top decks, and made our way down and forward, via the sun decks, pools (there are three) and upper bars and restaurants. On this ship, they have chosen to use a resin for the decks instead of traditional timber, as well as Astroturf: Ian says that this has prompted a number of complaints, although I can't really see that it is an issue. There are several places to eat at the top of the ship, including Marco Pierre White's restaurant and the buffets and grill. Each pool has its own bar, and there seem to be ample loungers and chairs. The sports courts and gym are also at the top. Next, we took a lift down to the promenade on deck 7. We did a circuit of the ship before heading inside to look at the atrium. The promenade is about half the width of the decks on other ships, and there are no loungers, only deck chairs. It does seem quite narrow, but this is compensated for by the numbers of open decks above. This promenade is open at the front of the ship, so we will be able to see out in the direction we are heading, which will be nice, although this section is up some steps. The starboard (right) side is smoking. Disappointingly, a number of passengers are clearly ignoring this fact, as well as all the ashtrays and bins that are provided. There were quite a few cigarette-ends that had just been dropped on the deck. Ian has read a number of reviews of Ventura, which have generally been quite negative; however, I suspect that it is going to be the passengers, rather than the ship, that will be disappointing. The interior of the ship is very smart and contemporary. The atrium is three decks high, with sweeping staircases. There are several shops on board, with a much wider selection of goods than on other ships, reflecting the size of the vessel. Inside, there are further restaurants and bars, including tapas and oriental food. We had a quick look at the 750-seat theatre and our own restaurant, which is on deck 6 at the rear of the ship. By this time, it was 4 o'clock and time to return to our cabin for the emergency drill. We attended this practice, which was quite quick, and then went back to our room to find our luggage had arrived! We did some unpacking, and then went back up on deck for the sail away. Ahead of us, were the Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2. It was interesting to watch these two Cunard liners leave; we are tempted to book a cruise on one of these soon. They look very grand. We then had a quick shower, and went for dinner. Once again, we have opted for the early sitting and a table of eight. There was the usual trepidation - would it be a table of freaks? Fortunately not. There are three other couples on our table: Bernard and Barbara from Plymouth; Paul and Kay from Wales; Alvin and Sheila from the Midlands. Five of us our involved in education! Surprisingly, on the table next to us are David and Janet, who were on our table last year on Oriana. Even more surprising, is the fact that they are in the cabin next to us! Everyone was very relaxed and friendly. The meal was excellent, as expected. Ian began with a melon fan and I had a carpaccio of smoked duck breast. We then both had mushroom soup. Ian had a turkey cordon bleu followed by a cheesecake. I had a pasta dish, with chorizo and tomato, followed by cheese (Shropshire Blue and Cheddar). Ian had another Harvey Wallbanger, and I had a bottle of Shiraz. Notable was the fact that they didn't try to sell any spirits afterward - a bit disappointing really. Service was very fast and the waiters were discrete. The menus are presented in wooden folders, which I thought were stylish, like the dEcor, but apparently people have complained about these as well. All the china and cutlery bear the P&O logo. The glassware is quite contemporary, with angular rather than rounded bowls for the glasses. We have a nice view out of a side window. There was no formal entertainment tonight, so after dinner we decided to go to Metropolis for cocktails. This bar is situated at the rear of the ship on deck 18. Again, it has a modern feel to it. There are panoramic windows, with views in all directions, a large cocktail bar, and feature wall of LCD screens that show views from across the world. Tonight's theme is Shanghai: the screens were showing videos of the skyline and street scenes. The coasters are all themed, based on the city that is featured, and there are themed drinks linked to this. It was quite busy, until the majority of people left for the second sitting at dinner. There is a large selection of drinks on offer. Ian had a Sea Breeze and an Apple Cosmo. I had a Bay Breeze and two Apple Cosmos. After sitting on our own for a while, watching the south coast slip by and various scenes from Shanghai, we joined Bernard, Barbara, Paul and Kay and chatted for a while. There was a pleasant jazz band playing. At about eleven, we decided it was time for bed. We headed back to the cabin and settled down for the night. Overall, a very good first day. Day 2: Saturday 2nd August 2008 - At Sea Ian got up at 7.30 this morning because he wanted to try the Spa. I stayed in bed as I had not slept well on Thursday night and was very tired (but not hungover!) He returned at 9.30 and then I got up. Ian had purchased a thermal spa package. This includes heated beds, aromatherapy showers, 2 steam rooms and a sauna. This wasn't as nice as the spa on Arcadia as it was all inside, whereas on Arcadia there are sea views. He enjoyed himself however. We went for breakfast in the main buffet; this is on deck 15, at the rear. We walked down our corridor, which is very long. I can't actually see the end of it, as it runs the length of the ship and my eyes won't see that far! We chose to have a fried breakfast this morning - no hash browns though, only potato croquettes! Ian also had some pastries and I had a yogurt. We sat outside as all the tables were full. It is a bit grey today, although the weather is set to improve. To say that there are over 3,500 passengers on board, the ship doesn't seem crowded. There are plenty of things to do inside anyway... Including shopping! As we are now at sea, all the shops are open. These are accessed from the Atrium over two floors. There are two fashion boutiques, jewelery shop, a perfumery and a general store. We had a look at all of these (plenty of souvenir opportunities) and decided that we will buy the new Gaultier fragrance - Fleur de Male. It is very flowery and therefore unusual for a male fragrance. Next, we went to Metropolis to write the diary and listen to music. The theme today is London and the special cocktail is a Pimms Cup (Pimms, lime, ginger ale). Ian also booked a massage for his shoulders for tomorrow and dinner in the White Room for the 13th August. We have decided not to have lunch - instead, we will have afternoon tea in an attempt not to overindulge on the first day. That plan didn't last very long. We were enjoying a stroll through the ship and were passing through Ramblas, the Spanish themed bar. We decided to sample some of their tapas dishes; you can order three tapas for £2.50. We chose some chorizo, patatas bravas and figs with ham. The dishes themselves are quite small, but tasty nonetheless. I had a glass of wine and Ian had lemonade. The bar itself is well designed and spacious. There is a small restaurant with a more filling menu and several seating areas that are done out in a traditional Spanish style e.g. dark wood, stonework and metal grilles. It is attractive, although the stonework is fiberglass and the counter tops are Formica instead of marble. Everything looks very neat and new, and it could do with some distressing to make it look more effective. This area wasn't particularly busy, despite being on the promenade deck and the weather being quite poor. After lunch, we returned to the cabin, noticing that the ship seemed to be leaning to one side. As we arrived, the Captain made an announcement that the ship was turning back in response to a mayday call from a small yacht; they were responding to a medical emergency. I collected my book and went back to Ramblas to read: Ian had decided to have a sleep as his shoulders were hurting him. I am reading 'The Children of Hurin' by JRR Tolkien; I bought it a long time ago and haven't got around to reading it yet. The Promenade deck was getting very busy with passengers with morbid curiosity, who wanted to see what was going on with the yacht in distress. I sat reading for a while, fell asleep, and then read for a little bit longer. The book is as expected. When I got back to the cabin, I found Ian had joined the hordes of people expecting to see dead bodies being loaded on board. He videoed the rescue from the upper decks. Apparently, there were three people on board; two had remained behind on the yacht to sail it back to France. Otherwise it would have had to be abandoned, possibly scuttled to avoid a hazard to shipping. By this time, we needed to get ready for dinner. After pressing our shirts in the laundry, we showered and the headed off to the restaurant. Tonight is 'semi-formal' i.e. jackets. I began with a pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad, followed by oxtail broth and then an exotic game mixed grill i.e. rabbit, ostrich and some other brown meat made into a sausage. This was all very tasty, washed down with a bottle of pinotage from South Africa. Ian had Parma ham and melon, no soup, and then pot-roasted beef in a red wine jus. I had a baked cheesecake for dessert, whilst Ian had an orange sorbet. He is still not feeling well because of his shoulders, although he has booked a deep tissue massage in the spa for tomorrow morning. Our waitress also offered me a choice of spirits at the end of the meal; I chose a port. We finished eating at about 8 o'clock; the service is very quick in the restaurants. We left the table first as we wanted to make sure that we got to the theatre in time for the show. The online reviews had said that the theatre fills up quickly and that there is not enough space. Ian had scouted out a sneaky route to avoid the queues. We were sat near the front, but when we arrived the 750-seat theatre was only about half full so we were fortunate in having our choice of seats. Whilst waiting for the show to start, a large party of people arrived and occupied the row in front; they 'saved' a number of seats for others in their party, although this isn't really allowed. Another Welsh man and his wife turned up and asked to sit down, quite reasonably pointing out that nobody was sat in those seats. The other family became quite aggressive, saying that the seats were occupied but the people sitting in them had just gone to the toilet - a blatant lie. Then, the Welsh man was punched in the stomach! Ian was very annoyed about this, and later spoke to the person who was assaulted. This is what I meant about most of the problems on the ship being the passengers. The show itself was called 'Grand Illusion', loosely based around magic. There was a combination of songs, dance and magic tricks, all much better than the quality of shows on Oriana last year. There was no band, surprisingly, but the quality of singing was good, and although not flawless, the performances were entertaining, including the obligatory grinning buffoon. After the show, we went to Metropolis for a drink. Ian had water, and I had two apple cosmos. The waitress that served us already knows my name - not a good sign! Ian was feeling tired, so decided to go to bed rather than going to the syndicate quiz. He apologized to Janet and David, who were also in the bar, and left. The rest of us set off for the quiz, which was to be held in one of the restaurants. We didn't do too badly, for a first outing; we scored 13 out of a possible 20. We missed out on some obvious answers, and would have scored at least one more point if Ian had been there; he would have known that Disney's second film was Pinocchio. Did you know that one hundredth of a second is officially known as a 'Jiffy'? We didn't, but we do now. The winning team featured Alvin and Sheila, from our table. Well done to them! They scored 17 points. Our challenge now is to get at least fourteen. Hopefully Ian will be feeling better so can help out with the computing, Disney, theatrical and musical questions. Day 3: Sunday 3rd August 2008 - At Sea Ian got up early again today for his massage and thermal spa treatments. He left at about 7.45, leaving me in bed. When he returned at 11.15, I was still there! He had been speaking to the actor Victor Spinnetti, who is in a cabin not far from us and Ian remembered him as the Major General in 'Pirates of Penzance'. After showering, I met Ian in Tazzine, the coffee bar on deck 5, for a cup of tea. Service was slow (note from Ian - service was fine when I got served), but the atmosphere was modern and stylish. Ian had peppermint tea, whilst I had traditional Tetley. His massage had gone very well and his shoulders are feeling much better; at one point, the masseur had climbed on his back to realign his spine! We chatted to Dom, one of the Entertainment Officers from last year's Oriana cruise, who remembered us, and then decided to have some lunch as we had both missed breakfast. After looking at what was on offer in the main restaurant, we decided to try the restaurant menu in Ramblas. Although the menu was quite small, it was well prepared and the staff were very attentive. I chose gazpacho to start with and Ian had Serrano ham and figs (there are a lot of figs on board - they seem to come with everything!) We both had Catalan paella for a main course, which was quite small but filling and freshly prepared. Ian had a custard dish (more like crème brulee) for dessert and I had some manchego cheese. The restaurant was very quiet, which might be due to the fact there is a £5 cover charge, but the food was good and worth it. Next, we decided to go to the theatre again to listen to one of the guest lecturers. The theme of the lecture was 'America's Next President'. We learnt about the electoral system in the States, and who was most likely to be elected in November. This was a very interesting topic, if not very well attended. Following the lecture, we decided to sit out on the Promenade deck. The weather has improved and it is now sunny with a light breeze. I read some more of my book and Ian listened to his iPod, as well as annoying me. The book is going well, although it is not very challenging. I shall be finished soon, and then will try something a bit more complex. We sat on deck until about 4 o'clock, and then went back to the cabin to write up the diary (and sleep in Ian's case). Tonight is the first formal event, including the Captain's gala reception, so we will need to be ready by 6 o'clock. Our party was being held in Havana, a Cuban-themed bar. The theme consists of posters plastered to the pillars, and not much else. It does have a very clever lighting system though that can change the mood of the whole room. There is a cabaret stage and a lot of lounge-style seating. I got a gin and tonic and we sat down next to the stage. Just before the Captain addressed us, the people next to us introduced themselves by asking if Ian's name was Parkinson. They were from Tyldesley and used to own the local butcher's shop named A. Savage Family Butcher! They now live just around the corner from Ian's parents and know them both, as well as Gail and Dougie. What a surprise! The Captain spoke to us all briefly, explaining that the person we had rescued was feeling much better and would be getting off in Malaga the next day. He told us that they had taken on board 400 tonnes of food in Southampton and that we would need to eat it all before we got off! However, he didn't seem to know all of our destinations, which is a little worrying (Note from Ian - that is the Navigators job). Dinner was once again very enjoyable, although they seem to have taken the 3rd course sorbet off the menu, which is disappointing. Ian had a very light asparagus timbale to begin with, followed by monkfish and prawn chowder. For the main course he enjoyed a rack of lamb, and for dessert a chocolate and orange fondant with custard and ice cream, although the fondant wasn't gooey inside. I began with a pork terrine (not enough bread, as usual), and then had a vegetable consommE. Next, I had a very tender roast breast of gressingham duck with cabbage and bacon, with brie for my final course. I drank a bottle of pinotage again, followed by a port, although this wasn't on special offer tonight. After dinner, we had decided that we would go and see the ABBA tribute band, 'ABBA Eyes', but as this wasn't starting until nine we went to Metropolis for a cocktail. I had another Apple Cosmo - very refreshing, with a cherry this time! The theme tonight is Paris, although as it was very sunny we couldn't really see what was on the 20 meter long screen. By the time we arrived at Havana for the cabaret, it was already very full so we sat at the back in front of one of the many screens that show what it on stage (which we couldn't see from where we were). The act was very good, and we think we may go back again tomorrow. They sang a number of the classics, to which we joined in very loudly. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and the two Apple Cosmos certainly helped. For a change, we decided to try the Red Bar on deck 7 just off the Atrium. This is another cocktail bar, with comfortable chairs and sofas. There is not much red involved in the design, but it is pleasant enough. They offer caviar and champagne here (Osetra and Sefruga), but we won't be bothering with that muck! Especially not at £130... I had a regular Cosmopolitan, another drink exclusive to this bar, although it wasn't as sharp as the ones they used to serve on Oriana or Arcadia. Ian had a glass of champagne. We spent about an hour in here, listening to the pianist, Agnes Toth, before going to the syndicate quiz. Thirteen points again tonight - not good enough! We didn't know that Gordon piloted Thunderbird 4 (Ian thought it was John), or that an octopus has three hearts; I did know that the Lottery started in 1994, having watched Eggheads last week. Then it was off to bed, looking forward to our first port tomorrow. Day 4: Monday 4th August 2008 - Malaga I had another lie-in today, as we weren't due to get into Malaga until 12.30. Ian was up at 8 though, and went to the spa for another thermal treatment. This has worked out quite reasonably at £60 for the whole cruise. I eventually roused myself at 11.00 when Ian came back. He had bought a card for Janet and David as it is their wedding anniversary today, which I then wrote. He had also had a big cooked breakfast in the buffet, as we weren't planning on having lunch as we would be off the ship. So far, our consumption has not been as bad as on other cruises, and neither of us is bloated yet! We were arriving in Malaga by this time, so we went up onto the promenade deck to watch our arrival. I left Ian to video this and went to have something to eat in the Waterside buffet. I had a salad, with a small portion of ham, followed by some fruit salad. Very healthy. I popped back to the cabin to write a postcard for my Mum, and then Ian met me there. We went to Reception to buy a stamp, and by this time the ship was ready for disembarking passengers. We had expected the queues to be really long, with 3500 people trying to get off, but we must have timed it very well because we were some of the first off. It was very hot - nearly thirty degrees! After a short walk through the cruise terminal, which is very smart, we boarded a shuttle bus to take us to the port gate. This was a short ride on an air-conditioned coach, and it dropped us right beside the main shopping street. Having been to Malaga a few years ago, we had already seen most of the sights so were looking forward to visiting some of our favourite Spanish shops: Pull and Bear, Springfield, Massimo Dutti and El Corte Ingles. Unfortunately, there was nothing that really grabbed our fancy, although there was quite a nice winter jacket in Massimo Dutti. Ian and I contented ourselves with an ice cream, and we wandered through some of the streets, pausing to take a few snap shots. Malaga is not a very pretty place and there was a lot of graffiti. It seems like a strange place to stop on a cruise. It might have been nicer to anchor off Puerto Banus or Marbella, but no doubt this would have been more expensive for P&O. After wandering over to El Corte Ingles and taking advantage of their air conditioning, we headed back toward the older part of town, buying one of the new Maxibon Power ice cream bars for Ian. He really enjoyed this, but it made my teeth hurt. We walked past the Cathedral and then up to the old fort, before circling back toward the pick-up point for the shuttle bus. It was nearly 3 o'clock by now and we were feeling peckish so went back to the ship for afternoon tea. Ian had a couple of scones and a cake. I had some corned beef sandwiches and noisette potatoes - yummy! (Note from Ian - Richard had 2 helpings of sandwiches and potatoes). The buffet tea seems much better than on any of the other ships, and it wasn't particularly busy as a lot of people were still on-shore. In fact, the whole ship seems deserted. Most of the public lounges are empty, which is very nice. After tea, we found a quiet spot in the Red Bar to write-up the diary and listen to music. Tonight is smart-casual, so we won't have to rush around as much as last night. After finishing the diary, we sat and played games on the computer and iPod, whilst I had a Cosmo - much sharper than yesterday in a very smart glass. We quickly got ready for dinner. Whilst ironing the shirts, I overheard a woman saying that she didn't think Ventura was as good as Canberra! As Ian later pointed out, on Canberra passengers had to share bathrooms. Perhaps she missed that experience. We have both overheard a number of facile complaints recently, including that the East and White Room restaurants are a waste of space; one lady suggested that the space should be used for sun loungers instead. You do wonder whether some of these people even read the brochure before booking, or whether they come intending to complain. At dinner, I began with a goat's cheese and tomato tartlet; Ian had potted shrimps, although the layer of butter was very thick. We both had a delicious tomato and pepper soup. My main course was a venison, pheasant, bacon and mushroom potpie. This was individually made, and came with succulent gravy. Ian had a beef stroganoff served with saffron braised rice, which he really enjoyed. For dessert, I had a layered chocolate mousse with mille feuille, and Ian had vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce. I also had some cheese tonight, together with a bottle of wine and a brandy. Ian had cocktail of the day - a Hurricane, incorporating dark and light rum and fruit juices. After dinner, we joined Janet and David and their friends for the ABBA tribute band again. This was as much fun as last night, and we had better seats so we were able to appreciate the performance as well. For the encore, the audience were encouraged to get up and dance. Janet was quite tipsy by this time (it was their anniversary), so we joined her on the dance floor for Dancing Queen (of course) and Waterloo. Ian and I were drinking Apple Cosmos, so this helped our enjoyment. Immediately after the show, the Family Quiz was being held in Havana. We decided to participate, as we haven't been doing very well at the Syndicate Quiz. We managed to identify all the celebrities in the picture round, as well as answering most of the general knowledge questions correctly. We were also able to identify eight out of the ten Mr Men in that round! In fact, we did so well that we were joint first with fifty points, however, it being a family quiz, we decided to forfeit the tie-breaker round (which we would have won as well). All in all, a fun experience, even if it did involve beating a load of children! Buoyed up by our success in the Family Quiz, we headed-off to the Syndicate Quiz. This proved to be less successful. Tonight, we only scored 12 points, although there were some very difficult questions. Ian scored at least two points on his own, knowing that the Red Arrows end with a Vixen Turn and that Tim Rice was the lyricist for The Lion King (Note from Ian - I also knew that 'Lost in Translation' was set in Tokyo). We didn't know that it was Parris who killed Achilles or that number 2 is next to 13 clockwise on a dartboard. We are going to have to do some serious revising if we are going to improve for tomorrow! David has forgotten to give Janet an anniversary card - apparently he bought one, and then lost it in the cabin somehow. The situation wasn't improved by the fact that Ian had bought a very nice card of Venice... Day 5: Tuesday 5th August 2008 - At Sea The clocks went forward another hour in the night, so we both ended up having a lie-in this morning. We are now two hours ahead of BST. The weather is lovely and there is a nice breeze coming off the sea. Ian slept in until 11.00, and then went to the spa for another treatment. I stayed in bed for a little while longer and then came down to Tazzine, the coffee bar, to complete the diary for yesterday. They have some tables at a good height for typing and it is very light; this is on deck five so they have large exterior windows that aren't obstructed by the promenade. I had a nice cup of tea, then Ian arrived and we went for some lunch. We decided that we would go to the main restaurant for a proper 3-course meal. We chose to sit with a group of people, and we had a very pleasant conversation about cruising on other ships and art. Ian had a Boddingtons battered Cumberland sausage with black pudding, followed by battered Hake and Victoria sponge for dessert. I had a prawn cocktail, followed by pitta bread toasty with ham and cheese (a bit dry), and some juicy blackberries with frozen yogurt. I had a glass of merlot and Ian had a sea breeze. After this, we had a very short stroll around the Promenade deck, looking out over the coast of North Africa. It is quite humid today, although sunny with a moderate breeze. We took some photographs and then Ian posed at the very front of the ship a la Titanic. As we had been discussing art at lunchtime, we went to the art gallery to listen to a talk on the featured artist, Rolf Harris. Unlike other ships, there are no hard sells on Ventura and certainly no art auctions. This is a big improvement. The talk was very informative, with details about his career as a swimmer and some of his achievements as an artist, for which he is not as well known as his TV work. They had nine prints to discuss, which showed a wide range of artistic styles and subjects. The final painting was called 'The Red Umbrella' and was very impressionist: it showed a snow scene in Paris, with a girl standing beneath some trees with... a red umbrella. Ian liked it so much he decided to buy it. Including delivery and framing, it cost £680, which is quite reasonable for a limited edition. The presenter was very knowledgeable although he did jump around a lot due to nerves. It was now time to do some more relaxing. We went to the Red Bar to sit on some of their large sofas: I read and Ian listened to some of his music. I have nearly finished my book - it is a bit boring and there are too many characters, but it is a bit of a personal mission so I will persevere. After the bar had officially opened, I ordered a Cosmopolitan and then we decided to get ready for dinner. Tonight, I began with a very moist wild mushroom risotto, flavoured with parmesan and pesto - delicious. Then I had cream of fennel and leek soup, with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for the main. Ian didn't have a starter, and chose the same soup and main course as I did. I chose cheese for my final course, and Ian had two desserts; he started off with a orange soufflE and then had Eton mess with marshmallows. I continued with my usual choice of wine followed by port, and Ian had a glass of Moet. We wanted to go to the theatre tonight, so we needed to set off straightaway after dinner. There was a cabaret act on tonight called 'Smart Move', two male singers who we had seen before but couldn't remember, so we assumed that they would be OK. They were very cabaret. The one that sang the falsetto parts also had a sore throat, so at times struggled to hit his high notes. The Ventura Orchestra was excellent and accompanied them well. After this concert, we joined Kay and Paul and Alvin and Sheila in the Red Bar for cocktails. Kay and Paul had had an early start this morning, as they had assumed we would be in Cephalonia today. As they were getting dressed, their steward asked them where they were going; he politely reminded them that there would be no excursions today as it was a sea day and there was nowhere to go. The atmosphere in the bar was relaxed, and we were listening to the pianist, Agnes Toth, playing. We left for the syndicate quiz at 10.50. The attendance at this is gradually rising and the restaurant was quite full tonight. It is also getting quite rowdy - don't people realize the seriousness of this activity? We have improved on our score: fourteen tonight. We made some silly errors though, which cost us the game: the most popular pub name in England is the Red Lion; a crystal anniversary is fifteen years; the Jubilee Line is the only underground line to connect with all the other lines. We will get better though. For next year, we will need to revise our anniversaries and Greek and Roman gods e.g. Morpheus who is the Greek god of dreams. Just before going to bed, we decided to go to the all-night buffet (as if we needed more to eat!) This is held in the Beach House restaurant on deck 15 aft. They had a selection of cold meats, salads, sandwiches and Eastern dishes left over from the Oriental buffet. We contented ourselves with a couple of sandwiches and some water and then went to bed. We had an information leaflet in our cabin when we returned, telling us about the transfer options for Venice. Last year, there was a free water shuttle from the cruise terminal to St Mark's Square; this year it will cost £8 per person! We have decided that we will walk. Day 6: Wednesday 6th August 2008 - At Sea Ian was up fairly early again this morning. He went to the spa and then had his hair cut in the salon. I was up before eleven for once and so was able to meet him in Tazzine for tea. We wrote up the diary and Ian did a video chat with his mother: the wireless reception was surprisingly good. He was able to show her the view around the coffee bar and Atrium. At this point, I want to mention my only real complaint about Ventura: capital letters. All the notices and signs around the ship are all written in lower case, which is really annoying. I hope they decide to correct this error soon. I am tempted to buy a red pen and go around and do it myself! (Note from Ian - It is not bothering me at all). The weather is excellent again. The sea is calmer than yesterday - we can hardly feel any motion at all. It feels like sitting in a big hotel on land. There is a slight haze, and there is a light breeze. The midday announcements from the bridge keep us informed of our position. Today we are in the Sicilian Straits, between Italy and Tunisia; we will soon be turning to enter the Adriatic. The junior officer responsible also gives us some daily trivia; today he explained the origins of the terms port and starboard. For those of you that don't know, starboard is a corruption of the word steer-board (a type of oar used before the invention of the rudder), which was usually placed on the right side of the ship. To avoid damaging this steering oar, ships would dock with the left-hand side of the ship against the port. Now you know. We chose to have lunch in the main restaurant again as neither of us had had breakfast again. We both chose the same starters and main courses: Greek salad followed by Cumberland Sausage and mash. Ian then had mango mousse cake and I had some cherry ice cream with melba sauce. We sat with some very nice people, and Ian talked with them about musical theatre. One lady was a keen theatre-goer and had been to see the original West End productions of My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. After lunch, we decided to go to another art talk in the Tamarind Bar. We were introduced to four contemporary artists and their different styles, which ranged from naïve teddy bears to impressionist seascapes. I liked the seascapes but Ian didn't. I guess we won't be buying that one… We then decided to go and read in the Red Bar. I managed to finish 'The Children of Hurin' which proved to be very unsatisfying in the end - everyone dies and the hero and heroine (brother and sister) end up marrying. Nice. I then started my next book, 'Matter' by Iain M Banks. This should be much more challenging and interesting. He also uses complex sentences, which will be a refreshing change from Tolkien. Ian went for a walk around the upper decks and we met back at the cabin at about 5 o'clock to get ready for dinner. I trimmed my hair and we ironed the dress shirts - it is the second formal night tonight, with a black-and-white theme. We managed to be the first to the table tonight! We both started with a duck and orange pate with a tiny fragment of bread to put it on. Ian then had the celeriac, apple and blue cheese soup, whilst I had the chicken consomme. Ian went off-menu for his main course, asking if he could have a steak. Normally this is on the menu as part of the 'always available' selection, but this cruise these options are missing. However, if you ask, you can still have them; perhaps they are still trialling the kitchens before increasing