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215 P&O Cruises Ventura Cruise Reviews

We had an excellent first time cruise. The ship, food and staff were faultless throughout. However after reading on Cruise Critic that the Marco Pierre White restaurant is often fully booked prior to embarkation we followed advice that ... Read More
We had an excellent first time cruise. The ship, food and staff were faultless throughout. However after reading on Cruise Critic that the Marco Pierre White restaurant is often fully booked prior to embarkation we followed advice that you can book in advance. The P&O office pointed out that we had to buy a £20 p.p. supplement voucher. I was then asked whether I wanted white or red wine at a cost of £16 per bottle. I queried this as it was nonsensical that I would know which wine I would choose before knowing what I was going to eat. However I was told that was the system, so I opted for white wine at a total cost of £56. Once on the ship I discovered there was plenty of availability and we chose to eat in the restaurant on the first formal evening. We chose our food and I explained that actually although I had opted for white wine I would now prefer a more appropriate red wine. It was explained by the waiter and then the restaurant manager that my original chosen wine was brought on board at Southampton and whilst I could have something else at an additional cost I had to take ownership of the one I had originally chosen. I asked to see the wine and it was brought to the table - once opened we found it was a bottle of very cheap and nasty Chardonnay. The staff in the restaurant said this procedure had caused problems several times before and they recommended I speak to P&O shoreside as they felt it was a ridiculous system. Returning home I wrote to P&O to complain and ask why they didn't just ask for a £16 payment up front to contribute to the wine, but in their response they completely missed the point and said 'for any passenger who is uncertain of what wine they would like we can only advise that they wait until they are on the ship before booking into the restaurant'. Two lessons - there was plenty of availability for the restaurant, and if you do buy a voucher for yourselves or friends tell P&O they/you do not drink alcohol and choose once on board. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
The combination of fabulous service, really good food, a comfortable cabin, interesting ports, and fabulous weather mean that any whinges are indeed minor. It did surprise me however the number of people my wife and I chatted to on the ... Read More
The combination of fabulous service, really good food, a comfortable cabin, interesting ports, and fabulous weather mean that any whinges are indeed minor. It did surprise me however the number of people my wife and I chatted to on the ship who did just that, whinge about every minor issue. Do regular cruisers often say "the toast is better on Celebrity" and similar? If so, how sad is that, as it must spoil their enjoyment. I have listed many good points in my opening sentence, but would also add that the price of alcohol on board was very competitive. I also enjoyed the art gallery, the ambiance of the Metropolis bar (and the fabulous performances of the duo Sophistication), the exemplary organisation of embarquation and disembarquation, the friendliness of the staff and other passengers. My minor whines are as follows: The pool areas are a bit like Butlins on a bad day, very crowded and noisy. The excursions are expensive. Charging £20 a person for a photo with the captain as the only way to see the bridge. Too many "tribute acts" in the entertainment. Very few quiet areas, as musak is everywhere (I ended up sitting out on the promenade deck) All in all we had a fabulous time, the most relaxing holiday ever. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
I booked this cruise after being made redundant and wanting to do something nice with the money. When I printed the e-ticket 48 hours before we left, I found we had been upgraded to cabin D307, from L311. We arrived at Manchester ... Read More
I booked this cruise after being made redundant and wanting to do something nice with the money. When I printed the e-ticket 48 hours before we left, I found we had been upgraded to cabin D307, from L311. We arrived at Manchester airport early to find that the check in had also opened early. We were through check in within 15 minutes and checked into the airport lounge. On arrival at Barbados we were straight off the plane and onto a bus which took us straight to the ship's embarkation sheds (like a large hangar). Although the queues were long, this took about 20 minutes and we were on board. We found we had been upgraded to a mini suite with a king size bed, a bath and shower, a pamper pack and waiting for us was a bottle of champagne on ice, chocolates and a flower arrangement. The only slight downside was that we had to wait 3.5 hours for our luggage to be delivered to the cabin, something we had not anticipated. But, wearing bathrobes and sipping champagne while we waited was not hard! At St Lucia, Marco Pierre White joined the cruise, much to hubby's surprise as he thought that although there was fine dining, Marco would never actually be on the ship. We were booked on Freedom Dining and so ate when we felt like it. The pager system used by the Cinnamon restaurant if they were full was a bonus as we could go for a drink or relax in our room until a table was ready. We also liked the Waterside buffet, although finding a seat was not always easy. The bar and restaurant staff were fabulous, attentive and friendly. Nothing was too much trouble for our room steward and he was so quick at sorting out our room that we joked he must hide under the bed and clean up as soon as we went out! The ship is beautifully decorated throughout and although we got lost a few times, there were plenty of signs to redirect us. Hubby especially liked the well equipped gym. Ventura is so large that although they were nearly at capacity, we could always find a quiet spot to sunbathe and read if we wanted to. Some of the shows we found a little disappointing. One comedian was quite unfunny and some of the productions were slightly amateur (especially the background displays) but then again, we were not in the West end of London. The entertainment staff were brilliant, especially Greer and Jenny who smiled all day and really engaged the passengers without being pushy. I was really sad to leave Ventura and the Caribbean and would love to go back but we have decided to try out other P&O ships and different destinations first to see if they are as good as our first cruise. We weren't sure if cruising was for us but now that we have tried it, I can honestly say that it's the way forward if you want better than 5 star pampering with top notch food and brilliant destinations. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We booked the Caribbean cruise on the Ventura a little sceptically as the last cruise we did on Costa was awful and the one before that on Ocean Village was not as good as the first one with them. Ventura - well run, friendly, and ... Read More
