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103 P&O Cruises Repositioning Cruise Reviews

Having just returned from Azura's transatlantic cruise back to Southampton, I am wondering where the other Azura sails (which some of your reviewers have been on). I am sorry that some of them had poor holidays on the ship but our ... Read More
Having just returned from Azura's transatlantic cruise back to Southampton, I am wondering where the other Azura sails (which some of your reviewers have been on). I am sorry that some of them had poor holidays on the ship but our experience was very different. Of course, the flight out to Barbados was tiresome/tiring with an early start from Manchester, but it was adequate and it opened up the possibility of a transatlantic cruise with all of the sea days, which my wife and I love. Being used to Fred Olsen and Voyages of Discovery we were a little hesitant about booking on such a huge ship. We need not have worried. Check-in was speedy and efficient. O.K. The Shed is not air conditioned but fans were going and cool towels and drinks were on offer from P & O staff. The ship is delightful. The cabin (inside - because we spend almost no time there) was the best designed that we have ever had, and seemed relatively spacious. The whole ship seemed smart and well decorated and furnished. Staff were invariably friendly, cheerful and helpful. We dined in the Oriental restaurant almost every evening and despite the numbers being catered for, the food was invariably of a high standard. So much so that we could see no reason to pay cover charges for the "upmarket" restaurants on board. We ate in Verona on one evening - it is turned into a trattoria with excellent waiter service - at no extra cost. Food was excellent. only slight niggle was - we did not come across any information about this on board but came across it talking to other passengers. We used the buffet (Venezia) restaurant for breakfast and lunch. The food was varied, with a good choice, and of good quality. It was always hot and despite the number of passengers there was never a significant wait to serve yourself, nor was there any unseemly pushing around the counters. There were always enough trays, crockery and cutlery and we were never short of somewhere to sit. We found sunbeds were plentiful although some passengers were reserving beds early in the day. On the other hand, many passengers packed up and left them when they had other things to do. We packed up at lunchtime every day and never had a problem finding another sunbed after 2.30p.m.. There is a quiet sundeck forward (next to The Retreat). We went with the idea that we could book into The Retreat for sea days but there was absolutely no need. Entertainment was varied, but always of a high standard. The Headliners production shows, although choice of music was not always to our taste, were excellent and the theatre (because it is such a large ship?) allowed a high degree of technical enhancement that is not possible on smaller ships. With three performances each evening there was a chance for most passengers to see each of the Headliners' shows. We did not go on any tours organised by P & O but there are always plentiful taxis on the quayside to do your own thing at much cheaper prices. Must agree with a previous reviewer - the port talks did not include much information for independent travellers - they were slanted towards selling P & O tours. Duty Free alcohol on board is cheap and you can keep it (and drink it) in your cabin during the cruise - unlike some cruise lines. Looking at some of the previous reviews we were apprehensive about going on Azura but we got such a good deal it seemed worth taking the chance. Thank goodness we did. We had a fabulous cruise and to cap it all the weather was superb, and the crossing was the smoothest ever, out of 5 or 6 transatlantic crossings. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Firstly let me say,That I prefer Ventura To Azura,just slight differences which sway me slightly to this preference,but no major dislikes with Azura. Firstly,flight from Manchester on Sat,was comfortable,with complimentary drinks,so well ... Read More
Firstly let me say,That I prefer Ventura To Azura,just slight differences which sway me slightly to this preference,but no major dislikes with Azura. Firstly,flight from Manchester on Sat,was comfortable,with complimentary drinks,so well done Thomas cook,the start of a holiday is important and the flight is part of it. Transfers to port were swift,and although there was an issue, in that my cabin was not ready,due to a flight delay,it was not the end of the world. My cabin on C Deck was a balcony cabin that had been adapted for disabled use.It had a large balcony and huge wet-room/bathroom ,this was rigorously cleaned by our steward throughout our stay.C Deck seemed to have bigger balconies. Drinks are well priced,about the same as most pubs,and all bars were well looked after and staff attentive.Our fav bar was Glasshouse,what a revelation for wine lovers,a great concept,which i'm told is being introduced to Ventura when in refit, Food in general was good,not as good as ventura in my opinion but still of a high standard in most cases.Sindu is a must,the food was brilliant. Entertainment good,headliners shows were really good,and most of the singers were good,with the odd exception. Sea days were relaxing,but 9 days should of resulted in a little more than bingo,quiz and guest speakers.Coach pick up was poorly managed we got back to Manchester at 4pm unlike a previous reviewer who fared a little better. Totally enjoyable,although based on my Previous Ventura cruise last year,standards have slightly slipped. In closing,I am not a seasoned cruiser,and feel that i totally got good value for money.You can take/or buy alcohol on board,but prices are not designed to clean you out. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana ... Read More
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana way back in 1984! The official sector of the around the world cruise was from Sydney to San Francisco but we were allowed to embark in Brisbane. This added another 3 nights to the cruise making it a total of 28 nights. British pounds which are used onboard are now only $1.50 as our exchange rate has improved. Embarkation: As we live near Brisbane we drove and left our car at a nearby car storage. As our return trip would be by air from USA, they would collect us at the nearby international airport. Their shuttle service was efficient. Arriving after 11 am, we were forced to stand in line at the cruise terminal until midday when they opened the counter. The line moved slowly as only about 3 cruise staff processed the 300 odd passengers boarding here. Gradually more staff appeared (maybe they had been on lunch?). We couldn't understand why the process wasn't started earlier or more staff used as with other cruise ships at this port. With such a relatively small number of passengers embarking here, the process should have been quicker. Once on board, we were directed to our cabin where we left our hand luggage and went for lunch. Throughout the cruise we had 5 Cruise Critic meetings with our small group followed by lunch in the MRD. The Ship: Built in 1995, the Oriana was showing its age but the recent refurbishment helped it feel modern. Public areas were nicer than we expected. Carpets looked new and the crew were constantly painting and undertaking other maintenance. It had recently been converted to an 'adults only' ship. The recently added 'duck's tail' to the lower rear of the ship seemed to help it handle some rough weather near USA. With 1800 passengers it is a comfortable size and has a good layout. The promenade deck was very wide and great for walking. While the majority of the passengers were British, there were a large number of Australians. We did get the impression that some of the reserved Poms were taken back by the comparatively loud Aussies. As mentioned in previous reviews, passengers in the rear restaurant complained of noisy vibration. At a 'question & answer' session, the captain apologised for the excessive vibration and said it was due to the 2 propellers being slightly out of timing. He said that it was worse at certain speeds which they were trying to avoid. Fortunately we weren't in that restaurant but did find the noise from the vibration excessive when in the Pacific Lounge which is on the deck directly above the rear dining room. It appeared that certain performers were moved from here to the front theatre for this reason. After the captain's comments, the noise did appear to reduce. In the interest of hygiene we would have preferred if the public toilets had the main door left open as on many other ships avoiding the need to use paper towels to open them. Also some public toilets regularly were out of order. Cabin: The overall size of our inside cabin is not large, but sufficient for two people and our luggage. Unfortunately as we booked late (at a good price), we had a 4 berth cabin. The top bunks against the walls caused problems as we had the queen bed arrangement. Also there is no space between the end of the bed and the wardrobe on one side and the desk on the other. The shower was fairly small but the curtain didn't get sucked inwards. The flat-screen TV was a reasonable size. The a/c made the cabin freezing even on the highest setting (this was fixed after complaining). There was a small fridge which was handy for keeping our supply of Coke & snacks cold. Ice had to be requested (we had a standing order at noon each day). Also if you want a top sheet, ask for it. Food & drinks: We found the service in the main dining room to be fine but the standard & variety of food was inferior -- certainly not to the quality of food on American ships like Princess. There was a noticeable lack of seafood other than fish -- not even the usual prawn cocktails (as my DW is not a seafood lover she was reasonably happy with the quality). We laughed at their idea of tiger prawns - extremely little in size & in number. Even on the formal 'black tie' nights the food was nothing special! Our wine waiter was prompt & reliable. As this is a British ship there were strict rules on dress code in the MRD (we were aware this of pre cruise). There were 6 Black Tie & 7 Smart (jacket required!!!) nights on this cruise. This was different to the relaxed Aussie & American cruises. After experiencing the long lines at the buffet the first morning, we used the MRD for breakfast most other mornings. Also the food seemed improved and the atmosphere more relaxing for breakfast. We enjoyed the popular fruit smoothes but missed the large American style pancakes and freshly made waffles. Also fresh fruit at times was in very limited supply. We did use the buffet for lunch but wished the quality of the food was to a higher standard -- much of it looked like leftovers. Trays are still supplied. On some port days many passengers were late for the early sitting in the MRD. As a result there were long lines in the buffet as only one side was being used (the other side was kept closed in the evening as it led to one of the extra-charge restaurants on the rear deck). We did use this Italian extra-charge restaurant on the evening leaving Sydney. The view of the harbour as we sailed out was fantastic but the service was extremely slow and the food disappointing. To receive better quality food an additional payment was required! We were pleased to see hand-sanitizers at MRD and the buffet -- their use was strongly encouraged. Alcohol was reasonably priced. We used a soft drink card for post-mix drinks which only gave a small saving but was convenient and time saving. Surprisingly low-priced duty-free spirits could be bought and consumed in your cabin. Also P&O UK has relaxed views on the amount of wine brought onboard. Staff and service on board: Organization on the ship was generally excellent with the one exception at Honolulu where maybe USA customs clearance could have been handled better to avoid long lines. Tendering, which occurred at only one port, was well organised with no delays. The crew who were mainly from Goa, India were polite but didn't seem cheerful. Generally they were not up to Princess' standard. The reception staff were friendly and polite. Captain Camby, who was the youngest in the fleet, was very popular especially with the females as he was a John Travolta lookalike. We found him to be very approachable, humorous and conveyed information in great detail. Cruise Director, Michael Mullane was also popular and did a great job. Both performed well together one evening in the miming game, 'Give Us A Clue'. A 4 page daily newspaper printed for Australia as well as Britain was popular and much appreciated. Prices in the photo gallery were half that of Princess. Having several laundrettes on board was a bonus. Also surprisingly they were free but this can cause problems as some passengers used them to wash a few clothes only at a time causing delays. Entertainment: The program of entertainment was much organised with a full colour 'Your Cruise Overview' printed at the start of this sector. This listed the dress code and all the evening activities for each day. On cruises we enjoy the shows in the evening. The performers in the Headliner Company did a superb job. Also we were pleasantly surprised to find they did 8 different shows during the cruise -- certainly more than Royal Caribbean offer! These were the highlight of our evening. On 2 occasions we even saw their repeated show the next night. Unfortunately the main theatre (the Theatre Royal) had a design fault with the seating. Many of the flip-seat bases were sloping downwards causing us to slide forward. Also to increase the capacity of the theatre, legroom was minimal. The alternative entertainment area (the Pacific Lounge) was laid out like a lounge - as a result its capacity was limited. Also unless you arrived early, one's view could be blocked by supporting posts. Most of the guest entertainers were British (our favourites were a singer, Emily Reed and comedian, Richard Guantlett) and of an acceptable standard. This cruise consisted of many sea days. The program of activities was good and my DW loved participating in the passenger choir but missed not having Zumba. The many guest lecturers were popular (almost filled the theatre) and very informative -- every sea day had presentations by at least 2 lecturers. There was a cinema on this ship with good movies but we didn't have time to see any - for us days at sea go by quickly. We should mention that we were travelling with friends with whom we spent at least 2 hours each sea day playing cards. The only suitable location for this activity was in the buffet. Shore Excursions & Destinations: We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive although on this ship they were more reasonably priced than American ships. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explore ourselves. Also as we had been to New Zealand before this worked extremely well. The other Pacific ports of Bora Bora & Papeete were easy to explore ourselves; whereas, in Honolulu we with our friends found a great guide who copied the ship's sightseeing tour for much less cost. Disembarkation: As we had been cleared by customs at Honolulu everything went smoothly and on time leaving the ship. There was the usual line waiting for taxis but this was well organised. Conclusion: P&O UK proves that you get what you pay for. In our opinion the service and entertainment are excellent whereas the food was generally disappointing. There is certainly no heavy selling while on this ship. Generally we would recommend them as long as you remember these are British ships. While onboard we didn't take advantage of P&O UK's Future Cruise Credits scheme as it was too restrictive but would consider cruising with them again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We drove the 150 miles to Southampton on the day before and arrived at the port by 10-30am on 17th december. The cases were unloaded and keys handed over, and we then arranged for assistance to board. The staff were excellent staying with ... Read More
We drove the 150 miles to Southampton on the day before and arrived at the port by 10-30am on 17th december. The cases were unloaded and keys handed over, and we then arranged for assistance to board. The staff were excellent staying with us all the way through check-in and took us up to Belvidear Resturant. We then found ourway round the ship arriving at our Stateroom by 2pm. G12 has a wet room and grab rails and has plenty of room for the wheelchair. After unpacking, muster was called, we went to our station in the Theatre on deck1 as stated on back of stateroom door, only to be turned away and told to go up lift to deck2. We were disgusted that this happened and what would happen in a real emergency. We did highlight our concerns with the Purser who said in an emergency we should stay in our cabin and be collected by staff.We are not happy as we might get overlooked especially as there was 64 wheelchairs on board. Our first stop was Madiera, I read in the accessable Tour Brochure that there was an accesable Shuttle bus, but on disembarkation we were told that the bus had been used for a tour and so was not available, we struggled on to shuttle coach but got a Taxi back to the Ship. When returning we found a letter from P & O stating that wheelchairs were not allowed on tours in the Caribbean. We had booked 3, although we got this refunded, we were given no help to secre alternative tours. The accessable tours were sold out and double the cost of normal tours. On enquiring about the distance to the railway in St Kitts we were told we could not get a cab there as they only took people on ships tours, so we did not get on the train. We were nervous about using taxis but all was well no thanks to P&O and we saved as tours by shared Taxi worked out half the cost of P&O tours and drivers happy to take the folded Wheelchair.A fellow passinger arranged for us to meet the Purser who we shared our concerns and said we should have read the FAQs on web site and he contacted Southampton and they are ? going to make it clearer in future and also change info re Madiera to remove mention of accessable shuttle instead of ensuring there is an accessable bus. This is not Good enough and causes disabled people not to be equal with others. The cabin was not cleaned thoroughly with dust and bins not emptied, and on occasions towels not replaced. Beds were not turned down and no towel animals appeared, P&O are definitly cutting corners to maximise profit. The theatre Shows were excellent as were the Acts with Tom O'Conner one of the best. However there was little in the way of live music during the day.IS this another economy drive? The gingerbread village which the chefs had made was brilliant. The food was variable with Steak very tough, but a good variety, A Diabetic on our table found that Melen was often the only starter suitable and requested Prawns or shrimps and was refused, We felt this was not an unreasonble request. Overall despite the issues we had with tours etc we had a very enjoyable cruise, with all the fellow passingers very friendly and the Cruise Director Jon and his team superb. Finally a mention of the excellent care we recieved from the medical Centre when Ann was taken ill on Christmas Day.We are so gratefull for their care and timely treatment. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Having cruised on Ventura we decided, my disabled son, myself and a friend, to give Azura the once over. Before you go P&O send a brochure for wheelchair users about suitable excursions, although personally we did not use it. We ... Read More
Having cruised on Ventura we decided, my disabled son, myself and a friend, to give Azura the once over. Before you go P&O send a brochure for wheelchair users about suitable excursions, although personally we did not use it. We traveled to Southampton by car arriving at the designated time. As soon as we entered the cruise terminal P&O staff escorted us to a small waiting area for wheelchair passengers. We were soon processed and on board. Our cabin was ready so after dropping some of our bags there we made our way to the buffet for lunch. Our stateroom was roomy and spotless the wet-room well equipped and spacious. The access to the balcony is a bit weird with a drop down ramp (the same as Ventura)so care is needed to make sure the door is fully open and the ramp in the down position before venturing out! Our cabin steward soon introduced herself. During the cruise she was helpful and courteous. When we needed to have the upper bunk mattress on the floor she was a bit thrown but after making a special note of our request carried on as normal As we had 8 days at sea there were things going on all over the ship. Our travelling companion was keen to brush up on her bridge skills so went along to the classes for improver's, she found the tuition excellent and even won one of the afternoon games. This left my son and I to do our own thing, which is I think the real advantage of being on a cruise. There were quizzes and talks, films. port presentations etc. besides the outdoor activities (when the weather permitted) Not sure the Seascreen is worth losing the retracting roof for, not much good in wet weather or in daylight. The staff were beyond reproach from the Captain to the wheelchair assistants on the gangways, nothing was too much trouble. One of the main reasons we go with P& O is the service they provide from the time you get to your departure point until you arrive back home. If you are wheelchair confined all the help is there (not personal care of course)On the flight home the crew of the 'plane were just as helpful. The entertainment on board is variable, but generally good, especially the resident Headliners who were professional and energetic. Entertainment is very personal but there is something for everyone at some time. We chose Freedom dining, the choice of food was excellent although we did notice the 'always there' options had disappeared. The waiting staff were always willing to help. When my son ordered something he discovered he did not like they changed it for an alternative. At other times we ate in the Peninsular restaurant for lunch or the buffet, the food was always first class. I can honestly say we never had any problem with finding a seat. At the end of our cruise we waited on board until our flight was called, another reason for going with P & O , on other lines you have to leave the ship and wait around all day for your flight. Overall although there are ups and downs (literally!) P & O are tops for us. The ship layout can be confusing but there are signs all over the place to help in getting around, there is even a wheelchair lift to get to deck 17. Our only problem with Azura is with the changes to deck 17 and the Oasis pool. on Ventura these spaces are open to everyone not just the 40 who pay £20 a day for the Retreat. As this is the adult only pool and the Jacuzzis have fewer steps my son spent most of his time there when on Ventura. The covered shaded area on deck 17 is taken up with the Retreat and covered cabanas for spa treatments, what a waste as the views from there are superb and the shade very welcome in the Caribbean. For this reason we will not be going on Azura again, as Ventura and Azura are the only P&O ships with adapted cabins for more than 2 people we will have to go where Ventura goes! I would agree that the behavior of the minority is appalling, bad language litter, smoking where they please and general disregard for other passengers. No one seems willing to ask these people to comply. Is P&O in danger of going downmarket? Sadly I think it is Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We wanted something special and that's just what we got. Oriana is a splendai ship, if a liitle dated in places. But let's start at the begining:- Check-in and embarkation went without a hitch, you must remember this is all new ... Read More
We wanted something special and that's just what we got. Oriana is a splendai ship, if a liitle dated in places. But let's start at the begining:- Check-in and embarkation went without a hitch, you must remember this is all new to us. ( no airports ) Once on board we quickly found our room, sorry Cabin and two minutes later our cabin steward ( James )came to greet us and welcome us aboard. Our luggage arrived shortly after that although two items were missing. These arrived just as we were going to dinner. We left Southampton at 16:30 sailing into the night. Our first night on board was something quite different to what we have had in the past. Dinner was casual as we hadn't had time to unpack everthing. The Head Waiter met us at the door to the Oriental Restaurant and showed us to our table for two. Two waiters then came and introduced themselves, Vincent and Francisco. A better two waiters you would be hard pressed to find. Nothing was too much trouble for them, they looked after us for the whole 34 nights. A mention also for our Wine steward Roshan, he well knew his trade offering us all the special offers for the evening but never pushing a particular wine. If we didn't like his recommendation it was swifty removed and another choice was given. No question asked. We did try the Conservatory on a couple of evenings but were disappointed with the menu. So we stuck to the Oriental. The Conservatory was fine for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea and we even had Francisco in there waiting on. The entertainment in the evening was pretty good with a couple of fairly well know 'stars' Jimmy James ( who we somehow missed ) was apparently very good. Roy Walker did two shows, we went to the first and were pleasantly surprised at how good it was, his second was a complete let down, as he relied on other peoples jokes from 40yrs ago. The in-house entertainment were very good and tried very hard but I would say the 'Host/Compere' was something from the Butlins 1960s era and too full of himself. The service in the bars was second to none especially in Andersons, our regular after dinner spot. Thanks to two superb bar stewards, Ramir and Patrick who kept us amused with tales of their families in Manilla. By the last week of the cruise they were both searching the ships bars for the last of Scapa malt whisky. I think I finished it all. Brilliant. The trips we did at the different ports of call left a lot to be desired, and with hindsight we would have been better off arranging these ourselves. P&O were overpriced and rushed. The only ones we did think were good were Cozumel and The Kennedy Space Centre. All in all it was a great adventure but Oriana does need sprucing up. She is in Dry dock now for a refit so lets hope it improves her. The crew and staff were excellent from the top to the bottom and they all deserved what gratuities we left. Would we cruise again : Probably but not for as long. Would we use Oriana : Yes FYI. Places we visited: Madeira, St Marrten, Tortola, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, New Orleans, Key West, Miami, Port Everglades, Charleston and Ponta Delgada Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Embarkation. We boarded at The Ocean Terminal for the first time and found it to be excellent. The process of handing over the car the luggage and proceeding through check in and onto the ship was pretty well seamless. Arrived at terminal ... Read More