the range of dishes. I had a very tender braised steak. For dessert, Ian had profiteroles and I had a cheesecake followed by some Roquefort cheese. Ian had a Bay Breeze cocktail to drink, and I had a bottle of Pinotage followed by an Amaretto. We left quite early to go to tonight's show. The company are performing a special version of 'Saturday Night Fever' that has been devised for performance on board cruise ships. The theatre was full by the time the curtain went up. It was quite entertaining, although they missed out the sex and suicide. There were a number of unresolved plot lines, but the dancing was excellent and the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The sets and lighting were also very good, and it was good to watch a fully-rounded production rather than the usual concoction of tenuously linked songs and dance numbers. We discovered that Barbara is a seasoned cruiser. Her first voyage was on the original Mauritania, and she had sailed around the Mediterranean, visiting places like Tangiers. She recalled that all the tables had lips on them to stop the crockery and glassware sliding off during the meal. As the Red Bar was full, we went and sat in Ramblas with Paul and Kay after the show. This was quiet and they had a guitarist playing live Spanish music, adding to the relaxing atmosphere. Eventually, it was time for the syndicate quiz. We met the team in the restaurant and began to play. It wasn't until about half way through that we realized that we were actually in the lead! We hung onto this and scored sixteen, which put us in first place! I had to go to the loo to listen to the answer to the last question. We were all very pleased, although the prize is nothing special: a bottle of wine. However, we achieved a good score and beat everyone else, without the need for a tie-break. We were very fortunate with the questions tonight… After our victory, Ian and I went for celebratory snacks in the Beach House. Whilst there, we were mistaken for the bad cabaret, Smart Move, which was not very flattering. Having put the passenger right, we went to bed, very pleased with our achievements that evening. Day 7: Thursday 7th August 2008 - Cephalonia The ship arrived in Cephalonia and began disembarking passengers at about 8 o'clock this morning. A number of excursions had already left by the time we were able to haul ourselves out of bed. This year, we have decided to spend the day in the port of Argostoli; last year we toured the island. We had a light breakfast of fruit and then went to collect our tickets for the tender transfer to the quayside. Previous passengers have complained about the time it takes to disembark Ventura, however we didn't have a problem at all. By the time we were ready to get off, they had already transported 1500 passengers ashore. We were able to get our tender tickets and board immediately. We were moored slightly further out in the gulf than last year, probably due to the size of the ship, but the journey took no more than ten minutes. We were able to sit outside, something we have never done before, and Ian videoed whilst I took photographs. The temperature is expected to reach at least 33 degrees today. There was a slight breeze coming in off the sea, but we were sweating by the time we reached the quay. Ian decided to buy a new sun hat, and then we walked along the harbour toward the bridge that crosses the lagoon. Whilst walking along, we saw a turtle feeding from one of the fishing boats. This was fascinating - I never expected to see one so close to land and people. It appeared completely unconcerned by all the tourists and boats. We stopped at the Haagen Daz cafe so that Ian could have an ice cream sundae and I could avail myself of their facilities. I have decided to experiment with my camera and try taking pictures of people as well as windows. We were able to take some very interesting pictures of local people that should hopefully say something about the places we visit. I will try to continue with this as we make our way around the Adriatic, although I am going to have to learn to be quicker! We walked as far as the causeway that crosses the bay, creating a man-made lagoon. This was built by the British out of old masonry and sunken arches and provides a handy pedestrian, bicycle and motorbike link with the main part of Cephalonia. We walked about two-thirds of the way across, out to a monument, and then headed-back. We were able to see Ventura in the distance. It really is a huge ship and dwarfs everything in the foreground. We walked back a different way to the tenders, which took us away from the quayside into Argostoli itself. It is quite a pretty town, if rather modern and low-rise - an earthquake flattened most of the town in 1953. It was still quite busy, even though it was getting hotter and hotter. We wandered down the main shopping street, which is very attractive and paved with marble, and bought a postcard for my mother. Then we walked back to the quayside and boarded a tender that left almost immediately. We had spent nearly three hours in the town, and were looking forward to some air-conditioning and a public toilet! Once back on board (1 o'clock), we went up to the Waterside buffet for lunch. We both had chips and ham (I added some salad) and then Ian had jam roly-poly with custard, whilst I had a glass of wine and cheesecake. We collected the laptop and went to Tazzine for tea and to write-up the diary. I stayed here to read my book while Ian went and sat on the Promenade deck. I am making very good progress and it is much more entertaining; I have leant the other book to Paul. I went back up to the cabin at about 5 o'clock and we got ready for dinner, calling in at Karen and Ian's cabin at 6 to drink our winnings from last night - a bottle of Gallo white wine. Tonight is smart-casual / 60s and 70s themed. Neither of us tried very hard at this although I did put on my white trousers. We stopped to look at our soft-focus portraits taken the night before at dinner. I look quite good, but Ian isn't framed very well in his, so he probably won't be buying it. Ian started with a prawn and avocado salad, followed by ham hock and blue cheese soup. I had goujons of salmon, with vegetable consomme for my soup course. Ian had smoked pork for his main course, followed by lemon syllabub for dessert. I had Chicken Maryland. This consisted of: battered chicken breast; a banana in breadcrumbs; sweetcorn pancake; side of bacon; home-cut fries; barbecue sauce. I really enjoyed this and it wasn't as odd as it sounded. I finished with some goat's cheese and biscuits. Ian had a sea breeze cooler to drink, and I had wine and a cointreau liqueur. We chose not to go to the after dinner show as it was the bad cabaret we had been mistaken for and we didn't want to confuse the audience. Instead, we went to Metropolis; the sunset tonight was Sydney. The bar was quite full when we arrived, but quietened down quite a lot once the second sitting for dinner had started. The views over Sydney harbour were excellent and very well filmed. I had several cocktails and Ian had some Moet. There was little evidence of any 60s or 70s theme, although two people we sat next to were dressed up. After about an hour, we decided to try the Tamarind Club on deck 7. This is just off the Atrium, and has an Eastern theme. The seating is very comfortable and the service is prompt. Unfortunately, it is used a bit like a corridor, and many people pass through the back on the way to and from the theatre. We met with the people from our table and listened to the ship's band play some 'big band jazz' music. They were entertaining, although ten minutes late starting! Part way through, we left for the syndicate quiz. We were starting on minus one tonight, as we had been the previous winners, but this didn't make much difference as we lost quite badly - we were a long way behind the eventual winners as we only scored twelve. I think we have peaked… Day 8: Friday 8th August 2008 - Dubrovnik We tried to get up earlier again today as we would only be in Dubrovnik until 3.30. After a fairly quick breakfast of fruit and pastries, we were ready to leave by about 10.00. We were up on deck 16 at this point, and we decided to watch another huge liner arrive; the MSC Poesia, an Italian ship. She is slightly smaller than Ventura. We are docked at the cruise terminal this year, instead of off the old city, so Poesia had to perform a 180 degree rotation to be able to reverse into the marina behind us. It is amazing just how maneuverable these big ships are. We filmed this for a while, and then made our way down to the quayside to catch the shuttle bus into Dubrovnik itself. There was quite a long queue, even though they were operating eighteen coaches to transport people the five kilometers. It moved forward very quickly and we weren't in the hot sun for very long. It is also quite humid today, which is making it feel much hotter than 32 degrees. The shuttle bus journey was quite quick and we were dropped of outside the Pile gate at about 10.45. This year, we have decided that we won't be walking the walls as we did this last year; instead, we are going to walk through the old city. The walk around the walls is about 1¼ miles, but it is hotter than last year and would definitely be uncomfortable. The walls date from the 10th Century, but were much improved upon from the 1400s. Virtually all the damage from the wars in the 1990s has been repaired and the city is stunningly beautiful, hence being a UNESCO World Heritage site. We spent some time roaming through the western part of the city, full of narrow streets and little shops, and walked toward the port. The temperature was rising, so we walked a little way around the edge of the city to get some of the breeze coming off the sea. We also popped-into the aquarium which is built underneath the castle; it was reasonably well kept and worth the 30 kuna each (about £4). By now, it was nearly midday, so we decided to walk back up the main street (Placa) and catch the bus back to the ship. We did some souvenir shopping (Ian bought a nice t-shirt) and had an ice cream. When we got back to the Pile Gate we had a problem leaving; so many people were trying to use the main entrance to come into the city that nobody could actually get out. There was one policeman attempting to marshal the crowds, but he wasn't doing a very good job of it. After consulting our map, we realized that there was one other way out, which involved walking up the steep steps in the east of the city to another gate. We decided to do this rather than waste our time with the crush, and it was much easier. The climb wasn't too bad, although we were very hot by the time we reached the top. It was then a short walk skirting the walls of the city to bring us back to the pick-up point. The traffic was very heavy on the way back to the ship, and there were a large number of coaches trying to use quite narrow streets. As vehicles aren't allowed into the old city, everybody gets dropped off at the same place; this makes for some severe congestion. I am not sure how the locals cope with all of this, but certainly Croatian drivers are almost as insane as Parisian ones! We got back to the ship at about 1.30. We went to have some lunch at the Frankie's Grill (burger bar) for a change. Ian had a grilled chicken breast and I had a cheese and onion burger. These are prepared fresh and are very tasty. Service was swift. Ian had a cocktail of the day (Hurricane) and I had a glass of wine. We went to the buffet then so that Ian could have a warm dessert; Eve's pudding today. After lunch, Ian had booked another massage for his shoulders. This left me to write up the diary and to do some more reading. After a while I was feeling a bit sleepy so I went back to the cabin to lie down and then fell asleep for an hour and a half. Then it was time for dinner, so we had to rush around a bit to get ready in time. Tonight, we both started with a ham rillette (a type of coarse pate). I then had the beef consomme with fennel followed by roast gressingham goose. This was OK, but it was a bit chewy. Ian had the same soup, then a steak followed by sticky toffee pudding. I tried a new wine tonight - a shiraz which was enjoyable. Ian just stuck to water. After dinner, we went to watch the entertainment in the main theatre. Tonight it was Zoe Tyler (famous for being the singing coach on 'Joseph' and 'Maria', as well 'Loose Women'). She performed a variety of musical numbers including 'Send in the clowns', a Supremes medley and 'I dreamed a dream' from Les Miserables in which she had played Fantine for two years. She was excellent, having excellent pitch according to Ian. Afterward, Ian bought her CD and got her to sign it for him. We went to bed early tonight, as we wanted to be up to watch the sail-in to Venice. Last year, we had watched the sail-away past St Mark's from the back of Oriana, but we won't be able to do that this year as we will be at dinner. We were in bed by 10 o'clock for a 6.30 start. Day 9: Saturday 9th August 2008 - Venice We actually managed to get up on time this morning! We both woke up at 6.30 and got ready quite quickly so that we were both on deck by 7 o'clock. We went to deck 17 to get a good view. Quite a lot of people were also up and about by now, and we were all able to watch the approach to the lagoon and the sail-past with a commentary provided by the excursions team. We sailed past St Mark's Square at 7.30 precisely - what excellent timing by the Captain. We had already been pre-ceded by a Royal Caribbean liner and MSC Poesia, so goodness knows what the Venetians must have thought. It was quite dramatic sailing past Venice - Ventura dwarfed the city. The light is much different from last year, with the early morning sun being in the west rather than setting, and we were able to take some very good video and photographs. The Alps were very clear in the distance as well. We docked by 8.15 and people were beginning to get off. We decided to have a large breakfast today as we weren't sure how long we would be out. We went to the Bay Tree restaurant. Ian had bacon, egg, sausage and beans; I swapped the egg for hash browns and fried bread. It was very hot, although seemed to take quite a while. We had plenty of tea and toast in the meantime. By 9.30, we had finished and were ready to get off. We had chosen to catch the shuttle bus for the short ride to Piazzale Roma, in the far west of the city, rather than pay £8 for a water shuttle to St Mark's. From Piazzale Roma, we walked roughly east toward the Rialto Bridge, retracing some of our steps from last year. It was very quiet and hardly anybody was about at this time. It was quite cool and there was a lot of pleasant shade from the tall buildings. This was just as well as neither of us had bought hats or put on sun protection - whoops! Most of the shops were also closed, so we were able to concentrate on our photography and videoing. Everywhere you turn there is a photo opportunity; Venice is one of the most perfect cities we have visited. Even the graffiti adds to the atmosphere. By the time that we got to the Rialto, the city was coming to life. We stopped at the fish market to photograph some of the stallholders and local people, as well as wondering how we would go about cooking an octopus. The temperature was beginning to rise by now, and there was a slight odor from the Grand Canal, but nowhere near as bad as some people make out. The Grand Canal was very busy, with gondolas, Vaporetti and private launches making their way up and down this waterway. After crossing the Rialto, we turned right and walked a little way along the canal, before heading east again toward St Mark's. We were buying a few souvenirs and gifts as we walked along, including some jewelery for my mother and picture frames for my sisters. St Mark's Square wasn't hugely busy, but as we had spent some time here last year, we made our way across it, past the Basilica and Doge's Palace to the Giudecca Canal, bumping into Janet, David, Karen and Ian on the way. Here we turned left, walking past many brightly-coloured palaces toward the east end of the island. We crossed several bridges, before turning down a wide street called Via Garibaldi. This looked very attractive, and is the widest street we have seen in the city. It had a very 'local' feel to it - not many tourists had made it down this far. There were one or two galleries with some beautiful Murano glassware on display, but mainly there were small bars and cafes, grocery shops and butchers. The buildings were very well maintained and picture-postcard perfect. There was also some shade, which was nice as we were both beginning to burn. Via Garibaldi took us down toward the Arsenale and the parks. We walked through a residential area, taking photographs of the locals and their washing! Clearly, Saturday is wash-day and people had