We booked the Caribbean cruise on the Ventura a little sceptically as the last cruise we did on Costa was awful and the one before that on Ocean Village was not as good as the first one with them. Ventura - well run, friendly, and excellent food, the restaurant staff were also excellent nothing was too much trouble. We had 2nd sitting in the dining room this worked for us as it gave us time to shower and chill for an hour or so after getting back from our trips out. After dinner we went to see the shows, such as they were, we had no trouble finding a seat but go 15 mins before start of performance as they always start on time.The entertainment in the Arena Theatre was ok, not great but ok, the same few performers in every show just in a different order. You need to check the daily activity paper to find out where the entertainment is in the various bars we missed a lot because we thought the theatre was the best place to go. We had a balcony cabin (would not cruise without one) the only problem with it was it was the first on at the bow end a long way to walk to reach the restaurants etc but that was really a minor issue and after all my choice when booking. I found the ship very easy to find my way round and if you remember every time you get out of a lift you are facing the front of the ship you can't go wrong. The prices for drinks on board was very reasonable we were pleasantly surprised no more expensive than in a pub at home. We did find the prices in general in the Caribbean a lot more expensive than the last time we went a couple of years ago but that is not P & 0's fault. To vacate your cabin by 9am on the day of departure is too early considering you don't get the cabin till late afternoon when you embark. The organized trips were expensive, use local taxis the taxi drivers are very switched on and will give you all the info you want and the best places to visit. We would definitely Venture on th Ventura again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
This was our first 'proper' cruise with P&O, we have previously cruised with Royal Caribbean (to the Caribbean and Alaska) and have done weekenders on the Oceana and NCL. Ventura is a beautiful ship. The staff are immaculate ... Read More
This was our first 'proper' cruise with P&O, we have previously cruised with Royal Caribbean (to the Caribbean and Alaska) and have done weekenders on the Oceana and NCL. Ventura is a beautiful ship. The staff are immaculate and very helpful and courteous. I felt she lacked the initial wow factor when we boarded, however she is modern, elegantly furnished and there are some lovely areas that have been very well designed. the Atrium was smaller than I expected having seen photo's but was a lovely place to wander and people watch! Ventura seems to do a good job at catering for most people most of the time. There is the Exchange 'pub' for quizzes, karaoke , bands etc for those who want a lively entertained holiday but also bars like Metropolis which is calm and sophisticated with a pianist at certain times. One of the weakest areas of the ship is the outside space (or lack of it). There are just too many passengers for the space available. There are just hundreds and hundreds of sun beds filling every single corner of available space, and as soon as the sun came out they were all full - or reserved!! There were no clear walkways so it was virtually impossible to get from one end to the other. You could usually find a sun bed, it was just a case of picking your way through the crowds. We headed right to the front and sat in the semi shade of the old sports court which was very pleasant. Another weak point in my opinion was the casino. It was just small and drab. There were a couple of gaming tables and a very small area with lots of fruit machines and stools all crammed in which was also a walkway through. It is also adjacent to the pub and when something was going on in there the noise completely dominated the casino. Not good. We spent very little time and consequently very little money in there because of this. Our room was lovely, clean and tidy, well fitted out and kept spotless morning and evening - thank you Pascoal. I was surprised on the rest of the ship about the lack of enforcement of the use of hand gels. There were a couple (some not working) in the self serve area and that was it. You were not required to do it entering the dining rooms, re-boarding the ship etc, no wonder we all had colds and coughs by the second week. The food was superb all over the ship. The self service was excellent, always something different to try, we tended to go outside peak times to avoid the queues. The Saffron main dining room was also excellent, Bonny and Peter looked after us very well. Lunch and afternoon tea were also very good, possibly a little rushed but very nice. East - the Asian fusion restaurant was absolutely outstanding. The whole thing was superb from start to finish. We went twice in the evening and once for a curry lunch. Well worth every penny of the small supplement. The White Room - the food was very nice, the service was good but it all just seemed to lack something. We ordered 'Medallions of beef with rocket' which in fact translated to steak with lettuce on top. It was a nice evening but I didn't really think it warranted the much larger supplement. I felt that the entertainment was a little regimented, it was always the same band in the same bar at the same time every night. They never rotated. the Entertainment Team for me were not very entertaining or visible. If you like doing quizzes with your morning pint you were fine! There was only two hosted sail away parties the whole two weeks - we were all up on deck - where were they??? Overall we had a good cruise on a nice ship. It was all a bit 'British' for my taste. I quite like the mixture of Americans and Europeans you get on other lines, it makes it feel more like a holiday. I would cruise with P&O again and possibly on Ventura but only to the Baltic's or Fjords where sun beds would not be an issue. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
last year we were not very impressed with Ventura and felt that food quality and service were not to the standard we expected. The improvements were very noticeable with better menu choices and the food quality was certainly to a better ... Read More
last year we were not very impressed with Ventura and felt that food quality and service were not to the standard we expected. The improvements were very noticeable with better menu choices and the food quality was certainly to a better standard. The ship was efficiently managed and the raucous sailaway parties had been moderated. This time round we had a balcony cabin - so much better and we would never cruise again without having a balcony. Finding our way around the ship was much easier having been aboard before and having a cabin at the bow end meant we always knew which direction to walk! Others felt differently, one lady brought her husband to a talk just so he could help her find her way back to their cabin!! One plus as far as we were concerned was that Catalina Island was missed out and Grenada substituted - P&O said this was due to berthing difficulties but various other reasons were bandied about. We still feel that some shore excursions were poor value and preferred to use local taxis. At St Vincent we used the Sea Breeze ( look for the bearded skipper and green sun shade ) water taxi to reach the beach as this seemed the most substantial boat available as the sea was quite rough. Being on Freedom Dining also worked for us but even so we were often too late to find a seat in the arena theatre fro the 9 o'clock shows - you need to be there at least 15 minutes before they start. There was an outbreak of norovirus halfway through the trip but stricter hygene procedures were swiftly implemented and the spread was contained. All in all a very satisfactory cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Excellent flight from Doncaster, on time and lots of leg room, not worth paying for premium, we did that last year and didnt find much difference. The ship was amazing and suited out needs perfectly. As we were travelling with our son aged ... Read More