Embarkation. We boarded at The Ocean Terminal for the first time and found it to be excellent. The process of handing over the car the luggage and proceeding through check in and onto the ship was pretty well seamless. Arrived at terminal at about 11.15am and were on board by just after 12.30pm. I would have rated the process 5 but for the fact that there were about 400 Portunis Gold Club members, who, quite rightly had priority but given the numbers it took quite a while to process them. Service. We found to be excellent throughout the cruise and we were very well looked after by all the staff but particularly by our waiters Sebastian and Ajay on table 116 in the Meridian Lower Tier and by Loretta the chief bar keeper in the wonderful Rising Sun Pub. As mentioned in the cabin section our steward was first class. Food. On the whole was very good, as ever on P&O well presented and served. One or two issues with the Belvedere self service restaurant, probably the worst self serve out of Arcadia, Ventura and Oriana. In saying that my comments relate to breakfast and lunch, dining in the evening was good. The curry nights particularly were of a high standard. The two speciality restaurants are fabulous and well worth the cover charge, I am just sorry Gary Rhodes franchise is coming to an end. However, I am sure Marco Pierre White will do a fine job. Really we would love to see freedom dining across the fleet, I don't think you can get away from the fact that first sitting is too early and second is too late. Sitting at the same table with the same people at the same time is really quite low on our cruise wish list.Ports and excursions. The itinerary was superb and all the ports had something good to offer. New York was an undoubted highlight but they were all good. The excursions were varied interesting and reasonably priced. Particularly good was the JFK museum and library in Boston, the trip to Kennebunkport from Portland Maine,and, the Titanic experience in Halifax Nova Scotia. Entertainment. Absolutely the best on any cruise we have been on. The Cruise Director Tracy Clegg and her team (and a team is just what they were) gave their all. I have never known an entertainments team work so hard and so well. From Arcadia's version of Strictly Come Dancing to Quizzes and the ships own version of loose women called 'Loose lips' it was all fantastic. Our wonderful dance instructors Alan and Ginny Newman were lovely people, so kind and patient and they made learning to dance such fun. On the formal side Sam Kane, Brian Conley and the wonderful voice of Eve Sherratt were exactly what they are stars. I did hear a not of complaining the morning after one show, a comedian, and, I have seen something in a review on this site. However, cannot comment as were attended the dancing that evening. We both found the lecture programme varied and interesting, in fact some topics I would have not expected to be interesting turned out to be very good. Summary. Absolutely fantastic we loved it and will certainly never forget the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Have just returned from Barbados by aircraft, leaving the cruise-ship Arcadia to travel onwards to Alaska, before its return journey to Southampton sometime in June.All staff aboard the vessel were generally hard-working and polite, ... Read More
Have just returned from Barbados by aircraft, leaving the cruise-ship Arcadia to travel onwards to Alaska, before its return journey to Southampton sometime in June.All staff aboard the vessel were generally hard-working and polite, although in the Belvedere self-service restaurant the staff clearing or replenishing various items on trolleys, for some reason expected you to give way as you meandered through the facility. On other ships such staff usually give way and are therefore not really noticeable, but on the Arcadia they are part of the traffic problem, making the staff on other cruise operations somehow even more appreciated.The majority of senior staff - the one's wearing "whites" - were predominantly western European.Not wishing to cast any aspersions on recruitment policy or ladders of opportunity in the P&O operation, to me it just seemed slightly bizarre and rather out of kilter with modern ideology with just a few token non-Caucasian post-holders of junior rank.I became aware of what is seemingly important to the P&O operation and their regulars, by the daily activities on offer which we were alerted to in the very informative daily Horizons newsletter. I must emphasise that before making my booking I didn't complete a pre-cruise questionnaire as to my personal tastes, club or society membership, religious persuasion or general pastimes. So imagine my concern when we were alerted to a Masonic Lodge meeting in the Viceroy Room. I thought this little gathering was meant to be secret?There were other targeted sessions arranged for specific groups including a Rotary Club meeting, a Catholic Mass on the Sunday, various Bridge tournaments, whist-drives, a jigsaw group, and numerous other activities that are usually the preserve of the Women's Institute.In that respect, perhaps these bastions of UK society are where P&O advertise their adventures to this target group who seemingly appear to think that they are a cut above the rest of us. I myself like a little bit of Google-ing in my spare time - but P&O charge for this. I also like gardening, swimming and a bit of car maintenance. None of which were offered as on-board activities. They may argue that swimming was available, but their two dip-pools hardly catered for the monotony of doing lengths at your local pool. I can't really comment on many of the other activities such as the shows and lectures available throughout the day, as I didn't do any. All entertainment is optional, unless it's not entertaining and you wish it to be so. I have witnessed a few shows at sea and always come to the same conclusion that the shows could be dropped and thereby allow free internet access to the customers, and do away with the show-girls and resident bands and dubious guests and one-hit-wonders. I could go on about the P&O operation and no doubt will. However, the following little episode regarding the evening's dining arrangements just about sums it up, speaking volumes as to what this company is seemingly all about.During the booking process we had requested to be sat at a table for six on the second sitting, and the second sitting we got, although we were sat at a table for just 4. However, we were sat at least sat at Table Number 6. So perhaps it was a reasonable attempt on their part.Anyway, no confusion and no questions. Hand in card, sit were shown, and eat meal. Splendid.Unfortunately if you are sat at table number six with six as your preferred party size, then it is understandable to the mere mortals that conduct the restaurant operation that confusion can set in. And it set in the following evening when we were joined by a different couple. They explained that on the first night they had not shown up to dinner, as by 8.00pm neither had their luggage. We were then joined by couple number one from the previous evening although they seemed confused as the table now had all seats taken. Despite the confusion, we merely requested that we be reallocated to a table that would at least sit us all, only to be met with shockwaves from distraught restaurant staff. The unfolding incident quickly attracted the attention of the Restaurant Manager himself. His manner and overall demeanour may be engaging to some; brown-nosing the elite diners with his well-honed patter, but to deal with any issues that are somewhat beneath his station obviously caused him some distress. His general manner to the restaurant staff appeared to be a knock-back to the days of the Raj. I digress slightly, so please allow me to recount his opening line when he got wind of our table/party size issue."Did you book in 2009?"That's it.'Did I what?' sprang immediately to mind, but really his line of enquiry speaks volumes if not screams them, and as I let the enormity of his statement sink in. Just imagine for a minute, Gordon Ramsey being asked the same question as he sat in preparation for some culinary delights.I wish I could have responded in true-Ramseyesque fashion because boy did this grotty man deserve it."Did you book in 2009?""I'm sorry, what do you just say?"As if it matters when you book. Does it suggest a sliding scale of quality?Nobody at the table responded as they all appeared to be stunned by his line of enquiry. I suggested that a discussion wasn't really necessary and all they had to do was deal with the issue. And to be fair, they did just that and we were relocated to a different table and were even joined with a further two diners on the subsequent night. Perhaps this table may have been designated for troublemakers, riff-raff or general ne'erdowells. Who knows?Nevertheless, our dining experience appeared to be similar to that of other diners in the vicinity of our new location, although it was apparent that we weren't exactly fawned over like some of those earmarked as elite, with attentive waiters pouring more wine at every opportunity, removing crumbs and creases from the tablecloths or replenishing the ice-bucket.We had attentive staff who delivered what we asked for and were on hand to deal with any dining issues. To me this is more preferable than having a squad of waist-coated waiters terrorising me with requests as to whether I was enjoying my meal, or re-iron my serviette, or ask if I needed my bread roll smeared with more butter, or even have my steak cut in to delicate morsels so as to avoid me being hospitalised with repetitive strain injury."Did you book in 2009?"God, it plagued my mind for days afterwards, and still does for that matter. What on earth was he expecting as a response? What action would he take on this apparent sliding scale of service?If I had let slip that I only booked the day before setting sail, perhaps he would have had me keel-hauled, or thrown overboard. To be honest we actually booked about six weeks before sailing, but not being a member of any particular lodge or golf club, I still expected equal treatment to the other guests on board. "Did you book in 2009?"What the hell do you mean by that? Does it form part of a Restaurant Manager training seminar back at P&O Headquarters? I would complain to them directly, but having previously tried complaining on other cruise lines, my experience suggests the procedure is like "peeing into the wind".While we are on with the dining experience, P&O celebrate your adventure with what they consider to be a gesture of goodwill and fond memories. On the last evening meal of your cruise you are issued with copies of all the evening menus to which we had been subjected, all in a nice little glossy wallet-file entitled, 'Something to remember' or 'Your unforgettable dining experience'. Unfortunately I can't actually remember the name of the brochure as I didn't bring it home as a keepsake. Deliberately so.I do though remember that most diners were unhappy with the lobster on one particular evening, which was actually filled with prawns and not lobster. Where do you buy just lobster shells so that you can fill them with some cheaper fishy offering? Or more importantly, Why? Seems rather fishy to me. On the whole, the evening meals were indifferent, occasionally very good, but overall nothing more than okay and more often than not, disappointing. There were a few additional regular options at the bottom of the menu if the delights of the main menu weren't that appealing, with grilled chicken, sirloin or salmon available.Nobody tried the chicken at our table, but I had the salmon one evening and it was rather good. This was during the lobster sketch, so I may have just been thankful for not having been won over by the mouth-watering description of Maine lobster. Others who chose the steak option were less impressed. I presume it is quite difficult to prepare a medium or medium-rare sirloin steak with all the flavour removed, although this was alarmingly consistent from the kitchen, where they appear to have mastered flavour removal from what is a good looking platter of food. I would therefore recommend a mustard or pepper sauce accompaniment, so at least you get to taste something.On a positive note, I particularly liked the Baramundi dish that was served up one evening, but overall I wasn't blown-away by any of the main meals. I'm not a big sweet eater, but did occasionally sample some of the desserts. The New York cheesecake was rather good, and by all accounts the liquorice ice-cream was a true delight. However, I didn't realise that Tiramisu was now actually available in Angel-Delight packets, because that's what I appeared to get. Or then again it could have been Instant-Whip...Asda here I come - a fine flavour but not particularly fine-dining. Semi-skilled milk, Angel-delight tiramisu mix, whisk to a thick-ish consistency and add a bit of chopped flake - marvellous.I must point out that the cheeseboard was fairly good and reasonably consistent, so I usually stuck to that.Oops, I've missed the starters, which to be fair were generally okay except for one particular platter. The shellfish and crab pate served on delicate melba toast sounded rather tempting. Unfortunately the subsequent Kit-e-Kat on Rivita was not what I had in mind as an opener to that night's dining experience. My wife ordered Whitebait as a starter one evening and ate only one delicate morsel before tucking into her bread roll. Not being a huge fan of this particular offering I can only convey that whitebait to her is usually crispy and covered in a light batter