Please enter your review. Well mum and I are home and dry after a fantastic cruise on Ventura and here is my report. I will concentrate on the ship itself and not the ports of call, as it's easy to find out about the various destinations from travel websites and books. What I will say is, all the ports we visited were beautiful, with the one particular little gem which I will include later in this report. So... let's starts at the beginning with check in. We arrived at the terminal at 11.00am and joined a short queue of cars for the CPS car park, this gave us our first view of the ship and my goodness she's a big girl, totally dominating the terminal and quayside. No sooner had we arrived than the queue was surrounded by car park stewards, women with clip boards taking details and signatures, and men ready to drive away the cars. They dealt with about eight cars at once and the operation was very slick with this large number of stewards to speed up the process. So, by 11.15am we were at the end of a short queue in the check in hall. Since my last visit in November last year P&O have upgraded the check in desks and added many more, again to speed up the process and deal with the large volume of pax that a ship like Ventura carries. Check in started at 11.30am, half an hour earlier than usual and, with the greater number of desks, was very efficient. Check in complete, we cleared security and were on board Ventura and sitting in the Waterside self service buffet by 11.55am. Now that was what I would call a smooth pain free check in. After a light lunch we set off to explore our new home. This was where the fun started, I was navigating and decided to start at the top and work our way down. Wow was a word I used many times as we explored what this ship had to offer. The fun bit was getting lost and trying to get back to a methodical tour of the public rooms. Metropolis was our first stop almost at the top of the aft end of Ventura on deck 18. Here is a bar that oozes chic, a sort of reverse version of a crows nest bar (already dubbed the Crows Arse by many previous pax). With panoramic windows with views over the aft of the ship and "bridge wing" style windows affording great forward views down the length of Ventura. Then there is the much publicised video wall at the back which during the day showed videos of underwater scenes and sometimes flames and in the evening you are treated to a nightime vista of various cities of the world, including Sydney, New York and Paris with each night showing a new city. The bar menus and coasters changed each night to reflect the city shown on the video wall. The evenings in here are punctuated by performances from musicians, giving this bar the atmosphere of a jazz club. Down now to deck 17 and a peep into "The White Room" again very chic and elegant in shades of bitter chocolate and creams. This was a room I didn't use during this cruise so cant comment on either the food or service. Deck 16 houses the spa, hair salon and gym. The spa is quite large with very good facilities on offer though I only used the sauna and "Oasis Pool". Other pax commented on how fantastic the thermal suite was so that's one to try when I return to Ventura next year. The gym has a fantastic view over the bows of the ship. I felt this room would have served better as a true "Crows Nest". The "Ivory Suite" is situated adjacent to the spa and is the ships wedding venue, a very nice intimate room with stunning floral displays constantly on show. The childrens facilities are situated to the aft end of deck 16 and on this occasion were always a place I was visiting tomorrow and "tomorrow never comes" so I cant comment about them. Down to deck 15 "Lido Deck" and the pools and self service restaurants. Starting all the way aft we have the "Terrace Bar" and pool, a small pool in an amphitheater setting of tiered teak decks that give access to the " Cirque Ventura" to those wishing to tackle the climb up steep stairs to deck 19. This pool was always relatively quiet, providing a nice little sun trap and place to sip a cocktail of the day as we set sail from our various ports. Inside from the "Terrace Bar" is the family restaurant "The Beach house", very smart with red and white striped upholstery and light wood giving the room a bright, light and airy feel. Here the menus was much the same as the "Waterside" with various extra items to tempt the children on board. The "Waterside" has a very similar atmosphere to the Plaza on Oceana and is decked out in shades of light blues and sea greens with some fantastic mural paintings along the walls. Here was the venue of choice for most pax for breakfast lunch and afternoon tea. The tables are very interesting with marine charts of various areas of the globe. The salt and pepper pots are very touchy feely and I loved the stone vases with twigs. These venues still need some sort of vessel on the tables to put your used tea bags in and empty butter packs etc, this is lacking across the fleet not just Ventura. You are provided with a large tray and the choice of a hot or cold plate as you enter the self service area. You are also given a cotton napkin which is no bigger than a very small handkerchief and of very little use. The food is of a high standard with all the usual self service food items on offer. Forward now to the main pool areas and through automatic sliding doors into the "Beachcomber Pool" and bar. This is the pool with the sliding roof making it an all weather venue. Here the sunbeds are the adjustable metal framed variety and the pool is surrounded by what I presume are supposed to be light houses which neither light up or house anything. A few palm trees or other greenery wouldn't go amiss in here, just to take the stark edge off the space. There is also an upper gallery which