Excellent flight from Doncaster, on time and lots of leg room, not worth paying for premium, we did that last year and didnt find much difference. The ship was amazing and suited out needs perfectly. As we were travelling with our son aged 9 we chose Ventura because of its excellent facilities and they didnt disappoint at all, in fact they need a massive wage rise!! The restaurants were all exceptional, we booked freedom dining and always got a table around 8.30pm, the waiters are to be commended for their service and the food outstanding, even the breakfasts in the saffron were silver service!! Metropolis bar very good and our port of call every evening before dinner. The only bad experience I had was in the spa, and having read some other reviews I think people must have experienced the same person as I did. One particular man,think he was the manager was very abrupt when I queried a price on 50% discount day, and he really did leave a bitter taste, which put me off visiting the spa again. Saying that all the other spa staff were very friendly. Our cabin steward Grenville was the business and delivered canapes to us most evenings before dinner!! A special mention to the wine waitress in cinnamon think her name was Eloise?? she worked tirelessly every evening and always smiled. To sum up, very good ship, perfect for families, could get a sunbed on seadays, excellent food, bar prices reasonable and great company. We previously sailed on Norwegian Gem and found that this ship had a little more WOW factor than Ventura but we still enjoyed all the same. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I had thought that we were going to a simple beach holiday in Spain, for my snorkelling husband- a prospect which didn't thrill me at all, but to make up for it, he'd booked a Thomson's cruise to the Red Sea in Feb. So the ... Read More
I had thought that we were going to a simple beach holiday in Spain, for my snorkelling husband- a prospect which didn't thrill me at all, but to make up for it, he'd booked a Thomson's cruise to the Red Sea in Feb. So the sudden shock of a cruise instead had me dancing round the room! The local TA has a door to ship offer several times a year, which cuts out most of the hassle. Collected at 5am, then on to one of the 3 coaches he'd provided and away to Southampton by 6. Ventura is one of Carnival's Grand design ships, and is the largest, newest ship we've travelled on. There was ample space for the amount of people, with 4 pools, a full sized theatre, and a large, rambling buffet which I never saw overcrowded. There's also a promenade on 7, which I enjoy. Part of this- starboard- was for smokers, and was always crowded, unlike port side, even in the wild weather which occured from Barcelona.....and virtually all the way home! Cabins are fairly small, but the reason for this is a large walk-in wardrobe, which proved most useful- as was the laundry down the stairs and round the corner. The beds didn't have the mattress toppers we're used to on NCL, and the pillows had suffered from too much washing, resulting in hard balls of lint- most uncomfortable!- but I was given a new one without any fuss. We're not big eaters, nor do we have any sugar, so 2 nights in the freedom eating room were enough. We ate in the buffet after that, even on formal nights, and discovered that the formality almost disappeared by the 2nd week. Each night had a theme, with tables set and attentive wine waiters. Italian, Indian and tropical were our favourite. The entertainment was stunning in the theatre, especially the Jean Ann Ryan shows, with beautiful costumes, lighting and scenery. Several shows had trapeze and circus balancing; thrilling especially when going through a force 9! There was plenty of activities throughout the many sea days; Bill Giles the weather man; Colin Burring on ships and sailors; life planning; circus acts and juggling as well as the "selling" lectures. 2 things I'd like to see on other cruises were the passenger's choir and the discussion groups. In common with lots of other European cruisers, many of the ports we'd visited already, so it was good to find that P&O were looking at new tours. We visited Tuscarnia, to see the stunning 9th century church and walled city, followed by a farm tea at Marta. Good. Our anniversary was at Gibraltar, and after a rousing sail-away, which was more fun than I'd imagined, we prepared for a meal at Marco Pierre White's restaurant. This was superb in every way, from the damson drink to welcome us, to the hand made chocolate truffles at the end. All diets went out of the window! Although there was plenty to do on this vast ship, the sea days home dragged a little, probably because of the weather. Disembarkation was dreadful, as everyone had to queue after finding cases, for 40 mins (in our time slot), before reaching customs. They were stopping lots of people; someone said because we'd visited Gib. The journey home was long and arduous, being Friday at the beginning of half term. Having only travelled once before with P&O, on a very stuffy, longer cruise, we were pleasantly surprised by this one, with the multitude of activities. It's a change to have sensible drinks prices, without the 15%, and none of the penny pinching or grabbing that we've met before on some lines. The gratuities for freedom dining are paid up front, at £1.60 per day, and other tipping is discussed sensibly in a booklet. An altogether refreshing and enjoyable cruise.-jocap. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We actually travelled From Southampton but this stupid review site has only Got Tilbury. The Departure area is fairly well organised considering they have to deal with 300o odd passengers, we did not have to wait long to board maybe ... Read More
We actually travelled From Southampton but this stupid review site has only Got Tilbury. The Departure area is fairly well organised considering they have to deal with 300o odd passengers, we did not have to wait long to board maybe 45mins or so. we had a outside cabin with balcony on deck 14, which was smaller than I imagined but adequate.On departure a Naval brass band plays you away as you leave Southampton, I thought this was great. We had Club dining which was very nice we usually went there for formal dinners where you always had a table booked, but we also ate in the 2 buffet style restaurants, and had a fantastic meal in the White room as well. There was a fantastic entertainments manager on the ship from Jersey, who was also very funny,Leon St Croix. he joined in all the activities and also hosted an interesting screen show of the planets, it was like being in the planetarium, well almost. You spend six days at sea from Teneriffe, The sail away parties are a lot of fun Brian Conley Did 3 shows one night Booking therapies was a complete joke you would wait for your booked appointment then they would say after half hour wait sorry can you come back tommorow,No way we are on vacation so no sale there, the girl just looked at us and said you are not annoyed are you. Also went to buy a Dress shirt from wardrobe asked the assistant for a tape measure to measure neck size, they did not have one. another no sale. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Having been very disappointed with service and standards on P&O Arcadia when we sailed on its 15 night Caribbean Collection Cruise in 2007, we booked at short notice on to Ventura`s 17 night Mediterranean Cruise sailing from ... Read More
