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18 Southampton to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean P&O Cruises Ventura Cruise Reviews

We went on Ventura for our yearly cruise with 4 children under 11. We arrived at Southampton around 10 am. . It was a smooth embarkation with at least a 2 hr wait. Which wasn't the best for our 2 yr old daughter, but there was space ... Read More
We went on Ventura for our yearly cruise with 4 children under 11. We arrived at Southampton around 10 am. . It was a smooth embarkation with at least a 2 hr wait. Which wasn't the best for our 2 yr old daughter, but there was space for her to play. We went through security nicely and easily . When we boarded the ship we went up to the waterside(buffet)which was good for children but not a lot of choice for the adults. We had an announcement from the captain our stateroom was ready so as quick as we could we rushed up to see, we had a balcony NOT OVERLOOKED by other decks above on E our cabins numbers were E1921 we highly recommend this cabin for people who want to be near the water. Also you have a view of the whole ship, on deck 8. when the ships engines were turned on we felt the ship shudder. we went on deck and the sail-away party( best ever on a ship in a long time) there was karaoke, conga, dancing, famous bands and lots more! the next morning we woke up at sea, the ship rocked quite a bit. if you like prom decks ventura is the place. it has a full rap around prom deck you can even walk around the bow! food was good apart ( my son had a allergic reaction to prawns, bless him!) waiters excellent really kind and lovely. kids club was great lovely youth staff with all the kids in minds. entertainment good apart from ( 1st seating are due to watch their performance from 6-7 pm and that show is empty because they go and have a drink, then when its 2nd seating performance the 1st sitting think its alright to go and then sit in 2nd sitting seats and 2nd sitting have nowhere to sit .) THE BAD THINGS the ships layout is rubbish, you struggle to go from one end of the ship to the other. 0 points for people with disabilities p&o there are not enough lifts ( we struggled a lot with trying to find a lift). now the ships main POOLS are split in to two and are cramped and small as on other ship example- the MSC Opera has one long pool deck. in the buffet ( as on most ships these days ) does not have enough seats even though they have 2 buffets on 1 deck. the ships these days are just to big and in my opinion bigger may not always be better. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
This was my 10th. cruise and my second on P&O. As with my previous reviews, I will split the review into sections... Embarkation/Disembarkation. Brilliant! Arrived at the docks in Southampton and joined a queue for car parking ... Read More
This was my 10th. cruise and my second on P&O. As with my previous reviews, I will split the review into sections... Embarkation/Disembarkation. Brilliant! Arrived at the docks in Southampton and joined a queue for car parking (free from P&O). The car parking was by CPS and my car was taken to a secure area for the two week cruise. CPS is not a "fly-by-night" company and the secure car park is surrounded by a high wire fence and patrolled by security staff. I went into the P&O area for passport checks (basically a formality) and was given my ship keycard. The whole process took less than 45 minutes with minimal security procedures-although my bags were x-rayed. On board, my bags were outside my cabin within a couple of hours. No mess, no fuss, just fantastic organisation. Disembarkation was a little different due to unforeseen circumstances (see "On a sad note" below) but when we were allowed off, I was in my car within 30 minutes and back on the road home. A genuinely pleasurable experience. All cruise companies need to be as good as this! Demographics. This ship is targeted at British passengers. All of the passengers were from the UK with a contingent of Scots and a handful of Northern Irish. There was an Australian family on board, but they were on the ship with relatives from the UK. The ages of the passengers was quite varied but I estimate the average age was around the late 50's/early 60's range (I am 52 myself) and there were NO kids on board-apart from less than a handful on under 10's, a few toddlers and quite a few under a year old. Why would anybody bring a child that young on a cruise? After my last cruise with dozens of screaming kids running amok around the ship, this was very refreshing. Food. I selected first sitting (6.30) and was on a table for eight but after a couple of evenings, four of the diners (two couples travelling together) decided to go to the "anytime dining" option which left four of us. Myself, Carolyn a retired Army Major, Richard from Liverpool and Maureen who is in her late 70's. Maureen recently lost her husband which meant we were all single travellers. After a few dinners together we got on like a house on fire. The food on offer was top notch with a varied selection each evening. I will say that some of the menus didn't float my boat and I won't eat some of the offerings on principal (game, venison, veal) but the restaurant did have a "standard" menu available each night. Our two waiters were brilliant. I asked for an extra gravy boat and each night they brought me one without being asked. Carolyn and I went to Sinhdu-an Asian style restaurant run by Michelin Starred chef Athul Kotcher. This carries a small charge (£15 a head) but was well worth the money. I went to the buffet (Waterside