hung their laundry from their windows across the narrow streets; even this added to the authenticity of the views, and the smell of soap powder was strong in the air. We reached the park and wandered through the trees, spotting lizards along the way. By this time we had reached the Biennale art gallery and then decided to turn back and walk along the canal back toward the centre of Venice. It was now time for some refreshment, so we found a lovely restaurant beside the Giudecca. Ian had spaghetti Bolognese and I had carbonara - not very adventurous but delicious. We both had a glass of prosecco and watched all the traffic on the canal. It was very hot now and we were glad of the shade provided by the parasols. After lunch, we decided to walk through the streets back to St Mark's, taking a different route that would bring us in from the east. This involved several wrong turns and dead-ends, but this is all part of the fun of Venice. Some people were trying to use maps, but this is pretty pointless. The best thing to do is just to look for the three of four main signs - San Marco, Rialto, Piazzale Roma and Accademia - and guess. On the way, we found a small gift shop selling some contemporary glass pendants; these were made by the owner himself and are quite different from some of the usual designs. We bought several for presents and chatted to him for a while. Once in St Mark's again, we made use of the galleries to head to the western end to find the posh shops. We found our way to Prada quite easily, where we bought a pair of shoes and a shirt. The only thing left to do now, was to buy Ian a meringue. We managed to do this on the way back to the ship. By now, we were quite tired (we had walked a long way for us) and were quite hot. We had also taken lots of photographs and were ready for a cup of tea. We were able to navigate with some reasonable success, crossing the Grand Canal by the Rialto and then following most of the signs to Piazzale Roma. We arrived just in time to catch the shuttle bus back to the ship, and were back on board by about 4 o'clock. Heading to the Waterside buffet, we got ourselves some light snacks (cake, potato wedges, samosas and sandwiches) and then went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. The theme is tropical / pirate tonight. Fortunately, we brought some appropriate tropical attire! The menu had quite a Caribbean theme tonight. I started with a banana wrapped in bacon and roasted; Ian had some melon. We skipped the soup course. Ian chose a sirloin steak for his main, whilst I had lamb fajitas. This was well-seasoned and very juicy. For dessert, Ian had ice cream and I had some cheese. This year, the tables were decorated with leis, although the waiters weren't wearing tropical shirts. We were sailing out of Venice during the meal, but we are close to a window so we were able to watch the sights go by. The entertainment tonight is a deck-show entitled 'Plunder'. It is about pirates, so basically plunders the songs of Gilbert and Sullivan. I was reluctant to watch this, but Ian was persuaded to by Karen. We watched the first few numbers and then left. It was not good. The set was interesting, and made use of one of the pools. Very Disney. We went to Metropolis for a drink. The theme tonight is New York, and there was some very interesting footage of people in Times Square, and the East River. The theme cocktail was a Manhattan, although this was quite bitter. Ian had a glass of Moet and I had an Apple Cosmo. After a while, we went down to Havana. The girls from ABBA Eyes were doing a new show tonight as the Cover Girls. Basically, they sang a lot of songs made famous by women. Whilst not really imitations, they were delivered with good humour and the right notes. We sat with Alvin, Sheila, Paul and Kay and had a good time, although there were some rowdy teenagers behind us whom Ian enjoyed 'shushing'. Finally, we went to the syndicate quiz. We scored 15 tonight - a slight improvement, but nowhere near good enough to win. Again, there were some silly mistakes made by us, and some controversy about who the American president was that bought Florida from Spain in 1919. The winners were not very gracious either. Still, "it's just for fun", so we don't mind. By the time we had finished, we were ready for bed, after such an exhausting but exciting day. Day 10: Sunday 10th August 2008 - Korcula We were up fairly early again this morning as we were going on our excursion. We had breakfast in the Waterside buffet and then went to collect our stickers at 9 o'clock. Korcula is a Croatian Island and is part of Dalmatia. Over the years it has been belonged to lots of different people (Venice, Dubrovnik, France and Britain) but had remained relatively undeveloped as a resort. This has meant that it is quite pretty and unspoilt - there aren't the high-rise developments of some resorts. The main town is walled like Dubrovnik, and is set on a small peninsular. The streets are very narrow and laid out in a fish bone plan. This is supposed to reduce the strength of the wind and provide lots of shade during the day. As we sailed up the main channel, we were reminded of some of the Norwegian fjords we had visited two years ago. There is a very refreshing breeze that constantly blows in off the Adriatic, making the channel between Korcula and the mainland peninsular of Peljesac one of the best places for windsurfing in Europe. We saw plenty of evidence of this today. It also means that even on a hot day like today, it doesn't feel unbearable. We boarded our tender at 9.15 for the short journey to the quayside. From there, we boarded another small tourist boat that was to take us to the mainland for our wine tasting experience. This journey lasted about fifteen minutes and we passed some beautiful coastal scenery. There are some tall mountains here, with little red-roofed villages along the shoreline. After boarding the coach, we drove from the small port of Orebic up into the mountains, following a very winding and precipitous road; fortunately this didn't seem to worry our coach driver. The landscape changed quite dramatically, but once we had got to the top, we began to pass the vine terraces and olive groves. There are lots of small vineyards along the roadside, a remnant of communism in Yugoslavia. Apparently, people were allowed to grow vines but couldn't make their own wine; instead, state-owned companies bought the grapes and mass-produced the wine. These days, the vineyards haven't really grown in size, and produce small amounts of local wines that aren't really exported. The first winery we visited was very small and family-owned. We tried a glass of white and a glass of red, both made using a local variety of grape. The owners spoke to us about their production. The best wines come from the highest vines, as these have less humidity and better soil. After leaving this winery, we traveled back toward Orebic to our second vineyard. Here, we were given another talk, followed by lunch and red and white wine. Lunch consisted of a very flavoursome lentil soup, goat and sheep cheese, ham, anchovies, tomatoes and bread. This was very pleasant, but we could have done with some water as well. Some people bought some wine, and then we drove back along the coast to Orebic and our boat back to Korcula. Overall, it was an enjoyable excursion, with good commentary and beautiful scenery, although it was a little expensive for what we got. When we returned to Korcula, we walked around the old town, enjoying the sun and breeze. Ian had an ice cream and I had some water. We found the house and souvenir shop where Marco Polo was allegedly born and then caught a very bumpy tender back to Ventura. Once back on board, we watched the large number of windsurfers shooting backward and forward and then went to have some tea in the buffet. I then sat in Ramblas to write the diary and Ian went to read on the Promenade deck. After changing, we went for dinner. I had two starters tonight, instead of soup: a taco shell with mixed bean salad and then a Caesar salad. I followed this with a main course of pheasant, and then cheese. Ian started with the Caesar salad followed by broccoli soup and then gammon for his main course. His dessert was peach melba. He had a blue lagoon cocktail whilst I had a bottle of pinotage followed by a Drambuie (Note from Ian - I tasted the Drambuie and would rather wash brushes in it). Zoe Tyler was performing in the main theatre again tonight, with the dance instructors performing two exhibition dances: a tango and a foxtrot. They were good, although not a patch on Darren and Lillia from last year. There was a quick change of set, and then Zoe came on to sing. She was as good as her previous performance, although she was let down a bit by the stage management who hadn't put out her mic stands and equipment properly because they hadn't had enough time. (Note from Ian - It was quite amusing to see her disappear from the stage to go looking for the mic stand). She sang a range of West End hits, as well as a very entertaining Barbra Streisand medley. The lighting was excellent. After the show, we went to look around the shops. Ian bought a very nice reasonably priced Jacques Lenans F1 watch to replace his Tissot that he has had for four years. Then we sat in the Red Bar with Paul and Kay; she is not doing very well at taking photographs so we offered some tips. Then it was time for the syndicate quiz. We weren't able to sit in our usual place tonight and had to sit at the back of the restaurant. We scored 16 points tonight, equaling our previous winning score, although this still only put us in second place. We learnt that Queen Anne knighted Isaac Newton and that the largest group of man-made islands in the world are the Palm islands in Dubai. It came down to a tie-break tonight, and Alvin and Sheila's team won. Well done to them! Day 11: Monday 11th August 2008 – Corfu We had a lie-in this morning, as we have been up quite early over the last few days. We got up at about 9.45 and then went for breakfast in the Beach House. We got off the ship at about 11.00 and caught the shuttle bus into Corfu town. The ride took quite a long time as there was a lot of traffic about. Apparently there is some sort of festival in town today. We were dropped off by the old port and then wandered through the streets taking lots of photographs of people and the souvenir shops. It is very hot today, although not very humid. However, we had had enough by about 1 o’clock, so we decided to make our way back through the town to the shuttle bus. We had visited Corfu last year, and we had already decided that we wouldn’t do too much today. We saw Janet, David, Karen and Ian in one of the swanky bars by the cricket ground and then walked around the sea front, sticking to the shade where possible. Two very efficient English ladies are managing the shuttle service. They clearly know what they are doing and handled the buses and traffic very well. Once back on board, we went to have lunch at the buffet. Ian had chips and ham, whilst I had some chicken tikka pieces, chips, croquettes and salad. Then we came down to the Red Bar to write up the diary and read. After a while, Ian decided to go and have a sleep in the cabin so I decided to get my book and read. I am really enjoying ‘Matter’; it is very witty and has a range of interesting characters. Paul has finished ‘The Children of Hurin’ and he more or less agrees with me about it. Whilst reading, I had a Cosmopolitan; the waiters now know my name and room number so I don’t have to bother showing my cruise card. Is that a good thing? They are no longer serving cocktails in the fancy martini glasses. My waiter told me that they have all been taken by passengers as souvenirs. Robbing bastards. At 5.30, I returned to the cabin to get ready for dinner. The dress-code tonight is casual / 80s and 90s, whatever that is supposed to look like. Unfortunately, I forgot my New Romantic outfit. Tonight, I began with a salmon terrine, followed by a delicious cream of roasted tomato soup – much better than Heinz. Ian started with chicken livers, followed by the tomato soup as well. My main course was a confit of duck leg and Ian had a steak again. For dessert he had rhubarb pie and I had cheese. Ian had a ‘Fun on the Beach’ cocktail and I had a bottle of Pinotage, followed by a Cointreau. There are several different shows on tonight, including a boy band called True Brit, a singer called Victor Michael and a classical concert. We chose to go and see the singer in the main theatre. He is from Manchester and has a broad accent and spiky hair. He chose a range of numbers, but performed several by Mario Lanza (who?) He is quite operatic and finished with ‘Love Changes Everything’, managing the high note at the end, which was very good of him. The concert was quite entertaining, if a bit old-fashioned. After the show, we decided to go to the shops in the Atrium. We bought two new dressing gowns and Ian got a Ventura t-shirt. Then we sat in the Red Bar listening to the pianist/singer, before going to the syndicate quiz. We didn’t do very well tonight, only managing to score 13 points. The questions were very hard tonight. The second full moon in a month is called a ‘Blue Moon’ and a myologist studies muscles. We did know that the word ‘salary’ comes from payments of salt that workers used to receive and that Oscar Wilde had nothing to declare but his genius upon arriving in America. It came down to a tie-break again. We may not be able to compete tomorrow, as there are several different entertainment events that we want to go to. Day 12: Tuesday 12th August 2008 – At Sea Today is our first day at sea for a while, so we were able to enjoy a lie-in. Ian got up at 9.15 to go for another deep-tissue massage and to relax in the thermal spa. This seems to be much quieter than on Arcadia. I stayed in bed until about eleven o’clock, before having a wander through the ship. We then met for lunch at about midday. It is warm outside, although there is a nice breeze. We are back in the main Mediterranean now and the sea is very glassy. Hopefully it will be like this all the way back to England. We went to the Waterside buffet for lunch. Ian had braised steak and chips, whilst I had haddock and chips with some salad. For dessert, I had fruit salad and a glass of wine and Ian had a chocolate and nutella roulade. Ian complemented the chef on the excellent food that is provided here. Whilst there isn’t a massive choice, there are usually about 4 hot dishes and a curry, with cold meats, a salad bar, dessert selection and cheeses. These are all excellent – by far the best buffet we have had so far on P&O. The food served in the main restaurants is also consistently good and hot. After lunch, Ian went to read on the Promenade deck and I sat in the Red Bar to write the diary. It is quite quiet inside the ship, even though everybody is on board (hopefully). Most people are on the upper decks sunbathing, so there is plenty of space lower down the ship. At 2 o’clock, I went to listen to one of the guest lecturers, who was talking about Marilyn Monroe today. He focused on her last week and the events that led up to her death. He was a little biased toward the theory that she was murdered by the Kennedys; this was borne out by the vote he held at the end. The audience agreed with him, although Ian and I are still not sure. It was an interesting way to pass forty-five minutes and we may try to watch his talk about Sinatra and the Mafia tomorrow, although it does start at eleven. We returned to the Red Bar to read. Ian then went for a sleep, whilst I continued with my book, enjoying a cocktail before returning to the cabin to get ready for dinner. It is formal night again, but I didn’t have to do any ironing as we have had our shirts laundered. At dinner tonight, we both chose the same food. We started with a twice-baked salmon soufflé, which was very hot and light. We then had cream of cheddar cheese and bacon soup followed by a duo of roast beef and roast veal. Then Ian had orange sorbet, while I had port-infused stilton which was delicious. We quickly hurried to the theatre as tonight the company are presenting the much-anticipated Andrew Lloyd Webber show, ‘Masquerade’. This has been produced in co-operation with The Really Useful Group and was presented to Dame Helen Mirren at the naming ceremony. We all really enjoyed it. The staging was excellent and there were a number of notable performances and fantastic costumes – clearly no expense had been spared. The company performed a selection of numbers from a range of shows, including ‘Cats’, ‘Song and Dance’ and ‘Phantom’. A number of us agreed that this was by far the best show we have ever seen onboard a ship. It is very humid tonight. Even inside the ship, it is quite warm, whilst outside there is condensation running down the side. I hope the air-conditioning