Having been very disappointed with service and standards on P&O Arcadia when we sailed on its 15 night Caribbean Collection Cruise in 2007, we booked at short notice on to Ventura`s 17 night Mediterranean Cruise sailing from Southampton on 1 September 2009 and hoped for the best. We were pleasantly surprised. P&O have raised their game considerably and much has improved in terms of service and standards. The food was consistently good and the service in all of the restaurants was of an extremely high standard. The Waterside Buffet was well organised with plenty of seating available. We chose Freestyle Dining and found that the Cinnamon Restaurant delivered first class service and excellent choices of high quality dishes. We treated ourselves to Dinner in the White Room and we were delighted with the menu and service. The ship was immaculate and the crew very friendly and helpful. The Cruise Director was the best that we have encountered after many cruises. The Captain and Ships officers got us into every port spot on time and kept us fully informed on every aspect of our progress. Our cabin was kept to a very high standard by Jerry from Goa who tended to our every need with courtesy and good humour. The entertainment in the Arena Theatre was first class and the club style entertainers performing throughout the ship were of an equally high standard with only one exception where in the Havana one night a proportion of the audience walked out in protest to a leud perfomers jokes. The excursions that we took were well organised and good value for money. embarkation and disembarkation processes were swift and efficient. We enjoyed the varied on board lectures which were well attended All in all we enjoyed our cruise greatly, this is a large ship with over 3000 passengers, however P&O have organised things well, so overcrowding is not apparent. The only niggles that we did have were minor. The Information Desk could have been more helpful on the three occasions that we made enquiries we came away without a clear resolution other than to be told that they would report the matter to their management. This latest cruise on Ventura has restored our faith in P&O and we are likely to use the Line again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Well - we booked the cruise and then checked out the ship which was probably the wrong way round. We were a little anxious when we found out how big the Ventura was and how many children it may hold.  Oh well, it was booked and paid for ... Read More
Well - we booked the cruise and then checked out the ship which was probably the wrong way round. We were a little anxious when we found out how big the Ventura was and how many children it may hold.  Oh well, it was booked and paid for so we couldn't change our mind.  Glad we didn't!The pre-boarding was absolutely fantastic - the best we've done so far.  It was an apparently new terminal and we hardly waited 10 minutes before boarding. This was around noon and we couldn't go to our cabin until 2pm but we were told to go to the Waterside restaurant for lunch.  Waterside is self service which always makes me worry but needlessly so this time.  The food was of a high standard with a good variety. The salads were marvellous and, I'm sure, not very slimming!!We were allowed into our cabin just after 2pm.  It was an inside one and was very well fitted out. Two wide single beds which we pushed together - we probably could have asked our room steward, Clevy, to do for us.  He made the beds up into a proper, large double later that day.  There was plenty of hanging space and hangers in what I'd roughly describe as walk-in type of wardrobe.  Mirrors were everywhere to heighten the feeling of space and light and the bathroom facilities were good.Evening meals were 'anytime'.  Food was of a very high standard and the service very good most evenings although a couple of times it became a little slow but 2 out of 14 slow nights isn't bad. There were two swimming pools which were adult only and we spent most of our on board time near the 'pointy' end which had plenty of space.  Plenty of sun beds to be had and pool towels were supplied in our rooms.Entertainment was good although a little repetitive.  Lots of quizzes, shows, dancing places so something for everyone. We were lucky that a Scottish comedian was on board who was very funny - he did a Billy Connelly act the second time we saw him.The tours were also good.  We went to Pisa which was a half day trip and the Colloseum and other places in Rome which was full day and very, very tiring as it was so hot.  There was a lot of queuing to get on and off the ship at some ports, Barcelona being the worst.  Perhaps open another gangway and use more than one xray machine???So far good points. Now a couple of bad ones.The waiting staff in the Waterside and Beachside restaurants need to be trained to avoid walking into passengers - they seem to be very reluctant to move aside and one barged into me holding a heavy tray - very painful - he didn't apologise even though I'd moved over and was against the side tables.  He came back in about 5 mins and apologised which was a bit late and I wasn't very nice about it.  Then the restaurant manager came over and apologised.  I think the waiter must have thought about it and was worried about keeping his job if I'd complained.I do think P&O could refrain from charging for teas, coffees and soft drinks when around the pools, decks and bars.  They are free when in the restaurants though.Disembarking was very good and we actually left the ship about an hour earlier than scheduled.  We have now cruised with the Sea Princess (2004) which were impressed with, the QEII (2007) which was just fantastic and now Ventura.  I can honestly say we enjoyed the cruise but it just didn't compare with the very elegant QEII. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
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 Great excursions 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. Afternoon tea 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
Sail Date February 2009
This ship was much larger but did not feel as crowded as Navigator and there was a more sedate atmosphere. However, there were plenty of people in their 20s and thirties aboard and several weddings. There were only about 60 children and we ... Read More
This ship was much larger but did not feel as crowded as Navigator and there was a more sedate atmosphere. However, there were plenty of people in their 20s and thirties aboard and several weddings. There were only about 60 children and we sailed out of school holidays, so I appreciate it is different in those periods.The cabins are clean and spacious with good facilities. All still looking new and nice touches such as the tea service and fridge. The bathrooms are small but the hanging space instead of wardrobes, is a good idea. We had a balcony for the first time and would recommend if the price is right. We had a last minute upgrade so only paid £100 more than an inside. The cabin steward was very efficient although rarely seen. The ship has many bars and cabaret areas. Our favourites were the Ramblas and the Metropolis. The dining venues were great and we tried all the restaurants except the white room which was always booked. A great asset was the Freedom Dining option. We enjoyed being able to eat at any time from 6-9.30 and having a table size of our choice. There were no queues and the food was excellent. The gym and spa area were well utilized and we booked the thermal spa package for the fortnight. The pool areas were clean but I would agree that the sun beds were rather packed together. However finding a bed was not a problem for us. The areas near the Oasis pool were usually less crowded and there is also plenty of shade behind the sports court. The islands are all very enjoyable and it is easy to book an island tour with one of the many local taxi drivers who congegrate at the port. Most offer 2 or 3 hour tours for about $25 and often have minibuses. They usually wait until about 8-10 passengers are available and then set off. We only took one ship tour which was in St Vincent. It would probably be possible to book your own there, but it was a Sunday and our first port, so we pre booked.St Marten was our favourite with Antigua coming a close second. The flights to Barbados and back were all with First Choice. We were lucky that they were on time and there is reasonable leg room and good in flight entertainment. Free drinks were offered and the transfers were all very smooth. I would not hesitate to recommend this ship and company. However, the entertainment did let down the overall experience and there was also a lack of activities, lectures, concerts etc which we have experienced on other ships. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
