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Sail Date: April 2008
Background We are a retired couple in our 60s who have cruised about 8 or 10 times previously, only with P&O, mostly on the Oriana or Aurora, but once on Artemis. We have always wanted to go on a Maiden cruise - had imagined this ... Read More
Background We are a retired couple in our 60s who have cruised about 8 or 10 times previously, only with P&O, mostly on the Oriana or Aurora, but once on Artemis. We have always wanted to go on a Maiden cruise - had imagined this would be something unique, with special events and special entertainment. We made a reservation on the day bookings opened and got a "guarantee" cabin for the grade we had requested. We also subsequently added the one week cruise immediately following - visiting 4 ports on the Spanish and French Atlantic coast. Travel to Southampton We drove down to Southampton taking advantage of the free parking offered for this cruise. The queue from well outside the dock gates took an hour before we reached the unloading point. There was then quite a long queue (in the rain) before we got inside the terminal building. As "frequent" P&O cruisers we had the advantage of priority check-in once we were inside, but even that was quite slow due to the number of such passengers arriving. Once on board at 1.30pm our luggage arrived within a couple of hours. It may be that the long queues to reach the ship and subsequently to check-in were a result of this being the first time that P&O have had to embark so many passengers. The Ship Ventura is the first large ship in the P&O fleet - taking around 3,400 passengers I believe, as compared to 1,800 or so on the Oriana or Aurora. She is built to the standard we have come to expect with P&O - well fitted out, beautifully furnished, excellent artwork everywhere. As she is designed to attract a new type of cruise customer (families with young children), the lounges and public areas are more open and "walk-through" than we are used to and we felt the lack of quiet places to sit down in comfort and read or relax. The bars are all spacious, although the three largest - Havanna, Tamarind Club and Metropolis are regularly used for entertainment, much of which is relayed at a volume which appears to be designed for those who are hard of hearing. The theatre is outstanding - up to the class of the best London theatres, seating 750+, with comfortable seating and excellent production facilities. The Atrium and shopping area is OK with more shops and more space than we have seen on the smaller P&O ships. There is a limited library, but no dedicated library reading room as on the Oriana or Aurora. Our Cabin Our cabins - A622 on deck 12 for the Maiden Cruise and B406 on deck 11 for the one week follow-on cruise, were identical, with reasonable space, excellent furnishing, a terrific walk-in wardrobe area (more hanging space than we have seen on other ships) and a typical, adequate bathroom/toilet with shower. The cabin had a balcony with two semi-recliner chairs and a small coffee table. There was a flat screen TV, excellent tea and coffee making facilities and a fridge. Our cabin stewards were first rate as we have always found on P&O ships. One of the few snags we encountered with this brand new ship was that public area announcements could not be heard on one of the TV channels as stated, so every time anyone heard the sound of any announcement, everyone rushed to the door and stood in the corridor to listen...... A minor annoyance which should be put right quickly, we hope. The only other "snag" was, we believe, a sign of the times - some films on the TV were free to watch, others required a payment of a few pounds. Just another way that Carnival is seeking to increase income. A similar situation applied to cabin food service - some items were free, others required a payment. The TV has an "interactive" function where one can find messages (usually promoting services from the Spa, Photographers, Tours Team or Art Gallery) and a facility for checking the on-board account expenditure to date. TV channels included Sky News (UK version), BBC World and BBC Prime for nearly all of the time. One comment we would make - something to take into account when choosing a cabin with a balcony - is that the balconies on decks 10, 11 and 12 are set back from the side of the ship and are built vertically one above the other with decent privacy. But we could look straight down into the balconies of cabins on decks 8 and 9 which are staggered out (presumably give larger balcony and/or cabin size). We felt than the people on these lower decks at times felt quite uncomfortable with us looking down on them resting or having drinks or a meal. Dining There are two large self-service cafeterias on deck 15 which are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, children's high tea, an evening