opens out onto the upper outside deckspace. The next area moving further forward is the "Laguna Pool" which houses "Breakers Bar" on the upper deck with the "Laguna Bar", "Frankies Grill" and "Frankies Pizzeria" poolside. The grill serves the usual burgers and chips etc. whilst you can get fantastic pizzas freshly made to order from the pizzeria. Here are the usual plastic sun loungers with teakwood tables to sit at and enjoy your food. All the way down now to deck 7 "Promenade Deck". Starting aft there is the "Havana Club" a latin themed venue which doubles as a cabaret lounge and the ships nightclub. I personally found a lack of atmosphere in here and could not understand why they had surrounded the seating areas with walls which prevent you from seeing over when seated at the table. Visually the room was very attractive but I found this venue to be my least favorite on the ship, but that is only my opinion. The photo gallery carries you along the starboard side of the ship and is huge with lots of techno wizardry for you to print your own pics from your digital camera,or even to burn your own cd's. You can also order official photos from the touch screen computers situated here. Here is also the entrance to "East" the stunning asian fusion restaurant which carries a cover charge. I did not have a meal in here as mum is not partial to spicy food and leaving mum to dine on our usual table would have meant me sitting alone like Billy no mates, so I'm saving "East" for my cruise on Ventura with Ged next year. Onward through the photo gallery and we come to "The Tamarind Cub" a stunning show lounge decorated in rich purples and burnt orange. There is a walk through feel to the rear of the club but as you move further in, towards the stage, you are surrounded by stunning fabrics with beautiful brass lamps and brass railing separating the various levels all topped by the most stunning chandelier above a circular settee with large cushions reminiscent of an Arabian palace harem. The "Tamarind Club" serves as a lecture venue and cinema during the day and a cabaret show lounge and dance venue at night. It is in here that the comedians appear (there were two featured in one show) and from what I saw and from what I heard from other pax throughout the cruise, the comedians were terrible. On one semi-formal night the two comedians wore jeans and t-shirts, scruffy ones at that, with scruffy trainers on there feet. P&O need to address this if they want to keep the standards of dress up on this ship. Into the atrium now and wow what a stunning atrium it is. This atrium is very classy with black granite arches and sweeping stairs joining the three decks, and glass lifts that that take you all the way through the ship, although the views are only to be had in the three decks of the atrium. The lighting mood is changed throughout the day, with the colors ranging from cool blues through oranges reds and purples, depending on the time. Here on deck 7 you find yourself at the top of the atrium with the "Red Bar" on the port side, another stunning venue upholstered in various red fabrics and bronze voille drapes. Here also are stunning crystal beaded pillars and chandeliers with red cracked glass tables. This is the place to relax in the evening with a cocktail served in the most glamorous glasses (how long they'll last, I don't know they are very delicate indeed) and listen to the romantic piano. Opposite on the starboard side is on of the many shops on board. Forward again to "Ramblas" the Spanish themed area which spans the ship and is in three distinct sections, the starboard side houses the bar and relaxed seating area and the "cavern" another alternate dining venue with a small cover charge. On the port side is more relaxed seating with a large tree at its heart along with the perfume shop and the florist. "Ramblas" is perfect for visiting in the afternoon and partaking in "tapas" ( a £2.50 cover charge applies) and indulging in some of the great wines on offer. At selected times during the day and throughout the evening a classical guitarist plays, further enhancing the Spanish feel to this great venue. Next you arrive in the upper area of the stunning "Arena Theatre" a state of the art theatre staging some stunning new shows, more of which later. On deck 6 we find the "Exchange Bar" and " Fortunes Casino" spanning the whole ship. The casino is on the port side and the main bar area is on the starboard side. This is the only public area on the ship where smoking is allowed and at peak times you literally cut your way through a pea soup fog of stinking smoke, which meant we avoided this part of the ship like the plague, using only the casino on a few occasions which is shielded from the smoke to a good degree. The "Saffron" and "Baytree" restaurants are situated further aft. The "Saffron" being our club dining venue and decked out in light wood tones. The "Bay Tree" being much darker in rich tones of mahogany. On down to deck 5 and the home of "Tazzine" the coffee and chocolate bar. This is a very light airy cafe style area with large windows allowing lots of natural light into the abse of the atrium. Here also is the library "ChapterOne" which is well stocked but does not have any seating area. The future cruise desk and loyalty managers desk is here along with the tours desk "Explorers". The Cyb@study is here too and looked well equipped though I believe the connections are quite slow. Perhaps the main feature of this deck is the Art gallery. A very inviting gallery with works of art changing daily and all that is displayed is for sale with the price shown, so no cheap and tawdry art auctions to suffer, and no art work cluttering the passageways. This was a "Tate" themed cruise so there were many art experts onboard giving advice and lectures on