coating, and not gooey and smothered in oil; be it extra-virgin, vegetable, or sun-tan, although the oil wasn't really the issue. It would be like grilling custard or roasting some salad, if that God forbid isn't presenting the chef with some future ideas for his menu. Anyway I hope you get my point.We did venture into the Gary Rhodes inspired Arcadian Rhodes restaurant, although this was only for the lifeboat drill. I had no desire to return to eat in this establishment, although if necessary there were one or two handsome bottles of red that might require saving during an actual lifeboat alert. The glass doors to this venue were dirty, and not what one would expect. If you can't clean a glass panel - would you really want to eat in there?I mentioned briefly about the clientele aboard and the bawdy golf-club types and even those that move in the circles of the rather secretive Masonic Lodge. These people supposedly keep secrets going back way back when, with some illustrious former members such as Isaac Newton and George Washington to name but two. I have no doubt that these notable historical figures may possibly have had information which may have been truly revealing or even startling. However, putting yourself in their eminent shoes just for a moment, who would you really trust with imparting such knowledge to? There surely would be no other alternative than to create some secret group or society whose members rise up through various degrees and demonstrate via various acts that they have become truly worthy of harbouring such information. That being said, it would sadly appear to be the case that some senior Masons may have possibly met their sad demise before passing on their invaluable information to entrusted members rising through the ranks. That being the case, then you're essentially left with a gentleman's club that has a secret that none of its members no longer know, but they have a jolly time dressing up and pretending that they know something, but that's the biggest secret of all. They don't know it anymore, and the secret is now pretending that they do. They have no current knowledge of the knowledge that they were once supposedly entrusted with. But shh... don't tell anyone I told you. It'll be our secret.One lunchtime I actually overhead some diners mentioning something about unit-cost, which actually made me grateful for not having booked in 2009. If you're not responsible for on-shore purchases for the P&O operation, then why on earth would unit-cost be a topic of conversation for anyone on board?I even overheard some "I'm an important person" type passenger questioning the special guest concert pianist as to his arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. The musician seemed somewhat dumb-struck as to his cross examination whilst he partook in a light lunch. To me his examiner seemed just plain dumb.The cruise on the Arcadia was offered as an adults-only holiday. The problem of booking an adult only cruise is that no-one really qualifies what is meant by the word adult. Over 18? Over 21? Having a job? Being married? Being a Mason? Essential Golf Club membership? Understanding the rudimentaries of bridge? Who knows?I have at least five of my own little tykes plus a granddaughter, so adult-only adventure was an appealing angle on a holiday. You were therefore not plagued with little miscreants pestering you to get them some lager, pressing all the buttons in the lifts, or screaming and bawling at not been allowed yet another ice-cream. Aah Bliss.Instead of all these delights, you become aware of some other menace that can be equally annoying to any brat causing havoc in the lifts. The regular lift menace on this cruise was caused not by youngsters but obviously adults in this case. There were rather disturbing aromas in and around the lifts, as someone quite possibly mistook them for a lavatory or just couldn't help themselves passing wind between floors. This proved quite popular with some guests and as we were on the second sitting for dinner, you could get a clear indication of what was on that night's menu long before you even arrived at the restaurant.Some of the more portly guests seemed to enjoy the Jacuzzis out on the sun deck. However, when they had finished immersing themselves for their therapeutic session, the amount of water left in the receptacle was less than half; such was their experimentation in displacing a volume of water. Eureka indeed...I must point out that on other occasions some of our lift-friends didn't even need to switch the Jacuzzi on.The Arcadia itself is a slightly tired vessel, and on two different occasions it moored alongside a gleaming Royal Caribbean ship, and it was evident that P&O don't overdo the painting side of things.There were other areas on board which could only be described as adequate, although the Palladium Theatre is better than average. The Library is a tad disappointing and barely adequate, but did house the Jigsaw Society. These were a rather disturbing group whom I alerted our dining colleagues to. One of them proposed a black-ops mission in order to remove a few pieces, or even swap lids on the boxes or exchange a handful of pieces amongst the various unopened puzzles...There was an abundance of walking aids on board, ranging from traditional walking sticks to motorised scooters, and a seemingly endless supply of cotton socks to match that day's tailored shorts along with traditional open-toed sandals.There were limited shaded areas on the open decks and the promenade deck was usually oversubscribed by individuals dribbling their breakfast as they took a well-earned nap in the morning sunshine. Perhaps though, they'd been there all night. I wonder if anyone checks before nightfall?The bar prices and venues are fairly typical of what you find at sea. However, there is one redeeming feature that other cruise lines need to take heed of. You can take your own booze on board - even at the destination ports. On most cruises this is not the case. You can book into the best hotels in the world and nip down to the corner shop and get yourself some goodies to enjoy in the comfort of your hotel room. No search squads, teams of security, nor does it apparently contravene any hotelier protocols. But you can't do this at sea, and any alcohol is usually removed and returned to your stateroom on the last night of your cruise. Not anymore though. P&O allow reasonable allowances, and they will even deliver a litre of branded spirits to your room for under £12. Well done P&O, very well done.As for being done, well they provide you with comprehensive information on tipping and even provide you with envelopes and how much you should tip. They seemingly pride their operation on not applying gratuities up front, but then have the cheek to request that you reward high standards by telling you who and what to tip. If they don't pay their staff appropriate wages, why should we subsidise it by stumping up a bit more for a service that we've already essentially paid for, just so that P&O shareholders can maximise their dividends.Pay the staff appropriate salaries and put the cost up - you never know people may still leave tips.For some bizarre reason we pay the cost of new clothing by paying the price on the tag, but for some reason the price on a menu isn't ever quite right, or the drinks for that matter. Why is this? In a shop: Greet, provide information, fold garment, complete transaction. No tip.In a restaurant: Greet, take order, bring drinks and meal, remove empties, bring bill, complete transaction. Wait for tip.Why have we allowed this financial intimidation to evolve?Nevertheless, I left a fiver in an envelope marked "Captain" - Well steered mate, excellent job.So where did we go on our adventure?Madeira was quite charming - if you call a walk along the front at Funchal a full and proper exploration of this historic volcanic island. We decided against the suggested toboggan rides and cable cars, having had no real desire to partake in such activity. So a stroll it was- and as I said it was pleasantly surprising and quite charming. It is unfortunate that the resort still bears the scars of last year's inclement weather with numerous damaged bridges, and the depositing of all the debris caused by the storm in one area along the seafront. Apparently there is no more money left in Portugal, so there is no possible solution on the horizon. Unless of course they get bailed out by the EU.However, you never know they may add this eyesore as a shore excursion as the famous storm debris plateau where guests could collect some samples...They could even erect a hut in traditional Madeirian style in order to house local craftsmen who could fashion intricate jewellery from the spoil.After six days at sea crossing the Atlantic, you finally spot land. It is a seemingly endless journey, but your admiration goes out to those who have made the crossing in vessels lacking GPS systems, or engines for that matter.A few days of 'Yeahhh Maan' were on offer at Antigua, St Maarten, St Lucia and Barbados.For me Barbados is rather forgetful and a tad disappointing, as to is Antigua. The other two islands on this cruise made you want to go back, which shouldn't really be that hard in the Caribbean. They both had charm, warm people and wonderful scenery.The humpback whales off Antigua were a surprise and a delight to behold. There are plenty of other wildlife to see during a cruise, although patience is required as the oceans are rather vast, and the critters doesn't just leap out of the pond at the sound of a whistle for a dangled dead herring, before returning to the ocean depths with a double-piked re-entry.The temperature goes up significantly on this adventure, and you find that the heat begins to erode your general response time, and you find yourself in need of a nap in the afternoon and one-or-two too many beers. In that sense you get an indication of the lifestyle that the locals lead on these islands, as you too begin to behave in a similar manner...Time is altered in these parts. Perhaps the earth turns slower, or the magnetic lines interfere with chronometers, but in general, five minutes equates to about half-an-hour on a normal clock, but nevertheless you eventually get used to it, even if you have to wait five minutes or so.It's difficult to rate this adventure as we only did part of it. But the dining experience was poor in comparison to other cruise operations - but being fair we weren't hospitalised or plagued with dysentery. It was just as I said, disappointing.The ship is probably in need of a make-over, although this opinion is probably skewed slightly by my previous experiences at sea which were undoubtedly better. It's a difficult thing to categorise, but essentially I can only measure the experience by asking if I would I do the cruise again. No, not really. Not even if I had booked in 2009.Would I use P&O again? Well yes, possibly, but it wouldn't be my first choice, no matter how appealing it is taking your own booze on board. But be aware, it is now very difficult to book anything in 2009 if not impossible - so be prepared, as you might get asked, "Did you book in 2011?"Enjoy - whenever you book... Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
We agreed to join some friends on this cruise from Barbados back to Southampton as we hadn't tried a relocation cruise before with its many days at sea. We were slightly concerned by some of the comments about the ship looking tired ... Read More
We agreed to join some friends on this cruise from Barbados back to Southampton as we hadn't tried a relocation cruise before with its many days at sea. We were slightly concerned by some of the comments about the ship looking tired and in need of a refit but need not have been. It sounded from some of the views to be like a floating shed but honestly there were no threadbare carpets or second rate feel to it but was lovely throughout. Probably the most obvious area is the carpet in The Plaza restaurant area which was stained in many places and needed a deep clean though when it can be done would be difficult as this area is in use about 18 hours a day. Indeed, we thought that this was probably the best designed and run ship we have ever been on.The flight out using Thomson in Premium seating was very good (except they ran out of a choice of meals which is one of the features of Premium) and we arrived at Barbados totally relaxed having had the extra legroom, though the temperature was a bit of a shock having been scraping ice of the windscreen in the morning. Bags went straight to the cabin with no queuing for immigration only an amazingly efficient boarding system and we were onboard in no time and off to find a drink until our cases arrived.We only had an inside cabin but it had plenty of room for us, sparkling clean en-suite and a lovely steward, Grazie. Once I worked out that the corner shelves in the wardrobe folded up, there was plenty of hanging space and so many drawers in the beside cabinet and desk unit that we did not fill them all. The cabin was quiet as far as ship noise was concerned though the air conditioning unit had air flow noise and the thermostat needed to be put up as it was chilly.We would have rated the ship excellent but for the draughty and erratic air conditioning in the public parts of the ship. It tended to blow cold air down on you (one day the lady in front was wearing her NorthFace fleece in the theatre) and this could be in the restaurants or other venues, but another day it would be off and hot. It also seemed to me to be obtrusively noisy in Starlight or Footlights for lecturers and piano concerts so the AC is an aspect that needs attention. Remember that it can be cold and take a wrap.There seemed