First off let me get straight to the point, I will cover some negative aspects in this review and some positives, they are just my point of view and I have included so much information to give readers of this review as much info as ... Read More
First off let me get straight to the point, I will cover some negative aspects in this review and some positives, they are just my point of view and I have included so much information to give readers of this review as much info as possible. Bottom line is we had a fantastic holiday and I would fly out to Barbados and Ventura again tomorrow.
Would I choose Ventura again? maybe but I also like trying out new ships and I think there are other ships which would possibly suite my needs better than Ventura. Having said that one of the reasons we booked Ventura was the itinerary, some of the other ships we would like to have tried were not going for the duration we wanted or the islands we wanted to visit. Would I go on Ventura again for the first time? Defiantly.
Our background. I am 30 and my partner Anna is 29. Anna is allergic to wheat, one of the reasons we like cruising is the reassurance they can cater for her diet. We have cruised twice previously once on P&O Oceana (6 years ago) and once on Carnival Splendor (2008).
This is the first time we had booked a balcony cabin as on our previous 2 cruises we have been in an inside.
Our Cabin was R259 which is on the starboard side about a 3rd of the way down the ship on deck 14. We were on 2nd sitting in the Saffron dinning room.
We flew from Birmingham on the 9.15am flight with Thompson Fly. We arrived at the airport early as we were told you get allocated your seats at checkin. we were about 3.5 hours early, check in was open but there was no queue. There was no need for us to have arrived so early as passengers with special dietary needs have their seats pre-booked near the front of the aircraft so it's easy to identify them in order to distribute their food. The flight was delayed so we ended up waiting almost 6 hours in the airport (not a great start). The aircraft was a Boeing 767 2-4-2 seat configuration. The legroom was good but the seat width was not great. The entertainment system is ok but you have to upgrade to get the better films which we did not do. Drinks are mostly free you get 1 after take off and 1 with each meal. The meals were average plane food. The flight was good for a charter airline but the service was not as good as on a schedule carrier IMO. Flight time was 9 hours.
Once landed we were told it was approx an hour to get to the ship. This is a load of rubbish we were stood on the dock 20 minutes later and we arrived on a Friday during rush hour. From the peer Ventura looked very impressive, large but well proportioned.
Check in and cruise card distribution was quick, we dodged the photographers at the dock, why they think anyone would want a photo taken after 9+ hours of traveling is beyond me.
First impression of the ship was very good the atrium is smaller than I thought it would be but overall the decor was very tasteful and elegant. The deck looked very spacious and well designed.
Our cabin was wonderful, the balcony was reasonably large with good unobstructed views. You could see down on to some of the larger balconies below but only if you hung over the rail. Our beds were 2 twins but a quick word with our cabin steward rectified that and we came back to a king sized double later on in the evening. The walk in wardrobe is very good with loads of space, a few more hangers would have been useful so take a couple of your own if you have loads of things to hang. The bathroom was small but well designed and adequate. The TV was fantastic, good on demand movies and shows along with the ability to check your onboard account. The channels are a little limited but let's face it you don't go on a cruise to sit in your cabin watching TV. The hair dryer is a little poor if you have very long hair it might be wise to take your own.
Dinner on the first night is not at your normal table and the time you go depends on what time your flight leaves, its also casual dress so you don't need to worry about you case not arriving before dinner, as was our case with the flight being delayed. We set sail about 8pm and the first thing I noticed was how stable the ship is, very smooth indeed you cannot tell your moving. I found over the whole holiday even in some rough weather Ventura copes with the sea very well.
Food in general was very good especially in the dinning room. Its typical P&O British food choices. Each night there was a choice of 3 starters, 2 soups, 5 mains, 5 deserts, cheeses & biscuits and fruit. Then tea or coffee. On top of that you could also always get melon or prawn cocktail as a starter and steak, chicken or salmon for a main and a selection of ice cream and sorbet for desert. The waiters are superb as they are on all cruises you can get anything as you want it. The food was very British and we got Beef Wellington, Leg of Lamb, Roast Pork, Roast Turkey etc as well as some very nice fish and oriental dishes. The potatoes and veg are silver served with plenty of variety. The food certainly matched what we had sampled on previous cruises. There were a couple of nights where the odd dish was poor like very dry pheasant but your waiter will change anything that's not to your liking. We had a really nice couple on our table at dinner as well as our friends who were on the cruise with us. Dinner was so good every night we did not bother with The White Room, East or Ramblers. We ate in the dinning room most mornings for breakfast, there is the usual traditional British full English as well as kippers omelets and a chefs special like minute steak. We met some very nice people every morning and everyone like ourselves was having a good time. No complaints from anyone really. We also regularly indulged in afternoon tea. Again very traditional with cake stands, neat cut sandwiches, scones, crumpets etc... they even do a gluten free selection if you ask.