the many aspects of art. The floor of the atrium has many comfy sofas and relaxing chairs to sit in and watch the world go by. Finally the "Cinnamon Restaurant" is situated aft of the atrium and is similar to the "Saffron" being decorated in light wood. The "Saffron" & " Baytree" are club dining venues and the "Cinnamon" is the freedom dining option. So that's the ship as it appears, generally a stunning ship with lots of stunning art work to admire as you explore and get lost, trying to find your way around. Now the cruise experience as I found it. As already mentioned, check-in was totally pain free and quick. Cabins were available from 2.00pm. Our cabin was E223, advertised as an outside obstructed view cabin. The cabin was very spacious with a great walk-in wardrobe, a real plus. There was a decent sized cupboard but only four small drawers in the main part of the cabin, and a larger, long, narrow cupboard with shelves and the safe, in the walk-in wardrobe. The bathroom was on the small side but perfectly adequate with good lighting. On arrival there were samples of "Temple Spa" products to enjoy, I particularly liked the scented space spray. The tea a coffee making gear was stunning in chrome with a cafetierre as well as a tea pot, all this being on a mirrored unit topped by the T.V. shelf with the fridge located in a cupboard below. On arrival there was a bon bon dish with sweets and a small vase with a single rose, a very nice touch. The T.V is now fully interactive, from which you can watch pay-per-view films and also order room service, in cabin booze, and check your account. There is also a full array of free to view TV shows and the usual news and info channels. So where do the problems lie? Well some with the organization of certain things, but mostly with the passengers who refuse to read their given information, or having read it choose to ignore it. This was an excursion intensive cruise with most of the pax choosing to do organized trips and hereby lies the problem. The staff set up desks in the Tamarind club to hand out excursion stickers for the first couple of ports and it was absolute chaos. First of all there were too few staff on hand to help too many pax who all seemed to turn up at the same time despite having staggered times published for the collection of stickers. This caused huge and mostly unnecessary queues to develop and completely block the walkways, this in turn irritated the pax and mutiny was threatened on more than one occasion. Eventually , but only for Russia, more staff were drafted in and more desks were set up in "Havana" to help cope with the sheer volumes of pax getting their treasured stickers. To give you an idea of the size of some of these tours The Hermitage tour on day one of St Petersburg had 22 separate coaches and there were similar numbers of coaches for other tours throughout the cruise. So the crew need to open more tickets desks in totally different areas of this ship to help avoid the chaos which ensued. When going ashore independently I followed my T.A's advice and waited till well after the main rush and in all cases strolled off the ship and onto shuttles where required without any fuss or hassle whatsoever. Shuttle buses in Helsinki had to be paid for at 8 euros return which angered many pax but in all other ports, where shuttles were required, it was free. Maybe that's unique to Helsinki, I don't know. theatre was another subject of pax moans and groans, but again most of the queuing problems where caused by the pax themselves with many turning up for the middle show 45 mins before the first show had ended. We had no such problems turning up 15 mins before curtain up and sitting towards the front in the stalls for the late show. The shows where on the whole superb with the theatre being used for cabaret artists as well as full production shows. The best show for me was "Chronicles" a mixture of singing dancing and circus skills in an hour of pulse racing African rhythms using spectacular sets and some very clever puppetry reminiscent of Disneys "The Lion King" . Other shows included "Saturday Night Fever" based on the film of the same name, "Grande Illusion" a rock magic show and "Masquerade" a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber. All these shows were stunning and for the most part well received but still people whined "the music's too loud", "the songs aren't well known", " the lightings too flashy". The only cabaret I went to see was an old fave of P&O, Gary T Thomson who was, as usual, very funny and an excellent singer impressionist. As I mentioned earlier the comedy club in the Tamarind was poor with lots of pax walking out during the comedians slot. The comedy was of a very poor nature with scruffy comedians probably more at home in the comedy and working mens clubs at home where they can swear to get the laughs. Other entertainment seemed to be well received with a few cabaret spots from good singers in both "Havana" and "Tamarind club" Now to the way the ship handles in bad weather. I have read many reports about how Ventura is very unstable even in relatively calm conditions. Well let me tell you, at the start of this cruise and for a couple of days we had far from calm conditions, with force 9 gale battering the ship, and she coped very well with nothing more than the usual pitch and roll one would expect. On the odd and very rare occasion there was this strange movement which I will describe as a shimmy and was felt more strongly when high up in Metropolis. This high wind prevented us visiting Copenhagen and meant we had to anchor off Nynashamn and tender ashore for our visit to Stockholm, this also meant a 45 min drive by coach to get into the city. At its strongest the wind had Ventura listing quite strongly to port, this was most obvious when passing under the great belts bridge and the wind was hitting the ship broadside on. This also caused a lot of hilarity as I tried to push a fellow pax in his wheel chair against the slope of the decks. Most pax did comment on how stable the ship felt in this bad weather. Dress code!!! Now this caused a lot of raised eyebrows. 