to be an amazing number of spaces on the ship to sit, not quite all with a bar attached. The library was small, no doubt to make space for the cyberspace area. Deck space was also large and split up into many smaller areas with lots of loungers. Despite some very hot days early on, I never saw all the areas full though there was competition around the central area. This was the area used for the sailaway party which seemed to me was something out of Butlins but I happily accept that it is not my thing and on the ship of its size easily avoided. This brings me to the entertainment. The Headliners, the ships song and dance company of 13 very fit boys and girls performed routines of a good standard and were enjoyable. However, the other cabaret acts were less good. Andre, the comedy magician, had some inappropriate material for the age range in the audience and you can always tell when the audience is not happy with it by the slightly nervous laughter. The age of material was largely ancient - I could not believe he used the gag of a message for Joe who is 111 - Oh no, he's ill. That must be circa 1956. He also used some Tommy Cooper routines eg the wooden duck choosing a card but he does not come near to Tommy Cooper but sounds like Jim Davidson mucking about with old tricks.It did not get better with the singer Rob Linacre. I sat spellbound as to how anyone could be so bad and be paid. It was like watching Adrian Chiles singing with his face screwed up with his eyes like slits with someone holding his privates to get the higher notes - indeed as he tastefully put it "To reach those notes my bum cheeks were so clenched you couldn't get a credit card between them". I couldn't take much of the female singer Jessica Lloyd either though part of that was the sheer volume that was coming at me. The classical pianist Simon Weale was competent and pleasant giving perhaps rather perfunctory performances some of which did not even manage 45mins. The guest lecturers were Professors, one specializing in Conspiracy theories and cover-ups who was good and popular and the other going into the history and structure of crime fiction who was interesting but a minority taste. I did not see Eddie the Eagle's after dinner talk. These are of course only my opinions and to others the acts were obviously popular.The weather stayed generally calm for the crossing and indeed the ship rode well up to the Force 7 we had, though there was more cloud and rain than we hoped. The sea days passed easily and the holiday did what we intended it to be as a relaxing break and back for spring. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
We have just returned from a wonderful caribbean / transatlantic cruise on the beautiful P & O Ventura.We had read all the criticisms but it was a trip that we wanted to do and the price was right!!What a lovely ship - it is vast with ... Read More
We have just returned from a wonderful caribbean / transatlantic cruise on the beautiful P & O Ventura.We had read all the criticisms but it was a trip that we wanted to do and the price was right!!What a lovely ship - it is vast with so many facilities - we particularly enjoyed the cocktails in the superb Metropolis bar, the sangria and tapas in the Ramblas and the choice of restaurants. We were second sitting in Saffron and the food and service were both excellent. We also loved the steaks in the Beach House and thought East was super and the buffet in the Waterside offered so many choices. Yes, the buffet can be busy, but you choose to book on a ship with 3,000+ passengers, and we never failed to find a table or ever thought the shortage of teaspoons a problem (they disappear in our house too).Despite numerous complaints, there was absolutely no shortage of sun loungers.Of course there is limited space around pools but there are so many areas which are so much quieter and we sunbathed and read all the way across the Atlantic. We loved all the sea days and the relaxation they offered. We bought spa passes for £40 each and loved the thermal suite. We have come home rested and feel as if we have really had a holiday. If you like being on the go everyday, this is not the type of cruise for you.There are loads of activities - dance classes, the gym, talks, films etc and the evening entertainment offered something for everyone from top west end singers to "club" acts.The value for money is excellent, far better than a land based holiday.There was a wide cross section of passengers and all age groups. I would not go on a family ship on or around school holidays, so those who moaned about the type of passengers and the few children that were on board should use adult only ships.Altogether a fantastic relaxing holiday on a lovely ship. Now looking forward to a trip on Adonia in October. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
We tried our first cruise last year from Dubai with Royal Caribbean. We were unsure if we liked it or not, so tried P&O this year, Transatlantic from Barbados to Southampton. We booked late and got a great deal. Had to fly from ... Read More
We tried our first cruise last year from Dubai with Royal Caribbean. We were unsure if we liked it or not, so tried P&O this year, Transatlantic from Barbados to Southampton. We booked late and got a great deal. Had to fly from Manchester, but only 2 hours away. The Thomson flight was fine. left early, arrived on time. Bus to Ship from the bottom of plane steps (great)direct tothe port. Registration in no time, very efficient. (by-passed the photographer!) Found cabin which was excellent (twice the size of last years BOS balcony cabin!) Savio, our Steward, led us in and explained everything to us, he was excellent the whole cruise. We downed our Champagne and chose the Buffet and an early night. Surprise 1 - Last year a bottle of wine started at $40 this year £9 for house white, everything else normal pub prices. The buffet was good and fresh/warm. Yes there are 3000 passengers, but Ventura is a big ship, and you can find a quiet bar (10 to choose from)and somewhere to sit/lay, We never bothered round the pools, as it wasn't worth the hastle, but there are many places to relax, from comfortable chairs on the Promenade deck 7 to beds always available over the Spa at the front (adult only!) Children were not a problem, only 126 on board, and never caused us any heartache.3 Islands 3 days in the Caribbean then 5 days to cross the Atlantic to Tenerife then 3 days to Southampton. Too many sea-days, we got a little bored. There are activities throughout the day, but we stuck to relaxing in the sun and the Spa.Everyone was so friendly on board both Crew and Passengers. Some passengers left a little to be desired and surprised us but hey they paid for their holiday the same as everyone else and so they have the same rights.We ate in every restaurant (9 but 3 formal/allocated ones, so 7 to choose from)Whites was superb, as was the Asian one, East and Ramblas (Spanish) The Bay House was turned into an American diner each night and the buffet had a theme night each night (all good)in fact the food was excellent everywhere.We enjoyed the evening entertainment and went nightly to the TheatreNegatives - The 4 formal evenings became tiresome, and the photographers also everywhere, but looking at the queues waiting for their picture proves there is a need both to dress up and have their photo's taken, so who are we to complain!and we could avoid them. It is a big ship, you could meet someone at lunchtime, and never see them again! likewise the entertainment bars could not cope with demand. If there was a good entertainer on you had to go early for a seat. As said before Sea days became boring, but we just did not appreciate the distance across the Atlantic at 19knotsOverall, much better this year. I fear over capacity will lead to more last minute "deals" and attract the wrong clientele. We will have another go, but either a smaller ship, or a larger with less passengers Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Having seen and been on board the Azura for a day visit while in Southampton last June, there was something about this ship that attracted me to it. I vowed to have a cruise on her at some time in the future. In March 2011, I joined her ... Read More
Having seen and been on board the Azura for a day visit while in Southampton last June, there was something about this ship that attracted me to it. I vowed to have a cruise on her at some time in the future. In March 2011, I joined her on her transatlantic voyage from Barbados to Southampton.Our charter flight, arranged by P&O Cruises took off more or less on time at 8.25am (4.25am Barbados time) it was comfortable with an attentive crew. About 90 minutes into the flight, the main meal was served (6.00am Barbados time) I feel that the meal served was not appropriate for the time of day and a hot breakfast would have been more suited.On arrival at Barbados, coaches met us on the tarmac and conveyed us directly to the ship. The baggage was transferred directly from the aeroplane to the ship. This is one area of their service where P&O really excel. Check-in at the pier was fast, courteous and professional.The ship itself is beautiful, the furnishings the dEcor - a mixture of modern and traditional - easy to get around and spotlessly clean. I immediately felt at home.My cabin too was spacious, well furnished, and comfortable and kept in tip top condition by a most friendly and conscientious cabin steward.The food in the main restaurants and buffet was excellent, with plenty of choice, well presented and professionally served. So good was the food in the main-stream restaurants that I didn't even bother to explore any of the other alternative dining facilities.Special diets are taken care of with care and attention and nothing was too much trouble with staff providing special requests in this regard.The entertainment on board, along with the guest lecturers were mostly of an extremely high standard. The Highlight of the evening entertainment was the outstanding performances given by the Headliners - The on-board singers and dancers. Never before have I seen such talented performers.The very approachable Cruise Director and her friendly enthusiastic team were highly visible around the ship day and night - always well dressed and eager to provide information and to assist with queries.On a trans-Atlantic journey such as this, there are quite a few days at sea and when the weather is good, deck space and sun loungers are at a premium especially around the pool areas. Whilst there is a policy concerning the reservation of sun-loungers, this is not enforced.Bar prices, shore excursions, and items for sale in the shops were reasonably priced. Internet access and photographs on board were expensive.As a smoker, I appreciated the smoke-free environment inside the ship. However, staff in the Pursers Office and those working on the decks are at odds with each other as to where the designated smoking areas on board actually are. There is also a lack of ash trays on the promenade deck.Having sailed on Ventura, and indeed I enjoyed my cruise on that ship, I can quite honestly and without reservation say that my experience on-board Azura was superior in all aspects. Azura is a ship that will suit everyone and surely must be the pride in the fleet for P&O Cruises. One of my best cruises - ever.I most certainly will be back on-board the Azura and soon. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Being unable to get out preferred holiday to Cuba, the agents tempted us with a cruise. At less than half what the Cuba holiday would cost, we thought what have we got to lose.From check-in at Liverpool to embarkation in Barbados, ... Read More
Being unable to get out preferred holiday to Cuba, the agents tempted us with a cruise. At less than half what the Cuba holiday would cost, we thought what have we got to lose.From check-in at Liverpool to embarkation in Barbados, everythinh went like clockwork. The whole of the Thomson plane was laid out for premier seating,i.e. 2+3+2 across with p[lenty of legroom;films,games and TV shows were available on the in-seat TV, and with complimentary food and bar, what was not to like?No doubt familiar to regulars, leaving the plane and getting straight onto a bus, with cases being delivered to your cabin, took a lot of the hassle out of flying.Our cabin was as expected, sub Travelodge, but with everything that you needed.It was kept immaculate and tidy by our busy steward, Abdul. We were allocated to the Peninsular Restaurant, first sitting. The quality of food and the silver service was excellent; 6 courses (if you could manage them all), with at least 4 choices for each course. A good selection of wine was available from £10/11 to £16 a bottle.With the quality of food available, we did not see the need to pay the small supplement for select dining, but did try the Indian (Sindhu) for lunch, which was well worth the small(£5) cover charge. The buffet style restaurants which are available 24/7, had good quality, but the ambience was not up to the club dining. The amount of food available, meant that we did not try the afternoon tea nor the midnight snacks.The choice of entertainment was such that you could not fit in everything that you wanted to see, even when the shows/entertainers had 2 or 3 shows a night. The highlight for us was the Playhouse, whose production standards and ability was equal to any West End show. They did 9 different shows over the 2 weeks, with 3 shows a night. Day time activities ranged from Bridge to Bingo, historical talks to horse racing, and Art and Dance classes.Being first time cruisers, we booked our Island tours with P&O. We may have been able to do it cheaper ourselves, but we were happy with the quality provided. Our favourite island was St. Maartens, particularly the French side.We were pleasantly surprised at the prices of drinks in the bars and restaurants, and even with room service we could buy a litre of Baileys for £12. We could even bring drinks on-board, which I believe is almost unique to P&O. Negatives:- Too many toilets were out of order, which created queues, particularly of an evening when everybody was about. It was too cold to sit for 2 hours at the out door cinema on the top deck.Since we came back, we have been haunting our travel agent, to book another cruise! Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Entertainment staff...BIG disappointment !!!" Enjoyed the cruise mainly because of the lovely passengers we met Dining: The food in all the restaurants was top class, and among the best we've had. The ... Read More