Cafe) for breakfasts and again as with my last P&O cruise, it was basically "full English" every day. Although there were other options-cereals, porridge, smoked fish, muffins-I was disappointed with the selection, often choosing beans on toast for something different. But the food was of a good quality as was the lunch selection, afternoon tea and night time with a vastly varied selection of foods. Pizza, curry's, roast meats, seasonal veggies etc. All in all, very good. Cabins/Ship interiors. I had a window cabin with a partially obscured view. The cabin felt quite roomy and was kept spotless by my cabin stewardess, who's name I don't remember. The interior decorations were in keeping with previous cruise ships-not my taste-but was also kept completely spotless by the staff. Talking of staff.. The lower order of staff (waiters, cabin crew) were almost all Indian with just a few Filipino. They were very polite and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble. Most of the officers were white European with a few Indian. Again, all very helpful. Our intinerary/excusions. We visited Barcelona, Livorno and Civittavecchia (Italy), Alicante (Spain again) and Gibraltar. We were supposed to visit Monaco (the reason I chose this cruise as I am a huge F1 fan) but due to adverse weather conditions, the Captain abandoned the attempt following advice from the Safety Officer. This was due to very high winds and heavy rain. We couldn't dock in Monaco as it's too shallow and Monaco itself is only one mile long. The ship is over 1,000 feet long so tenders would have to be used. A large percentage of the passengers were very disappointed that we couldn't go to Monaco as most of them were also F1 fans and had trips booked-myself included. But the Captain said no and we left for Livorno. My excursions were "The best of Barcelona" including the Sagrada Familia Bascilica designed by Antonio Gaudi. The streets around the Bascilica were extremely crowded and it wasn't enjoyable. Anyone who want's to visit the Bascilica, I suggest you do so on your own-but be prepared to put up with literally 10's of thousands of people. Wine tasting in Livorno and Civittavecchia and parks/churches/museums in Alicante. I did have a trip booked in Gibraltar but decided not to go as I wanted to do some shopping. I booked these online several weeks before the cruise. Although some were a little pricey, I think that they were just about value for money. AGAIN please note...If you do your own thing in a port of call and you're not back in time for the ship-TOUGH. The captain has a schedule to keep and will not wait for stragglers. Entertainment day/night. I'm not a show person but I did attend one of the shows-a comedian. He was ok but I think he could have got a little closer to the bone as I felt that his act was toned down a bit. There were the usual in-house troop "Headliners" doing Broadway/West End shows. I didn't see one but I was told they were very good. We also had guest singers and tribute acts-Niel Diamond, Tina Turner. Again I didn't attend but reports were all favourable. After one of the guest singers had left the ship, two of the "Headliners" singers took over for one night. These two blokes were terrible. They sung in the Tamarind Bar but after a few songs, people started leaving. I was at the bar talking to fellow passengers and these two guys were useless. Apparently, they had just singed new contracts-I think P&O have made a huge mistake. They were just two gay guys camping it up on stage-rubbish. If the "Headliners" were all like this, I felt sorry for anyone who saw a show. Daytime activities were not my taste-quizzies, fitness courses, outdoor games etc. I avoid quizzes as I used to write them as a hobby and it would be unfair for me to take part. There was Mr. Colin van Giffen-a British bloke who gave lectures on various subjects, including the history of the Sptifire, flying boats, the Schnieder Trophy, T. E. Lawrence (as in Lawrence of Arabia) and various other subjects. These were very enjoyable and very well attended to the point of standing room only! On a personal note... I was disappointed by the attitude of some of the passengers who thought they were above the rest of us. As I have mentioned above, talking to fellow passengers at the Tamarind Bar in particular a rally driver on holiday with his wife a a couple of friends. We recieved a message from the bar staff that we were "talking too loud". I would like to say that the singer on stage-Josh Warne-was very loud and the passengers who complained would have had great difficulty hearing us. I spoke to this guy the next night and told him I went to the reception to make a comment on the record about this-although I didn't make an official complaint-my views were written down. I don't know if anything was said to staff or passengers, but my comments must have been heard by those that needed to know as we were not spoken to again. I was also told that decks 5 and 6 were all one group of people and that these passengers refused to talk to anyone but themselves. A bit too stuck up for me! Why go on a cruise with 3,600 people if you're not going to interact with anybody? On a sad note.. As we were rounding the Isle of Wight on the way to Southapton, the "man overboard" alarm was raised at 0320 hours BST on Saturday October 10th. The ship was searched from top to bottom and no stone was unturned in this search, but the man was not on board. The Captain turned the ship around to search for the passenger at his last known sighting-around 10 miles south of the Isle of Wight. We were joined by several