99% of pax adhered to the suggested dress code for the evening with one or two glaring exceptions, but those who chose to dress as they felt fit (in jeans and t-shirts) stood out like sore thumbs. Now for the raised eyebrows, the dresses from the ladies ranged from the stunningly elegant to the pantomime dame (you know who you are). One outfit of note was a black number (nothing unusual there) topped of with a PINK and BLUE fascinator towering above a head of ringlets, which would not look out of place at Ascot . This was removed in the theatre, very slowly, helped along by several people with the whole theatre agog at the spectacle which ended with loud cheers as the offending high rise headgear was finally removed. The OTT pantomime dames outfit (complete with huge train) was topped off by an illuminated fibre optic explosion emanating from pinned up hair. Each to their own is a phrase which springs to mind. Now to more serious matters and one which will lavish praise on P&O. Mum and I were on this cruise with with another couple, Pat & Derek. Derek is disabled and needs full time use of his wheelchair. Having registered with the disability crew they were taken from their transfer coach and checked in without the need to queue, they were then taken by the mobility crew member straight to there cabin. Now Pat & Derek are veterans of several cruises and this was their best experience with Dereks needs being fulfilled perfectly by P&O. His needs as a diabetic where catered for fully and with great efficiency and the cabin facilities where the best they had ever encountered, with oceans of space and a fully wheel in bathroom. Disabled toilets where at every level on the ship and all were very convenient to all the bars and other venues. This has impressed them so much that they are cruising on Ventura again as soon as possible. I think I've now covered most things except the little gem of a port I mentioned at the start. This port was Warnemunde in Germany and is a delightful little town with a great beach, but it was the sail away from hear that put the icing on the cake of this whole fantastic cruise. Ventura was the largest ship that the port had ever had and our arrival had been heralded in the local press (a German man told me this when we were sat in a cafe). Our arrival prompted thousands of people to come and look in awe as this huge ship dominated this cute little port. Then came time for the sail away and the crowds descended onto the port and the quayside to wave us off. As Ventura slipped her moorings the port authority played Andrea Boccelli's "Time To Say Goodbye" through the public address system and two port employees waved giant hands as we slowly pulled away from the dock. All the pax on the ship responded with a huge cheer and a round of applause. As we pushed back further from the dock a flotilla of small boats and pleasure cruisers packed with people surrounded the ship tooting there horns madly with the ship responding with hilarious results as her whistle almost blew the small boats from the water. All along the waters edge the thousands of people cheered and waved us off with a small band joining in to the strains of the music, this made for a very moving experience with more than a few hankies drying up tears both on shore and on the ship. Many of the pax were waving their union flags and I spotted one or two being waved by the Germans it was a moment I will never forget. But here is the twist to all this...In the welcome on board pack, in the cruise overview, a "Great British Sailaway" was scheduled for this port, but on receipt of the Horizon paper, I noticed the sail away was no longer in the line up for the day. Whilst in the town I bumped into the cruise director Mr Invisible otherwise known as Nigel Travis, and asked him why we were no longer having the sail away party. His answer was that he cancelled it as he thought it politically incorrect for us to be waving union flags to the strains of Rule Britannia as we sailed from a German port. He had scheduled it for our last port of Zeebruge where it p****d down with rain and not a single person was shore side to wave us off. How pathetic Mr Travis. Anyway the Germans showed us how to have a great sail away and Mr Invisible didn't take into account that most people had flags to wave anyway from the Southampton sail away. I shall be posting my pics and a video as soon as all the editing is complete and hopefully you will capture some of the atmosphere that this delightful German sail away gave us all. So there you have it, a long report that I hope most of you sailing soon on this ship will find useful , I'm sure some pax on the same cruise will see things differently but this was the cruise as I saw it. Yes there are small problems which need to be sorted but beyond that she is a fabulous ship. Don't sail on her if you're unsure about a big ship 'cos she's huge but do try her if you want a great cruise experience with the friendliest of crews, serving up fantastic food and wonderful entertainment. With only a couple of exceptions, P&O have got it just about spot on with Ventura and I can't wait for the next time I step on board this lovely ship. If you want me to clarify any aspect of this report or have any other queries about Ventura send me an e-mail or private message and I'll try my best to answer your question. If you've got this far without nodding off, thanks for taking the time to read my report and happy cruising to you all.