Entertainment staff...BIG disappointment !!!" Enjoyed the cruise mainly because of the lovely passengers we met Dining: The food in all the restaurants was top class, and among the best we've had. The Conservatory was where we dined most evenings, mainly because we liked the relaxed atmosphere and the wonderful variation in choice of food. Even the times when I personally didn't like the particular theme for the food ie. Mexican, there was always an alternative I could have. The Al Fresco restaurant was brilliant especially for breakfast, and the staff were always friendly and helpful. Overall the food on Oriana was 10/10 Entertainment: First of all I'd like to say that..... the production entertainment in the theatre the singers and dancers production shows or headline acts,etc were great and varied. But the down side was...... The Cruise Director and his staff were among the worst I've come across on any cruise I've done (and thats about 30 cruises). Except for one or two the front of house entertainment staff were awful, it seemed like they thought they had a ship full of elderly passengers and didn't have to do much entertaining. One girl in particular, had boyfriend problems and we the passengers suffered accordingly. The Cruise Director was conspicuous by his absence, he never seemed to get involved with the run of the mill entertainment. The entertainment staff who I personally thought at least tried to entertain were : Anthony McGinley, Emma Grainger, Richard Hall and Donna Randles. I have named these staff rather than list the bad ones which would have been a far longer list. Also I could go on about other entertainment problems, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. Stateroom: The stateroom was good, I always travel in an inside room as in my opinion its only for sleeping and getting changed. It was perfect for both things, so no complaints. Service: The service from all other staff (excepting most entertainment staff) was great. I nearly always got a lovely smile along with the service. I would like to single out two rooms were the service was exceptionally good thats the Al Fresco resturant as I've already said and the Lords Tavern, where the serving staff were friendly and very quickly learned the names of the regulars, which in my book is going the extra mile, it's really nice to be greeted with a smile and a "Hello Mr Matthews" it makes one feel just a bit special Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
Oceana was the second cruise ship we sailed on, the first being her sister ship Adonia, which went back to Princess Cruises after a couple of seasons. We have been on Oceana 4 times now. We love the theatre and and the starlights lounge ... Read More
Oceana was the second cruise ship we sailed on, the first being her sister ship Adonia, which went back to Princess Cruises after a couple of seasons. We have been on Oceana 4 times now. We love the theatre and and the starlights lounge on Oceana. The staff always seem happy and friendly. Cabins are smaller than some ships, but perfectly adequate for a 14 night cruise. The public rooms and bars are good, and it is easy to find your way around the ship as you can walk all the way round on most decks. The best feature of the ship is the Atrium, which is much more attractive than on other ships. Overall, plenty of positives and no negatives I can think of. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
2nd time on the Ventura 1st time was on the Med, this time transatlantic to the Caribbean. Over all it was an enjoyable cruise just a couple of grumbles. But first the good points. Our cabin was an outside and was very comfortable, ... Read More
2nd time on the Ventura 1st time was on the Med, this time transatlantic to the Caribbean. Over all it was an enjoyable cruise just a couple of grumbles. But first the good points. Our cabin was an outside and was very comfortable, and the cabin layout was great, we particularly liked the open plan wardrobe, it gives you lots of space for cases etc, The in cabin entertainment was wonderful, with a great choice of free tv and free movies. The food was wonderful, the entertainment was amazing in quantity and quality, the cruise director Leon de Ste Croix was excellent. As were the guest speakers among which was Duncan Mckenzie who did a few wonderful talks and a very entertaining Q&A session in the theatre. We had about 5 comedians on the cruise 3 singers 2 groups and a classical pianist, so as I said amazing entertainment. Bar prices were excellent, UK pub prices in fact Also the ship its self is beautiful and well maintained. The minus points were, some of the passengers :-( P&O had drastically reduced the cruise prices just before the sailing date, so much that some of the passengers were from the lower end of the passenger scale and would have been better suited to "Butlins or Pontins". That may sound snobbish but i'm far from a snob (from a Liverpool council estate originally) but I have done 20+ cruises and I do know how to behave with people and how to consider other people. Anyway on with this review, most of the time it was not possible to get a sunbed with people reserving them from early morning 6 - 6.30am in some cases. One last thing was some of the staff in the waterside in particular the lads who were clearing tables, they were not as friendly or efficient as they usually are and were very very slow to replace cups and glasses in the drinks areas, quite often none of the drinks areas had any cups or glasses and you had to ask for them and then eventually got them. All that said it was still a good cruise and we did enjoy it. One last thing I must commend P&O for their transfer organisation it was brilliant both getting to the ship by coach from Manchester and getting to the airport in Barbados, one great thing was putting your bags outside the cabin on last night and not seeing them till Manchester airport, OTHER CRUISE LINES TAKE NOTE !! :-) Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Our first family cruise has turned out better than expected. The Ventura is a super floating 5 star hotel and I find it difficult to find any faults at all. Holiday costs were great free child places meant that it was a reasonable ... Read More
Our first family cruise has turned out better than expected. The Ventura is a super floating 5 star hotel and I find it difficult to find any faults at all. Holiday costs were great free child places meant that it was a reasonable cost for a family of four. (2011 quotes are 2.5K more expensive) On board prices were good value, Stella at £2.95 G&T for just over £3. You can take drinks on board with you but to be fair to P&O why you would at their prices. On board bottle of Bombay Sapphire 1ltr £12. Jamison's Irish whisky 1ltr £15. Kids club was great for our two kids they were gone all day and night with their new friends leaving me and the wife for some quality time together (a first on our holidays) Food was exceptional with choices of buffet dining or a full sit down five course meal. 4 formal dinner nights which you could avoid if you wanted and a pool restraint serving burger pizza etc. Room service if you really want to be lazy was a nice touch. Entertainment was good with a selection of Movies, shows, singers and comedians. Several bars and plenty of fun and games with the entertainment staff. We had a superior balcony room which was great for all four of us. I would not recommend an inside cabin as they looked a little small. To conclude this was our best holiday ever and we are saving up to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Just returned from our first transatlantic cruise on board Azura.we travelled down from Bolton on eavesway coaches (very good)checking in didn't take long at Southampton. azura should have left on the Friday evening but sailed ... Read More
Just returned from our first transatlantic cruise on board Azura.we travelled down from Bolton on eavesway coaches (very good)checking in didn't take long at Southampton. azura should have left on the Friday evening but sailed Saturday morning instead due to bad weather and rough seas,(the captain made the right decision)we choice to do freedom dining which work out very well for us,we went for our evening meal in the meridian restaurant at about 7.15 each evening and always got a table for two(tables are very close to each other,ask for quite table for two)on the first few days we had breakfast and lunch in the peninsular restaurant which was very nice. the weather wasn't very good at first so we played shuffleboard and watched films on the sky screen (with our thick jumpers on)Halloween night the sea was awful so stayed in and had room service(so did the rest of the ship)4 days later we reached our first port of call was the Azores (should have been tenerife) we really enjoyed it did our own thing. and we got a good send off when we where leaving the pilot boat did the water spraying which was nice.another 3 days at sea and the weather started to get better, did some swimming in pools.watched more sky screen. started using buffet for breakfast and the pool side grill for lunch.our favorite restaurant was the Italian trattoria (excellent) the Caribbean islands st kit ts,st Lucia.Grenada,Antigua and Barbados were great,the people a little over powering but you get used to it, the beaches are wonderful.the hotels look very nice but every thing else is very run down. we choose to do our own thing and not use p&o trips( works out a lot cheaper by doing your own trip, but research it first) we didn't do the wine packages as the house wine worked out cheaper, and to contact home we used p&o free email service (you set it up before you go)the entertainment was very good.( lots for older people)if you like shopping there are lots of offers. sunbeds (hard to find any near pools) cabin r729 inside 4 doors away from terrace pool which is handy so you can pop out to see what weather is like.flight back was with Thomas cook and you did get free drinks and food. to sum this holiday up excellent. the cabin, food, entertainment service ports of call, the ship. we will do transatlantic again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
I have just returned from a brilliant, unique, transatlantic cruise to the Caribbean. The Azura can only be described as absolutely stunning. It is as beautiful as any 5* hotel, with service and food to match. However, unlike any usual ... Read More
I have just returned from a brilliant, unique, transatlantic cruise to the Caribbean. The Azura can only be described as absolutely stunning. It is as beautiful as any 5* hotel, with service and food to match. However, unlike any usual hotel the view(when in port)changed daily. My husband and I booked a balcony stateroom, which was worth every extra penny we paid for it. If only I could sit and drink tea while watching the sun shining on the ocean every day! The prices, on board, were not excessive. We took advantage of daily offers, which included half price bottles of Champagne. I also made use of the Spa by using my 'on board credit' for a massage. There was a team of young, enthusiastic, photographers who managed to capture me without a hint of an increasing frame (due to the fantastic food)or a 'bingo wing'. I have no idea how I can give as much praise to the restaurants, and their staff, as is warranted. We had every intention to eat in Sindhu, Seventeen and the Glasshouse but the club dining was just too good. If something was not to our taste our waiters (Henry and Rahul)would bring something else. It came across that it really was their pleasure to serve us. Our stateroom was well designed to make excellent use of the space and well kept by our steward Crossby. I really cannot understand some of the negative comments I have read previously. I can only conclude that some people are not happy unless they are unhappy. I look forward to cruising again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We booked this cruise as it fitted the dates and thought we would try P&O for the first time. All in all it was a very pleasant trip with only a couple of issues being dining allocation and front desk staff(see below) Transfers ... Read More