lifeboats from the south coast along with the local Air/Sea Rescue helicopter. The ship searched from around 0500 until around 1000 when we were released from the search by the rescue teams so that we could dock in Southampton. The search carried on until around 1830-but unfortunately the man was not found. The authorites called off the search at 1900 as it was too dark to continue. I'm not going to include the mans name in this review as he still hasn't been found. I expect that his body will be found on the south coast of England or the northern coast of France in the next few days/weeks. This is the first time I have been on a cruise and we have lost a passenger overboard. I have read of people who have vanished from cruise ships around the world and it must be a nightmare for his family. Conclusions.. Food-very good. Staff-excellent. Alcohol-Too dear. Bottled beers almost £4 a bottle with draught beers-John Smiths, Stella, Carling, Guiness also at almost £4 a pint with some premuim beers over £4 a pint. Entertainment-reports from fellow passengers said very good-but my experience of the shows in the open bars wasn't too good at all. Excursions-a little pricey but I think they were worth the money. Expect crowding at the more popular places such as Barcelona, Pisa/Florence from Livorno and Rome from Civittavecchia. One of my fellow diners-Richard (who has severe mobility problems) told me Rome was "a nightmare" especially around the Colloseum. The ship itself-a "medium" sized vessel around 115,000 tons felt a little too big but navigation around the ship was easy. Marks out of ten? I'll give this trip eight out of ten. Much better that my last trip on the "Azura" in 2013. Recommended? Yes-for the first-timers and experienced cruisers...But as I have already mentioned, avoid the excursions at the more popular destinations. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Me and my sister's first time cruising, we were accompanied by my dad and step mum who had cruised before. My dad had chosen to drive down and use CPS parking which went smoothly, picking up the car at the end of the cruise was no ... Read More
Me and my sister's first time cruising, we were accompanied by my dad and step mum who had cruised before. My dad had chosen to drive down and use CPS parking which went smoothly, picking up the car at the end of the cruise was no trouble and it only took him 10 mins. We went to the Mayflower terminal to board Ventura. We arrived at 2pm which I'd say is the worst time to arrive. They had seating but it was all taken up at that time. We waited two hours in total before checking in and boarding which was seamless. First impressions of Ventura were excellent; finding our cabin was no trouble, they have ship plans and deck levels near the lifts to view for quick reference. I loved our cabin (C637) balcony cabin on Deck 10, it had loads of space for me and my sister, and the bathroom was a reasonable size although it rather reminded me of an airplane toilet but slightly larger. Our cabin just had the shower. Service onboard was excellent; in the buffet they always cleared the tables away quickly; in fact they will often take your tray away if you want to just have your plate on the table. In the main dining rooms the waiters were really good and professional despite them being busy sometimes. We always found the service a bit slower in the dining rooms though so if we needed to eat quickly we chose the buffet. We tried the Glass house, East and Beach house restaurants and service was excellent. Also all the staff including the cleaners always seemed to greet you with a smile. Our cabin steward Rajesh was really nice and our cabin always looked spic and span. I like their turn down and make up service too. On the whole, I enjoyed the excursions although we went on one tour which was advertised to give us some free time to wander around but the lady only gave us half an hour free which by that time we needed a drink and a snack which took nearly half an hour so it wasn't 'free time' in my opinion. Loved the entertainment on board, the headliners company really blew me away with their talents on the stage. Getting into the theatre early is a must on those nights they perform! There were quizzes daily, we took part in one or two. We watched a film in the arena but screen quality was bad as they had clearly just had the video image stretched out onto a bigger screen. Watching a film in the Havana club was slightly better as they used a smaller screen. There were some free films to view on the cabin tv which we took advantage of sometimes. If you want to watch your own without paying for the chargeable ones I recommend a portable dvd player or tablet with preloaded films. We didn't go to one port which happened to be the last one; Guernsey as we needed to go via tender and the water was too choppy by the pontoon. We had extra entertainment laid on instead which included an extra film to watch. Food - couldn't fault it and the same standard whether in the buffet or dining rooms. Can't understand why we get free pizzas but not free ice cream though. Disembarkation was smooth - we chose to disembark ourselves as we wanted to leave early with having a 5 hour trip home and apart from waiting for lifts carrying our own luggage we were off the ship in twenty minutes. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
My wife and I had a wonderful first time trip on-board the Ventura from the 7th to the 14th April 2013. Overall, we were extremely pleased with the ship and staff and truthfully, could not find much to complain about. We were pleasantly ... Read More
