Cruised on Ventura from Genoa stopping at Livorno, Naples, Dubrovnik, Venice then back again via Kotor, Corfu, Civitavecchia and Ajaccio (Corsica). An excellent itinerary which enabled us to visit a few “must-haves” and re-visit a few others as well as some we probably wouldn’t have gone to otherwise.
First of all, Ventura is a large ship and it takes the best part of 2 weeks to find your way around. Our cabin was an inside on deck 14 and was comfortable and not at all claustrophobic. We had wondered about this having had a balcony in the past but, considering how little use we had actually made of one the extra cost seemed pointless and, in fact, proved the case. The only downside in the cabin was just one chair. Plenty of hanging space beside the bathroom with a cupboard and a safe there as well. Bathroom was perfectly adequate, similar size to other ships we have been on. The cabin has a TV with a useless selection of channels, a kettle and tea/coffee, a hair dryer and a fridge.
Dining is in one of three formal dining rooms at either fixed times or, in two of the restaurants, what they call freedom dining where you turn up and are allocated a table. There are two speciality restaurants, Marco Pierre White and East, and there is a supplement to eat in them. On the 15th deck aft are two buffet-style restaurants where you elbow your way around selecting food then walk miles to find a table somewhere. Coffee and water are available from machines (mostly not working) and at breakfast only they also provide fruit juice. We generally chose to eat our three meals in one of the restaurants where you were given a table and waiters brought everything to you. Can’t understand why anyone endures the buffet bun fight! There is also a pizza stall beside one of the pools and a Costa coffee shop, probably the only way to get a decent coffee on board!
There are four pools for cruisers plus a small one on the foc’sle which seemed to be crew only. Loads of loungers, packed in like sardines so you could always find somewhere to rest. There is a well equipped gym forward on the 16th deck and, beside it, a Spa offering treatments for trivial amounts like £75 a pop. Needless to say we didn’t partake!
At the rear of the ship is a children’s area with what looked through the windows like a soft-play area and there is a small poll adjacent. Unfortunately they permit smoking there so it may not be an automatic choice for small children. Above this there are nets for golf practice and there may be other activities there but we didn’t explore.
It may only have been this particular cruise but, for some reason which was never explained, the room service offering of bottles of spirits was not available so bring your own as P&O seem quite happy for you to bring it aboard. I suppose they would draw the line if you arrived with huge quantities of booze but if you like a drink in your cabin it seems you are best to take your own.
On a 14 day cruise they time it so there are four “black tie” nights and most people seemed to have either a DJ or suit and tie. They seem quite particular about it so if you go without you will probably have to eat in the buffet those nights (unless you buy or hire on board that is - they seem to have availability).
Just a few brief details of the destinations as most will have been there or can find better details elsewhere. P&O are good at laying on shuttles at those ports where you need one so unless you are on an organised tour you can get transport into the towns from the dockside. Royal Caribbean were particularly poor in this respect. Whether or not you paid for these shuttles depended on the type of booking you had so, in other words, the late availability cheapos probably have to pay.
Livorno is the stop for Florence and Pisa, Naples for Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sorrento. Dubrovnik, despite being in the EU, still used its own currency, the Kuna. The ship will change at 1.8 odd kuna to the euro but will only take back 50 kuna notes and above, no coins or lesser denominations. Just inside the city gate there is a shop with a bureau de change and they were offering a better rate, 1.9 something to the euro. At the end of the day do you really want to be left with a load of useless kuna so best to ask if they accept euros and, if not, walk away. Behind this bureau is a restaurant with a toilet and they take 1 euro to use it. By the way the supermarket at the dockside only takes Kunas or, I think, credit cards so save yourself the walk unless you have kanas to get rid of.
Kotor is very picturesque and probably not somewhere you would finish up other than on a trip like this. It is a bit like a mini Dubrovnik with a medieval walled old town. For the fit and healthy there is a steep climb up the hillside and for the rest of us there are a few cafes, lots of souvenir shops and a couple of ice-cream stall. There is a public toilet which is signposted and a couple of ladies sit outside collecting your 1 euro to go in. A more leisurely walk up some of the walls takes you past some peoples gardens to a view over the harbour. Watch how you walk here as there were used syringes about. Back down at street level there were a few females begging so just like home really!
Corfu, or more precisely, Kerkira where the ship docks is a short shuttle bus to the old town. The Russian navy was in town when we were there and the sailors were busy snapping up fake Rolex watches from the many Africans. There are lots of shops selling designer name goods at knock off prices but in between there were some genuine stores too. Unless you really want a Calvin Klein belt for 2.5 euros or a Gucci bag for little more you may want to search out the shops that don’t have these bargains for the real thing.
Naples has a duty free shop after you go through dockside security before you board the ship and is useful if you need to stock up.
Ajaccio is a pleasant town with streets close to the ship to stroll around in and a market just near the dock selling mostly cheeses and meats with a wine stall. Carry on up the street until you come to a Spar supermarket (Yes they have them there too) where stuff is a bit cheaper. If you are in a sunbathing mood there are beaches nearby.
Hopefully this will be of some help to future travellers.
One point worthy of mention was an incident affecting the ship when travelling between Dubrovnik and Venice. A sudden squall hit the ship and caused it to list some degrees to port, sufficient to wake everyone as everything crashed off the cabin surfaces and we had to walk downhill to get out of our cabin. More worryingly, however, this listing persisted and for around three hours we all waited to see if it would carry on tipping over. As you no doubt know, ships bob about on the sea, but when they bob one way they immediately then bob the other way. That is the theory but in this case the other bob just didn’t happen, hence the worried looks. Our captain spoke once briefly from the bridge, told us this was normal and we should all go back to our coff….sorry cabins. Having seen the wreck of Costa Concordia in Genoa on our way to the ship it was not a reassurance that gave us a great deal of comfort. It turned out the following day that the cause of the persistent listing was the fact that the swimming pools on deck 15 had emptied out and the water was swilling about in the space enclosed by glass panels on the port side with nowhere to go. Not only that but another passenger told us that her daughter had experienced the self-same thing on her cruise with Ventura in June of this year. So there you are. If the ship suddenly lurches to one side and stays there it is nothing to worry about. Just don;t ask us to cruise with Ventura again.