meal and a limited midnight buffet. In practice some food is available from 6.30am until the early hours. The restaurants are bright and airy, but with limited space for serving food and the choices reflect that limit. Seating is insufficient at peak breakfast and lunchtimes, even with the small outside area at the stern and the few tables in the area around the covered pool. Breakfast and lunch are also served in one or two of the "main" restaurants, with waiter service. This was our preference on most occasions unless we wished to have a quick breakfast before going ashore. During the daytime there are two food bars on deck 15, one serving pizzas and the other burgers. These are free of charge. There is also an ice cream bar for which there is a charge. We had an excellent pizza for lunch on one occasion, but did not sample the burgers or ice cream. There are a number of evening meal options on Ventura, but at the time of booking it is necessary to make a choice for dinner between "Club" dining (the same table every evening at one of two restaurants - Baytree or Saffron - at either 6.30pm or 8.30pm) or "Freedom" dining - eating in a third main restaurant (The Cinnamon) at a time of your choice without reservation. We had chosen Club dining second sitting at a table for 8 and apart from one or two evenings when the galley was struggling to cope, we were seated promptly and looked after by excellent restaurant staff very well. We met some people who had chosen Freedom dining and heard that at peak times it was necessary to make a reservation the day before if you wished to eat at a particular time. In addition to all those eating options, there are three alternative dining venues for which there is a cover charge. The "White Room" - conceived and inspired by Marco Pierre White, we were told - had a charge of £20 per head for dinner on the Maiden Cruise, but this had increased to £25 per head for the following one-week cruise. "East" had a charge of £15 and £20 respectively and "Ramblas" also had a charge, but we did not enquire. We heard good reports of the White Room and it was fully booked by the second day of each cruise. The menu there did not attract us sufficiently to justify the additional charge. We did eat at East and had an excellent meal from an interesting menu. There did not appear to be any difficulty in getting reservations there. We did not sample Ramblas, but friends tried the Tapas snacks available in the bar area (I think is was 3 Tapas for £2.50) and said that this was very good. Several of these would make a light lunch. The food was generally good, although there are signs of economy in the choices available and the quality of some dishes and the reduction in provision of fresh vegetables.. Beef in particular, was of poor quality on several occasions and the "standby" offering of sirloin steak at dinner was inedible on a couple of occasions. Staff were very embarrassed about this and promptly offered an alternative. Meals came out from the galley ready plated - your choice of main course on a bed of rice, pasta or potatoes with minimal vegetable decoration and the waiters then added another potato choice and one vegetable of the day by silver service. There were 4 formal and 4 informal nights on the maiden cruise and 2 of each on the one week cruise. The rest were "smart casual". We were impressed that nearly everyone made the effort to comply with the dress code on formal nights and it was a pleasure to see even small children smartly kitted out - some even in scale size DJs! We suspect that those who chose not to "play the game" ate in the cafeteria on formal nights and kept clear of the main public areas. Daytime entertainment Much is made of "Cirque Ventura" - an area on the highest deck with equipment (and trained staff) for trampoline, flying trapeze, juggling, walking on stilts, etc. Workshops are held (for which there is a charge, I believe). This will appeal to young people, but only operated in good weather. There is limited space for deck quoits and shuffleboard and 4 table tennis tables. There are - as always - many scheduled daytime activities to suit most, but not all, tastes. But with the ships spending more days in port than at sea, these activities are less important. There are 4 swimming pools - none reserved for adults only - and plenty of sunloungers, so long as you are prepared to look around and not stay close to a pool. There is a comprehensive Spa and hairdressing / manicure salon. The steam room and sauna are not mixed sex on this ship which is a shame and the facilities did not therefore appear to be used much. There was much promotion of the various massage services available. The gym / fitness center was very good, although, to my shame, I only used it three times. Evening entertainment This is a very subjective matter and our comments can only reflect our own tastes. One