Ventura Baltics cruise

Ventura Cruise Review by Neilgerard

Trip Details
Please enter your review. Well mum and I are home and dry after a fantastic cruise on Ventura and here is my report. I will concentrate on the ship itself and not the ports of call, as it's easy to find out about the various destinations from travel websites and books. What I will say is, all the ports we visited were beautiful, with the one particular little gem which I will include later in this report. So... let's starts at the beginning with check in. We arrived at the terminal at 11.00am and joined a short queue of cars for the CPS car park, this gave us our first view of the ship and my goodness she's a big girl, totally dominating the terminal and quayside. No sooner had we arrived than the queue was surrounded by car park stewards, women with clip boards taking details and signatures, and men ready to drive away the cars. They dealt with about eight cars at once and the operation was very slick with this large number of stewards to speed up the process. So, by 11.15am we were at the end of a short queue in the check in hall. Since my last visit in November last year P&O have upgraded the check in desks and added many more, again to speed up the process and deal with the large volume of pax that a ship like Ventura carries. Check in started at 11.30am, half an hour earlier than usual and, with the greater number of desks, was very efficient. Check in complete, we cleared security and were on board Ventura and sitting in the Waterside self service buffet by 11.55am. Now that was what I would call a smooth pain free check in. After a light lunch we set off to explore our new home. This was where the fun started, I was navigating and decided to start at the top and work our way down. Wow was a word I used many times as we explored what this ship had to offer. The fun bit was getting lost and trying to get back to a methodical tour of the public rooms. Metropolis was our first stop almost at the top of the aft end of Ventura on deck 18. Here is a bar that oozes chic, a sort of reverse version of a crows nest bar (already dubbed the Crows Arse by many previous pax). With panoramic windows with views over the aft of the ship and "bridge wing" style windows affording great forward views down the length of Ventura. Then there is the much publicised video wall at the back which during the day showed videos of underwater scenes and sometimes flames and in the evening you are treated to a nightime vista of various cities of the world, including Sydney, New York and Paris with each night showing a new city. The bar menus and coasters changed each night to reflect the city shown on the video wall. The evenings in here are punctuated by performances from musicians, giving this bar the atmosphere of a jazz club. Down now to deck 17 and a peep into "The White Room" again very chic and elegant in shades of bitter chocolate and creams. This was a room I didn't use during this cruise so cant comment on either the food or service. Deck 16 houses the spa, hair salon and gym. The spa is quite large with very good facilities on offer though I only used the sauna and "Oasis Pool". Other pax commented on how fantastic the thermal suite was so that's one to try when I return to Ventura next year. The gym has a fantastic view over the bows of the ship. I felt this room would have served better as a true "Crows Nest". The "Ivory Suite" is situated adjacent to the spa and is the ships wedding venue, a very nice intimate room with stunning floral displays constantly on show. The childrens facilities are situated to the aft end of deck 16 and on this occasion were always a place I was visiting tomorrow and "tomorrow never comes" so I cant comment about them. Down to deck 15 "Lido Deck" and the pools and self service restaurants. Starting all the way aft we have the "Terrace Bar" and pool, a small pool in an amphitheater setting of tiered teak decks that give access to the " Cirque Ventura" to those wishing to tackle the climb up steep stairs to deck 19. This pool was always relatively quiet, providing a nice little sun trap and place to sip a cocktail of the day as we set sail from our various ports. Inside from the "Terrace Bar" is the family restaurant "The Beach house", very smart with red and white striped upholstery and light wood giving the room a bright, light and airy feel. Here the menus was much the same as the "Waterside" with various extra items to tempt the children on board. The "Waterside" has a very similar atmosphere to the Plaza on Oceana and is decked out in shades of light blues and sea greens with some fantastic mural paintings along the walls. Here was the venue of choice for most pax for breakfast lunch and afternoon tea. The tables are very interesting with marine charts of various areas of the globe. The salt and pepper pots are very touchy feely and I loved the stone vases with twigs. These venues still need some sort of vessel on the tables to put your used tea bags in and empty butter packs etc, this is lacking across the fleet not just Ventura. You are provided with a large tray and the choice of a hot or cold plate as you enter the self service area. You are also given a cotton napkin which is no bigger than a very small handkerchief and of very little use. The food is of a high standard with all the usual self service food items on offer. Forward now to the main pool areas and through automatic sliding doors into the "Beachcomber Pool" and bar. This is the pool with the sliding roof making it an all weather venue. Here the sunbeds are the adjustable metal framed variety and the pool is surrounded by what I presume are supposed to be light houses which neither light up or house anything. A few palm trees or other greenery wouldn't go amiss in here, just to take the stark edge off the space. There is also an upper gallery which opens out onto the upper outside deckspace. The next area moving further forward is the "Laguna Pool" which houses "Breakers Bar" on the upper deck with the "Laguna Bar", "Frankies Grill" and "Frankies Pizzeria" poolside. The