We occasionally ate lunch and breakfast in the buffet, never had a problem finding somewhere to sit. The food was good, with a large selection. I did not really see the point of the beach house, it just seem like an extension to the Waterside buffet and always seemed the serve the same food it was open for breakfast until 12.00 which was useful if you wanted a lie in.
Frankies pizza was ok, the menu seemed a little strange to me with a selection of 4 pizzas Margaret + another 3 I had never heard of. It seemed a bit pretentious to me, when people go to order pizza it's for a snack and they just want something quick, something they know. It would seem sensible to have had things like pepperoni and Hawaiian rather than Diavola etc... The same could be said for Frankie's grill, the chefs took ages putting mayo, salad etc.. on burgers and trying to get them perfect while the queue got longer and longer. Don't get me wrong the burgers and pizzas were good but possibly going gourmet on these meals is a step too far.
The interesting thing is we met very few moaners. There was a big mix of fist time and experienced cruisers onboard but neither set of people did any moaning. There was the occasional small comment about something but in general most of the comments were positive, the only negative comments from some people were the ship was too big so hard to find your way around. I agree it was easy to get lost on the first couple of days but for me this added to the exploring which is one of my favorite parts of a cruise. A couple suggested Independence of the Seas to us as a better large ship and another couple liked the QM2, in general most passengers seemed happy with Ventura.
During our 3rd day on board the captain came over the PA to tell us there had been some cases or Noro Virus on the ship and as such they would start a sanitation process. We were told their would be changes to how our food was served in all restaurants. If you felt ill or had diarrhea you had to dial 999 from your cabin phone, I assume you would be confined to the cabin.
The main differences were in the self service restaurants you could no longer serve yourself the staff served you. In the dinning room the cake stands were removed at afternoon tea and everything was served by the waiters. Salt, pepper and sugar pots were removed from the tables and sachets were provided. We also saw staff regularly cleaning door handles, rails and the machines in the casino.
The captain gave us an update every day and after about 4 days the extra precautions were relaxed. The staff were excellent though out this time and kept smiling even though it was obvious they were working twice as hard and being put under a lot of extra pressure.
The sand bank!!!! We anchored up at Catalina Island, I did notice the ship seems to be listing to one side and Anna joked we were probably on a sand bank? The joke was on us though as an hour after we were supposed to depart the captain came on and announced we were stuck on an uncharted sandbank. A dive crew came over from the Dominican Republic to check for damage. About 5 hours later we got the all clear and the ship was (in the captains words) lifted off the bank.
Sand Bank no.2: We missed going to Martinique because of civil unrest and the island was changed to Dominica instead. We anchored up again, after a day kayaking we were ready to leave but there was a delay. At dinner that night one of the people dinning with us said he had seen the ship move left and right as if it was stuck, after much movement there was a jolt and he saw a large hill of sand move from under the from of the ship? It seems we had been stuck on another sand bank but the captain had kept quiet about this one.
At St Martin we were late leaving again his time it was because some people were late back to the ship, one of them was quite drunk and we saw what looked like the security officer having stern words with them before they were aloud back onboard.
In general the other passengers were very courteous and a friendly bunch. There was no Butlins style roundness as reported about Ventura in some of the press. There were a couple of people who were slightly drunk in the casino on occasions but before anything could get even remotely out of hand the staff were very quick and firm with them. Security was tight and I think P&O are determined not to get a bad reputation following the much reported Christmas Cruise.
The Entertainment: This is where the ship could be accused of being "Butlins Style" but this is only because of the variety of entertainment. Neil the cruise director reminded me a little of Dale Winton, to be fair to him he was full of life and seemed to engage the people on board. The entertainment was plentiful and varied. If you liked Butlins style watching the entertainments team make idiots out of themselves the sail always were the place to be, silly dancing and pop music were a plenty on deck. I hate this type of entertainment so avoided it at all cost. BUT there were a great number of people who enjoyed it and joined in. It also means other parts of the ship were quiet and I could enjoy a drink on another part of the deck and watch us depart in peace. There were a couple of good sing a longs on deck after the sail away Butlins dancing, with everyone joining in. I think there were a lot of people on board from Manchester because as soon as "You will never walk alone" started people started booing (this was a bit of a shame).
In the day there were lots of quizzes and also bingo, the bingo calling was quite funny, most of these activities were done in the exchange which was an excellent English style pub. They showed lots of football on the big screen and replayed many matches that were on early in the day in the UK. The exchange was our favorite hang out as the casino is part of it.