overall comment - we found the music much too loud, especially in the shows performed in the Havanna venue. Even in the Metropolis bar we had to move away from the area where music was being played, in order to hold a conversation. Luckily we happened to carry earplugs in our luggage and we made use of them on several occasions…! There were 3 venues in use each night - the arena theatre, the Tamarind Club and Havanna. Each venue had three performances, enabling people to see 2 of the shows if they wished, as well as having dinner. The theatre company shows were terrific - the best we have seen on any P&O ship - and contained elements of dance, song and acrobatics. There was over-reliance on the lead male singer (an excellent voice, but finding it tough to perform 3 shows a night) which was a shame because there were other members of the team with good voices as well. We had a classical pianist on each cruise and both attracted a loyal following. The Tamarind Club was billed at the Ventura Comedy Club. There was a comedian or a duo there almost every night. We suspect that P&O have some way to go to discover and retain good comedians. Comedy needs to be good and reasonably sophisticated to attract a wide audience and when comedians have to rely on bad language, smut and sex in order to present an act, that is not to our taste. We feel that this is also not appropriate for an audience which includes young children (who were still around at the shows at 10.45pm) The other cabaret acts were sometimes OK, but not of the standard we have met on previous P&O cruises. This was particularly disappointing as we had expected the Maiden cruise, at least, to be something special and to have some top class entertainers. One act that did stand out was called "Legends" on the Maiden cruise. Children's facilities We did not have children with us. On the maiden cruise there were - we believe - only about 40 children on board. On the subsequent cruise there were 400 children. We were told there will be 800 or more on board during school holidays. We understand that the facilities for children are excellent and they certainly have a large dedicated area and dedicated staff to organize their day. For passengers without children, the impact of large numbers around the pools is significant. Ports On the maiden cruise we visited Barcelona, Villefranche, Livorno (for Florence), Santa Marghareta, Civitavecchia (for Rome), Alicante and Gibraltar. On the one week cruise we visited Vigo, Lisbon, Bilbao and Brest. We booked ship excursions (actually coaches to transport us to the city and back so we could "do our own thing") for Florence, Rome and Santiago de Compostella (from Vigo). The coach service was reliable and the attendant guide good on 2 occasions and poor on one. Elsewhere we explored locally, making use of the shuttle bus provided into town where appropriate. We like to explore on foot at our own pace, not in a crowd. We research for walks and sights of interest on the internet before each cruise and always try to find a suitable restaurant for an inexpensive lunch in a non-touristy area. We usually get recommendations by posting questions in the appropriate Forum in the sister website www.tripadvisor.com There was an initial problem with disembarkation by tender at Villefranche (the first time they had done this with a full complement of passengers) and on a couple of other occasions there were problems getting ashore because of a lack of shuttle buses to take passengers out of the port area. We hope these are teething problems which will be sorted. Final Disembarkation This operation ran smoothly and once we had remembered what color our suitcases were, we found then easily amongst the vast collection in the arrivals hall at Southampton. The car was easily found and the journey out and home uneventful. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
We've been cruising now for 5 years and in that short time have managed to squeeze in around 14 cruises, mainly with P&O but also with Cunard and NCL. We have really enjoyed spending the daughter's inheritance up to now, ... Read More
We've been cruising now for 5 years and in that short time have managed to squeeze in around 14 cruises, mainly with P&O but also with Cunard and NCL. We have really enjoyed spending the daughter's inheritance up to now, although she is due to join me on a cruise next month (hope she doesn't get the bug too!). We were very excited about the prospect of being among the first to try out the brand new Ventura. There had been a lot of hype in the build up and we were a bit worried that we would be disappointed. How wrong we were to be worried! I'm not going to talk about the journey or the checking in, because it's hardly rocket science and is all a bit dull. I'm not going to talk about the ports of call either, as many of you will already know a lot more about them