I have just returned from the Baltic Splendours cruise - my first foray into this type of holiday. I travelled with my husband and both of us are in our early 50's, so fell fairly in the middle of the age range of those on board. ... Read More
I have just returned from the Baltic Splendours cruise - my first foray into this type of holiday. I travelled with my husband and both of us are in our early 50's, so fell fairly in the middle of the age range of those on board. Check In We were due to embark between 2 and 4pm and joined the queue at about 2.01. We then sat in a queue of traffic for very nearly an hour. We had chosen the on-port parking as we thought it would be easier but having seen the busses all speed past the cars we would choose an off-port parking scheme another time. However, once we had handed our car and luggage over the check-in process was very quick and efficient. We found our cabin easily and one of our cases was waiting for us. The other two turned up within the hour. The cabin struck us as more spacious than we were expecting. We liked the way there was an open hanging area as I would imagine doors would be a bit of a nuisance in a confined space. There were enough hangers for our use. There is a cupboard with 5 shelves in, which also contained the safe, two bedside tables with two drawers each and another large cupboard with one shelf in the dressing table/desk. In addition there are some small open shelves. We found the storage so adequate that we did not use the cupboard in the desk at all. There was a tray of sweets, a single rose and tea/coffee making facilities with biscuits. The tea, coffee etc were replenished every day. The bathroom was compact but with plenty of space to put everything. Two large towels, two small towels and two flannels were provided. There were also two blue towels for use by the pool. There was a lot to read in the bathroom as there were little labels on everything but I welcomed the invitation to put towels to be changed in the shower otherwise they would be left, as I think it is such a waste to change them every day. Our cabin steward looked after us royally and was always friendly and polite when we met him. I did not sleep very well the first night as there was a constant sound, very like a large fan. I thought at first it was just the climate control fan but gradually realized that our cabin was next to the funnel. If you look on the deck plan and your cabin is next to a large blank area then this is it. As the noise is a constant one I soon got used to it and after the first couple of nights slept much better than I do at home. Dining As we had booked fairly last minute we were on the Freedom Dining option. We started booking every day but as we tended to eat early soon found out that this was not necessary, although I understand there was sometimes a wait if you wanted to eat at around 8.30. We thought the food was excellent. The choice was not wide (only 3 starters, for instance) but we were never unable to find something we fancied. Having said that we are open to new experiences and tried several things that we had never even heard of before and lots that we had not experienced before. I would imagine that people who were "meat and two veg" type of diners may have struggled sometimes and fast foodies definitely would have, but then they had the choice of going to the self-service restaurant. The waiting staff were attentive and mostly very efficient. I did hear one person say that she felt they were not as attentive because you didn't have the same waiter every night and so they were not trying too hard for their tip. I felt this was a very cynical point of view and did not find it to be borne out by any of the staff we had. We were served with cheerfulness and flashes of delightful senses of humor, which were always appropriate. Sometimes we dined with others on a larger table and met some delightful and charming people. Others were quite hard work and once I very nearly got up and left when one man was not only moaning about everything and everyone but when we said we were having a very nice holiday started lecturing us on why we couldn't possibly be. For breakfast and lunch we used the Waterside and Beach House self service restaurants. It was sometimes quite difficult to find a table, especially for the first couple of days. However, most people were happy to share and it was another good way to meet new people (I twice missed things I wanted to go to because we had met such lovely people and were enjoying talking to them). It also seemed to get easier as the cruise went on, so whether meal times became more staggered or whether people were taking their food elsewhere to eat I don't know. We also used the Saffron restaurant for a waiter-served breakfast on one occasion, which was very nice but we preferred the self-service. We also ate at the White Room, which was an absolute delight. Everything was cooked to perfection and served beautifully. We tried to book again, but they were full. We did not use East (but heard good reports of it) or the Ramblas tapas bar (where we understand the choice was a little limited) Entertainment We found this to be mixed. There were six "comedy nights" in the Tamarind bar, each consisting of two comedians. Each two did a set each for two nights and then two new ones came on board, so we saw six comedians in all. Some were very funny and some died a rather horrid death in full public view. It's all down to personal taste, I suppose, but given the age of the audience "lager lout and shagging" material did not hit the mark and perhaps the booking of that particular comedian was a mistake. The Ventura Theatre Company worked their socks off. We didn't see all the shows but I think only missed one. They did 4 different shows in the course of our cruise, three times each night they were on. Sometimes the material they had to work with was better than others but they really did try their best and mostly succeeded very well. It was hard to get a seat in the theatre for the middle show but if we couldn't get there early just went and did something else first and went to the late show. The other entertainers in the theatre were generally good and Gary T Thompson was brilliant, as were the Soul Brothers. Bars They are plentiful and varied. We favored Tamarind and Metropolis, but it wasn't always easy to get a seat. Tamarind had a band that played music to dance to, Metropolis had a jazz band and a video wall showing realtime images of various cities by night. There were also: Ramblas which had a Spanish theme and was very handy for a drink after the theatre; Exchange which was supposed to be like a pub and was the only bar you could smoke in so we tended to avoid it; Red which very often had a pianist tinkling the ivories and was very laid back; Tazzine which was a coffee bar with delicious hot chocolate and Havana which was the largest and most underused. The seating in Havana was surrounded by waist high partitions, which meant that when seated you couldn't see the stage properly. It was also used for the family entertainment and as they were rather thin on the ground on our cruise, always seemed to be rather empty. The bar waiters circulated frequently and efficiently. Swimming etc There are four pools, which when weather allowed were well used. The Oasis pool is for adults only but all the others are family pools. One had a roof that could be open or closed as weather permitted. The Oasis pool was supposed to have a machine that created a current for continuous swimming but it did not work for the whole of our cruise. Pools and Jacuzzis were often roped off - presumably for cleaning and maintenance. The gym was well equipped with plenty of machines of torture. We did not use the hair and beauty facilities. The sun decks were well equipped with plenty of sunbeds and we never failed to find one when we wanted one. Excursions As this was our first cruise we booked excursions in most of the ports, but next time I probably wouldn't. In most cases there was either a shuttle bus (sometimes free) or a hop-on hop-off tour (and quite often both) that would get you to the city center or around the major sites. Having said that we did enjoy the excursions we took part in and for St Petersburg it was by far the easiest thing to do because of having to purchase an individual visa if you were not part of an organized group. The worst one was probably Tallinn, where the guide used a remote microphone and we all had headsets. Unfortunately the pitch of voice of the guide and the questionable quality of the equipment made it very difficult to hear what she was saying and I came away feeling I new nothing of the beautiful city. That one I would definitely do by myself with a guide book. The Bad Bits Sorry, but nothing is perfect and there were some things that were not done well. It did say in the book that was sent out in advance of the cruise that a photocopy of the picture page of your passport was needed if you were doing an excursion in St Petersburg. Unfortunately it did not say it anywhere near the excursion pages but in the small print at the front. Being a voracious reader I saw it and went prepared but many, many people had to queue for a long time to get photocopies on board. Big print on the St Petersburg excursion pages would have completely prevented that happening. In general the size of the public spaces was not enough for the number of people on board. For instance the dance floor in Tamarind could really only take about 50 people comfortably. This one is really petty, but worth a mention. The knives for dinner were simply not sharp enough. They must be almost new but they had no cutting edge. This sometimes gave the impression that meat was tough but once you had hacked your way through it the chewing was easy. The staff on Reception failed, on each occasion that I went there, to give anyone their full attention. I work on a reception desk so I do know a bit about it. They were always listening in to what their colleagues were doing and nearly every time the person who was supposed to be helping me would wander off and get involved with another person's query without being asked to. This meant the queue was much longer than it ever needed to be. The excursion to Tallinn was advertised as being one-and-a-half hours walking. Two evenings before they sent out a flier saying this was a misprint and it was in fact 3 hours of walking. The flier invited anyone who may have difficulty with this to visit Explorers and talk to them. Only - when you did go to Explorers it was to find a notice on the desk saying that they were closed until 7pm of the day after next making it almost impossible to speak to them before the excursion. Poor. There was not a great deal of entertainment laid on during sea days. Films were shown but usually for those not going ashore on excursion days. It would have been very nice to have put a couple of extra on for sea days as the weather was very windy and it was not always possible to be doing something outside. The Tate Modern talks were OK but the other major thing offered was digital photography and some of those had a "nominal" fee (sometimes as nominal as £20). I did go to some interesting talks on Russian art but would have appreciated more for adults to do that was not a quiz or bingo. In conclusion We had a lovely holiday and really enjoyed sampling so many different countries. We thought the food excellent, the staff hard working and the entertainment good to excellent. We also met some lovely people whose company we enjoyed. However, I feel that P&O are in danger of falling between 2 stools here. They are pushing the family side of Ventura and seem to have failed to realize that a lot of their loyal cruising customers would also want to sample her delights. Nearly all of them are saying that they will not go on her again so P&O will have to find a new customer base for her and children are at school for a lot of the year. One of the main gripes of the regulars was that the captain was not much in evidence, which was certainly true. We didn't mind but lots of people did. And therein lies the rub, really. We did meet some very pleasant sociable people but I have to say that by and large I have never met such a load of old moaners in my life and it is that which would put me off cruising as my next holiday. We got to the stage where we avoided questions like "are you having a nice time" and "is this your first cruise" because it seemed to start people off on a rant. I think the lady behind me in a queue once was a fine example. As she stood behind me she said "Another queue. It's all queuing on here. I'm fed up with it". There was one other person in front of me! No wonder the captain kept a low profile! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed ... Read More
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed Costa, QM2, RCCL & Star Cruises. We don't like to book too far in advance and typically look for offers on the internet 1-2 months before we want to sail, so we have been lucky enough to find some fantastic deals and arrange our own airfare and independent transfers when needed. Looking for something special for Paul's 70th birthday on 17th April had become unusually challenging as many ships were transatlantic at the time and for medical reasons we can't get insurance for North America at the moment. When we found an offer for the Ventura's maiden voyage about 6 weeks before sailing it seemed to good opportunity to try P & O. Nearly everyone on board had booked up on the day bookings opened a year before, so it must have been a cancellation cabin. Although we love to try different ships we had never sailed with P & O before, mainly because most of the itineraries sail from Southampton and as I am not a natural sailor the 2/3 days sailing each way to the Med does not particularly interest me. Also, their prices are typically around 50% dearer than comparable cruises with other companies. At £1,119 each for an inside cabin this was the most expensive cruise-only fare we had paid in our 25 cruises, and as a maiden voyage on a much-hyped ship we had fairly high expectations. Travel to Southampton & Embarkation We drove ourselves to Southampton port - as we had a discounted cruise fare we were not entitled to the usual free parking offer and had pre-booked with CPS for £117. Unusually, there was a terrific traffic jam and it took us about an hour from our first sighting of Ventura to the car park drop-off point. There was no obvious reason for this and we had embarked equal -sized ships there before without any problem so it was probably just bad luck. But we had plenty of time, and once we had left our car the check-in procedure was quick and efficient and after a short wait for security checks we were on board about 2.30pm. The Ship - First Impressions Ventura is a lovely ship, almost identical in layout to the Golden & Grand Princess, that we know and love, so we had no trouble finding our way around. She was "specially designed for Britain" which primarily means that the dEcor is generally less flamboyant than on her American sisters. Our Cabin We had booked an inside guarantee and after a daily website check had found our cabin allocation about 2 weeks before leaving - R248 is towards the front of deck 14 (Riviera deck) one deck below the lido deck. Our cabin was fine, brand new, spotlessly clean, exactly as we had expected and no different from any other modern cruise ship. There are sparkling new tea and coffee facilities in the cabins along with a single rose bud and some boiled sweets in a matching steel vase and dish to welcome us aboard. 2 small complimentary bottle of water were provided which was nice. No mini-bar but drinks could be ordered from the room steward. Richard, our steward, introduced himself and was extremely efficient and pleasant throughout the voyage. Our luggage arrived promptly (although there was an announcement later in the afternoon that there had been some technical problems and luggage delivery was delayed). Room service was available but we did not use it. The menu was slightly strange - for example you could order a salmon meal for free but a chicken sandwich cost £1.50. Apple pie was free but chocolate tart £1. Toiletries provided in the bathroom included some novel items such as eye cream, refreshing balm for aching feet (extremely useful !) and lip gel as well as the usual moisturizer, soap, sewing kit etc. There was a dispenser in the shower holding a combined hair & body shampoo but no conditioner. Fellow Passengers All British, and apart from 2 couples on their first cruise almost exclusively P & O "regulars". There were a huge number of "Gold" members (150 days + on P & O, I understand) for whom a special event had been arranged with Michael Portillo as guest speaker. There were a few families but the majority of passengers were aged 60+. As cruses in general, we found everyone to be extremely pleasant and happy to share tables and to chat. There were 4 formal nights and 4 semi-formal (jacket & tie expected for gentlemen) on our 14 day cruise and the dress code was honored by everyone and we really enjoyed dressing up for a change, as so many ships have let the dress code slip. Seeing 3,000 people dressed correctly for the "Black and White Ball" night was amazing. The other theme nights were "Latino","Pirate/Tropical", 60s/70s and 80s/90s. Dining - Cinnamon Restaurant I had been pleasantly surprised on booking to have been offered the option of "Freedom Dining". Unlike Princess only one restaurant is dedicated to Freedom and as a fairly new innovation for P & O it did not seem particularly popular. Some people who had requested a fixed table had been moved onto Freedom to make up the numbers, but for us this was good as we walked into the restaurant between 8-8.30pm and were seated immediately every night without having to wait or queue at all. The restaurant manager was nice and soon got to know that we liked to share a larger table. The service was always good and we were happy to have the £1.60 daily gratuity added to our account -some people did have this removed and there were tip boxes in the restaurant on the last day for those who preferred to tip in cash. Food is very subjective, but in our opinion the menus were alright without being brilliant and the food fell broadly into the same category. We considered it overall far below the levels of quality we had experienced on most other ships. Each evening there was a choice of 3 starters, 2 soups (but no salad option apart from an "always available" Caesar Salad), 5 main courses (generally 1 fish, 1 vegetarian and 3 meat) and "always available" salmon, chicken or sirloin steak, 3 desserts plus a choice of ice cream & sorbet. A cheeseboard, coffee/tea and different nice home-made after dinner sweets were offered in addition to a dessert. The menu descriptions were not always terribly accurate but there were some interesting options such as some game dishes and an excellent lobster thermidor, but there was a distinct lack of steak, which is Paul's favorite on the American ships. In fact the only beef offerings during the 2 weeks were a couple of roast beef meals (one of which, it was universally agreed, was awful), one "pot roasted rump steak" (which also turned out to be slices of roast beef) and one braised steak. A good but small beef wellington on the last formal night was the only meal he considered to be a "proper" cruise ship steak dinner. Most nights there was at least one choice which I would have categorized as a cheap, everyday meal such as shepherds pie, toad in the hole, sausages & mash etc and not the sort of dish I would expect to find on a cruise menu. That said, these dishes did seem to be quite popular. There were bread choices listed on the menu but all that the waiters ever seemed to have when they served bread was the same old soft rolls every evening - brown or white was the only choice. Each meal came served with a garnish of potato and/or a vegetable and the waiters served another type of potato and a second veg at the table. Dining - Other Venues The Waterside is the main buffet restaurant. It has serveries on both sides of the ship identical to the Horizon Court on Princess, but on Ventura each servery is divided in half by a rope and the dishes are then repeated on the other side, so basically you get half the number of items. We found the selections adequate but limited and unexciting. There was nothing cooked to order - so eggs for breakfast came ready-fried in trays from the galley and I missed the pancakes and waffles so readily available on American ships. The lunch selection was a fairly basic, an unchanging salad bar with a daily selection of cooked meats, smoked fish etc and usually one curry (or similar), one English pie cooked in individual dishes and one or two other hot dishes. The exception was the cake / dessert section which was fantastic both at lunch and afternoon tea time every day - a large section brimming with a huge assortment of individual cakes, tarts, slices etc and warm scones at tea time. The Beach Hut is the extension to the Waterside further to the aft. The food choices were the same but I preferred this area as it was brighter, lighter, generally less crowded and I thought the food from this servery tended to be hotter. It seems a silly complaint, but the worst thing about the buffet areas on Ventura is the ridiculous trays they provide ! They are huge and heavy (even before being loaded with crockery and food) unlike the usual lightweight melamine sort, and make it almost impossible for 2 tray-carrying diners to pass in an already crowded environment. Once you do find a table there is nowhere to put the trays and the staff who are so keen to force them into your hand when you enter the buffet are less