Ventura Cruise Review by DAVID DEACON
Having spent 15 days on Ventura in the Caribbean some 18 months previously,we had am element of reassurance that we at least knew our ship, if not our destinations. Southampton proved to be an easy port to use apart from P+O's ridiculous alphabet boarding which meant if you arrived on time there was a full ships worth of passengers in the embarkation hall! No matter we let that one pass and were duly embarked without fuss. When we on Ventura the first time we noted that it rolled around a bit and we were still in Barbados harbour, which we thought strange; and it continued to do this throughout that cruise. Many thought it had a stabiliser fault, but it did not worry us too much and we enjoyed the great itinerary. This cruise was different, in that the ship still rolled around like a pig in a bath, but the weather was foul which was disappointing in the first instance, and bad luck in the second. The first port of call was La Coruna on the North Western peninsular of Spain, a pleasant enough town to wander around for an hour, but not much more. Excursion options on this day and for most of the cruise were limited so we were soon back on the ship minus a few shekels which madam deems customary practice to spend in a shop or three! The third day was Bilbao a short distance along the coast and the main city in the Basque region. A few more places to visit such as the Guggenheim museum, and a big city to explore. Transfer time from the ship to the city was slow and of course it rained.I think I would sum up the city as ok, probably better in the sunshine, but I would not rush back too quickly. On day four we arrived at La Rochelle somewhere we were looking forward to visiting. This French town is on the same level as Cognac, and has a lovely old part to it as well as a nice harbour. P+O decided to berth the ship 25 minutes away and bus everyone in on complementary coaches, not perfect but hey ho? The town was a dream, old narrow streets full of quaint unusual buildings, and to our delight a beautiful food market. The fresh fruit and veg was displayed quite rightly with pride in the outdoor stall area, with every imaginary species available. We then entered the indoor food hall, housing fish, meats poultry, bread, cheese and cakes, all a joy to behold. We had big grins on our faces the whole two hours we spent there. We bought a giant piece of french crusty bread and a slice of ripe Brie to eat on the balcony.A bowl of Moules et Frites in a small cobbled street finished the visit of perfectly, until the heavens opened!!We quickly headed back toward the pick up area. We then noticed a bunch of fellow passengers on a street corner doing nothing which seemed strange? On rounding the corner, to our dismay we saw the rest of the ships quota queued as far as you could see toward the coach collection point. We heard some had been there for 1.5 hours already.Being an impatient so in so, I decided we would go and remonstrate with the people responsible at the stop. It turned out that the French drivers decided they were going for lunch regardless of the contract...C'est la vie! Embarrassingly, as I walked along past the front of the queue and the only coach to arrive for an hour, the lady organiser waived down a different coach type, gave a few terse orders in French to the driver and said to me, Ventura? Oui, I said as quick as a flash, and we were on. I was so ashamed, sitting there on the front seat when those poor folks had queued all that time. Ok, I'm sorry if it was you but we were owed a slice of luck and I guess that was it? Two minutes into the journey I heard complaints about bad feet..oops, brie me thinks? We got back to the ship, ordered red wine and sat on the balcony spooning the ripe brie on to the crusty bread...Fantastic. The next day was Brest, on the North West part of France. Now I guess Brest looks grim when the sun shines, but when it rains.....yuk. All passengers made a hasty retreat back to the ship. The last port was Guernsey, when it again rained in the morning!!!The town of St Peter Port was really nice and as you may have guessed by now we had lunch. Fresh seafood on the harbour front, lovely. Lets deal with the ships amenities. We ate in the White room on day one and the food and service were immaculate, and Marco himself was on board as he was the last time we were on the ship. Whatever you have heard he is a very gracious man, who listens intently to all you say. If you get a chance eat there do so, you will not be disappointed. The main restaurant was ok but not special. The food was average and the waiters seemed to be practicing for a cutlery juggling contest. They need more practice! We also ate in the Tapas bar, fantastic, and on the final night, East, which seemed grossly under used which was a shame as the food and service were brilliant.P+O's drinks prices are really good, half the price of the American alternatives. We were drinking beautiful wine with our meal for under £10; not bad eh? The evening shows were quite good, particularly Mike Doyle the Welsh comedian/singer who did two nights. Nothing was sacred in his mickey taking of the passengers and crew, and everyone raved about the performances. Elsewhere there was a good mixture of music to suit all tastes, and most seemed content. So, it may seem to readers that there were a few negatives, and yes there were, but we had a good time and would not want to put others off. Add some sunshine and it could be a delightful cruise. Disembarkation was the quickest and most painless ever. Well done P+O.
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