My wife and I had a wonderful first time trip on-board the Ventura from the 7th to the 14th April 2013. Overall, we were extremely pleased with the ship and staff and truthfully, could not find much to complain about. We were pleasantly surprised that the holiday was so good and this was in part because we had been unnerved by some of the reviews we had read from other passengers and so expected the worst. That is not to say that other reviewers did not have valid points or that they had in any way fabricated their complaints or grievances. However, I think we paid too much attention to some reviews which unfortunately negatively influenced us before we had even set foot aboard Ventura. In brief, here is our summary of our trip: 1. Embarkation -- we were astounded at how smoothly this process was! Before we knew what was going on, our baggage had been whisked away and our car driven off. We had been 'processed' and were on-board the ship having lunch within an hour. Very well done. Disembarkation was equally smooth (although we heard several passengers grumbling about delays). 2. The ship, having just been refurbished was very clean and orderly. All the public spaces were well attended and our cabin (inside, forward) was well appointed and clean. There was a very noticeable 'new carpet smell' in the corridors and it was apparent that much cleaning / paining / varnishing had taken place. No complaints. 3. Food. Overall, really good quality throughout. We had fixed dining (late) in the Cinnamon restaurant and we felt that the food and service was impeccable. No waiting. The buffet restaurant served good food -- however, it was like 'whacky races' at times trying to get your meal whilst navigating through the crowds. We don't feel that the food service area was anywhere near big enough to accommodate the throughput of diners carrying trays. Additionally (and this is something that P&O officials might like to take notice of), the ship really needs to get rid of so many large tables and bring in MANY MORE tables for two / four. It was difficult to find a table - and when you did, it was usual for one person to 'guard it' whilst the other selected their meal. Often, if a couple sat at a table for eight for example, they jealously protected their space and made it clear that other diners were not welcome to share (even families). Unbelievably, on one occasion, a man approached my wife declaring that the table was his. My wife replied that there was no-one sitting there when she arrived - to which he proclaimed that he had left a glass on the table to mark his territory! A solitary, dirty glass - enough said! Afternoon tea was something we looked forward to. However, it was frequently 'spoiled' by people almost stampeding into the restaurant, in the desperate hope of being able to sit at a table for the exact number of diners in their party. We had the impression that people were not happy to be sat with strangers. 4. Public areas. All areas were generally well kept with plenty of waiters. Some were friendlier than others though. Drinks were 'pushed' a lot, although the service was efficient if you wanted a drink. When we began the cruise, there seemed to be a mad scramble for the crew to get your attention. For example, promoting wine drinks packages or Spa therapy sessions. We did not find this overwhelming; however, it could have put some passengers off. For the rest of the ships amenities, we really enjoyed the gym and used it daily (not that we are fitness fanatics!). Because of the poor weather, we did not go on deck a great deal and so did not use the pools (plenty of kids seemed to enjoy though!). Cannot comment about the sun loungers as we did not use. 5. Entertainment. As a couple in our forties, we found this to be 'mixed'. On the one hand, the two big shows in the Arena were splendid (this is the type of thing we had experienced on other ships every night of the voyage) however, as mentioned, there were only two on the Ventura and we would have loved more. There were a number of singers such as a Phil Collins tribute and also a big band music singer. Very competent, but 'not our scene'. Additionally, there was a comedian on offer who again was competent, but perhaps who appealed to (dare I say it) the older passengers. P & O cannot please everyone and so we cannot reasonably condemn them for entertainment that did not live up to our personal expectations. 6. Ports of call. We enjoyed La Coruna and Vigo. Very easy to explore straight from the ship. Lisbon at first could put people off as there was a lot of graffiti. However, once you have 'acclimatised' to the city, it was safe and interesting. Oporto was abandoned as the sea conditions were too rough to dock. 7. Lastly, tipping. From talking to other cruisers on Ventura, we can see that this is a vexed subject. One or two people were indignant when money was taken and appeared on their on-board account (I think we paid about £50 per couple for the 7 days). P & O say they take this money to be distributed throughout all the crew -- not just those with public facing roles such as the waiters (by default, we cannot distribute tips to crew that we haven't seen). On the one hand, we understand this. However, we think the crux of the problem is that many of us like to be given the choice whom to tip and not to have this choice made for us by the holiday company. One comment we heard frequently was that P & O should pay all crew a decent wage so that passengers should not have to subsidise them as the cruise was expensive enough. We are in two minds about that. Anyway, we paid the automatic gratuity added to our on-board account -- and also tipped extra to the wine waitress, the servers in the restaurant and of course the cabin steward. My wife and I could not walk away without leaving a small token. Would we go on a P & O cruise again? Yes, without doubt. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I can quite understand the rave reviews and five star ratings for Ventura as these are mostly from First Time Cruisers "upgrading" from their "all inclusive fortnights in Turkey". It is not quite the Butlins Boat yet ... Read More