than we do! And I'm definitely not going to talk about food, except to say it was very nice, I ate too much and gained too many pounds. (But be sure to do the formal afternoon tea in the dining room at least once. Toasted crumpets! Ooh yummy.) But the ship - WOW! What's not to like? It definitely targets a different demographic from the other ships, and as 30-, 40- and 50-somethings, even though we weren't travelling with kids, our party seemed to fit in quite well. Theatre - one of the best we've been in at sea; deck space - plenty and loads of sun beds; service - excellent as usual; I particularly liked that bit where you could walk right round the front of the ship on the prom deck. Bars Our first experience on board was in the Tamarind Club. A mid-ships bar, this is nicely positioned wherever you are based onboard - not too far from anywhere. This is a gorgeous bar and was a hive of activity throughout the cruise, hosting singers, comedians, speakers, dancing and also providing a comfortable waiting area at the tender ports. It made us smile one day to see Noddy in there with all the small kids, watching a Noddy movie too! Situated at the top of the atrium, the Red Bar is an exquisite cocktail bar with an opulent feel. This is an excellent people-watching spot too and a good place to sit and watch the atrium colors change. Ramblas bar with its Spanish feel was a nice place to sit both day and night as adjacent to the bar area is a courtyard area built around a tree (is it real? LOL!) - this provided one of our regular morning coffee stops. Explorers is the 'pub' bar. This is a very nice and roomy area with the novelty of a train that runs round the top of the bar. Sitting adjacent to the casino, this is the venue for pub quizzes and the karaoke. This wasn't our favorite venue as it is the only smoking bar on board, so got a bit too smoky for us. Our favorite bar by far was Metropolis. Situated at the stern, way up on Deck 18, the view of where we'd just been was awesome. But the bonus was that the bar also has wings either side which give a great view along the whole length of the ship. This bar has large screens showing cityscapes in the evening - a different city each night - and as the sun goes down for real, it goes down over the city on the screens. The pre-dinner nibbles in here are based on the city theme for the night, and we were delighted to find that there is also a special cocktail associated with each city. We did our duty by trying them all during the course of the cruise - just research you understand. Cabins We had a mid-ships inside cabin on Deck C. Size-wise this was pretty much like any other inside cabin, but what set it apart from the rest of the fleet for us was the walk-in wardrobe area. We loved this as it was so convenient. Other nice touches were the Nick Munro-designed kettle, tea pot and cafetiere, and the interactive TV. The TV took a bit of getting used to, but I can see it being very useful and it was handy to be able to keep track of our onboard account. Lifts With over 3,000 passengers and 19 decks, we expected the lift situation to be troublesome. But we found that this wasn't too bad and the lifts themselves were very whizzy. Beware if you take a midships lift though - some of them have glass backs, so ladies, take care when adjusting your pants, LOL!!! Atrium I already mentioned the color changes of the lights in the atrium; this can create some nice effects in your photographs. We liked the bottom of the atrium best as there is a decent sized coffee shop to one side, the art gallery (Hurrah! No art auctions!) is down here too, plus the library/book shop. In the middle of all this are some comfy sofas and chairs, just the place to chill out when you've found your library book. Kids' Stuff We had a quick peek in the kids area - oh how I wish my parents had brought us cruising as kids, instead of that caravan in Mablethorpe! Kids of all ages are very well catered for and even have their own deck areas. The little night nursery was very cute too. The Cirque I've not included this in the kid's stuff as some of us had a go too! Right up on Deck 19, the bungee trampolines are surprisingly hard work, but great fun. We didn't have the nerve to try the trapeze or the tightrope walking this time though. Apparently the oldest passenger to have a go on the trampolines during our cruise was in his 70's - good for him! Conclusion Our feeling at the end of the cruise was that this ship has something for everyone. We would really like to sail on Ventura again and we are just debating whether to change one of our future cruises so we can make this happen sooner rather than later. Anyone cruising on Ventura in future, you are in for a real treat! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