grill serves the usual burgers and chips etc. whilst you can get fantastic pizzas freshly made to order from the pizzeria. Here are the usual plastic sun loungers with teakwood tables to sit at and enjoy your food. All the way down now to deck 7 "Promenade Deck". Starting aft there is the "Havana Club" a latin themed venue which doubles as a cabaret lounge and the ships nightclub. I personally found a lack of atmosphere in here and could not understand why they had surrounded the seating areas with walls which prevent you from seeing over when seated at the table. Visually the room was very attractive but I found this venue to be my least favorite on the ship, but that is only my opinion. The photo gallery carries you along the starboard side of the ship and is huge with lots of techno wizardry for you to print your own pics from your digital camera,or even to burn your own cd's. You can also order official photos from the touch screen computers situated here. Here is also the entrance to "East" the stunning asian fusion restaurant which carries a cover charge. I did not have a meal in here as mum is not partial to spicy food and leaving mum to dine on our usual table would have meant me sitting alone like Billy no mates, so I'm saving "East" for my cruise on Ventura with Ged next year. Onward through the photo gallery and we come to "The Tamarind Cub" a stunning show lounge decorated in rich purples and burnt orange. There is a walk through feel to the rear of the club but as you move further in, towards the stage, you are surrounded by stunning fabrics with beautiful brass lamps and brass railing separating the various levels all topped by the most stunning chandelier above a circular settee with large cushions reminiscent of an Arabian palace harem. The "Tamarind Club" serves as a lecture venue and cinema during the day and a cabaret show lounge and dance venue at night. It is in here that the comedians appear (there were two featured in one show) and from what I saw and from what I heard from other pax throughout the cruise, the comedians were terrible. On one semi-formal night the two comedians wore jeans and t-shirts, scruffy ones at that, with scruffy trainers on there feet. P&O need to address this if they want to keep the standards of dress up on this ship. Into the atrium now and wow what a stunning atrium it is. This atrium is very classy with black granite arches and sweeping stairs joining the three decks, and glass lifts that that take you all the way through the ship, although the views are only to be had in the three decks of the atrium. The lighting mood is changed throughout the day, with the colors ranging from cool blues through oranges reds and purples, depending on the time. Here on deck 7 you find yourself at the top of the atrium with the "Red Bar" on the port side, another stunning venue upholstered in various red fabrics and bronze voille drapes. Here also are stunning crystal beaded pillars and chandeliers with red cracked glass tables. This is the place to relax in the evening with a cocktail served in the most glamorous glasses (how long they'll last, I don't know they are very delicate indeed) and listen to the romantic piano. Opposite on the starboard side is on of the many shops on board. Forward again to "Ramblas" the Spanish themed area which spans the ship and is in three distinct sections, the starboard side houses the bar and relaxed seating area and the "cavern" another alternate dining venue with a small cover charge. On the port side is more relaxed seating with a large tree at its heart along with the perfume shop and the florist. "Ramblas" is perfect for visiting in the afternoon and partaking in "tapas" ( a £2.50 cover charge applies) and indulging in some of the great wines on offer. At selected times during the day and throughout the evening a classical guitarist plays, further enhancing the Spanish feel to this great venue. Next you arrive in the upper area of the stunning "Arena Theatre" a state of the art theatre staging some stunning new shows, more of which later. On deck 6 we find the "Exchange Bar" and " Fortunes Casino" spanning the whole ship. The casino is on the port side and the main bar area is on the starboard side. This is the only public area on the ship where smoking is allowed and at peak times you literally cut your way through a pea soup fog of stinking smoke, which meant we avoided this part of the ship like the plague, using only the casino on a few occasions which is shielded from the smoke to a good degree. The "Saffron" and "Baytree" restaurants are situated further aft. The "Saffron" being our club dining venue and decked out in light wood tones. The "Bay Tree" being much darker in rich tones of mahogany. On down to deck 5 and the home of "Tazzine" the coffee and chocolate bar. This is a very light airy cafe style area with large windows allowing lots of natural light into the abse of the atrium. Here also is the library "ChapterOne" which is well stocked but does not have any seating area. The future cruise desk and loyalty managers desk is here along with the tours desk "Explorers". The Cyb@study is here too and looked well equipped though I believe the connections are quite slow. Perhaps the main feature of this deck is the Art gallery. A very inviting gallery with works of art changing daily and all that is displayed is for sale with the price shown, so no cheap and tawdry art auctions to suffer, and no art work cluttering the passageways. This was a "Tate" themed cruise so there were many art experts onboard giving advice and lectures on the many aspects of art. The floor of the atrium has many comfy sofas and relaxing chairs to sit in and watch the world go by. Finally the "Cinnamon Restaurant" is situated aft of the atrium and is similar to the "Saffron" being decorated in light wood. The "Saffron" & " Baytree" are club dining venues and the "Cinnamon" is the freedom dining option. So that's the ship as it appears, generally a stunning ship with lots of stunning art work to admire as you explore and get lost, trying to find your way around.
