We'd only been on one cruise before, and that was with Royal Caribbean on their Vision Of The Seas ship, which is about 80% of the size of this one, I think.
This was a cheap cruise, so we decided to (despite the not fantastic reviews) plump for it and see how it went. We didn't have elevated expectations and unfortunately we were right to have had that attitude!
I was absolutely blown away by the difference in service levels. Ventura is full of staff who simply do their job. Too many of them have forgotten that they are only there because the customers need them to be - and that people go on holiday to have fun and enjoy a little bit of luxury. Don't get me wrong, none were rude, but none had any real spark, minus a guy in Metropolis.
--Bay Tree restaurant--
To begin, our dinner in the Bay Tree restaurant on the first night, blimey. Steak and chips, fish and chips, ham egg and - yep - chips were three of about 7 main options. The others weren't interesting either; I'm not just excluding them to make the review look poor! One was pie I think. The menus every night were just not exciting. After a day of being at sea, or on a black tie evening, it's nice to be wowed by a fantastic menu - not just be "fed".
The staff in this restaurant were amongst the least interested in great customer experience I think I've ever experienced! Their main aim, it seemed, was to get their job done in the easiest way possible - so for example serving my wife and I alongside the three tables of two around us, at the same time. So we all got our orders taken at the same time, all got our food at the same time and waited for each other to finish before we could order the next course.
We had to flag someone down to order a drink other than the (really chlorinated) water we were already given. When I ordered a glass of red, I was sent the "wine waiter" - a lady turned up who didn't offer any knowledge on wine, just wanted me to tell her what I'd like. She couldn't take payment either, that was the first guy's job.
Cheese and biscuits? Bizarre! We were first given a side plate each and a knife. Then our waiter turned up with a large slate of cheeses, but not to leave it with us - he wanted my wife and I to select each cheese, bit by bit, and how much of each we wanted. Then, after this process was complete, he returned to get us to do the same with the biscuits! I had to explain to him that the idea of cheese and biscuits is that the choice is made as you're eating it! Also, having to beg for five minutes before eating is frustrating and unnecessary.
As for breakfast in this restaurant, it's even worse! Lots of staff serving (/cleaning) empty tables instead of the guests sat down already, means you have to forever catch someones eye. The toast was never anything but stone cold and solid (even when we asked for it to be warm).
There's no going off the menu in terms of options. I wanted (on the Monday morning) some smoked salmon with my scrambled eggs - the chap told me that wasn't on until Sunday. So once in the week we were allowed smoked salmon (and by the way when Sunday came, it was mixed in and therefore cooked, with the scrambled eggs). I'm not a greedy person but am used to being able to have a certain level of creative licence with breakfast! I don't know why they can't just offer a buffet system - they appear to be withholding any ability for the guest to just have a good breakfast, and with it, being really slack on service.
We found the layout really annoying. The absolute main reason for this is that there's no one route around the whole ship - meaning after dinner when you fancy a walk, you can't do this without either worming through the interior spaces of one of the decks (7 I think), cutting through bars and restaurants, or going out on deck and walking through sports areas and using stairs to complete a circuit. It doesn't sound like a big problem until it's a sea day and all you want to do is get a few steps done! A weird feeling of cabin fever when you can't just go for a walk.
The atrium isn't very big, meaning there's no real reason for it being there - on Vision (RC) last year, the atrium was constantly used for nice evening celebrations and displays. There isn't therefore one large, spectacular area on the ship for people to all be in, on for example a black tie evening reception. We found it strange that there wasn't a common area for people to begin their evening.
--Things to do--
There was loads to do, as long as you're either with a child, or you're a child. We were travelling as a couple and basically there's only one place with any level of atmosphere that's laid back and slightly classier, which is Metropolis Bar. Every other space for "lounging" either has no music on (and is therefore just an area for people to sit looking at each other, waiting for their next meal) or is full of kids. They were all very quiet, abandoned spaces during the day. And because there's no one large open area in the ship for people to gravitate towards, everywhere felt deserted.
Exchange bar was nice enough, but treads too much on the Butlins method of holidaying - people drinking Fosters and playing bingo or watching the football. We avoid places like this at home so didn't use it on the boat.
We consequently found sea days pretty boring without our own things to do - books etc. We never found this on RC's Vision. Their public spaces were all vibrant and well laid out; nice enough to spend time in just watching the world go by.
--The great things--
We loved Metropolis. Only complaint really would be that it kept being booked out for private events, meaning that the one decent bar was pretty much out of action for these times. It's also (as mentioned above) the only classy, atmospheric bar on the ship, so got really busy in the evenings, so much so people were jostling for tables. (Tamarind was nice in the evenings too, but no view as it's low down in the ship and the curtains were shut!).
Sindhu, absolutely incredible. A fantastic way to spend an evening, away from the crowds. Food was top notch and the service was great too.
The show - Paradise City - was great. Not the longest show, but absolutely perfectly put together!
We had an interior cabin, to test the theory for our summer cruise which we hadn't booked at the time of sailing. It was absolutely fine - a little strange not knowing what was happening in the world outside but that's normal for an interior cabin.
I liked the layout, of the dressing area by the bathroom, with the bedroom as its own separate area. Nicely equipped too, with a kettle and fridge.
Could have done with more hangars and a bigger telly. Also somewhere to sit would have been nice! Not sure if it's normal for interior cabins to be so small.
If I'm honest, I'm a bit simple with culture. Not really a museum-goer, so a wander around the town is good enough for me. The destinations were nice - but one of them was on a bank holiday day, so nothing was happening (and the city wasn't particularly pretty anyway) - this could have been scheduled a little better I think.
The excursions were really fairly priced - and I heard good things about them.
I think basically, 7 days is the maximum time I could spend on this ship. It's a little too poorly designed and there's not enough to do, without making your own entertainment. Also, it was value for money given what we'd paid. Had I paid lots of money for a summer holiday on this boat, I would be very disappointed.