This was my 13th. cruise and my 4th. (in a row) with P&O. I travelled on Ventura in 2015 and all was well-but I'm sad to say the ship now needs some serious restoration. As with my other reviews on this site, I'll split this up into catergories starting with...
Embarkation/Disembarkation. Sailing from Southampton in the UK.
A complete breeze. P&O know what they're doing. Although the ship was completely booked up, there were loads of staff waiting at the terminal in Southampton. My car was taken by a local long-term parking company and I was directed to the main terminal building. Inside were (literally) hundreds of people getting their cabin keycards. But everything was perfectly smooth and I was onboard in around half an hour. Disembarkation was also a breeze. I'm a "walk off". That is somebody who can take their own luggage and leave the ship without any assistance. I was off the ship around 0730, I picked up my car and I was on the road home by 0800. Fantastic organisation.
The ship was fully booked and not exclusively British. I heard several eastern European, Asian and American accents. As it was the school Easter holidays, there were lots of families with children onboard and I estimate that the average age of the psasengers was in the forties-maybe less. There was (depending who you spoke to) around 300 to 400 children (under 12 and younger-I don't count teenagers) onboard. As I don't have kids of my own, I forgot about the Easter holidays. I'm not making a social comment, but everywhere you went during the day, there were loads of screaming kids-especially around the swimming pools. I tried to avoid this, but you couldn't get away from them. This made daytime activities difficult and I had trouble finding a nice quiet corner to relax. There was an "adults only" section of the ship, but this had a daily charge attatched and I wasn't going to pay.
Talking of daily charge...P&O charge £6 per per per day on everybody's account. They call this a "hotel charge". This applies to all passengers over 12. I went to reception and asked for a form to remove this charge. P&O cannot force people to pay this it and I feel very strongly about being told when and how much (if at all) I am going to tip staff. I did tip my steward 50 Euros but that is as far as I will go. The cruise companies need to look at this as these trips are expensive enough.
I requested first sitting in the main dining room (MDR) but I was given "freedom dining". Not for me. I like sitting down with the same people discussing the day, not with different people every night with the same questions...Where are you from/what do you do/married/kids etc. Because of this, I had my evening meals in the buffet. The food on offer was very good with themed nights..Curry night/Italian night/British pub food etc. All in all, very tasty. There are speciality restaurants on the ship-Sinhdu/Epricurean/Glass House and others. There is a cover charge on these but I have tried Sinhdu and I would highly recommend them. There won't be any screaming kids in these restaurants.
As to alcohol...P&O claim that they charge "pub prices". Not where I'm from they're not. Beer was served in British Imperial pints (as opposed to the American pint which is 16 fluid ounces-British pints are 20 fluid ounces). My regular pub charges £3.05 for a pint and I could go to a Wetherspoons (to non-British readers Wetherspoons is a major UK pub chain) and pay around £1.80 for a pint, so I don't think P&O is charging pub prices. Permium beers/bottles cost even more. There was the usual spirits/wines/cocktails/champagne on offer-again at a lot more than you would pay in a pub.
The ship and its staff.
As I said above, I travelled on Ventura in 2015 and it had a refit in that year. I have to report that it needs another one-and soon. The carpets in the main public areas and staircases were threadbare and there was paint chips on the woodwork all over the place. Also, it seemed to me that the decor hadn't changed in the two years since I was on Ventura. P&O need to look at this with a serious update. I will say that all of the public areas/toilets/bars/restaurants were spotless all the time.
The lower order of staff (bar staff/cabin stewards/cleaners) were mainly Indian and Filipino, very friendly and nothing was too much trouble. My cabin steward-Vincy-was brilliant.
I paid what P&O call an "early saver" fare. I was allocated an inside double room despite the fact that I had only paid a single fare as opposed to double for a solo traveller. The cabin was ok but as I have said above about a refit, the cabins need updating. There's loads of storage space-drawers/cupboards etc. but the shower/toilet had seen better days.
I'm not a show person but there was the usual onboard troupe-Headliners-doing shows in the main theatre. There were resident bands and guest singers all doing MOR music. All very good. I did go and see an Elton John tribute in the Havana bar. He was very good and looked the part. He did two shows on two of the days and they were well attended. Daytime/night activities included quiz nights in the pub "The Exchange". I used to write pub quizzes as a hobby so I don't take part. There was guest lecturer talking about famous singers-Frank Sinatra/Elvis Presley-very informative. At least there wasn't any screaming kids there.
We visited Vigo in Spain, Lisbon and Opporto in Portugal and Cherbourg in France. The weather could have been a little better but it was the first week in April so I didn't expect too much. We did have 32C in Lisbon and Opporto but it cooled down a bit in Cherbourg.
I booked excusions with P&O before I travelled visiting the Oceanarium in Lisbon, a port vineyard in Opporto and the Bayuex Tapestry in Bayuex-about an hour's drive from Cherbourg. All very interesting. The Bayuex Tapestry was on my "Bucket List" so thats one done. I did my own thing in Vigo. And no screaming kids.
Note: If you decide to do your own thing or use local tour guides in the ports of call and you miss the sailaway-tough. I will be your responsibility to get to the next port and at your own expense. The ship will not wait for you. And if you try to claim back any costs incurred on your travel insurance, they won't pay out as it was your own fault for missing the ship. If, on the other hand, you use an official P&O trip and you're late, the ship will wait for your return.
This is not a social comment. I have said this on previous reviews and have been completely vilified. Going back to the kids onboard. In the buffet, kids were running about with no control from parents. This could be potentially dangerous and P&O need to sort this out. Also, at night, parents were carrying kids who were fast asleep or in buggies/pushchairs in loud, busy bars. These children were very young-some less that a year old. I know that when I was that age, I was in bed by a certain time and if I complained about it, I got smacked. I know that this isn't "politically correct" in this day and age, but I think this is wrong. I will say that during the evenings, the slightly older kids were well behaved and in complete control. But kids don't need to be in loud bars when the adults are enjoying the entertainment. One one occasion, I went to the Metropolis Bar. This is a smaller, intimate bar with a piano player, mood lighting-all very nice. Unfortunately, there were several families in the bar with around ten kids running about all over the place. This was around one o'clock in the morning and I had popped in for a nightcap before retiring for the night. Not something that is needed in what I would call an "adult bar". I won't make the mistake of booking another cruise when the kids are on holiday in the future.
The ship...A bit threadbare and in need of a refit.
Food/Drink...The buffet was very good-I can't comment on the MDR's-and the alcohol prices are still too high.
Weather..I know we can't control the weather but we did get two or three very warm days-the cruise was in the first week of April.
Marks out of ten? I'll give this cruise six out of ten. I've deducted points for high beer prices, ship a bit tatty and too many screaming kids.
I will recommend Ventura to first timers and seasoned cruisers-just don't book a cruise in the school holidays.
Did I mention the screaming kids?