I can quite understand the rave reviews and five star ratings for Ventura as these are mostly from First Time Cruisers "upgrading" from their "all inclusive fortnights in Turkey". It is not quite the Butlins Boat yet but has certainly set a course in that direction. I actually overheard one passenger declare to the " future cruise specialist" that she might have to downgrade from a balcony next year as her benefits are being cut! For a relatively modern vessel, the decor and furnishing is already looking dated. Cleanliness on decks is variable and residual buffet dishes are of ten left under sunbeds. Food is, at best, average and it is obvious that the executive chefs have been given stretching targets to reduce the average cost per head. The breakfasts were functional but boring with ecactly the same selections every morning. Similarly the lunchtime buffets were equally unimaginative and uninspiring. I suspect that chefs were under instruction to cater for the lowest common denominator in a largely working class British consumer. Restaurant Dinners were marginally better but over two hours for a four course meal is enough to test the appetite and patience of even the most dedicated foody. Daytime entertainment, on deck, was dire. Why do Cruise Directors labour under the obvious misapprehension that the majority of passengers crave for the strains of Agadoo and similar drivel for two hours every day. Is it simply a ploy to drive customers off the decks and into the dining rooms to ease congestion later in the afternoon? Evening entertainment was better. The Headliners Theatre company were lively and enthusiastic though I was surprised to see Arlene Phillips leading the line. If the singers could learn to sing, the dancers learn to dance and the actors learn to act there could be potential in this team. I can also understand why the Smokey Joe's Cafe show is on the last night of the cruise............after the Customer Satisfaction Surveys have been completed. This was about as entertaining as a wake in a Mormon Temple. Guest entertainers from the UK seemed to suffer from second show syndrome. They either had insufficient material to sustain two shows or the food and drink between first and second performances had taken their toll. Whilst the Cruise Director DID try to redefine the rating of EXCELLENT by stating that if we had enjoyed MOST of the performances this did stretch generosity a little too far. On the plus side, drinks prices were sensible. Not cheap, but sensible although the draught beer offerings of Stella Artois and Boddingtons suggest that P&O understand the consumers they are now attracting. The Winelist was extensive and reasonable but this did not prevent table being adorned with a greater number of cans than goblets. Service at the Breakers Bar was woeful. Up to five roaming waiters were being serviced by one barman and it was difficult to assess who was the most stressed.....the barman or the customer. Certainly not the waiters whose Indian heritage had perhaps set them in a permanent state of transcindental meditation. A smile from a waiter was almost as rare as a full spirit measure in a cocktail! The tipping regime was modest at £3.10 per passenger per day but it is obvious that these surcharges are not actually gratuities but form the bulk of the remuneration for these modern day galley slaves. I really wish one of the Cruise Lines would break ranks and pay their staff a sustainable living wage. Another plus, versus Royal Caribbean and Princess were the Port embarkation and disembarkation procedures. They were generally smooth and efficient. The captain, personally kept us advised of the progress of the cruise with daily deck bulletins. There was a pretty good selection of shops but P&O should seriously consider opening a Tattoo Parlour for the minority of us who are feeing increasingly isloated as our bodies are not festooned in garish images or crossed out declarations of love for ex spouses. Surprisingly, overall, the cruise was quite enjoyable but P&O really do need to understand the distinction between informal accessibility and the danger of creating Wetherspoons on Water. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Having sailed on the old Adonia which was wonderful and Arcadia in the carribean i was looking forward to our 3rd cruise with P&O on Ventura, we sailed from Southampton and after arriving at the new terminal which was very busy, we ... Read More