We booked this cruise as it fitted the dates and thought we would try P&O for the first time. All in all it was a very pleasant trip with only a couple of issues being dining allocation and front desk staff(see below) Transfers from Gatwick to embarkation in Southampton were provided by P&O and was all very well organised. Embarkation was relatively swift and cabin was ready. Our cabin steward (Noel) appeared from nowhere and was very helpful. We noticed that we were allocated to 1st sitting Club dining on a table of 10 when it had already been confirmed with P&O reservations that Freedom dining was selected for us. So off to reception we head to be fobbed off in a VERY condescending and arrogant manner by a certain male reception staff member (I can understand grumpy reception staff at the end of a cruise but not on day one!!) We then spoke to the restaurant manager who stated that P&O reservations simply could not confirm Freedom dining, and a gesture we were offered the 2nd sitting on a table of 4 for just the two of us and by a window to boot. Probably the best thing about this cruise was the food and our waiters (Johnathan and Sajeev). We have cruised on various lines and P&O was certainly the best so far. We found no need for Shindu or 17. If there was no option we liked for a starter they would offer a modified main course or items not even on the menu. WOW you certainly don't get that on NCL! Buffet was often busy but we never really had a problem finding a seat. Food was always hot and offered many different choices. The ship itself was lovely with only a couple of niggles being that it was often hard to find a quiet spot to read due to the numbers on board and the joy of walking around the promenade deck is not possible on Azura. Our inside cabin was adequate for two and we certainly have seen smaller. We did not partake in may excursions but if you have the chance take the Ultimate Antigua tour. It seemed pricey but it was a hoot. All day with Zip lining, beach, catamaran, snorkeling, lunch, swim and an open bar. Worth every penny! The entertainment was generally good but some of the production shows were a bit lacking. It seemed that there were too may performers trying to be both singers and dancers when they were only really good at one or the other. To conclude we would thoroughly recommend P&O and Azura just be prepared for a busy ship due to 3100 passengers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Background We embarked on a 22 day roundtrip of the Caribbean from Southampton. In our party was myself, wife and ten year old son, in addition to my step-son and his partner, both 29. We have cruised a number of times with our son, since ... Read More
Background We embarked on a 22 day roundtrip of the Caribbean from Southampton. In our party was myself, wife and ten year old son, in addition to my step-son and his partner, both 29. We have cruised a number of times with our son, since he was born. Travel To Port of Embarkation For the first time we took the Eavesway coach from Manchester which was a revelation. Being the main driver normally it was really nice to be able to relax into my holiday immediately. No problems with luggage but leaving from a service station on the M6 did require some booking of a minibus. Ship Info Oriana was the first ship we ever sailed on. She is a lovely small vessel (~1800 passengers) with a really small friendly atmosphere but P&O's trademark large amount of public rooms. We have travelled RCI in the past and found the 3,000+ ships to be terribly large and impersonal. Our preference in hindsight is Oceana, which does have more public spaces without a significant increase in passengers. Oriana is classically good looking thought with a real stepped stern. Stateroom We always go for a basic inside twin with bunk bed for the boy. You're not in it enough to need much more. Good facilities, plenty of room, well tended by the steward. Recent upgrades mean there is an LCD tv and improved linen. Dining We found that the formal dining had improved, although it has always been good, just on this occasion we found the dining room food to be excellent. The conservatory buffet leaves me a little cold though and I'm never really interested in eating there for lunch and breakfast. Nothing wrong with it just I'm not bothered about a cooked lunch but you can't really get a good sandwich either. The staff captain invited us to Oriana Rhodes one night and that was fabulous. It really is a chance to try out some fine dining for £15 each. The service and food there was excellent. A real experience. Kids meals are good, although adults often need to be stopped from stealing food for themselves. The food is vailable only for kids for 45 minutes out of 24 hours, can't they have a break from eating for once. Children's Clubs Kids club was ok. It didn't adhere totally to the timetable but I think this is because it was really the first cruise in the ramp up to summer and family cruising. There were about 90 children on board. Our son used to love the 5-8s but doesn't like the 9-12s as much because it lacks structure, with kids free to wander in and out. he would rather stay in place with lots of activities, which doesn't happen. This stopped him making friends as quickly, although by the end of the cruise he was happily asking to stay there all day. Youthies are a universally lovely and supportive team. Entertainment P&O have taken on board feedback and really upped the amount of quiz-tye entertainment on offer (used to just be an individual quiz at 5:15) for those who are not as interested in shows. These were really good, led by a great Ents team. One of the great sides of the Oriana is the dedicated cinema which we have traditionally used a lot (Why don't other ships have this, rather showing films in the afternoon in the theatres). This had a lot of good, recent films on. We don't normally take in the shows because we're not really musical people but often check out other acts. On this cruise Roy Walker did two comedy routines which were actually excellent. I didn't know he used to be a comedian before Catchphrase so was pleasantly surprised. Service Service as always is excellent with all the waiting, bar and cabin staff being very polite and helpful. Our waiter was frequently giving us 2 starters each when we couldn't decide. Entertainment staff and Youthies were also very good. Ports Ponta Delgada in the Azores was a revelation. We took a taxi to the crater lakes and were amazed by the beauty of the place. If the weather is bad you can't see anything though, so don't book the P&O excursion and just get a taxi. 40 Euros for about 3 hour trip. We went to St Kitts and again got a taxi around the island for $15 each. Nice air-conditioned mini bus. The taxi rates and booking is really structured by the tourist information office. Went to the UNESCO heritage site Brimstone Hill fortress which is an amazing place with terrific views. On the way you stop at a Carib place and can buy authentic batik shirts which are great. ST Lucia we did the Land and Sea excursion which is on a Catamaran with snorkelling, and a bus tour back via the botanical gardens. If you book this get off the ship early so that you do the land bit early and sea later. We were stuck the other way around and would have preferred to sail back at leisure. Grenada I did a snorkelling tour of the Underwater Sculpture Park which was amazing. Wife and son did a tour which was by most accounts fairly dull. ST Vincent again we did a taxi tour through the rainforest and plantations. This of all the islands was the least touristy. My step son and partner caught the ferry to Becque, another island which was apparently all beautiful sandy beaches. Barbados was the place we liked the most which was a surprise. All the islands were quite samey - volcanic, black beaches and fair amount of poverty. Barbados is not volcanic so is the first one you see that really looks like the caribbean. It is more built up though and a bit americanised. Finally Madeira was lovely as usual. Warm, green, lovely sea food Disembarkation Got off smoothly at Southampton. We had been given the wrong disembarkation cards to get our coach though and found Tracy on the reception desk downright rude when it came to getting the right ones which she refused us. Summary This was a wonderful cruise. I thought I would be bored with so much travelling but found it very relaxing with plenty to do. Only one thing spoiled it and that was our fellow passengers. A large proportion were elderly of whom a significant amount were extremely rude and horrible to children. I never saw the kids being rowdy or anything but frequently saw other passengers reprimanding kids for not letting them go first and once hitting a child with a stick. One woman demanded I give the last Muffin from my son's plate to her because she wanted it, despite it being the only thing he would eat for breakfast and the huge range of alternatives available to her. There was apparently a lot of grumbling about children but lets face it Oriana is a family ship, advertised as such, and there are alternative P&O ships that are adult only. I have seen ships with 300 kids on board and they have been a bit rowdy, this wasn't at all. To be fair there were more lovely older people (probably grandparents) who very very kind and interested in the children. I don't think its necessarily old people either, I just think that a proportion of people who can afford to cruise when they retire (I doubt I'll be able to) have been wealthy, rude and used to getting their own way all their lives. Otherwise this was a wonderful cruise and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Have cruised with Celebrity, R Caribbean, Costa and Princess, so have some reference points - ship is a bit tired, passengers almost entirely Brits, and although my wife and I had a great holiday, the frills were definitely missing. Some ... Read More
Have cruised with Celebrity, R Caribbean, Costa and Princess, so have some reference points - ship is a bit tired, passengers almost entirely Brits, and although my wife and I had a great holiday, the frills were definitely missing. Some good points - smooth crossing and reasonable weather; main dining room food and service excellent; usual stuff like newsletter of daily activities provided and quite a lot to do (essential of course for transatlantic) Lots of minor reservations on quality - self service food choice limited; speciality restaurant not impressive - more of a bistro; entertainment patchy in quality, and choreography/costumes for shows not up to competitors; staff attentive but glum; room service limited, often with extra charges; some localised maintenance lacking such as torn seats, toilet fittings and lights not operational, rusty spots on bulkheads on balcony, unvarnished handrails Just to add to things, there was a norovirus outbreak on board, with rigorous quarantine and sterilisation programmes from day one - all passengers in affected cabins (not just ill person)strictly quarantined to cabin for days - self service closed for several days. Anyone who had to visit the ship`s doctor was quick to express surprise at the level of (immediate)charges, and sometimes also the overzealous diagosis/treatment. This is not necessarily a criticism - better safe than sorry - but be aware. Computer system broke down for boarding, so long queues in a warehouse in the heat, after a wait in the bus due to multiple simultaneous flight arrivals. Balcony limited in size and is hole in bulkhead rather than glass like more modern ships. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Started the cruise by selecting a Thompson flight upgrade to premium seating UK to Barbados. This was money well spent as the holiday really started with the dedicated service offered by the airline crew, the 10 hours or so seemed to pass ... Read More
Started the cruise by selecting a Thompson flight upgrade to premium seating UK to Barbados. This was money well spent as the holiday really started with the dedicated service offered by the airline crew, the 10 hours or so seemed to pass in fairly reasonable comfort, one small gripe was if you wished to put your seat right back for sleeping, the person behind me complained that she could not sit and read properly. Transfer to Ventura was done in style, straight from the aircraft to coach and through a fast check in at the port, with our baggage not being seen until we got to our cabin. We had a balcony suite with a separate room for sleeping and a comfortable lounge with sliding doors to the spacious balcony. On arrival we opened the door to fresh flowers, fresh fruit and a bottle of very cold champagne. The cruise was as good as any we have been on, the food in all of the ships many restaurant's was above the quality found in most UK eating out places. We paid £15 extra each for a meal in P&O's famous Marco Pierre White restaurant and reckon this to be as good as eating gets, much better value than the £150 you can spend in a down town Chelsea eatery. The evening entertainment in the ships theatre was very good apart from one night when the a 'comedian' invited in from Cunard tried to invent his own form of flat sailing jokes, we followed the queue of early departures after 20 minutes. The bars on Ventura offer all cocktails and beers at reasonable prices,I recommend the cocktail of the day, for the price of a pint of beer you can enjoy a drink that would cost a fortune on land. Our big gripe on the cruise was the terrible British habit of guests placing towels on the sun deck chairs, most mornings after breakfast we found that by 9am all places were taken with more towels than people on deck. P&O staff seem to be of the opinion that this is normal on all P&O cruises. We have cruised with other Cruise Lines and found that after 15 minutes the deck staff remove personal effects from deck chairs not being used. Day time entertainment on deck was available in the two main pools to much cheering and banter, we elected to find a quieter and more relaxing pool at the front of the ship. On the whole we found Ventura an exellent ship and would book again if my wife elects to 'towel up' at 6am every morning and reserve our deck chairs. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