I was very excited to be going on Ventura after waiting 12 months since my booking. The problems started at Southampton when i had to wait for 2 hours in a Q to park the car.This is unacceptable for any passenger but especially disabled ... Read More
I was very excited to be going on Ventura after waiting 12 months since my booking. The problems started at Southampton when i had to wait for 2 hours in a Q to park the car.This is unacceptable for any passenger but especially disabled passengers, which i am sure i was not the only one . There was a long Q to get on board and the Lady at the security check in for bags etc asked me if it was nearly at the end as she had been on duty for 4 hours already.She said its always like this when Ventura is in .We finally got on board at 4.00 and it was time to sail.We did not go to the muster station for the emergency drill as it had already started and no one asked us if we were going. This is the first time i have seen this happen where people don't need to go to such an important meeting. We met first timers who had not been either.The cabin was beautiful.The problems started straight away. We were booked for early dinner and when we went down the Q was horrendous. When we went for our table for 2 we found 4 tables for 2 stuck together to make a table for 8. We were lucky the others were lovely people but had also asked for tables for 2. The service was really slow and the dining room was really cold all week. The food was sometimes only lukewarm.The self service restaurant  was our next call next morning for breakfast and the Q here was worse than the night before. This was like this all week. Not much staff to cope with over 3.000 people. Lots of complaints about the wait for cups glasses cutlery etc.I have been loyal to this company since 1997 and have never seen anything like it .I did not like the fact that the hand washing gel is now self service. There were lots of people not bothering with it and i was very worried about picking up a bug. There were 4 ports of call and there were shuttle busses to take you from the dock . When we went the first morning for the bus and guess what there were at least 300 in the Q and hardly any busses. Lots of people complaining.. The other 2 days the exact same thig with people waiting in the long Q.I felt very sorry for people who were on their first cruise.Lots were saying NEVER AGAIN.I heard lots of people saying they will be going back to Royal Caribbean as they know how to treat customers.I would not travel on Ventura Again. I had hoped to book AZURA for next year but not now as it will be just the same or maybe even worse.I have booked Arcadia for October . I have travelled on her before and there were no problemsFor my 2010 cruises i will be looking at Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and Cunard  as i met lots of satisfied customers from these companies Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2008
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed ... Read More
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed Costa, QM2, RCCL & Star Cruises. We don't like to book too far in advance and typically look for offers on the internet 1-2 months before we want to sail, so we have been lucky enough to find some fantastic deals and arrange our own airfare and independent transfers when needed. Looking for something special for Paul's 70th birthday on 17th April had become unusually challenging as many ships were transatlantic at the time and for medical reasons we can't get insurance for North America at the moment. When we found an offer for the Ventura's maiden voyage about 6 weeks before sailing it seemed to good opportunity to try P & O. Nearly everyone on board had booked up on the day bookings opened a year before, so it must have been a cancellation cabin. Although we love to try different ships we had never sailed with P & O before, mainly because most of the itineraries sail from Southampton and as I am not a natural sailor the 2/3 days sailing each way to the Med does not particularly interest me. Also, their prices are typically around 50% dearer than comparable cruises with other companies. At £1,119 each for an inside cabin this was the most expensive cruise-only fare we had paid in our 25 cruises, and as a maiden voyage on a much-hyped ship we had fairly high expectations. Travel to Southampton & Embarkation We drove ourselves to Southampton port - as we had a discounted cruise fare we were not entitled to the usual free parking offer and had pre-booked with CPS for £117. Unusually, there was a terrific traffic jam and it took us about an hour from our first sighting of Ventura to the car park drop-off point. There was no obvious reason for this and we had embarked equal -sized ships there before without any problem so it was probably just bad luck. But we had plenty of time, and once we had left our car the check-in procedure was quick and efficient and after a short wait for security checks we were