Having sailed on the old Adonia which was wonderful and Arcadia in the carribean i was looking forward to our 3rd cruise with P&O on Ventura, we sailed from Southampton and after arriving at the new terminal which was very busy, we waited about 20 mins before being called through security, not too bad i thought. We had a balcony for the first time which was wonderful and all was good and clean accept there was some drink staines on the valance around the bed, so i assume these are not changed every cruise? The food was good and so was the service from the P&O staff. I didnot like the some of the layout on Ventura there is no crows nest like the other ships we have been on, just a wasted shaded area for relaxing that nobody used and around the pool area people are squashed together like sardines. I used the spa once for reflexology a cost of 66, never again what a waste on money and painful and not at all relaxing. On the second week of the cruise i was ill, came down with a bad chest infection and was coughing really badly and i know i was not the only one, thats the trouble with air conditioning bugs get passed on quickly. I would like to be able to say i really enjoyed this cruise but i didnot, i wont blame Ventura for my illness but i got it from somewhere and it did spoil my holiday. I think i will go on Arcadia the next time. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This was our second cruise with p&o. Both med cruises. Service was exceptional, food always lived up to expectations. Entertainmet varied and of good quality. Headliners presented broadway style musicals and deserved to be introduced ... Read More
This was our second cruise with p&o. Both med cruises. Service was exceptional, food always lived up to expectations. Entertainmet varied and of good quality. Headliners presented broadway style musicals and deserved to be introduced as such, spectacular and brilliantly choreographed, Beegee tribute was fun and entertaining. Martin Daniels and his comedy magic show amazed and amused us. George King and his gardening jokes, jept it clean and family orientated.However, the stars of the cruise, from our families point of view, were the tireless and patent childrens entertainers. Each age range have their own group of reef rangers with activities throughout the day. Crackers and Cheese entertained with funny and wow factor magic hows and fun houses. Most days they were in the buffet for childrens noddy tea with balloons and magic. They were genuinely interested in the children, who inevitably stopped them around the ship. Even when they were off duty and wondering around the port stops, they always took the time to chat and have some fun with the children. Genuinely nice couple as well!! Adults being entertained is one thing, but when children feel like they are safe and entertained then everyone can relax and enjoy them selves. Well done P&o and well done reef rangers and especially Crackers and Cheese!!! We will travel again with you Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
This was our third cruise on Ventura, so you already know that she's a ship we like. Ventura's strong points were the same as ever: the balcony cabins (especially the walk-in hanging area), the big C-deck balcony, the quiet of ... Read More
This was our third cruise on Ventura, so you already know that she's a ship we like. Ventura's strong points were the same as ever: the balcony cabins (especially the walk-in hanging area), the big C-deck balcony, the quiet of the stern Terrace, and the touches of formality. But this cruise was principally about the itinerary, which was as good as we'd hoped. The worst destination, Cephalonia, was just a bit boring; but Dubrovnik, the two days in Venice and a further day in Korcula were extraordinary. When a hot day in Corfu ends up seeming just so-so in comparison, you know you've been to some good places. Food in the MDR and buffets was good to very good, while the meals we took in East (three, including a lunch) and at the White Room were exceptional. Service, too, was good in the typical P&O rather under-stated style. We also had extremely good company at dinner. The only area that we were unhappy with was wine availability: the wine stores hadn't been replenished before leaving Southampton, and wines were becoming unavailable from quite early in the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
The main thing we learnt from our previous 2 trips on Ventura, was that there would be so much to do that we'd rarely be together as a couple. With a long cruise and many sea days such as this, we went our separate ways so often, that ... Read More
The main thing we learnt from our previous 2 trips on Ventura, was that there would be so much to do that we'd rarely be together as a couple. With a long cruise and many sea days such as this, we went our separate ways so often, that we must have seemed like a couple of singles. There were a number of lectures each sea days, which is my scene; art classes which clashed with the discussion group; films which clashed with the talks on navigation; choir rehearsals which clashed with the Concorde secrets....oh, the joy of being on a ship which had too much entertainment rather than nothing except over-priced ones, or selling talks! The choir especially was fun...having 7 sea days meant lots of rehearsals, before our 2 performances in the atrium, in front of many passengers. We were also part of the bed-making comp, and OH had wins in bingo and poker! The main purpose of the trip was to spend 2 days in Venice....OH's favourite city, and he spent every minute of both days walking round the different areas, or riding the water buses. Cities are not for me, but it's always lovely to return to Venice, even if it's just for a drink next to a narrow canal. This time I wanted to spend a while in Vivaldi's church, which had his music pouring from a good sound system. The sail-in and out- accompanied by the best of Italian opera pouring over the sides of the ship- to some gondolier's joy- are one of the highlights, and moving moments. The other reasons for taking this cruise were to be with friends....when we happened to find them in such a massive ship; to try both of Marco