This was our fourth cruise and our second with P&O. Our first cruises were on the Island Star and Ocean Village. We sailed on the Arcadia to the Canaries in July 2011 and the difference between the two ships is obvious in many areas.
Firstly, I have to say that my wife and I liked the Ventura in general. More than enough bars for anyone and a wider selection of places to eat. Good size cabins and a choice of three pools and associated sunbathing facilities. Ventura is big and it can be a long walk between venues but, for some strange reason, the designers could not provide a single, unbroken promenade deck! The usual P&O offerings are available within the staterooms e.g. tea/coffee making, hair dryer, Steward service at least twice a day and a fridge. The bars still serve Stella and Boddingtons on draught and a good range of spirits and soft drinks at or below UK pub prices.
In comparison with our Arcadia cruise, the most obvious difference is in the food and service. The main dining experience on the Arcadia was quite good whereas, the Ventura main dining (we went freedom dining) experience was not good. The food was average at best and the service was terrible in the Cinnamon restaurant reserved for freedom dining. We only used the Cinnamon restaurant twice as, on our second visit, it took 20 minutes to get a wine waiter and 45 minutes for our starter to arrive. We withdrew our automatic gratuities at reception a couple of days later. It was also obvious that the Cinnamon restaurant waiters were not interested in offering alternative starters if the ones on the menu did not suit. On the Arcadia, the waiters would have a salad made or a melon selection but on the Ventura, not interested!
Waiter service for drinks in other venues (especially on the upper decks) was appalling and it took a long time to even place a drinks order. There were too few waiters and they took ages to return with drinks.
The food in the buffet restaurant, on the other had, was far better than on the Arcadia and the Beach House Diner was also very good.
The grill and pizza venues were awful!
Dress code was not rigidly enforced! For heavens sake P&O, if you are going to have formal evenings, don't let people into the main dining room without a tie or jacket! I reported a table, on our second and last night in the Cinnamon, where there were three men seated, two with jackets removed and a third with no jacket at all and no tie. The restaurant manager said that they did enforce the dress code but could offer no explanation for the diners we had reported.
Now for the worst aspect of the cruise... the passengers, not all of them but enough to make us wonder if we had booked with CHAVcruises! We thought our first two cruises with Island Star and Ocean Village were at the low end of the market but, I can seriously state that the passengers on those ships were far better mannered and friendly than a lot we met on the Ventura. We witnessed queue jumping, bad manners, under age drinking (reported to crew but not acted upon) foul language in public areas from teenagers, racist remarks about crew and much, much more.
Thankfully there were enough "normal" passengers with good manners, the ability to speak without using four letter words, and interests other than football so we were able to still enjoy ourselves.
We would go back on the Ventura but only when the number of children and foul mouthed teenagers is at a minimum. I dread to think what this ship is like in the school holidays...