on board about 2.30pm. The Ship - First Impressions Ventura is a lovely ship, almost identical in layout to the Golden & Grand Princess, that we know and love, so we had no trouble finding our way around. She was "specially designed for Britain" which primarily means that the dEcor is generally less flamboyant than on her American sisters. Our Cabin We had booked an inside guarantee and after a daily website check had found our cabin allocation about 2 weeks before leaving - R248 is towards the front of deck 14 (Riviera deck) one deck below the lido deck. Our cabin was fine, brand new, spotlessly clean, exactly as we had expected and no different from any other modern cruise ship. There are sparkling new tea and coffee facilities in the cabins along with a single rose bud and some boiled sweets in a matching steel vase and dish to welcome us aboard. 2 small complimentary bottle of water were provided which was nice. No mini-bar but drinks could be ordered from the room steward. Richard, our steward, introduced himself and was extremely efficient and pleasant throughout the voyage. Our luggage arrived promptly (although there was an announcement later in the afternoon that there had been some technical problems and luggage delivery was delayed). Room service was available but we did not use it. The menu was slightly strange - for example you could order a salmon meal for free but a chicken sandwich cost £1.50. Apple pie was free but chocolate tart £1. Toiletries provided in the bathroom included some novel items such as eye cream, refreshing balm for aching feet (extremely useful !) and lip gel as well as the usual moisturizer, soap, sewing kit etc. There was a dispenser in the shower holding a combined hair & body shampoo but no conditioner. Fellow Passengers All British, and apart from 2 couples on their first cruise almost exclusively P & O "regulars". There were a huge number of "Gold" members (150 days + on P & O, I understand) for whom a special event had been arranged with Michael Portillo as guest speaker. There were a few families but the majority of passengers were aged 60+. As cruses in general, we found everyone to be extremely pleasant and happy to share tables and to chat. There were 4 formal nights and 4 semi-formal (jacket & tie expected for gentlemen) on our 14 day cruise and the dress code was honored by everyone and we really enjoyed dressing up for a change, as so many ships have let the dress code slip. Seeing 3,000 people dressed correctly for the "Black and White Ball" night was amazing. The other theme nights were "Latino","Pirate/Tropical", 60s/70s and 80s/90s. Dining - Cinnamon Restaurant I had been pleasantly surprised on booking to have been offered the option of "Freedom Dining". Unlike Princess only one restaurant is dedicated to Freedom and as a fairly new innovation for P & O it did not seem particularly popular. Some people who had requested a fixed table had been moved onto Freedom to make up the numbers, but for us this was good as we walked into the restaurant between 8-8.30pm and were seated immediately every night without having to wait or queue at all. The restaurant manager was nice and soon got to know that we liked to share a larger table. The service was always good and we were happy to have the £1.60 daily gratuity added to our account -some people did have this removed and there were tip boxes in the restaurant on the last day for those who preferred to tip in cash. Food is very subjective, but in our opinion the menus were alright without being brilliant and the food fell broadly into the same category. We considered it overall far below the levels of quality we had experienced on most other ships. Each evening there was a choice of 3 starters, 2 soups (but no salad option apart from an "always available" Caesar Salad), 5 main courses (generally 1 fish, 1 vegetarian and 3 meat) and "always available" salmon, chicken or sirloin steak, 3 desserts plus a choice of ice cream & sorbet. A cheeseboard, coffee/tea and different nice home-made after dinner sweets were offered in addition to a dessert. The menu descriptions were not always terribly accurate but there were some interesting options such as some game dishes and an excellent lobster thermidor, but there was a distinct lack of steak, which is Paul's favorite on the American ships. In fact the only beef offerings during the 2 weeks were a couple of roast beef meals (one of which, it was universally agreed, was awful), one "pot roasted rump steak" (which also turned out to be slices of roast beef) and one braised steak. A good but small beef wellington on the last formal night was the only meal he considered to be a "proper" cruise ship steak dinner. Most nights there was at least one choice which I would have categorized as a cheap, everyday meal such as shepherds pie, toad in the hole, sausages & mash etc and not the sort of dish