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3 P&O Cruises Ventura Cruise Reviews for First-Time Cruisers Cruises to Mediterranean from Venice

We have just returned from our first cruise aboard Ventura. Having read some of the negative reviews I was apprehensive about what to expect - I need not have worried. The first day went smoothly from the airport to the ship (a very early ... Read More
We have just returned from our first cruise aboard Ventura. Having read some of the negative reviews I was apprehensive about what to expect - I need not have worried. The first day went smoothly from the airport to the ship (a very early start unfortunately). After checking in, the hold luggage was not seen again until we were on board the ship. P & O staff were positioned all along the route through Venice Marco Polo Airport directing everyone quickly to waiting coaches for the transfer. Security checks inside the port building were reassuringly efficient and at around midday we had enjoyed a buffet (Waterside) before accessing our cabin at 12.45 p.m. (after getting lost in corridors a few times - see below!) For this cruise we had chosen an outside cabin with balcony, which turned out to be a perfect choice given the wonderful ‘sail ins’ and ‘sail aways’ to follow. The luggage arrived shortly afterwards, so we unpacked essentials before exploring the glories of Venice for a few hours (using the “People Mover” near the port entrance and on foot). This was a very pleasant start to the holiday before our return to the ship in time for the emergency muster drill. We had been allocated a Club Dining late sitting in the Bay Tree Restaurant (9.0 p.m. first day then 8.30 or 8.45 after that) Not ideal dinner times for us, but we soon adapted to this, as there are plenty of daytime food options to fill the gaps, including afternoon tea. This was also convenient if, as on a few occasions, shore excursions finished late afternoon. The restaurant staff, mostly from India or the Philippines, were friendly and attentive, especially the waiters in dealing with my wife’s special dietary requirements. We were directed to a table for two, which would have suited some couples, but (for variety of company!) the head waiter accommodated our moving to a table for six at the beginning of our second week. In the Bay Tree there was enough variety in the dinner menus for most tastes and a standard grill menu every night. We were very happy with both the quality and quantity of the fare on offer. On this cruise there were four formal nights and two ‘theme’ nights, one 60s and 70s the other Tropical. There was a nice buzz around the ship for these special nights - our fellow passengers liked to dress up on the black tie and black and white nights, but were less inclined on the ‘theme’ nights. We wore some 60s and tropical attire to get into the spirit but evening casual was the norm. We stuck with the Bay Tree Club Dining on this cruise except for one night in the White Room on Deck 19. The food and service here was exceptional - in our view well worth the cover charge for that special occasion. On the second morning at (waiter-served) breakfast in the Bay Tree, we heard stories from passengers about the storm and high winds the previous week. The ship had listed alarmingly for a couple of hours before righting itself due to the water emptying the swimming pools on the open deck to one side of the ship. Disconcerting on only the second day! They lived to tell the tale, and again we need not have worried - on our cruise it was rather choppy between Corfu and the Straits of Messina (Day 5), but by then we had our sea legs. After the horror story in the Bay Tree on the 2nd day we decided to go for buffet breakfast and lunches in either the Waterside or the Beach House. These areas were very busy on some port days, but we found it interesting sharing a table and chatting. We are not sun worshippers, but there seemed to be enough sunbeds for those so inclined. There is plenty on board Ventura to keep non-sun-worshippers occupied on sea days, quizzes, films, ballroom dance classes, some retail therapy - and more food. The library is quite small but has a reasonable stock of fiction/reference for days at sea - there are quieter parts of the ship (and balcony if you have one) to just sit and chill with a book. Drinks prices (and wine packages) are comparable with the UK. The Oasis Spa treatments were high quality, but expensive. The evening entertainment it must be said was not always to our taste, very middle-of-the-road, but passengers who went to the theatre and Havana bar we spoke to enjoyed the high energy shows with the Headliners, the 4 Tunes, and some tribute acts. We caught the tail end of some shows after the quizzes in the Exchange