The Casino was disappointing, we are regular visitors to Las Vegas and although we rarely gamble at home we love to gamble in the casino. The dealers were all miserable apart from 1 young guy who we found out was the trainee. They had a poker tournament every night at 10pm which was no good for us because we were on 2nd sitting dinner. On the last night the casino was open they played some stupid black jack tournament which took up 1 of the black jack tables, not many people played the tournament which meant a table stood empty for most of the night. The other table was packed and it was impossible to get a seat. Many of the gaming lessons did not happen when they were supposed to which was also annoying. The 1 positive was they made sure people did not hog seats on the table if they were not playing. The smoke free environment was also bliss, this is the first time I have visited a casino with a smoking ban and it was fantastic. Another downside is the waiters seemed to ignore the people playing cards so it was difficult to get a drink if you were mid shoe. The casino being so poor is one thing that may push me to going on an American ship rather than a British on.
The shows were of good quality. I work in the music industry as the technical manager of a large state of the art live music venue. The ships theatre was superbly equipped and while we only went to a couple of the shows as its too much like being at work the standard was what I would expect from a touring theatre company. If you like shows you will enjoy them, the singers could sing and the dancers could dance. It was all a bit cheesy for my liking but some people love that.
The 2 show lounges Havana and The Tamarind Club were very similar, we watched a couple of jazz bands in the Tamarind Lounge, they were poor, professional musicians should be able to play in time and in tune and with some life. The singer and guitarist in the Exchange were also poor, they occasionally played in Metropolis too but I found the standard very amateur. Non of these people were bad but I would have expected the standard to be a lot higher as you can see much better acts who play for free in places like the Bedford or Regal Rooms in London. Also the volume and sound quality in the exchange was not good, too loud so you could not talk and very harsh, the sound should have been much softer. The comedians were all excellent. The late night shows in Havana were a little on the rude side, it did not bother me at all and I found the comedians very funny. The comedy shows in the theatre were just about family friend and were again of a good quality.
The guy in the theatre who did the mind reading was also very good, I could work out how he did most of the tricks but the last one was almost unbelievable. It was fantastic entertainment.
We always went to the 7.30pm show in the theatre most nights it's was not even half full and easy to get a seat. We went to one 11pm show and it was not full you could get a seat. The clubs were also very busy after dinner, when the comics were on it was standing room only. The club style lounges were always more popular than the theatre.
Metropolis is a bar on the top deck to the rear of the ship, we used it a couple of times, and it's quieter than the lounges probably because it's a bit out of the way. We found the entertainment in their poor as it was either the singer or a disco.
The exchange featured game show style quiz shows most night too. One night there were some young children running round the pub which was a little annoying as it was 11pm and their parents did not seem to be able to control them. IMO children of that age (6-8sih) should not been in a pub at that time of night. This was the only case of its kind though.
Ok out on deck and the pools:
The deck space is large and the designers have done a very good job getting the maximum out of the space available. There are lots of sun beds and they are close together as other people have reported, this did not bother me at all really as I would rather have more sun beds than more space. On a sea day is was extremely difficult to find a sun bed unless you went up on deck early and put your towel on one. On sea days there was not a problem at all.
It was obvious people were complaining about sun bed reserving as everyday in the paper it said P&O don't police sun bed reserving but we think this practice is rude and would advise passengers that if a sun bed is unattended for 30 minutes they are to assume it is unavailable. Well P&O you're going to have to start policing sun beds or have a section people can reserve in advance. Personally I think you should be able to reserve a sun bed for ½ a day in advance, if this was the case there would be plenty for everyone, half the people could use them in the morning and half in the afternoon. The thing that really annoyed me is on our last day in port, I had put a book and towel on my sun bed and gone to get a drink. There were 100's of beds available as it was a port day but when I returned not more than 10 minutes later my towel was gone but my book was still their. A lady told me one of the crew had taken the towel????? This annoyed me because A) there were lots of beds available and B) why did they not do this sort of thing on sea days when it is busy. One good thing about 2 of the pools was a large stepped area you could sit on. This was great because if you wanted to swim but did not want to fight to find a sun bed you could put your towel and clothes on the steps and see them while you were in the pool, you could then dry off in that area. This was a good design feature which I have not seen on other ships.
We did not use the pool on sea days it was just too busy. On port days we mainly used the Oasis pool which is at the front of the ship, its well shaded and adults only. The pools were all nice, not many kids around them really and the ones who were were well behaved. The hot tubs round the pool were good and its difficult to get out of them once you're in the temperature was so pleasant. The staff round the pool were very good and you did not have to wait long for a drink. With the sunbeds being so close the only slight problem was having somewhere to put a drink down once you had it.
The gym is very well equipped and I used it regularly. It lacks some heavier weights and there are not many free weights. You will be able to keep in shape but many have to vary you routine a little. I found the gym a little hot the air-con could have done with being cooler. In fact I thought the whole ship was a little on the warm side and I always had to take my jacket off at dinner.