doesn’t pack up. After the show, we sat with Paul and Kay in Ramblas for a while, then Ian went to watch his second show in Havana and I went to the syndicate quiz. Unfortunately, Ian had mis-read ‘Horizon’ magazine and got the time wrong, so he was forced to join us for the quiz after all. What a fortuitous mistake that was! It became clear by question 15 that we were going to win! We only got three questions wrong throughout the whole quiz. Who wrote ‘Spycatcher’? Which college did JFK and Mick Jagger both attend? How many Oscars did ‘Titanic’ win? Answers will be given tomorrow… We were all very giddy with excitement, especially David who nearly wet himself. It is fair to say that we slaughtered the opposition, our nearest rivals scoring fifteen points to our seventeen. We are very pleased with ourselves; the next challenge will be to win another quiz, and better Alvin and Sheila’s teams double win. Day 13: Wednesday 13th August 2008 – At Sea We woke late this morning, still giddy from the excitement of the quiz. We are at sea today, so this is an opportunity to rest and relax. We didn’t make it to the lecture; instead we went to Tazzine for some tea, although their hot water machine is broken so I had to make do with a Fanta. It was already time for lunch by the time we had sorted ourselves out and we decided to have a burger at Frankie’s. Ian had a chicken breast burger and I had a hot dog. We then went to the buffet to get a dessert and Ian had two: a fruit crumble and some roulade. I had a cheesecake. After this, we came down to the Red Bar to read. Ian finished his Nikki French and I carried on with my Iain M Banks. Ian had a wander around the ship and then at about 4 o’clock we went back up to the buffet for a cup of tea. Surprisingly, we didn’t have anything to eat! (Well, I had a very small pain au chocolat.) After tea, we went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. Tonight, we are eating in The White Room for a change. First, we met our teammates in Ramblas to drink our winnings from last night, a pleasant little vinegar. Dinner was really nice. The restaurant is ‘run’ by Marco Pierre White and features an Italian menu. It is very stylish, with a contemporary dark-wood design. There is a terrace outside with an awning and additional seats and tables. We sat inside next to the aft-facing windows and had a good view out from the rear of the ship. Upon arrival, we were both given a peach Bellini and a selection of Italian breads, including some very tasty cheese sticks. Then the waiter presented us with a complementary appetizer of melon wrapped in Parma ham. For starters, Ian had a thick pea soup with pancetta and I had antipasti of Italian meats and sausages. The obligatory over-sized pepper mill was almost as big as our waitress! Ian chose a chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms for his main course and I had a rib eye steak with rocket; both of these were really delicious. The main course came with deep-fried courgettes and potatoes. For dessert, Ian had a very light hot raspberry soufflé and I had a selection of Italian cheeses. To drink, I chose an Australian Shiraz followed by a Cointreau, and Ian had a glass of prosecco. Overall, the food was excellent, simple and uncomplicated and well worth the £20 additional charge. After dinner, we went to watch the second of Victor Michael’s shows. This had more of an Italian feel to it tonight (how appropriate) and was quite enjoyable, if aimed at a more senior audience than either Ian or myself. Then we went to the Red Bar followed by Metropolis; the theme in Metropolis was Las Vegas, and it was enjoyable to watch the busy strip and the fountains at the Bellagio. The cocktails also seem to be stronger up here. It was then time for the syndicate quiz. Yesterday’s answers are as follows: Peter Wright; the London School of Economics; eleven. We were on minus one tonight, although that didn’t make much difference to our relatively poor performance. As David says: pain is temporary but Victory lasts forever. We only scored thirteen, however this was by far the busiest quiz we have played yet. There were forty-eight teams. David had already won the pub quiz in the Exchange anyway. We don’t go to the Exchange; this is the ship’s ‘pub’ and is the only area on board where smoking is allowed inside. The Exchange is on deck 6, just behind the lower tier of the theatre. Unfortunately, it really does smell strongly of smoke, and this has a tendency to leak out into adjacent areas of the ship. It is pretty much a no-go area for many passengers. In recognition of this, from October P&O will ban smoking inside. I heartily agree with this decision, as there really is no need for it. We have heard some interesting gossip tonight. Apparently, two families have been put off in Corfu because they were fighting over sun loungers, and another two families are to be put off in Gibraltar tomorrow because their sons were fighting over a girl. You just don’t get the same class of people anymore...! Day 14: Thursday 14th August 2008 – Gibraltar We arrived in Gibraltar early this morning. We will be spending half a day here before setting off for the return to Southampton (quite long enough in my opinion). There was a heavy mist covering the Rock and we couldn’t see very far at all. It was still quite warm but very humid. It was very strange not to have bright sunshine, but the Captain assures us it will clear soon. Whist I was getting ready, Ian went to see if our suitcase had been repaired yet. When we were boarding, it had been damaged and the hard outer covering has been smashed in. We have been told that they will be able to fix it, although I can’t see that happening. We went to the buffet for breakfast. I had a couple of hash browns and some fruit. Ian had some melon and a pastry. By the time we were ready to get off the ship at 9.30, the weather hadn’t improved much. We have decided to walk to Main Street (about ten minutes from the P&O berth on the North Mole). Last year, we had taken a tour of the Rock including a cable car ride, so there isn’t much left for us to do. Gibraltar appears to be very British, although there are a lot of Spanish people around. It certainly smells like Britain. We walked the length of Main Street, occasionally popping into some of the shops, all of which were welcoming Ventura. This area is not really any different from most of the high streets in Britain, and is certainly not very attractive. There are the usual British stalwarts – M&S, Next etc. The prices don’t really seem any cheaper – perfume costs as much as on board the ship. The only items that are significantly less money are cigarettes and alcohol, and we’ve already bought these. We made a half-hearted attempt to look for a suitcase, and then walked to the Alameda Botanical Gardens. The Gardens were quite pretty; there was a lovely sunken area that was very lush. Unfortunately the place seemed infested with flies that annoyed Ian exceedingly, so we left after about fifteen minutes and made our way back to the ship. On the way, we bought a holdall to put some of our additional purchases in for £10. We were back on board by 11.30. Most of the mist had cleared, and the sun had come out so it was getting even warmer. We went for lunch in the main restaurant today. I had a chicken club salad to start, followed by hoi sin duck pancakes. Ian had mushroom soup followed by the same salad as me. For dessert, he had some pancakes and I had a small piece of cheese. Sadly, we were sat with some passengers who weren’t enjoying Ventura. Apparently, the cabin doors are too small, the armrests in the theatre are too narrow and the bathrooms are the smallest ever (Note from Ian – The doors are regulation standard size and the rooms are bigger than on any other P&O ship). This is all evidence of P&O’s penny-pinching according to the moaners. I don’t suppose they object to paying less than ever before either. We made our excuses and went to watch the sail-away at 1.30. Predictably, several passengers had to be paged to ensure they had made it back on board. Quite what they found to detain them in Gibraltar, I will never know, but the rest of the ship set off on time. Ian stayed on the Promenade at the prow end until we had cleared the breakwaters, and then we were off to the UK. We sat in our usual spot in the Red Bar for a while, reading, and then Ian went for a sleep. I stayed here until 5.30 because I wanted to finish my book. I really enjoyed it, even if the ending was a little bleak. I returned to the cabin to wake Ian, and then we got ready for dinner. Tonight, I began with a prawn cocktail, followed by a very rich scotch broth. My main course was a very large mixed grill, including pork and leek sausages, bacon, onion rings, mushrooms and tomatoes. Ian started with a cheddar cheese and pickled onion tart, followed by a steak. For dessert, he had apple crumble with ice cream and lots of custard. I had a nice piece of Shropshire blue cheese and a port. After dinner, we went to Havana to watch the singer Jade Adams. She is from Wakefield and used to play Rugby League before deciding to pursue a career as a singer. An unusual route. However, she was excellent and had a very powerful voice for a 22 year old. She just needs to develop her own style, rather than emulating the divas whose songs she sung. She had a very homely style and entertained her audience. Ian purchased her CD. In September, she will be releasing an EP, so we will look out for that on iTunes. Ian and I went to different events after the Jade Adams show. I went to the syndicate quiz and Ian went to see the theatre show – ‘Chronicles’, his review follows. ‘Chronicles’ is the signature show for the Ventura Theatre Company, or so Neil Oliver told us when he introduced it. The stage for the show had been significantly dressed with 4 video screens, two huge snakes on either side of the proscenium and various other jungle / temple sets. The show is basically about two explorers who encounter various tribes, animals and gods as they travel on their quest. The roles of the performers had clearly changed for this performance with the busy singers from the previous shows relegated to dancing and background tasks. The stars of the show this time were to be the adagio couple and the two male acrobats. With various pieces of music ranging from Disney’s Hercules, The Lion King and Tarzan to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings the performers entertained us with a slick and professional show. It was during the adagio couple’s main performance, in fact just before their bow, that the show stopped abruptly with an announcement from the Captain. Just before the show we had heard an announcement for an “assessment party” to make their way to Deck 7, Zone 3, but wondered what it was for. Well, the Captain’s message made it very clear. A number of people had reported the smell of burning on the open decks, and this is what was being investigated. The Captain made it very clear that a full check of the ship had been carried out and that everything was clear and no fire had been found. He had been in touch with the nearest authorities on land to ask if there were any environmental problems that could be causing the smell and it was confirmed that there were forest fires on shore. Within a few minutes the show was reset and continued, to great applause from the audience. Overall it was a great show, only spoiled by the attitude of some of the audience on the way out, who complained that the Captain should have waited to announce that the ship was not on fire until after the show had ended. Never mind putting 4,700 passengers’, crew and performers’ minds at rest, just don’t interrupt their entertainment. Selfish or what? Ian joined us for the last few questions of the quiz. It was a shame he hadn’t arrived earlier as our performance was rather dismal and he knew 2 of the answers we had got wrong. Only thirteen tonight. The only consolation was that the ship wasn’t on fire! Day 15: Friday 15th August 2008 – At Sea Today was another relaxing sea day. The weather is still bright and sunny, although it is noticeably cooler than before. We are sailing up the coast of the Iberian peninsular toward the Bay of Biscay. We slept in, getting up at about 10.30. Ian had been to the spa for a thermal treatment, although he didn’t stay very long. We went to Tazzine on deck 5 for a drink. Unfortunately, their coffee machine has broken so we made do with soft drinks. No spare parts until we get back to the UK. We also had a couple of muffins. As I have finished my book, I went to the Library to get another. I chose Thomas Harris’s ‘Hannibal Rising’. I have seen the film so I wanted to see what the book was like. We went for an early lunch again today. Ian had chips and ham and I had steak and Cumberland sausage pie with chips. We ate in the buffet again today. After lunch, we wanted to find somewhere quiet to read. There was a pianist in the Red Bar, so we thought we would try ‘Metropolis’; this was much quieter. We sat looking out over the back of the ship. Ian finished his Julian Clary - ‘Murder Most Fab’, the end was very disappointing; he then went for a walk. I stayed in the bar until 5.15, managing to finish ‘Hannibal Rising’ – quite gruesome, but with some more interesting plot twists and characters than the film. We both returned to the cabin to get ready for our final formal night, the Gala Dinner. On the way to dinner, we stopped in the Atrium to have our portrait taken on the stairs. Goodness knows what that will look like! At dinner, we only had Alvin and Sheila for company as the other four were going to the White Room for dinner. Ian started with an assiette of salmon followed by a lemon sorbet. His main course was beef Wellington. I began with baked Camembert, followed by a mushroom broth (very hot and thick), with beef Wellington for my main course. I also had a dessert tonight: a selection of mini chocolate desserts. I then had some brie and port-infused stilton, followed by a Drambuie. Ian had a raspberry soufflé for his dessert (Note from Ian – This was nowhere near as good as the one I had in The White Room). After dinner, we were a little stuck for entertainment. Unusually, there were no singers tonight and we didn’t fancy the comedian (Mick Miller). Instead, we went to the classical concert in the Tamarind Club. This featured a classical guitarist accompanied by a flute and backing track. They were quite good, although at times the combination produced some odd sounds. The Radetsky March? Following the concert, we went to first the Red Bar and then Metropolis for cocktails. The ship was quite busy tonight. Our final event was the syndicate quiz. We did quite well tonight, scoring fifteen, although the winning teams scored eighteen. Who was the astronaut who stayed behind in the Apollo 11 capsule? (Not the one who drew the short straw!) What is diplopia? What instrument did Benny Goodman play? What is important about 14th July 1955 in the UK? Answers to follow tomorrow! Day 16: Saturday 16th August 2008 – At Sea We had another lie-in today, eventually getting up at about 10.30. Our first call was Tazzine (still no hot drinks) where we had an Appletiser each and caught up on the diary. Ian spoke to some men about the merits of the iPhone and then we went for lunch at Ramblas. Just as we were leaving they repaired the hot drinks machine, good news. The weather was not that great, and most people were staying indoors as it had been raining. Despite this, the ship does not feel crowded. It was gradually clearing as we left the Bay of Biscay and made our way around Brittany toward the English Channel. Today, we had tapas. We had six bowls: two chorizo; patatas bravas; cheese and ham croquettes; prawns; ham and figs. I had a glass of wine as well and Ian had some Cava sangria. It was very reasonable at £5 for the food. After lunch, we decided that we should do our packing. This didn’t take that long and we managed to get it all done whilst finishing watching ‘Finding Nemo’ on the interactive TV. The interactive service is quite good; you can order room service and duty-free shopping, watch a wide selection of free TV and films and keep up-to-date with your spending (oh dear – we have spent much more than last year!) We have been watching ‘Nemo’ on and off for the last four days – the system remembers where you got up to and you can save it and continue when you want to. Once the packing was complete, I sat down to write the ‘Thank you’ cards and prepare the tips. As always, we have had excellent service from our waiters and stewards so we wanted to reward them well. Then I went for a cup of tea and some sandwiches at the buffet. Ian stayed in the room for a lie-down and then we went shopping. He bought an Emporio Armani ring from the jewelery shop and then we sat in the Red Bar for a drink. At about 5.30, we went back to the room to get ready for our final meal. Tonight’s meal was excellent, as usual. Ian started with an egg feuilette and I had some salmon rillettes. We both had a tasty pea and ham soup. Ian had a steak for his main course and I had beef cooked in Guinness with baby onions. For dessert, Ian had a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and I, predictably, had some cheese. The theatre company were staging their final show tonight called ‘Explosion!’ It was reasonably entertaining, with some excellent choreography, even if it seemed designed to show off their talents rather than entertain us. There were a lot of songs that we didn’t know, but they performed some popular numbers for ‘High School Musical’ and ‘Hairspray’. The staging was excellent, and tonight we were treated to some pyrotechnics! Following the show, we met Alvin, Sheila, Paul and Kay in the Tamarind Club for farewell drink. There was a band playing (too loud) and people were dancing (not us). We had an enjoyable time and then went to our final quiz. I am not sure why we bothered! We only scored thirteen tonight, but at least we are consistent. Last night’s answers are as follows: Michael Collins; blurred vision; clarinet; the last execution of a woman took place. (Thanks to Mr Loydon for pointing out that Donald Campbell also broke the world speed record on the same date) The only consolation is that Alvin and Sheila’s team won with a very commendable sixteen points. Well done to them again. Before going to bed, we watched an episode of ‘French and Saunders’ on the TV, and then went to sleep as we have a very early start tomorrow. Day 17: Sunday 17th August 2008 – Southampton We woke up at six o’clock this morning, a bit of a shock to the system! We needed to be ready to leave by 7.30, so after finishing the last bits of packing we went for a quick breakfast in the Waterside buffet. We spoke to our Assistant Waiter, Vivek, who is leaving the ship today to return to India for a holiday and then went back to the cabin. After struggling with all our baggage (two large suitcases, two trolley cases, one hold-all and a backpack), we disembarked at just before 7.30. I think we went out the wrong way, using the crew gangway, because we managed to miss the main baggage hall. We went through customs without having to show our passports and made our way easily to the car. The only hiccup was that the car’s battery was flat (Note from Ian – I will remember to turn off the Auto Lights and Wipers next time as they drain the battery even when not in use). Ian went back to the car park office and they immediately dispatched their Sure Start van to come and give us a jump-start. He arrived immediately and then we were off! We stopped once for a toilet break at Hilton Park services and made it home by 11.10, ironically about the time we would have been getting off the ship if we had used the disembarkation tickets originally issued to us. We made excellent time and had a good drive – no traffic problems. In future, we will definitely be going for the self-disembarkation option. We were unpacked and had our first load of washing on by noon. So, how to sum it all up? We both agree that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and think that ‘Ventura’ is an excellent ship. We have made some good friends and really liked the places we visited. The only thing that let the holiday down was having to endure the unreasonable complaints of other passengers. WE will certainly be writing a glowing review of the ship and would recommend sailing on her to everybody. We look forward to our Baltic cruise next year – only 354 days to go… Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
The first thing to say is that we had a really, really good time. Perhaps we're easily pleased, or uncritical, or something, but we found very little that was disappointing and nothing that seriously upset us or detracted from the ... Read More
The first thing to say is that we had a really, really good time. Perhaps we're easily pleased, or uncritical, or something, but we found very little that was disappointing and nothing that seriously upset us or detracted from the cruise. That said, we did pick the time and nature of the cruise carefully - I can imagine that a cruise in high summer, with up to 800 children on board, would be different. But on this cruise - 12 nights, late September/ early October, to the Canary Islands - we had a great time. The cabin was excellent. There isn't a huge amount of space around the bed, but there's enough. Most important of all is the walk-in hanging & shelf area, which takes up quite a bit of the floor area. This is an excellent use of the space, in our opinion, and the fact that all our clothes storage was away from the 'living' part of the cabin made the latter more friendly. One other benefit - it was god to have the walk-in hanging space between the main part of the cabin and the bathroom. We also enjoyed the balcony. it's quite a sun-trap; the weather on this cruise wasn't especially hot but when we got the sun on the balcony it was pretty roasting out there. There again, that might have been due to the latitude - at 28 degrees north, any direct sun is going to be fairly fierce. Food. Dinner: we were on Club Dining, and were assigned to second sitting in the Bay Tree restaurant. Our experiences at dinner were good. If I was being really critical then I might say that I sometimes found it hard to select a starter or soup (usually 3 starters and 2 soups on the menu). Val on the other hand had no problems with these but on occasion found that the main courses were a little fancy - by the end of the cruise she was yearning for plainer fare. One thing she has asked me to add - it wasn't clear from the menu that there were off-menu standard choices available, or what these were. She might have wanted to try them, especially if they were a bit simpler. Breakfast: we had breakfast in the Saffron restaurant every day. What we liked about this was that you could have as much or as little as you wanted, in civilized surroundings. I generally had just orange juice, Alpen & toast, but a few days I also had a single solitary poached egg. Val found room for a cooked breakfast more often than I did. Lunch: we started by using the buffet, and the food here was good. However we found that by the time we had put a representative sample of the available choices on our plates, they were piled high. So we looked for alternatives. Our favorite was tapas at Ramblas, which we had four times. Excellent. Twice we had lunch in the restaurant (Cinnamon, I think), which was very good; however, the occasions when I went to bed feeling really uncomfortable were these two days, I had simply eaten too much over the day. We did not take afternoon tea. Overall we were very happy with the food on board. Bars: we only used some of the bars. We never used Havana; just too brightly lit, too noisy, and how do you see the stage with those high partitions? We also never used Exchange - too smoky, and (in Val's opinion) not very attractive anyway. I was surprised to find that Exchange is basically the on-board pub - when I read the original marketing stuff about Ventura I'm sure it described Exchange as an 'urban warehouse wine bar', which sounded quite attractive. In fact, it's the ship's pub: smoky (though changed now, I believe), sports TV programmes, karaoke. We used Tamarind Club once or twice, usually connected with entertainment, and it was OK. That leaves the Red Bar, Metropolis and Ramblas, and we kept shuttling between these three. We enjoyed all of them; Ramblas in the middle of the day, Red Bar for pre-dinner (and occasionally post-dinner) drinks, and Metropolis for after dinner. The famous video wall didn't do much for me, to be truthful, but it certainly wasn't objectionable, just a bit strange. We liked the two 'round the corner' wings, from which you can see along the length of the ship. Entertainment: we picked and chose what we wanted. We saw two shows - one (Grand Illusion) was good, the other (Explosion) we didn't enjoy - very noisy. We also saw the comedian Martin Beaumont, and the entertainer Kevorkian. Other people seemed to have Jane Beaumont (singer) and a show of Lloyd Webber songs. Itinerary: A mixed bag. We hadn't realized that Santa Cruz and Las Palmas aren't really tourist destinations in themselves, so based on that we can't see what the fuss is about as regards the Canary Islands. However, Funchal was good, and we certainly very much enjoyed the three calls on the Iberian coast: La Coruna, Lisbon and Vigo. Will we go back on Ventura? Yes, if the right itinerary at the right price becomes available in 2010. Either Ventura or her soon-to-be sister ship: 2010 should be her maiden year. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Well what can I say..once we had booked I have looked at all the reviews that everyone have been leaving for the Ventura..all very mixed so in one respect I was a little worried to what we were going to find!! The only gripe we had was ... Read More
Well what can I say..once we had booked I have looked at all the reviews that everyone have been leaving for the Ventura..all very mixed so in one respect I was a little worried to what we were going to find!! The only gripe we had was when we arrived at the port to board the ship..we had to join a very long queue ..think it took the best part of an hour to board etc..but once we checked in at the desk we were on our way,just like airport check-in..once you have gone through the scanner you continue through another doorway and there is a photographer there snapping everyone as they go through..if I new itt was gping to be posted on the photo gallery boards we would have been a bit more enthusiastic and not looked so suprised..im sure you all know what I mean..looking at them on the gallery board there are some funny ones!!..anyway once aboard we could start our holiday.the Atrium is just fabulous..everywhere bigger and better than peoples pictures and video's..cabin towels changed twice a day..I think Jowel our cabin steward could have changed our sheets more than just the once though and that wasnt till the second week,also the carpet could have been vacuumed a few times aswell.our cabin was the 12th deck midship so we didnt have any noise..so that was a plus for us..think we would go for a window or balcony next time..as when you walk along the corridors you see other cabins with the doors open..so so bright,would be nice to wake up and look out the window .. The food is good so much to eat..if you want too,we had breakfast and lunch in the waterside and the beachhut..we had freedom dining so we had dinner in cinnamon..its huge!! excellent quality..service perfect..couldnt fault it at all.No way would you think you were at sea having dinner..just perfect. Entertainment was fine..(Fogwell Flax was very good comedian)Also Robbie Williams impersonater was very good also.. There were lots of more mature passengers onboard over the age of 65/70 plus..not many children,we didnt use the pools as the children were in them most daylight hours.. The sail aways were very entertaining..the last one leaving Gibraltar was the best I thought..and we did join in!! Lots of places you can go and have a sitdown in and have a drink...by the way you dont pay for tea/coffee etc when you are eating in the waterside or the beachhut..have as many as you like its self service. I thought there would be more shops onboard,also they have special sale days and bring out tables selling perfume,watches,jewellery etc but one of the tables looked abit like a carboot with loads of cheap bags and watches etc didnt look very good to me!! On the formal nights the photographers come out and ask if you would like your picture taken..as we all look very good with our posh togs on..range from £5.95 upwards think we purchased 5 in all..as they also take your picture when you go ashore..mind you ..you dont have to buy them if you dont want to..there were loads and loads unsold. We had good weather after a few dull days,we came home with a nice suntan which was even better. You do get a mix of people on the ship.. there was no noisey people on the cruise thank goodness..plenty of people in wheelchairs young and old,not a problem,plenty of lifts and stairs to keep you fit!! Sunbeds if you wanted one..plenty of them. You dont go to the bar for a drink the barstaff/stewards come to you all the time!!...prices are average,cocktails from 2.65 upwards . The Arena theatre is large but still if you dont get there early enough for the first show etc you wont get a seat..its a lovely theatre. Once again this was our first cruise on ventura..and yes we would love to go on her again..but wont do all the destinations..as we are supposed to be relaxing not getting up early to get coaches at 8am.. Also I took far to many clothes as you do..only 2 cases next time!! my husband and I are in our 50s/60s and we went with friends of simular age. Ventura we will be back. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
It's been about a week and a bit since we got back from our cruise, and finally am on top of the washing for me to be able to put down a proper review.Our cruise to tbe Baltics on Ventura (booked when they first opened bookings last ... Read More
It's been about a week and a bit since we got back from our cruise, and finally am on top of the washing for me to be able to put down a proper review.Our cruise to tbe Baltics on Ventura (booked when they first opened bookings last year!), was the first for me and my two sons.  The wife has been on Oriana before.Firstly, I will say that the new Ocean Terminal in Southampton, very efficient, and was impressed at how easy it was to not only get in, but how organised the embarkation was, it took about an hour from dropping the car off to being onboard.One matter that did keep recurring on the ship was the issue of the Norovirus that had been evident from a previous cruise.  Although you can see most staff were doing their best to play the seriousness of it down, the ship was in a state of red alert.  I think by the end of the cruise, the norovirus was pretty much contained, though it'll always be there.Took a while to get my bearings around the ship, found a few dead-ends sometimes, but that wasn't a problem.  The Tamarind club felt like it was a corridor most of the time which was strange, the Havana club is a nice layout at the back of the ship, and did host the Scalextric sessions during ship days.  Have to admit, I was a tad disappointed with the Scalextric, as I was anticipating a huge layout, and found one that was roughly 12' by 8', and also kept breaking down, but it was fun while it worked, especially when an octogenarian Iris, beat the pants off hardened boy-racers!!The Waterside restaurant was supposed to be self-serve, but due to the norovirus, had to be manned, which made it a manic visit in there and finding seats could be difficult.  Secret here is, don't be afraid to share a table with people, a cruise is supposed to be a sociable thing.  You wouldn't believe that a few times people just didn't want you sat at 'their' table!!  Each breakfast and evening we ate in Saffron, and our waiters were Rajesh and Santosh, two top blokes, very attentive and nothing was too much trouble.  Our wine waiter was Sid, who we found to be a great guy as well, and helpful.  The dinner menu's we found to be on the whole really nice, a good variety.  Yeah there were a few times things didn't go quite to plan, but they were sorted out quickly.Breakfast times, however were absolutely manic, and at times disjointed.  One other issue we found was that although we had asked to be put on a large table, we were put on a small table for four, which at times was a very tight squeeze.  Head Waiter was unable to move us, and even at breakfast times, we were put on the small tables, so did feel that although P&O advertise this as more of a family orientated ship, we were segregated from other people because we were a family.  But I digress.Reports from the boys about the kids clubs were that they were fantastic, and when we got onboard, found a good schedule for the whole cruise, and the boys were never bored, and at times, hardly saw them.  Think it helped on this cruise that there were only 80 children onboard.  Facilities in the kids clubs were good, and they defo liked the Cirque Ventura when it worked (weather permitting!)Disappointed that we never saw the captain, think at best I saw the Staff Captain about two or three times, but due to the norovirus, the Captain's Reception/Gala, was cancelled.  Most people were disappointed with this, which I concur with. Not expecting to become best friends with them, but to either hear or see the Captain now and then would be nice.Photographers on the ship have a difficult job in parts getting their photos right, and we found two stood out from the rest.  Lynette was defo one of them, and another chap whose name I forgot was the other, but they had a natural flair for it, and more often than not we bought some of their photos.There were four formal nights, and the rest was smart casual.  Formal nights were great, wife loves them, as she has a bit of a wardrobe for this, including her favourite blue sky dress.  Smart casual is something I take issue with.  Many a time I saw people wearing t-shirt and jeans in there.  Was not impressed with this, especially if in the case of my two boys, we were more dressed informally with ties and shirts for me and the boys, and a smart dress for the wife.  Think they need to have informal nights to maintain a decent standard.Cleanliness of the ship was patchy, with some of the cleaners either over-zealous, or slack.  Found the Arena theatre is way too small, and I think many people were disappointed to miss out on some good shows.The astronomy talks by de St. Croix (sp?) were well done, and if you do a Baltics cruise to Russia, hopefully you will get the guy we had, who knows everything about Faberge, Russian Dolls and all things Russian.We opted for an part-obstructed oceanview cabin with pullmans, but the view wasn't really obstructed, and was nice and comfortable, bigger than we anticipated.To summarise, although the cruise was a nice one, and we didn't let the few days of bad weather ruin things, just felt there was something missing.  Still can't put  my finger on it.  Will say wife and I were well rested after the holiday, which at the end of the day, says that it's worth it. I just think that the ship could have had a few better features on it, and I don't feel I got the true P&O feeling that I was expecting.Still the wife and the kids, plus mother-in-law are booked on Azura next year, so be interesting to see how it compares.  For me, the Baltics are definitely an area I would recommend you visit once or twice in your life.Would I go on P&O again?  Probably, but more than likely not on Ventura, unless I know that they've got on top of the ships issues.  There are so many other cruise companies out there with nice ships, you've got to try them all!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Our Baltic cruise was very nice. We didn't know any capitals of Northern Europe so we got an impression. The itinerary: We started in Southampton. The boarding was very easy and it didn't take many time. Every town was great - ... Read More
