I have cruised a number of times and this is the first time i have felt so compelled to complain and raise a number of issues which spoiled our holiday and made me question whether indeed P&O are truly a family friendly cruise company. This has made me reluctant to cruise again with P&O.
I was travelling with my wife and one year old child, on the Ventura for two weeks on 2nd January 2016 and specifically chose this cruise ship as it was promoted as child and family friendly. We were looking forward to joining in the events with our child throughout the ship, watching our child enjoy himself in the mini discos and take part in other child activities as well as meeting up with other parents and children. Within a few days however, we began to feel that the only place we were welcome and able to use freely was the nursery.
We felt constantly confined to the nursery each day as the itinerary elsewhere only seemed to cater for the elderly guests and at no time was there an event on the ship, which involved young families to join in and enjoy with their children.
In the daytime, there would be programs for looking 10 years younger, bridge and other card games as well as a pub quizzes or talks on diamonds or destinations. Even the films were aimed at adults only. In the evening was adult entertainment which included tribute acts and piano recitals. Again nothing to involve the children especially in the early evening.
We quickly noticed that at no time, were any of the dance floors given times for the children to enjoy and there were no specific child related events or get togethers for the parents and the children. We were shocked to later learn that there were at least 50 children on board as we had never seen more than 5 or 6 at any one time.
The 6 days at sea were torture and we couldn't wait to get home. It felt awful to be stuck in the nursery. We had paid just as much as the other guests on the ship however, we were unable to make the most of it. At least in a hotel, an entertainment team is provided to help keep the families busy with activities.
I raised my concerns with other parents in the nursery who agreed with me and it concerned me how we all felt anxious about upsetting the rather elderly clientele on the ship who seemed eager to show their discontent at the noise our children would make. This felt even more of an issue in the evening when we wished to take the children for meals or walk them in their prams to get them to sleep. We always felt we were impeding and being an annoyance. On occasion, parents were accused of being cruel by keeping their child awake after 7pm.
There is a night nursery provided however, a number of children including our own could not use this effectively as they were easily disturbed by the loud noise of older children using the adjacent playrooms. As there were no events we could attend with our child, there was no alternative but to either walk around aimlessly or return to our cabin.
Unfortunately the ship didn't stream or live feed any of the shows to the cabin televisions and so we were unable to see any of them.
There was a paddling pool set aside for children at the rear of the ship however, this was constantly out of action. When it was available, it was filled with water too cold to enjoy.
On one day, seven children including myself and their parents wanted to utilise the midship swimming pool. The signs displayed quite clearly stated that children could use it and so we happily enjoyed it until an elderly guest complained. A security officer was brought to the pool and all of us were ordered to get out. This was disgusting and extremely embarrassing and just went to enforce the negative attitude that the ship had towards its younger holiday makers.
When using the lifts, we would occasionally see people get out to allow a wheelchair user to use them however, this was never the case for a parent with a pushchair laden with bags and other children's stuff. Instead, the lifts were full of able bodied elderly people who would push in front of us to get into a lift going up when they actually wanted to go down!! Quite often we would hear the comment, "what goes up must come down. Ha, ha."
Perhaps the ship could display signs to give priority on lifts to pushchairs as well as wheelchairs.
A children's dinner time was allocated at 5pm in the Waterside buffet area. This was constantly used by adults and on most occasions , the food was not suitable for a 1 year old. Chicken legs or curry just doesn't do it. Mashed potato, beans and cheese would have been a much better option. We often saw adults complaining that the food shouldn't just be for children and then complained to staff that there wasn't enough variety or quantity for themselves.
I feel that these situations and the atmosphere on board were caused by the cruise itself being set up to cater specifically for elderly people rather than for all generations hence giving the older guests the impression that this was an adult only cruise and was something children should not have come on. Like the saying, " children should be seen but should not be heard".
On one occasion, a parent was questioned by an elderly female why she was on the ship with her child and was asked rather sharply, " surely this type of holiday isn't for you". The parent in question had been on 13 cruises including 3 with her child. This was her first however with P&O and she indicated this may be her last.
I raised my concerns at reception and later spoke with the youth manager, who was initially very receptive and immediately set up a mini disco within the nursery which was run at 4pm on sea days. She stated she would have a meeting with her staff and look at arranging "other things" for families to do around the ship on the other days. This never happened.
I requested the use of a dance floor on the ship prior to an adult show in the evenings however, it was explained to me that unfortunately there wasn't a DJ on board to arrange it. This was not true as "DJ OSCAR" was on board looking after the adults.
We were informed that during school holiday trips, there are more events for children on board utilising other parts of the ship due to there being more children present however, due to the small number of children during our particular trip, no events or venues were timetabled or made available to us. This was unfair and we feel this badly affected the quality of our holiday and should have been included.
I wish to point out though that generally, the staff were very friendly and loved the children, often playing with them and helping us to keep them amused whilst at the restaurant tables. Its just a shame that we didn't feel we could sit anywhere with our child except for the restaurant or nursery.
The knock on effect to not having any activities put aside for children was that there was nothing to tire them out. The children then didn't sleep very well at night and i, along with other parents of children under 2 would often be up in the night pushing our children in their prams to calm them. Not an easy task at 4.30 am. We certainly didn't get to enjoy the facilities in the evening as advertised in your brochure.
A timetable should have been created to always ensure that there were daytime and early evening activities elsewhere on the ship, other than just in the nurseries to ensure that families were made to feel more welcome. This would have also encouraged more interaction between the different age groups and also emphasised the fact that these are family holidays on a family cruise ship and so not making the more elderly adults feel that they were on a saga adults only cruise!
I have used Thomson and Princess cruise lines before and i can honestly say that this is the first time that have felt put off from cruising again. It was extremely hard work looking after our child because of this and i feel so disappointed that we weren't able to enjoy the holiday with our son as we had wished. Just because a ship has a nursery doesn't make it a family friendly ship. It needs to do more to integrate and involve the families within the rest of the ship. After all, these families are the future customers.
What surprised me even more was the fact the ship had a young captain who was travelling with his wife and 1 year old son. Despite this fact, it was obvious that the ship only cared for the older clientele and we constantly felt out of place.
I had paid nearly £3000 for this holiday. Quite a lot more than some other guests and yet we were unable to use the facilities, being only able to use the nursery, our cabin and the odd restaurant. We never got to see a show, relax in a bar, take part in any activities or even watch a film. The only possible way to enjoy anything on board would have been to drink alone away from the rest of our family. We had to resort to this on occasion and it wasn't something we enjoyed doing or should have needed to do.
Holidays are something families should enjoy together. This just wasnt possible on board the Ventura.
This certainly wasn't the holiday that was described or which i was hoping to enjoy. It turned out to be an extremely stressful 2 weeks and at the end of a port day, we were dreading returning to the ship.
Families of young children should be able to enjoy all of the facilities together if they so wish no matter what the time of year, how many children are on board or whether it is a school holiday or not.
Come on P&O. Its the 21st century and families want to do things together. Its just not possible on Ventura.
It was what we expected however it was showing its age.
We visited the Oceanario. A 20 minute taxi ride and well worth the £17 admission fee. An amazing place and we got some terrific photos.
Quick and easy transfer and location was lovely.
We had visited before and didnt think too much of it however, this time we used the on/off tour bus and really loved it. This is a must and only cost £12.
This was beautiful with a mix of old and new with lots of speciality shops only a 5 minute walk from the terminal.
Easy to use having left the car at cruise parking.