Now the cruise experience as I found it. As already mentioned, check-in was totally pain free and quick. Cabins were available from 2.00pm. Our cabin was E223, advertised as an outside obstructed view cabin. The cabin was very spacious with a great walk-in wardrobe, a real plus. There was a decent sized cupboard but only four small drawers in the main part of the cabin, and a larger, long, narrow cupboard with shelves and the safe, in the walk-in wardrobe. The bathroom was on the small side but perfectly adequate with good lighting. On arrival there were samples of "Temple Spa" products to enjoy, I particularly liked the scented space spray. The tea a coffee making gear was stunning in chrome with a cafetierre as well as a tea pot, all this being on a mirrored unit topped by the T.V. shelf with the fridge located in a cupboard below. On arrival there was a bon bon dish with sweets and a small vase with a single rose, a very nice touch. The T.V is now fully interactive, from which you can watch pay-per-view films and also order room service, in cabin booze, and check your account. There is also a full array of free to view TV shows and the usual news and info channels. So where do the problems lie? Well some with the organization of certain things, but mostly with the passengers who refuse to read their given information, or having read it choose to ignore it. This was an excursion intensive cruise with most of the pax choosing to do organized trips and hereby lies the problem. The staff set up desks in the Tamarind club to hand out excursion stickers for the first couple of ports and it was absolute chaos. First of all there were too few staff on hand to help too many pax who all seemed to turn up at the same time despite having staggered times published for the collection of stickers. This caused huge and mostly unnecessary queues to develop and completely block the walkways, this in turn irritated the pax and mutiny was threatened on more than one occasion. Eventually , but only for Russia, more staff were drafted in and more desks were set up in "Havana" to help cope with the sheer volumes of pax getting their treasured stickers. To give you an idea of the size of some of these tours The Hermitage tour on day one of St Petersburg had 22 separate coaches and there were similar numbers of coaches for other tours throughout the cruise. So the crew need to open more tickets desks in totally different areas of this ship to help avoid the chaos which ensued. When going ashore independently I followed my T.A's advice and waited till well after the main rush and in all cases strolled off the ship and onto shuttles where required without any fuss or hassle whatsoever. Shuttle buses in Helsinki had to be paid for at 8 euros return which angered many pax but in all other ports, where shuttles were required, it was free. Maybe that's unique to Helsinki, I don't know. theatre was another subject of pax moans and groans, but again most of the queuing problems where caused by the pax themselves with many turning up for the middle show 45 mins before the first show had ended. We had no such problems turning up 15 mins before curtain up and sitting towards the front in the stalls for the late show. The shows where on the whole superb with the theatre being used for cabaret artists as well as full production shows. The best show for me was "Chronicles" a mixture of singing dancing and circus skills in an hour of pulse racing African rhythms using spectacular sets and some very clever puppetry reminiscent of Disneys "The Lion King" . Other shows included "Saturday Night Fever" based on the film of the same name, "Grande Illusion" a rock magic show and "Masquerade" a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber. All these shows were stunning and for the most part well received but still people whined "the music's too loud", "the songs aren't well known", " the lightings too flashy". The only cabaret I went to see was an old fave of P&O, Gary T Thomson who was, as usual, very funny and an excellent singer impressionist. As I mentioned earlier the comedy club in the Tamarind was poor with lots of pax walking out during the comedians slot. The comedy was of a very poor nature with scruffy comedians probably more at home in the comedy and working mens clubs at home where they can swear to get the laughs. Other entertainment seemed to be well received with a few cabaret spots from good singers in both "Havana" and "Tamarind club" Now to the way the ship handles in bad weather. I have read many reports about how Ventura is very unstable even in relatively calm conditions. Well let me tell you, at the start of this cruise and for a couple of days we had far from calm conditions, with force 9 gale battering the ship, and she coped very well with nothing more than the usual pitch and roll one would expect. On the odd and very rare occasion there was this strange movement which I will describe as a shimmy and was felt more strongly when high up in Metropolis. This high wind prevented us visiting Copenhagen and meant we had to anchor off Nynashamn and tender ashore for our visit to Stockholm, this also meant a 45 min drive by coach to get into the city. At its strongest the wind had Ventura listing quite strongly to port, this was most obvious when passing under the great belts bridge and the wind was hitting the ship broadside on. This also caused a lot of hilarity as I tried to push a fellow pax in his wheel chair against the slope of the decks. Most pax did comment on how stable the ship felt in this bad weather. Dress code!!! Now this caused a lot of raised eyebrows. 