Our Baltic cruise was very nice. We didn't know any capitals of Northern Europe so we got an impression. The itinerary: We started in Southampton. The boarding was very easy and it didn't take many time. Every town was great - no matter whether Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Oslo or Kristiansand. Not many Baltic cruises have Norwegian ports - our cruises had!! 2 days in St. Petersburg are important to see all sights!!! The ship: The ship was very new and very clean. In comparison to Crown Princess there were some differences but not many. The crew was friendly and they did a good job. Very good: We could eat when we wanted to do that - no fixed eating times in the evening. The food was good and the ship had many restaurants, bars and eateries. There were many facilities to do something in your freetime. The stateroom: Our balcony stateroom was very beautiful. We could relax there on the big balcony. This was my cruise review. I highly would recommend this ship or the sister ship "Azura" for the Baltic cruises. I look forward to our Norway cruise (jul 17) on the same ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I will try to be positive but it's quite difficult.  You just got the impression that P&O and the crew found this ship just a bit beyond their capabilities.  You also feel Royal Caribbean would have had no such problems. We ... Read More
I will try to be positive but it's quite difficult.  You just got the impression that P&O and the crew found this ship just a bit beyond their capabilities.  You also feel Royal Caribbean would have had no such problems. We have only cruised once before - two years ago on Navigator Of The Seas.  A great ship, well run.  But we liked the Baltic city itinerary and fancied being a bit "posher" with P&O (or so we thought). So let's start with some positives: The evening meals in the formal restaurants were great.  Food was good quality and hot.  Good choice.  This was the best part of the ship.  We also enjoyed the made to order pizzas near the pool.  The buffet restaurant seemed to be liked by many but it was poor compared to Royal Caribbean. Freedom dining:  This worked well on the whole and we'd certainly take this option again. Bar prices are reasonable - basic pub prices. The deck space is good.  Lots of sun beds in a variety of locations but also options for chairs and tables. Good variety in the entertainment locations and seminar options. A well equipped gym.  I loved the mountain bikes with the screens to race round various tracks. Contrary to other reviews we've seen, we actually liked the cruise's entertainment director - his jokes were corny but funny. There are a number of good things on Ventura but some things you shouldn't have to experience: Getting late into ports.  We lost two hours of our visit to Copenhagen due to lateness and then being docked miles out from town despite all the information saying we would be close to the Mermaid statue.  Spoilt our plans for the day as there wasn't enough time.  We were also late for the next port. Queues - everywhere.  At least this was the case during the first week.  For breakfast, lunch, dinner; to get off the ship, to get a ticket for the shuttle. Seemed to get better in the second week, but that may have been that we went later to everything and avoided the queues. Lateness of programmed events.  On several occasions we were kept waiting whilst previous events were running late.  At one point, as paying customers, we were kept waiting outside the Tamarind Club for the Salsa class whilst a band rehearsed.  That was extremely poor. A dirty ship due to lack of cleaning (see below). The worst reception staff I've ever come across.  Never helped once.  They were content to simply say, "Your steward should deal with that" and never make sure it was dealt with for you.  If you wanted a form they never had copies at reception.  Instead you even had to see your cabin steward for the memo detailing how you should tip your steward!  We logged a fault with our bathroom on the second day - and then again on the fifth - but nothing was ever done about it. Add to that that we were told on arrival on the ship that they had experienced the dreaded Novo virus from the end of the previous cruise and would need to put various measures in place.  I'm not qualified to know whether the measures they took were sensible or appropriate but they certainly impacted badly on the cruise experience.  These measures included:   ·         Making the self-service Waterside buffet restaurant into a served one.  This meant staff standing serving everything in a space not designed for them - causing congestion. Closing the Beach House restaurant - because they were using the staff at Waterside.  This didn't open for the entire cruise. Not vacuuming anywhere. So by the end of the cruise the cabins and corridors were really dirty.  In the last few days some passengers, including myself were getting bitten. Introducing bacterial hand wash - as if this was not standard practice. Cancelling the Captain's Gala.  Additionally the captain was not to be seen by anyone until into the second week.  Rumours were going round that he wasn't on board - he was that invisible.  He took the Sunday service on the second week and was never seen again. Our cabin was fine.  We only went for the basic inside cabin - we don't intend to spend our cruise in there.  The same cabin type on Navigator meant a bigger space with a sofa, but we liked having the fridge plus tea and filter coffee. We enjoyed the dance classes and the opportunity to practice in the evenings.  But the dance floor was woefully small and unable to cope with the numbers. On the whole the entertainment was fine.  The shows were good but some of the solo singers were "samey".  The ships group, Powerhouse, were excellent.   Talks were good - we particularly enjoyed hearing Derek Redmond.  Entertainment was more varied and better quality on Navigator. We did enjoy the cities visited - Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn and Oslo all excellent. Overall, great places to go, but there's got to be a better ship to see it from.  You never felt there was anyone that really cared what you thought or that everything was okay for you.  Another itinerary, with better weather and no stomach virus going around, maybe others will think the ship is great.  At the end of the day we went to some great places and ate lots, morning noon and night.  So can't be a bad way to spend two weeks.  Will we cruise again?  Yes - in a couple of years, probably.  On P&O?  Possibly, but they are quite far down the list now.  We'd prefer to go back to Royal Caribbean.   On Ventura?  Seems very unlikely. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Well - we booked the cruise and then checked out the ship which was probably the wrong way round. We were a little anxious when we found out how big the Ventura was and how many children it may hold.  Oh well, it was booked and paid for ... Read More
Well - we booked the cruise and then checked out the ship which was probably the wrong way round. We were a little anxious when we found out how big the Ventura was and how many children it may hold.  Oh well, it was booked and paid for so we couldn't change our mind.  Glad we didn't!The pre-boarding was absolutely fantastic - the best we've done so far.  It was an apparently new terminal and we hardly waited 10 minutes before boarding. This was around noon and we couldn't go to our cabin until 2pm but we were told to go to the Waterside restaurant for lunch.  Waterside is self service which always makes me worry but needlessly so this time.  The food was of a high standard with a good variety. The salads were marvellous and, I'm sure, not very slimming!!We were allowed into our cabin just after 2pm.  It was an inside one and was very well fitted out. Two wide single beds which we pushed together - we probably could have asked our room steward, Clevy, to do for us.  He made the beds up into a proper, large double later that day.  There was plenty of hanging space and hangers in what I'd roughly describe as walk-in type of wardrobe.  Mirrors were everywhere to heighten the feeling of space and light and the bathroom facilities were good.Evening meals were 'anytime'.  Food was of a very high standard and the service very good most evenings although a couple of times it became a little slow but 2 out of 14 slow nights isn't bad. There were two swimming pools which were adult only and we spent most of our on board time near the 'pointy' end which had plenty of space.  Plenty of sun beds to be had and pool towels were supplied in our rooms.Entertainment was good although a little repetitive.  Lots of quizzes, shows, dancing places so something for everyone. We were lucky that a Scottish comedian was on board who was very funny - he did a Billy Connelly act the second time we saw him.The tours were also good.  We went to Pisa which was a half day trip and the Colloseum and other places in Rome which was full day and very, very tiring as it was so hot.  There was a lot of queuing to get on and off the ship at some ports, Barcelona being the worst.  Perhaps open another gangway and use more than one xray machine???So far good points. Now a couple of bad ones.The waiting staff in the Waterside and Beachside restaurants need to be trained to avoid walking into passengers - they seem to be very reluctant to move aside and one barged into me holding a heavy tray - very painful - he didn't apologise even though I'd moved over and was against the side tables.  He came back in about 5 mins and apologised which was a bit late and I wasn't very nice about it.  Then the restaurant manager came over and apologised.  I think the waiter must have thought about it and was worried about keeping his job if I'd complained.I do think P&O could refrain from charging for teas, coffees and soft drinks when around the pools, decks and bars.  They are free when in the restaurants though.Disembarking was very good and we actually left the ship about an hour earlier than scheduled.  We have now cruised with the Sea Princess (2004) which were impressed with, the QEII (2007) which was just fantastic and now Ventura.  I can honestly say we enjoyed the cruise but it just didn't compare with the very elegant QEII. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Having cruise previously with Island Cruises and Ocean Village we had come up with a "small" wish list for our next cruise. Namely- less casual, more traditional, better weather but still good children facilities, a great port ... Read More
Having cruise previously with Island Cruises and Ocean Village we had come up with a "small" wish list for our next cruise. Namely- less casual, more traditional, better weather but still good children facilities, a great port itinerary and of course a fabulous price deal! So not much to ask for and we were lucky enough to find a cruise which for us met and surpassed nearly everyone of our requirements. We booked Ventura just a few weeks before sailing and drove down to Southampton in just a couple of hours. Having no stressful plane journey was a real treat as was the joy of not having a luggage allowance to worry about. We managed, after a bit of a Krypton Challenge and a mild panic attack to squeeze 7 large cases into our family car without having to leave behind either of the children. Arriving at Southampton within moments a porter whisked the cases away and then our car was driven away leaving us to check in. Check in was equally efficient and we were just about to step onto the Air Bridge to board when an alarm sounded to indicate that the bridge had come away from the ship. So near and yet so far! After a little confusion we were directed back to the terminal but we took this as part of the adventure and it gave us chance to begin to make friends with the other passengers. In no time we were boarded via the staff gangway and we were on the Ventura. I have to say that we immediately found the ship impressive. Its size, fittings, artwork were all even better than the brochure. We were also very pleased to find the other passengers to be friendly, articulate and polite and felt very at home as we made our way to our cabin.The staff were all very welcoming and professional. Having travelled on Ocean Village to be addressed with a smile by everyone was very appreciated and unexpected. We had decided to literally "push the boat out" on this occasion because we had been offered such a good deal, and book a mini suite or as Ventura now calls them a Deluxe Superior Balcony stateroom E729. On arrival there was bottle of Champagne chilling on the table, a box of lovely chocolates and a bowl of fresh flowers.The room surpassed our expectations with a king-size (or larger) for my husband and I. We had a nice surprise to find that contrary to all we had been told the girls did not have to share the double sofa bed as there was also a drop down pull man single berth in the ceiling. Although the sofa bed would have been fine, separate beds did prevent a lot of arguments. Our cabin steward, the excellent Rockie, prepared the room daily and advised us that all our cabin grade had this arrangement on Ecuador Deck. The room was spacious with a great bathroom with a full size bath and lots of wardrobe space which accommodated everything except my husbands shoes (which he kept under the bed.) The sofa was huge and the balcony excellent with comfortable reclining chairs and footstools. Having a covered balcony made for a very private space and we did not feel we missed any sun because of it. The balcony was a first for us and worth every penny. We loved waking up to see the port arrival and spent many leisurely mornings eating room service breakfast on the balcony whilst the children slept off their late nights. Room service was great and so easy to order over the interactive TV. Having the balcony also meant we did not feel under pressure to get out early to grab a sun bed. We preferred, due to a combination of not liking it too hot and laziness, to leave going to the sun decks until later afternoon. We then avoided the busy laguna and beachcomber pulls and headed aft to the areas above the Terrace pool which were very quiet with a lovely breeze to keep cool. Most sea days we saw little of the girls, they slept late and then headed to the pool to meet friends, grab some lunch or watch a movie. Port days they accompanied us on brief cultural sight seeing trips (always under duress, with cries of " yes its great but when can we go back to the ship?") or a more popular day on the beach at Corsica and Cannes. The exception was Gibraltar where we all greatly enjoyed the private taxi tour up the rock to see the apes which was lots of fun and excellent value for money at £56 for the four of us. The free shuttle buses into town were very well organised and we were impressed at Barcelona to find Officers waiting to help us onto the return shuttle.The only disappointing port was Alicante where we found the town beach easily, bought a lilo and hired sunbeds only to realise that the sea was filthy soup of disgusting floating debris, too offensive to describe, body temperature and slightly sticky. Not a good combination which persuaded us to abandon our sun beds and beat a hasty retreat back to the ship to hot showeres and disinfecting our swimwear.