Pierre White's menus, and to go swimming- achieved in several places such as Corfu, Korkula, Kephalonia....and, this time, even on the ship....we don't often have a "warm" cruise, so the pools were put to good use. It's great that a ship sailing from Southampton has a covered pool; we'd be loath to travel on other ships sailing from that port, where you'd have to wait until Portugal for a dip.... The food was excellent in all places- and we did try all, except, this time, East....even the burger bar provided a tasty menu. We ate in the MD only twice, and were impressed by the choice and service....and the lobster... The cabin was slightly smaller, and, being an inside, didn't work for me- I've only had an inside for 7 nights before, on Thomson and Louis cruises, and 17 nights inside was just too much- I was forever popping outside in the late evening. This wasn't helped by P&O's insistance that e-cigs could only be used in smokers' corners....the fact that you're not smoking, only using an inhaler, doesn't seem to have registered. It was my use of an e-cig which had made us choose an inside, but- rules is rules!!:( At least a number of crew came with questions about the inhaler.) For OH, the best of the cruise would have to be Venice, and snorkelling in the Med; for me, it was the tiny ferry ride I took from one side of Kephalonia to the other little town, and the excursion to the Cies Isles, off Vigo- I think that's really my number one excursion of the cruise. Everything- shows, activities, crew, food, ambience, were of high quality. There's no constant begging for money on board- you can play a card of Bingo for the 5 games for a fiver, and do a wine tasting for the same amount. The tipping suggestions are sensible, and the bar drinks are the same- around pub prices. I have added two of the best ports to the Port Review section; sadly, some of the better ones such as Kephalonia and Korkula aren't available on the pop-uplist, and I'm not enough of a techie to override them....All Greek Isles are fantastic, whilst anywhere in Croatia is the med as it once was.... A great holiday, and although I've many more cruise lines to try, this particular journey will take some beating! Jo. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Our itinerary was Southampton to Zeebrugge (For Bruges) and return to Southampton. 25th to 27th March 2011.Booked through a cruise agent we had used before and no problems on this. However on all the documentation I received there was no ... Read More
Our itinerary was Southampton to Zeebrugge (For Bruges) and return to Southampton. 25th to 27th March 2011.Booked through a cruise agent we had used before and no problems on this. However on all the documentation I received there was no indication which berth, at Southampton, the Ventura sailed from. A few years ago when sailing from Southampton with P&O we always left from the Mayflower Terminal (Dock Gate 10), good job I phoned to check beforehand as the Ventura sailed from Ocean Terminal Dock Gate 4 !! Other passengers I spoke to had to enquire also.Embarkation: No problem with porters taking luggage from car as soon as I arrived and parking car in short term car park adjacent to the terminal was hassle free. On entering the embarkation hall just after 2pm (the advertised opening time) we were greeted by a mass of passengers all waiting to be checked in. We were given a coloured card with a letter denomination and had to wait for our card identification to be called before we could advance to check in. Green E was being called on arrival and we were Red B. (green & red cards only issued so you can do the maths to work out the anticipated waiting time). We waited approx. 1hr.Checking in: Very easy, except we were informed we had a cabin upgrade from C deck to B deck, but it was just the same outside with balcony status. Seeing that our suitcase had been taken from us on arrival and was tagged with our original cabin number on C deck, I asked whether there would be a problem in delivering the luggage to our new allocated cabin. We were informed it should be OK as they have a system of cross referencing things.On Board: Great looking ship, no complaints with accommodation, food and waiting staff. On board entertainment in the evening was very good. However, getting back to the suitcase: our cabin steward asked if we had received our luggage and on seeing we had not and eventually grasping the circumstances (Language difficulty) he said he would chase. 1hr later still no luggage, so phoned reception to query as we ideally wanted a fresh change of clothes for dinner at 6.30pm. They would check. After a further hour, visited reception to query again, as we only had 30 mins to go before dinner. They said they would check and do a 'deck sweep.Needless to say we had to go to dinner in the clothes we travelled in.I checked outside the cabin we had originally bee allocated on C deck but could not find case, even checked the stray case area, allocated to missing cases, but still no joy. Eventually at 8.45pm our case arrived. 