keen to collect them up - although by the end of the cruise a number of us had become "tray avoidance experts" !. Frankie's Pizza bar is situated between the pools and the pizza were cooked to order in a few minutes and lovely. There is also a burger bar which we tried once and it seemed OK but we are not burger experts. We did not try any of the other dining options. East had an interesting oriental menu with a £15 per person cover charge and seemed to be quite busy. The White Room seemed rather out of the way on a high deck at the back of the ship. We went to look on the first day but could not find a menu (they don't display menus outside the main restaurants either). I think the cover charge was £20 each and we might have been tempted if Marco Pierre White had been on board himself - many people like us were surprised he was not there for the maiden voyage. We spoke to 3 or 4 couples who had dined in his restaurant and liked it, apparently the service was exceptional. There is also a Spanish Tapas bar in the "Ramblas" Bar. This area did not seem to be well used at all which is a shame as I thought it was rather nice. Entertainment We found the evening entertainment to be very good. Shows were repeated 3 times, at 7.15pm, 8.45pm and 10.45pm which was wonderful as it gave the opportunity to see 2 shows. We tended to see our first choice of entertainment, usually the main theatre show, at 7.15 then eat and then see a show in one of the other venues at 10.45 if we were not too tired. It was interesting that many of the P & O regulars that we spoke to were disappointed by the entertainment. There were perhaps too many comedians, and some were better than others, but there was always another type of show instead and we found at least one every night that we thoroughly enjoyed, and as you only get one show on most ships the second one was a bonus anyway. The Production shows were all excellent and original, especially "Chronicles" and "Plunder" - the latter takes place near the pool and I don't want to give too much away but it would be best seen from the deck above, we were near the pool bar and did not have a good view or sound quality but the show is fantastic. In addition to the main show in the Arena Theatre there was generally a gameshow and/or comedy act in the midship Tamarind lounge and a music act in the Havana nightclub at the back of the ship. These were also repeated 3 times per evening. An excellent young classical pianist called Maria King was one of the most popular entertainers, performing several times with some varied programmes and not all classical, she had a lovely personality too - some people said she was funnier than the comedians !! The cruise director was very pleasant but his role seemed to be purely an introducer/announcer rather than an entertainer or personality in his own right. Daytime entertainment we considered quite poor. There was an excellent history lecturer on board but apart from him there was little of general interest, the only regular quiz was at 11pm each evening, although in the last couple of days they did add in a couple of afternoon events. There were the standard spa-sales-based talks and some computer and camera courses (which I think were chargeable) but nothing that particularly appealed to us. The "Horizon" daily newspaper looked full of events but many were multiple-listings, eg the Cirque Ventura's bungee trampoline (which cost £3 for about 5 minutes) was listed every hour. The best event of the cruise was the "British Sail Away Party" from Gibraltar, which was a bit like Last Night of the Proms and nearly everyone was on deck. Children Very few on our cruise and the ones that were on board seemed to spend most of their time with the various childrens' clubs. Apparently 300 children were due on board on the next cruise and up to 800 in the summer ! The childrens' facilities are well advertised and probably good. Noddy even put in an appearance at the welcome party !! The Ship - A Little More Detail Ventura has 4 pools, a small one on the back terrace, two main pools on the lido deck (one with a retractable roof) and a lovely "endless pool" in the spa area where you can swim against the current. The sunbeds around this pool were the only ones to have cushions, the ones elsewhere on the ship being less than comfortable. No ship can have everything, but the facility we missed most on the Ventura was a card/games room. There were non-hosted bridge & whist games in one of the restaurants at certain times but the only place to play a private game was in one of the bars or in the buffet restaurant. We heard others bemoaning the lack of a cinema, dance floor and chairs on deck. But Ventura has a lot of good points too, most of the public rooms (with the exception of the Havana lounge where many of the seats have blocked views of the stage) are very nice, comfortable and friendly. Bar prices seemed very reasonable compared to the ships we are used to, at about £2.50 for a pint of beer, spirit or glass of wine. Cocktails started at about £4. There does not seem to be an additional "gratuity" added to bar bills which is a pleasant change. Likewise you tip the cabin steward (and anybody else you wish) in cash at the end of the cruise whatever you see fit, there does not even seem to be a recommended amount. Again, this seems far more like a tip than the fixed $10 day (or whatever) added to the bill on most ships which has become more like an addition to the cruise cost than a gratuity. Ports of Call I intended this review to focus on the ship, as there is a lot of information already on CruiseCritic.com about the standard western Med ports that we visited - Barcelona, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Villefranche & Gibraltar. There were also 2 new ports for us. Santa Margherita which I had considered to be the jumping off point for Portofino but in fact was a really lovely Italian resort in its own right. We tendered right into town and had a lovely day exploring the interesting shops, harbor and beaches. Alicante was our second new port and had a lovely long beach but other than a lovely harbourfront promenade the town seemed rather grotty. I suspect the better area would have been along the beach towards Benidorm where the hotels seemed to be located. Another time we will take the tram that ran from the shuttle bus drop-off and explore in that direction. This was a maiden cruise and we had expected some hiccups but the only real problem we encountered was at the first tender port where apparently there had been some technical problems with some of the tenders and it caused a huge queue. There were also long queues to get on and off the ship at some other ports and going by the anger expressed by a lot of passengers I gather this is not a usual P & O failing, so I am sure the organization will improve with a little time and experience. Summary I do not intend this to be a negative review - Ventura is a nice ship, we enjoyed our cruise very much and would be very happy to sail on her again. However, I don't think we are likely to take many P & O cruises for the very same reasons that we have not done so in the past - namely itinerary and price. This was a good cruise without being particularly memorable and there was nothing that made us feel we had had good value for the extra money over other cruise lines. That said, for anyone who likes several sea days on a larger ship and prefers not to fly then the Ventura will be a good choice. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Ventura Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 3.0 3.9

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