I would expect to find on a cruise menu. That said, these dishes did seem to be quite popular. There were bread choices listed on the menu but all that the waiters ever seemed to have when they served bread was the same old soft rolls every evening - brown or white was the only choice. Each meal came served with a garnish of potato and/or a vegetable and the waiters served another type of potato and a second veg at the table. Dining - Other Venues The Waterside is the main buffet restaurant. It has serveries on both sides of the ship identical to the Horizon Court on Princess, but on Ventura each servery is divided in half by a rope and the dishes are then repeated on the other side, so basically you get half the number of items. We found the selections adequate but limited and unexciting. There was nothing cooked to order - so eggs for breakfast came ready-fried in trays from the galley and I missed the pancakes and waffles so readily available on American ships. The lunch selection was a fairly basic, an unchanging salad bar with a daily selection of cooked meats, smoked fish etc and usually one curry (or similar), one English pie cooked in individual dishes and one or two other hot dishes. The exception was the cake / dessert section which was fantastic both at lunch and afternoon tea time every day - a large section brimming with a huge assortment of individual cakes, tarts, slices etc and warm scones at tea time. The Beach Hut is the extension to the Waterside further to the aft. The food choices were the same but I preferred this area as it was brighter, lighter, generally less crowded and I thought the food from this servery tended to be hotter. It seems a silly complaint, but the worst thing about the buffet areas on Ventura is the ridiculous trays they provide ! They are huge and heavy (even before being loaded with crockery and food) unlike the usual lightweight melamine sort, and make it almost impossible for 2 tray-carrying diners to pass in an already crowded environment. Once you do find a table there is nowhere to put the trays and the staff who are so keen to force them into your hand when you enter the buffet are less keen to collect them up - although by the end of the cruise a number of us had become "tray avoidance experts" !. Frankie's Pizza bar is situated between the pools and the pizza were cooked to order in a few minutes and lovely. There is also a burger bar which we tried once and it seemed OK but we are not burger experts. We did not try any of the other dining options. East had an interesting oriental menu with a £15 per person cover charge and seemed to be quite busy. The White Room seemed rather out of the way on a high deck at the back of the ship. We went to look on the first day but could not find a menu (they don't display menus outside the main restaurants either). I think the cover charge was £20 each and we might have been tempted if Marco Pierre White had been on board himself - many people like us were surprised he was not there for the maiden voyage. We spoke to 3 or 4 couples who had dined in his restaurant and liked it, apparently the service was exceptional. There is also a Spanish Tapas bar in the "Ramblas" Bar. This area did not seem to be well used at all which is a shame as I thought it was rather nice. Entertainment We found the evening entertainment to be very good. Shows were repeated 3 times, at 7.15pm, 8.45pm and 10.45pm which was wonderful as it gave the opportunity to see 2 shows. We tended to see our first choice of entertainment, usually the main theatre show, at 7.15 then eat and then see a show in one of the other venues at 10.45 if we were not too tired. It was interesting that many of the P & O regulars that we spoke to were disappointed by the entertainment. There were perhaps too many comedians, and some were better than others, but there was always another type of show instead and we found at least one every night that we thoroughly enjoyed, and as you only get one show on most ships the second one was a bonus anyway. The Production shows were all excellent and original, especially "Chronicles" and "Plunder" - the latter takes place near the pool and I don't want to give too much away but it would be best seen from the deck above, we were near the pool bar and did not have a good view or sound quality but the show is fantastic. In addition to the main show in the Arena Theatre there was generally a gameshow and/or comedy act in the midship Tamarind lounge and a music act in the Havana nightclub at the back of the ship. These were also repeated 3 times per evening. An excellent young classical pianist called Maria King was one of the most popular entertainers, performing several times with some varied programmes and not all classical, she had a lovely personality too - some people said she was funnier than the comedians !! The cruise director was very pleasant