We went on just 2 excursions organized by P&O. I would recommend you book your excursions early as we missed out on a few things we would have liked to have done because we did not book up in time. The excursions we went on were excellent and I would recommend you book directly with P&O rather than with the touts at the ports, it's more expensive but much better value for money. Also be warned if you're going to St Lucia and you want to visit the sulpher springs, waterfalls and pitons it's a long drive. It looks short on the map but takes almost 2 hours each way because of the windy roads up and down mountains. It's not that impressive either and is something I could have missed. If you do want to go there I would recommend a boat trip there rather than a taxi.
In summery I think P&O have tried to make Ventura a ship which is everything to everyone and they have got quite close. For people with an open mind who are tolerant of things which are not there thing this is a fantastic ship. It really will have almost everything you want but also things you don't want. If your looking for problems you will find them, if you look hard enough, but do people really go on holiday to find problems and complain?
I wanted the following from the ship:
A casino with blackjack and poker 1/2 Gluten free food 1/1 Fine dinning with a dress code 2/2 A well equipped gym 1/1 A bar which showed the football 1/1 A ship which was steady in rough weather 1/1 To not be ill 1/1 Movies under the stars 0/1 Friendly people and a good atmosphere 2/2 Friendly staff who put the customer first 2/2 Child free pools 1/1 Good live bands and comedians 1/2 Afternoon Tea 1/1
So as you can see I got almost everything I wanted and I think this would be the same for everyone and there is loads more I have not mentioned which I did not take part in.
Improvements: I would say movies under the stars is a must, they have the space to do it so why not? I cannot believe it would be expensive for P&O to fit a jumbotron screen and mini line array in the covered pool area? It could be used in good and bad weather.
The Casino as mentioned above could have been run much more efficiently and the casino dealers were the only people who let the staff down IMO.
Immigration at Barbados: On the 2nd last day you must go to Havana bar and go though Barbados immigration. If your on an excursion you have to go early and everyone is given a staggered time. I got up at 7.15 our allotted time was 7.30 which is when we joined the queue. The queue stretched almost the length of the ship. It seems talking to the staff this is common. The immigration staff are on Barbados time which means they are always 30 minutes late. The other problem was most people had turned up early and not at their allotted time. This meant by the time the immigration staff arrived the queue doubled back on itself and was 2 ship lengths long with what looked like every passenger in the queue. I would say P&O need to have a think of a better way of doing this, once the queue started moving it was fine but we had a very rushed breakfast in order to make it to our excursion on time. The same people who decided to turn up early for the immigration queue and cause a jam on deck 7, were probably the same people who decided when they called rows 1-14 on the aircraft it did not mean rows 1-14, but everyone. So again we all queued for the buss to get to the aircraft and then queue again to actually get on the plane. This is not P&O's fault but some customer must realize they give you a time for a reason just like they call rows at a time on the aircraft for a reason.
Live bands: some better live music, I think a good covers band who play popular 60's, 70's and 80's music would go down very well, it would be much better than a DJ or the singers performing to backing music.
You should be able to book your seat on the flight IMO. If your spending a lot of money on a holiday you want to be relaxed when you arrive. As a nervous flyer this part of the holiday was very stressful for me. Also I really think P&O should use a carrier who can provide business class and/or even first class seats. I could not afford it at the moment but surely if your playing £15,000.00 for a suite on the ship you would not mind paying for a business class seat on the plane. It also struck me a lot more people would be interested in paying for premium economy. P&O if your reading this its all more money in the bank for you, you should know airlines make more money from their premium and business class seats.
Positives: The comics were great fantastic entertainment.
The dining room, great waiters at dinner, they were amazing and worked tirelessly.
Superb pools and deck layout made the most of the deck space.
Lots going on, never a moment to get bored the entertainments team provided something for everyone.
Steady ship, it moved a bit in bad weather but generally I found it very stable
Friendly people everywhere, a good atmosphere and lots of people who wanted to make conversation and meet others.
Well organized tenders, we did not have to wait once
Well designed pools
Good interactive TV which gave you lots of information
Ships paper horizon was superb and gave all the info you needed.
Cabins were large and had nice balconies, the walk in wardrobe was very useful. The rooms are well equipped with tea, coffee, biscuits, hair dryer etc...
Cheap drinks, no automatically added gratuities on the drinks and they were all priced reasonably
Dress code was adhered to by almost everyone and the majority of people even made an effort on the casual nights.
Embarkation, Disembarkation was easy
To sum up: If your booked on Ventura, your going to have a great time, go with an open mind and with the mind set to enjoy yourself and you most certainly will.
If your thinking of booking you can't go far wrong with this ship. If you want a mix of traditional British cruising with a modern twist this is the ship for you, it has something for everyone young and old.
I hope this have come across as a balanced review I have tried to mention both positives and negatives as well as our experience of the ship. The bottom line is we had a great holiday and we will be cruising again some time very soon. Read Less