99% of pax adhered to the suggested dress code for the evening with one or two glaring exceptions, but those who chose to dress as they felt fit (in jeans and t-shirts) stood out like sore thumbs. Now for the raised eyebrows, the dresses from the ladies ranged from the stunningly elegant to the pantomime dame (you know who you are). One outfit of note was a black number (nothing unusual there) topped of with a PINK and BLUE fascinator towering above a head of ringlets, which would not look out of place at Ascot . This was removed in the theatre, very slowly, helped along by several people with the whole theatre agog at the spectacle which ended with loud cheers as the offending high rise headgear was finally removed. The OTT pantomime dames outfit (complete with huge train) was topped off by an illuminated fibre optic explosion emanating from pinned up hair. Each to their own is a phrase which springs to mind. Now to more serious matters and one which will lavish praise on P&O. Mum and I were on this cruise with with another couple, Pat & Derek. Derek is disabled and needs full time use of his wheelchair. Having registered with the disability crew they were taken from their transfer coach and checked in without the need to queue, they were then taken by the mobility crew member straight to there cabin. Now Pat & Derek are veterans of several cruises and this was their best experience with Dereks needs being fulfilled perfectly by P&O. His needs as a diabetic where catered for fully and with great efficiency and the cabin facilities where the best they had ever encountered, with oceans of space and a fully wheel in bathroom. Disabled toilets where at every level on the ship and all were very convenient to all the bars and other venues. This has impressed them so much that they are cruising on Ventura again as soon as possible. I think I've now covered most things except the little gem of a port I mentioned at the start. This port was Warnemunde in Germany and is a delightful little town with a great beach, but it was the sail away from hear that put the icing on the cake of this whole fantastic cruise. Ventura was the largest ship that the port had ever had and our arrival had been heralded in the local press (a German man told me this when we were sat in a cafe). Our arrival prompted thousands of people to come and look in awe as this huge ship dominated this cute little port. Then came time for the sail away and the crowds descended onto the port and the quayside to wave us off. As Ventura slipped her moorings the port authority played Andrea Boccelli's "Time To Say Goodbye" through the public address system and two port employees waved giant hands as we slowly pulled away from the dock. All the pax on the ship responded with a huge cheer and a round of applause. As we pushed back further from the dock a flotilla of small boats and pleasure cruisers packed with people surrounded the ship tooting there horns madly with the ship responding with hilarious results as her whistle almost blew the small boats from the water. All along the waters edge the thousands of people cheered and waved us off with a small band joining in to the strains of the music, this made for a very moving experience with more than a few hankies drying up tears both on shore and on the ship. Many of the pax were waving their union flags and I spotted one or two being waved by the Germans it was a moment I will never forget. But here is the twist to all this...In the welcome on board pack, in the cruise overview, a "Great British Sailaway" was scheduled for this port, but on receipt of the Horizon paper, I noticed the sail away was no longer in the line up for the day. Whilst in the town I bumped into the cruise director Mr Invisible otherwise known as Nigel Travis, and asked him why we were no longer having the sail away party. His answer was that he cancelled it as he thought it politically incorrect for us to be waving union flags to the strains of Rule Britannia as we sailed from a German port. He had scheduled it for our last port of Zeebruge where it p****d down with rain and not a single person was shore side to wave us off. How pathetic Mr Travis. Anyway the Germans showed us how to have a great sail away and Mr Invisible didn't take into account that most people had flags to wave anyway from the Southampton sail away. I shall be posting my pics and a video as soon as all the editing is complete and hopefully you will capture some of the atmosphere that this delightful German sail away gave us all. So there you have it, a long report that I hope most of you sailing soon on this ship will find useful , I'm sure some pax on the same cruise will see things differently but this was the cruise as I saw it. Yes there are small problems which need to be sorted but beyond that she is a fabulous ship. Don't sail on her if you're unsure about a big ship 'cos she's huge but do try her if you want a great cruise experience with the friendliest of crews, serving up fantastic food and wonderful entertainment. With only a couple of exceptions, P&O have got it just about spot on with Ventura and I can't wait for the next time I step on board this lovely ship. If you want me to clarify any aspect of this report or have any other queries about Ventura send me an e-mail or private message and I'll try my best to answer your question. If you've got this far without nodding off, thanks for taking the time to read my report and happy cruising to you all.
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