This was our first 'proper' cruise with P&O, we have previously cruised with Royal Caribbean (to the Caribbean and Alaska) and have done weekenders on the Oceana and NCL. Ventura is a beautiful ship. The staff are immaculate ... Read More
This was our first 'proper' cruise with P&O, we have previously cruised with Royal Caribbean (to the Caribbean and Alaska) and have done weekenders on the Oceana and NCL. Ventura is a beautiful ship. The staff are immaculate and very helpful and courteous. I felt she lacked the initial wow factor when we boarded, however she is modern, elegantly furnished and there are some lovely areas that have been very well designed. the Atrium was smaller than I expected having seen photo's but was a lovely place to wander and people watch! Ventura seems to do a good job at catering for most people most of the time. There is the Exchange 'pub' for quizzes, karaoke , bands etc for those who want a lively entertained holiday but also bars like Metropolis which is calm and sophisticated with a pianist at certain times. One of the weakest areas of the ship is the outside space (or lack of it). There are just too many passengers for the space available. There are just hundreds and hundreds of sun beds filling every single corner of available space, and as soon as the sun came out they were all full - or reserved!! There were no clear walkways so it was virtually impossible to get from one end to the other. You could usually find a sun bed, it was just a case of picking your way through the crowds. We headed right to the front and sat in the semi shade of the old sports court which was very pleasant. Another weak point in my opinion was the casino. It was just small and drab. There were a couple of gaming tables and a very small area with lots of fruit machines and stools all crammed in which was also a walkway through. It is also adjacent to the pub and when something was going on in there the noise completely dominated the casino. Not good. We spent very little time and consequently very little money in there because of this. Our room was lovely, clean and tidy, well fitted out and kept spotless morning and evening - thank you Pascoal. I was surprised on the rest of the ship about the lack of enforcement of the use of hand gels. There were a couple (some not working) in the self serve area and that was it. You were not required to do it entering the dining rooms, re-boarding the ship etc, no wonder we all had colds and coughs by the second week. The food was superb all over the ship. The self service was excellent, always something different to try, we tended to go outside peak times to avoid the queues. The Saffron main dining room was also excellent, Bonny and Peter looked after us very well. Lunch and afternoon tea were also very good, possibly a little rushed but very nice. East - the Asian fusion restaurant was absolutely outstanding. The whole thing was superb from start to finish. We went twice in the evening and once for a curry lunch. Well worth every penny of the small supplement. The White Room - the food was very nice, the service was good but it all just seemed to lack something. We ordered 'Medallions of beef with rocket' which in fact translated to steak with lettuce on top. It was a nice evening but I didn't really think it warranted the much larger supplement. I felt that the entertainment was a little regimented, it was always the same band in the same bar at the same time every night. They never rotated. the Entertainment Team for me were not very entertaining or visible. If you like doing quizzes with your morning pint you were fine! There was only two hosted sail away parties the whole two weeks - we were all up on deck - where were they??? Overall we had a good cruise on a nice ship. It was all a bit 'British' for my taste. I quite like the mixture of Americans and Europeans you get on other lines, it makes it feel more like a holiday. I would cruise with P&O again and possibly on Ventura but only to the Baltic's or Fjords where sun beds would not be an issue. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
.....We stayed the previous night at the Holiday Inn close to Dock Gate 8 Southampton who do a cruise package of one nights stay, breakfast and up to 3 weeks parking (we paid for an extra night parking as our cruise was 22 nights) with ... Read More
.....We stayed the previous night at the Holiday Inn close to Dock Gate 8 Southampton who do a cruise package of one nights stay, breakfast and up to 3 weeks parking (we paid for an extra night parking as our cruise was 22 nights) with complimentary taxi to the terminal...this cost less than the parking provided by CPS in the dock. We were informed by text message the day before the cruise that Oriana would be berthed at City terminal rather than the planned Ocean terminal (our taxi driver told us that if its windy they can't use the 9 million pound Ocean terminal!!) Embarkation was quite slow, we arrived about 11.30 ish and it was over an hour before we got onboard. We made our way to our cabin and asked our steward if we could leave our hand luggage there as it was made up...he agreed and we went to the Conservatory buffet restaurant where we had a bite to eat and then explored the rest of the ship. There was a team around the ship putting up the Christmas decorations which were quite tasteful and not overpowering. We were allowed into our cabins at 2.00 pm...ours was c144 and was quite sufficient for our needs although the wardrobe rails were front to back x 3 which didn't give much hanging space, plenty of drawer space, a fridge and a safe. The air con was very efficient. The bath room was pink with bath with shower over and plenty of storage We sailed at 5.00 pm and once we rounded the Isle of Wight the force 8 winds were quite evident ...these strengthened to a force 9 over the next day and night and the first of many Stugeron tablets passed my lips ! Our first port of call was Vigo where it was a grey, rainy day we were slightly late leaving as they had put a tender boat down and couldn't retrieve it as it was too windy...as we left they turned the ship and retrieved it in the lee of the ship..the Captain later told us that it was a force 11 wind as we left Vigo and we had our third noisy bumpy night in a row. He made the decision to go south of the Azores to try and find some calmer weather...but it was our fourth day before we could go out on deck and sit in some warm sunshine...the outside decks had been closed before then. We had one more wet and windy day confined to the interior of the ship before we arrived in St Maarten .Next was St Kitts, then St Vincent, St Lucia, Grenada and Barbados.... We then had five days at sea ...two sunny, one cloudy, and two not so sunny ....our planned stop at Madeira was not possible as it was a tender port and the sea was much too rough and wind and rain prevailed. Disappointing for a lot of passengers but the Captain had no choice in our opinion....the comedians and singer had to disembark by rope ladder onto the pilot boat which must have been scary...Gary Rhodes who was due to join us there was unable to fly in because of the weather.....so after two hours treading water off the harbour we set off for Southampton and what would be eight days at sea. It became noticeably cooler as we travelled further north and our entry to Bay of Biscay was very rough ... the exit was calmer and we arrived at Southampton on time. Disembarkation was quite chaotic...I think they disembarked too many passengers too quickly (we left half an hour earlier than anticipated) and there was a mad scramble to find suitcases and then a huge queue for customs....however we emerged unscathed from the terminal at 10 am ish... Ports of call Vigo - it was pouring with rain here - we did walk up through the town , into the church - then around in a big circle and through the shopping mall near to the terminal where there were some quite nice shops including a huge electrical retailers which we thought was amazing (and useful as we needed a new mouse for the laptop!) St Maarten - we were late arriving here because of the bad weather on the way down....but we didn't leave until 11 pm ...we got a water taxi to the shopping centre $6 return....this is the place for cheap cigarettes £20 for 400 Marlboro ....nowhere else had them cheaper. We started to walk to the salt ponds area to see if there were any unusual birds but we felt a bit uncomfortable after a while as there were no other tourists anywhere to be seen....so we returned to the shopping area. 84 degs here ! St Kitts - we did a trip here 'Best of St Kitts'. It was a quite good overview of the island visiting an old sugar plantation Romney Manor and a Batik factory shop and then we went to Brimstone Hill fortress National Park. 82 degs here ! St Vincent - we did a trip to some Botanical Gardens here - Kingstown where there were nice lawned areas and trees and shrubs and then our favourite Montreal gardens which was 3000 feet above see level in the rain forest area...there were lots of beautiful flowering shrubs and plants here and paths down a little valley to a fast running stream it was lovely. St Lucia - we did a private tour with Cosol tours here which was excellent...saw lots of the island with some super photo stops, visit to the sulphur springs inside a volcano, waterfall and botanical gardens, and got a water taxi to the beach between the pitons travelling there in a torrential tropical shower at great speed!!!!! Walked into the water and was immediately surrounded by a shoal of yellow and black striped fish!! Then we had another torrential downpour before returning to Souffriere in the water taxi via the bat cave full of fruit bats. Had a typical Caribbean breakfast in a private house and hot bread baguette type things with cheese for lunch along with a couple of rum punches.... Grenada - we just wandered the Port complex of shops here as we were quite tired so decided on a day off! Barbados - we did a trip here which was a bit disappointing just a photo stop in the Highlands area and then a drive to Dover beach where we had two hours use of sunbeds and sunshades. The beach was very nice but the sea was quite rough with a strong current so I didn't feel safe to swim. We were disappointed because we actually berthed at the 'flour mill' dock and this was within walking distance of a nice looking beach with much calmer water which we could have enjoyed for free !!! Madeira - we did not go ashore here as detailed above. Entertainment The Cruise director is Gary Glading who did a fairly good job - he did wonders with the passenger choir who performed a concert of Music from the Films which was excellent. The Headliners Singers and Dancers were good - if a bit too energetic - one singer Lisa stood out - she was excellent. There were up to date films in the Cinema and some older ones on cabin TV . We felt that the cabin TV was underused and that there could have been a music channel all day - especially when there were no satellite signals. We also felt that the Cruise director could have appeared on the TV and summarised the days activities, especially as there were so many sea days on this cruise. Martin Daniels (son of Paul Daniels) was on twice in the theatre and was the best of the individual entertainers (in my opinion). Singer called Mark Porter, Elaine Delmar, singer, a Welsh comedian who we didn't see but heard not so good reports on, another comedian Kevin Devane who was quite funny, a couple of young lads who did two concerts one of Beatles songs and another of 50s and 60s songs, they were excellent musicians but a bit nervous, however we did enjoy them. Bobby Crush was also on twice but we gave him a miss. We also had Diana Moran, the Green Goddess, on board for the duration, who gave five talks I think....we just went to the first one. There were also talks by the Tate gallery, a fingerprint expert, Philip Hobday ex BBC, the Captain Paul Brown, Executive Purser Kathy Jones, and Second Officer Wendy O'Donnell. We went to the last three and they were very interesting. We weren't impressed with the young 'Future Cruise sales manager' who did a presentation in the Cinema. Food We ate breakfast and lunch in the Conservatory (buffet) and dinner in the Peninsular restaurant. We had some good food, but it was not always easy to find something that we liked, especially in the Conservatory at lunchtime. We did have to resort to the alternative of Chicken Breast, or Sirloin Steak in the Dining room on more than one occasion. The meat was very good but we never had good roast potatoes, they were always hard and anaemic looking ! There was always a good variety of vegetables in the dining room. We liked the size and style of the ship...there was always space to sit somewhere quiet if we wanted....we used the gym which seemed quite well equipped....we also used our laptop in the internet room to send emails (30p per minute pay as you go)...there was a nice library with a good selection of books. The age range was quite elderly...(I felt young at 62) but there were a dozen or so school age children and also several babies/toddlers in pushchairs. It seemed to cope well for the disabled passengers with several motorized and manual wheelchair users. We felt the ship generally handled well in the rough weather but our bed was positioned under the window so was side to side of the ship rather than front to back and when seas were rough it felt like we would fall out of bed ....but we didn't ! It was the noise of the ship hitting the waves that kept us awake at night. All in all we enjoyed the cruise very much...in spite of the rough weather ...and the resulting 8 continuous days at sea! We covered nearly 8500 nautical miles in three weeks. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
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