( The laundrette was very good and free to use but take your own washing powder.) We chose Freedom Dining in the Cinnamon as we were travelling with friends and this gave us the flexibility to dine together or alone as we wished. We were given a pager if a table was not available and could get a cocktail whilst waiting for a table. We found this worked perfectly for us. We loved the food and the service was excellent. Indeed we also often took breakfast and lunch in the dining rooms as we enjoyed it so much. Afternoon Tea in the Saffron was also a favourite treat. We loved the Formal Nights and wished there had been more. My only regret was that I did not go more over the top with my frocks but I shall remedy this next time! My husband loved dressing in the dinner suit he had purchased for the trip and was so glad he had. The girls loved dressing up and we all had a whale of a time on these evenings which started with a gin and tonic in our cabin with ice and lemon supplied by the wonderful Rockie every afternoon. We enjoyed the evening entertainment, going to see a variety of shows, tribute acts party nights but for us the main event was dinner which we liked to linger over with good company. Day time activities were very good with lots of variety. We joined in the quizzes and dancing but there were lots of things we did not get time to try. The Sunday church service was a lovely experience. Disembarkation was smooth and easy. We decided to enjoy breakfast in the Bay Tree for one last time before leaving and found it a lovely, calm and tasty way to end our cruise. Overall we all had an excellent time and cannot wait to go again. We are now P&O converts. Yes it is very British and maybe less glitzy than some others but it suited us perfectly. We found the service, dining, accommodation and facilities to be excellent and great value for money. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
With all the bad press we had read before our first cruise we were worried we had made the choice of cruise ship. We shouldn't have worried! From the efficient check in to speedy disembarkation we had just the most wonderful time. ... Read More
With all the bad press we had read before our first cruise we were worried we had made the choice of cruise ship. We shouldn't have worried! From the efficient check in to speedy disembarkation we had just the most wonderful time. The ship is very high spec and is kept sparkling clean. The cabins were well appointed and had very roomy wardrobe space and well designed shower rooms. Our balcony stateroom had just been given a very welcome set of relining chairs which we made full use of. The room service was outstanding, our children's clutter was tidied for them more than once each day, much to my embarrassment! Our children loved the activities available, the freedom of eating at the Frankie's Diner throughout the day and of course the pools. We enjoyed the lectures, the art talks and high quality evening entertainment. With only a couple of exceptions, the performances were of a very high standard. The food was remarkably good - we were astonished to hear some passengers complaining!! Whatever do they eat at home if they could find fault with the menu. It had recently been relaunched and offered a wide selection of appetising dishes, plus an extensive back up menu of plain chicken, steak, salmon or salad. Our waiter was unfailingly cheerful and efficient, but we found this level of service throughout. We booked a couple of P&O excursions but did our own thing for most of the stops. We enjoyed all the Ports of Call and found the information provided on ship really helpful. We hope to be able to travel on Ventura again and hope that other people won't be discouraged from joining us by other less favourable reviews.         Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Having been very disappointed with service and standards on P&O Arcadia when we sailed on its 15 night Caribbean Collection Cruise in 2007, we booked at short notice on to Ventura`s 17 night Mediterranean Cruise sailing from ... Read More
Having been very disappointed with service and standards on P&O Arcadia when we sailed on its 15 night Caribbean Collection Cruise in 2007, we booked at short notice on to Ventura`s 17 night Mediterranean Cruise sailing from Southampton on 1 September 2009 and hoped for the best. We were pleasantly surprised. P&O have raised their game considerably and much has improved in terms of service and standards. The food was consistently good and the service in all of the restaurants was of an extremely high standard. The Waterside Buffet was well organised with plenty of seating available. We chose Freestyle Dining and found that the Cinnamon Restaurant delivered first class service and excellent choices of high quality dishes. We treated ourselves to Dinner in the White Room and we were delighted with the menu and service. The ship was immaculate and the crew very friendly and helpful. The Cruise Director was the best that we have encountered after many cruises. The Captain and Ships officers got us into every port spot on time and kept us fully informed on every aspect of our progress. Our cabin was kept to a very high standard by Jerry from Goa who tended to our every need with courtesy and good humour. The entertainment in the Arena Theatre was first class and the club style entertainers performing throughout the ship were of an equally high standard with only one exception where in the Havana one night a proportion of the audience walked out in protest to a leud perfomers jokes. The excursions that we took were well organised and good value for money. embarkation and disembarkation processes were swift and efficient. We enjoyed the varied on board lectures which were well attended All in all we enjoyed our cruise greatly, this is a large ship with over 3000 passengers, however P&O have organised things well, so overcrowding is not apparent. The only niggles that we did have were minor. The Information Desk could have been more helpful on the three occasions that we made enquiries we came away without a clear resolution other than to be told that they would report the matter to their management. This latest cruise on Ventura has restored our faith in P&O and we are likely to use the Line again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
I had thought that we were going to a simple beach holiday in Spain, for my snorkelling husband- a prospect which didn't thrill me at all, but to make up for it, he'd booked a Thomson's cruise to the Red Sea in Feb. So the ... Read More
I had thought that we were going to a simple beach holiday in Spain, for my snorkelling husband- a prospect which didn't thrill me at all, but to make up for it, he'd booked a Thomson's cruise to the Red Sea in Feb. So the sudden shock of a cruise instead had me dancing round the room! The local TA has a door to ship offer several times a year, which cuts out most of the hassle. Collected at 5am, then on to one of the 3 coaches he'd provided and away to Southampton by 6. Ventura is one of Carnival's Grand design ships, and is the largest, newest ship we've travelled on. There was ample space for the amount of people, with 4 pools, a full sized theatre, and a large, rambling buffet which I never saw overcrowded. There's also a promenade on 7, which I enjoy. Part of this- starboard- was for smokers, and was always crowded, unlike port side, even in the wild weather which occured from Barcelona.....and virtually all the way home! Cabins are fairly small, but the reason for this is a large walk-in wardrobe, which proved most useful- as was the laundry down the stairs and round the corner. The beds didn't have the mattress toppers we're used to on NCL, and the pillows had suffered from too much washing, resulting in hard balls of lint- most uncomfortable!- but I was given a new one without any fuss. We're not big eaters, nor do we have any sugar, so 2 nights in the freedom eating room were enough. We ate in the buffet after that, even on formal nights, and discovered that the formality almost disappeared by the 2nd week. Each night had a theme, with tables set and attentive wine waiters. Italian, Indian and tropical were our favourite. The entertainment was stunning in the theatre, especially the Jean Ann Ryan shows, with beautiful costumes, lighting and scenery. Several shows had trapeze and circus balancing; thrilling especially when going through a force 9! There was plenty of activities throughout the many sea days; Bill Giles the weather man; Colin Burring on ships and sailors; life planning; circus acts and juggling as well as the "selling" lectures. 2 things I'd like to see on other cruises were the passenger's choir and the discussion groups. In common with lots of other European cruisers, many of the ports we'd visited already, so it was good to find that P&O were looking at new tours. We visited Tuscarnia, to see the stunning 9th century church and walled city, followed by a farm tea at Marta. Good. Our anniversary was at Gibraltar, and after a rousing sail-away, which was more fun than I'd imagined, we prepared for a meal at Marco Pierre White's restaurant. This was superb in every way, from the damson drink to welcome us, to the hand made chocolate truffles at the end. All diets went out of the window! Although there was plenty to do on this vast ship, the sea days home dragged a little, probably because of the weather. Disembarkation was dreadful, as everyone had to queue after finding cases, for 40 mins (in our time slot), before reaching customs. They were stopping lots of people; someone said because we'd visited Gib. The journey home was long and arduous, being Friday at the beginning of half term. Having only travelled once before with P&O, on a very stuffy, longer cruise, we were pleasantly surprised by this one, with the multitude of activities. It's a change to have sensible drinks prices, without the 15%, and none of the penny pinching or grabbing that we've met before on some lines. The gratuities for freedom dining are paid up front, at £1.60 per day, and other tipping is discussed sensibly in a booklet. An altogether refreshing and enjoyable cruise.-jocap. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
This was our first cruise, and we were gob smacked! I loved every bit of the cruise, the food (freedom dining) in the cinnamon resturant was beautiful, the buffet, white room and the steak house were all excellent. The shows were ... Read More
This was our first cruise, and we were gob smacked! I loved every bit of the cruise, the food (freedom dining) in the cinnamon resturant was beautiful, the buffet, white room and the steak house were all excellent. The shows were of good standard, and the ship was spotless, and bars offered something for everyone. The gallery was a nice addition too. We used the ship photographers- if you've heard of Venture Photography, the ship photos were of the same quality, but 1/3 of the price. We used the spa, and treatments we very good- however their booking system is a bit caotic. We had an outside cabin and was really pleased with the decor, space and facillities in the room. embarkation was great, really makes you want to cruise all the time, not lugging you bags around. Leaving felt a bit more stressful- as for first time cruises we would have like the information a few days earlier- but for all our worries- P&O had it covered, and once again it was great someone else to cart the suitcases around! We truely loved and if I had the money I would cruise everytime- The Ventura is great for families or couples- i've reccommended cruising to so many people! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
This was our first 'proper' cruise with P&O, we have previously cruised with Royal Caribbean (to the Caribbean and Alaska) and have done weekenders on the Oceana and NCL. Ventura is a beautiful ship. The staff are immaculate ... Read More
This was our first 'proper' cruise with P&O, we have previously cruised with Royal Caribbean (to the Caribbean and Alaska) and have done weekenders on the Oceana and NCL. Ventura is a beautiful ship. The staff are immaculate and very helpful and courteous. I felt she lacked the initial wow factor when we boarded, however she is modern, elegantly furnished and there are some lovely areas that have been very well designed. the Atrium was smaller than I expected having seen photo's but was a lovely place to wander and people watch! Ventura seems to do a good job at catering for most people most of the time. There is the Exchange 'pub' for quizzes, karaoke , bands etc for those who want a lively entertained holiday but also bars like Metropolis which is calm and sophisticated with a pianist at certain times. One of the weakest areas of the ship is the outside space (or lack of it). There are just too many passengers for the space available. There are just hundreds and hundreds of sun beds filling every single corner of available space, and as soon as the sun came out they were all full - or reserved!! There were no clear walkways so it was virtually impossible to get from one end to the other. You could usually find a sun bed, it was just a case of picking your way through the crowds. We headed right to the front and sat in the semi shade of the old sports court which was very pleasant. Another weak point in my opinion was the casino. It was just small and drab. There were a couple of gaming tables and a very small area with lots of fruit machines and stools all crammed in which was also a walkway through. It is also adjacent to the pub and when something was going on in there the noise completely dominated the casino. Not good. We spent very little time and consequently very little money in there because of this. Our room was lovely, clean and tidy, well fitted out and kept spotless morning and evening - thank you Pascoal. I was surprised on the rest of the ship about the lack of enforcement of the use of hand gels. There were a couple (some not working) in the self serve area and that was it. You were not required to do it entering the dining rooms, re-boarding the ship etc, no wonder we all had colds and coughs by the second week. The food was superb all over the ship. The self service was excellent, always something different to try, we tended to go outside peak times to avoid the queues. The Saffron main dining room was also excellent, Bonny and Peter looked after us very well. Lunch and afternoon tea were also very good, possibly a little rushed but very nice. East - the Asian fusion restaurant was absolutely outstanding. The whole thing was superb from start to finish. We went twice in the evening and once for a curry lunch. Well worth every penny of the small supplement. The White Room - the food was very nice, the service was good but it all just seemed to lack something. We ordered 'Medallions of beef with rocket' which in fact translated to steak with lettuce on top. It was a nice evening but I didn't really think it warranted the much larger supplement. I felt that the entertainment was a little regimented, it was always the same band in the same bar at the same time every night. They never rotated. the Entertainment Team for me were not very entertaining or visible. If you like doing quizzes with your morning pint you were fine! There was only two hosted sail away parties the whole two weeks - we were all up on deck - where were they??? Overall we had a good cruise on a nice ship. It was all a bit 'British' for my taste. I quite like the mixture of Americans and Europeans you get on other lines, it makes it feel more like a holiday. I would cruise with P&O again and possibly on Ventura but only to the Baltic's or Fjords where sun beds would not be an issue. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Ventura Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
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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