5 and three quarter hours after arriving on board. My assumption is they do NOT have a good system for cross checking of information on luggage appertaining to late cabin changes such as ours!!!Arrival at Zeebrugge: We wanted to do our own thing, getting to Bruges, a Taxi would cost EUR 45 to 50 each way, which is a bit steep. We opted to use the free shuttle into Blankenberge (20 mins) and just behind the drop off point in the town is the Railway station. Trains to Bruges once per hour, takes 15 mins. and only cost EUR 3.60 return per person. From the station at Bruges it is a 15 min leisurely walk into the centre of the city.On return train journey you have to be careful as the incoming train is quite a long one and they split the train, the front half goes elsewhere and 3 mins later the back half takes you back to Blankenberge. So watch out for this!!!As mentioned previously no problems encountered with anything else on board we had a really nice time.Disembarkation: In a nutshell a complete shambles. In my years of cruising I have not encountered anything so bad.Options were- you could leave with your luggage after breakfast from 8.30am > 10.30am as you wished, alternatively you could leave your luggage outside the cabin late in the evening before disembarkation, which would be collected and placed shore side and you would be called off the ship in 30 min slots depending on which colour disembarkation cards you were allocated. (THEY LIKE TO USE COLOURED CARDS).Cabin had to be vacated at 8am re new cruise preparation, we had breakfast, and by 9am waited in one of the lounges to be called off at 9.30am as indicated in the information leaflets we had been given. We were aware there may have been a slight delay as we were 20 mins late berthing at Southampton.However apart from an announcement saying were were coming alongside and being 20mins late there was no other announcements about disembarkation at all and all the 'card' holders in waiting were getting very frustrated when they saw there allocated time slot passing by.What the staff did not realise was the huge influx of passengers wanting to leave the ship with their own luggage and instead of an assumed even spread, they all wanted to get off at the same time completely overwhelming the system and jamming up the corridors and stairwells (passengers and bulky luggage). After waiting 40 mins past our allocated slot we joined the queue with the baggage lot and after a further 20 mins got off the ship. Low and behold our case was waiting in the baggage area for us to pick up.I just wonder how long the other passengers on board had to wait for their turn to be announced. As I said from berthing to us getting off not one announcement was made re disembarkation.To summarise : Cruise Excellent, Embarkation; Fair, Disembarkation; Disastrous Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
How many times have you heard 'you'll be fine' - 'you'll not really be alone' and inside you are dreading people finding out that you are travelling on you own. It took me a couple of years to find out that ... Read More
How many times have you heard 'you'll be fine' - 'you'll not really be alone' and inside you are dreading people finding out that you are travelling on you own. It took me a couple of years to find out that it's not so bad especially when you cruise. The Ventura sailed from Southampton so no flying and just a short journey with a very heavy case I boarded ship. From the time I boarded I felt a huge sense of freedom - so much to do and see and you had the choice to do it all or do nothing. It was a last minute decision so no excursions had been arranged but I had time to decide where I went and what I did and after speaking to people about their experiences I made better choices. I visited six places that you'd never be able to do in two weeks, met some very interesting people, had so much choice of food I was never hungry. I was allocated a table of 10 people all of whom were older than me but each evening we'd come together and share the days events or recommend trips etc. I had the choice of joining them or doing my own thing. The staff were brilliant - courteous and efficient. I had a great time, relaxed on the sunny deck, visited loads of lovely places, tried lots of different foods and felt recharged. The schedule of activities were varied and I was grateful that there was a news letter containing the next days events as I used this to plan my next day. A real voyage of discovery for me in more ways than one. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was our first cruise and we were just amazed when we pulled up at the dock and seen Ventura, she is huge. Our luggage was taken off us and we proceeded to check-in. Once all the formalities of check-in and security were over we ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we were just amazed when we pulled up at the dock and seen Ventura, she is huge. Our luggage was taken off us and we proceeded to check-in. Once all the formalities of check-in and security were over we proceeded to board. We all looked in amazement when we entered Ventura. We were shown to our cabins and our luggage was there waiting and our cabin steward introduced himself. Our cruise was for 7 nights and what a 7 night cruise we had it was fantastic. The staff were friendly and efficient, they did an outstanding job. The food was amazing with a choice of self service restaurants to club dining (which we did). As for things to do on board there was so much from the swimming pools to the numerous quizez to shows and more. The only thing i would have to complain about is some of the other passengers (mainly ones who had been on cruises before)all they did was moan, they were rude to staff and passengers alike complaining the service was slow, the food wasn't good, all i can say is absolute rubbish. We enjoyed cruising with P&O and the Ventura (what an amazing ship)so much that we are already booking for next year. Thank you for a wonderful holiday Ventura. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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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