but his role seemed to be purely an introducer/announcer rather than an entertainer or personality in his own right. Daytime entertainment we considered quite poor. There was an excellent history lecturer on board but apart from him there was little of general interest, the only regular quiz was at 11pm each evening, although in the last couple of days they did add in a couple of afternoon events. There were the standard spa-sales-based talks and some computer and camera courses (which I think were chargeable) but nothing that particularly appealed to us. The "Horizon" daily newspaper looked full of events but many were multiple-listings, eg the Cirque Ventura's bungee trampoline (which cost £3 for about 5 minutes) was listed every hour. The best event of the cruise was the "British Sail Away Party" from Gibraltar, which was a bit like Last Night of the Proms and nearly everyone was on deck. Children Very few on our cruise and the ones that were on board seemed to spend most of their time with the various childrens' clubs. Apparently 300 children were due on board on the next cruise and up to 800 in the summer ! The childrens' facilities are well advertised and probably good. Noddy even put in an appearance at the welcome party !! The Ship - A Little More Detail Ventura has 4 pools, a small one on the back terrace, two main pools on the lido deck (one with a retractable roof) and a lovely "endless pool" in the spa area where you can swim against the current. The sunbeds around this pool were the only ones to have cushions, the ones elsewhere on the ship being less than comfortable. No ship can have everything, but the facility we missed most on the Ventura was a card/games room. There were non-hosted bridge & whist games in one of the restaurants at certain times but the only place to play a private game was in one of the bars or in the buffet restaurant. We heard others bemoaning the lack of a cinema, dance floor and chairs on deck. But Ventura has a lot of good points too, most of the public rooms (with the exception of the Havana lounge where many of the seats have blocked views of the stage) are very nice, comfortable and friendly. Bar prices seemed very reasonable compared to the ships we are used to, at about £2.50 for a pint of beer, spirit or glass of wine. Cocktails started at about £4. There does not seem to be an additional "gratuity" added to bar bills which is a pleasant change. Likewise you tip the cabin steward (and anybody else you wish) in cash at the end of the cruise whatever you see fit, there does not even seem to be a recommended amount. Again, this seems far more like a tip than the fixed $10 day (or whatever) added to the bill on most ships which has become more like an addition to the cruise cost than a gratuity. Ports of Call I intended this review to focus on the ship, as there is a lot of information already on CruiseCritic.com about the standard western Med ports that we visited - Barcelona, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Villefranche & Gibraltar. There were also 2 new ports for us. Santa Margherita which I had considered to be the jumping off point for Portofino but in fact was a really lovely Italian resort in its own right. We tendered right into town and had a lovely day exploring the interesting shops, harbor and beaches. Alicante was our second new port and had a lovely long beach but other than a lovely harbourfront promenade the town seemed rather grotty. I suspect the better area would have been along the beach towards Benidorm where the hotels seemed to be located. Another time we will take the tram that ran from the shuttle bus drop-off and explore in that direction. This was a maiden cruise and we had expected some hiccups but the only real problem we encountered was at the first tender port where apparently there had been some technical problems with some of the tenders and it caused a huge queue. There were also long queues to get on and off the ship at some other ports and going by the anger expressed by a lot of passengers I gather this is not a usual P & O failing, so I am sure the organization will improve with a little time and experience. Summary I do not intend this to be a negative review - Ventura is a nice ship, we enjoyed our cruise very much and would be very happy to sail on her again. However, I don't think we are likely to take many P & O cruises for the very same reasons that we have not done so in the past - namely itinerary and price. This was a good cruise without being particularly memorable and there was nothing that made us feel we had had good value for the extra money over other cruise lines. That said, for anyone who likes several sea days on a larger ship and prefers not to fly then the Ventura will be a good choice. Read Less
Ventura Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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