which we went to most evenings. The entertainment staff were energetic and funny - but some passengers did take quiz nights a bit too seriously! The ports visited, the main reason we chose this particular cruise, were varied and interesting. Having previously visited Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Rome we booked organised shore excursions for places not yet seen. These were somewhat pricey, but guaranteed to return to the ship on time. More confident cruisers went ashore independently and most we spoke to had no difficulties getting around. The guides on our “Best of” Corfu, Ajaccio, Dubrovnik (sadly, the only day of rain) were very informative. The highlight trips for us were Paradise Gulf (boat trip to Portofino) and Herculaneum, which was outstanding. Apart from Dubrovnik (sadly the only day of rain), we were blessed with fine weather - there were some unforgettable moments, including wonderful scenery around Kotor (a hidden gem), sailing by Stromboli, sunrise over Vesuvius, and sailing into Venice. Ventura is a large ship and rather daunting for first time cruisers. We were provided with a “side view’ deck plan when we first went on board, but no plan views of the decks. Apart from reception staff, there were no crew members directing people to the different parts of the ship. The geography of Ventura takes some getting used to, and the signage in the public areas is limited (come on P & O, you can do this!) This said, we thoroughly enjoyed our first cruise and can recommend this itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Never been on a cruise before (of any sort), so unsure how it would compare to normal holidays(I normally arrange flights, hotels, transport, restaurants, etc, independently to pick the best that suits my needs). Allocated a balcony cabin ... Read More
Never been on a cruise before (of any sort), so unsure how it would compare to normal holidays(I normally arrange flights, hotels, transport, restaurants, etc, independently to pick the best that suits my needs). Allocated a balcony cabin on the Lido deck, which was not bad, apart from the overweight joggers who thought it fun to get red and out of puff using deck 16 above at 6:30am for their morning run. I soon put to a stop to that by getting the Night Manager to rope off that section of deck until 8am. The cabin itself - Travelodge circa 1985, even down to an open hanging rail rather than a wardrobe. Bed comfortable enough. Air-conditioning not up to the task, and room always too warm. Pointless mini-TV and a 'fridge' that was really a chiller that tried but wasn't up to the task. The bathroom had insufficient ventilation, thus nothing dried properly resulting in a mouldy shower curtain.The lack of drying meant that the cabin steward ended up needing to supply clean (dry) towels twice a day, every day. Food onboard was very patchy. - In the self-service cafeterias (Waterside and the Beach House) quantity over quality seemed the aim of the customers, who didn't seem to mind the luke warm food (chef measured the temperature and told me 65c was fine), noise, and the struggle to find a table. - Frankies Grill - Cheap burgers served on plastic plates. I would say more McDonalds than Byron, I that would be disparaging McDonalds. - Cinnamon and Saffron - Staff friendly and willing, and mostly efficient (apart from all the wine waiters), but the food? The problem was that the menu was overambitious, and they just kept failing to deliver. If somebody offers me a good meal, and they occasionally surprise by producing an excellent meal, I am happy. But if somebody promises me an excellent meal, but most often produces just a good meal, with the occasional rubbish, then I am unhappy. Unfortunately P&O fits into the latter category. The issue seemed to mainly occur in the evenings with the hot food. Cold starters were always perfect, but hot... utterly random. I can only assume an insufficient number of staff in the kitchen. I could also see why the older customers were happy with the food, because the menus seemed about 20 or 30 years out of date. It was certainly not the sort of interesting menu that you would have seen in London this millennium, even in an unambitious restaurant. Freedom dining, fine if you want to share. If not, be prepared to be asked to wait every night for up to an hour. Or they tell you a minimum of half an hour, so you get a drink, and then two minutes later call you. Random, and again not anything seen in any normal restaurant. Dress code, hmm. Take what P&O say with a pinch of salt. Casual evenings translated as "wear anything you like", including a few adult men wearing shorts in the main dining rooms in the evening. Formal evenings, the vast majority (95%+) were wearing dinner jackets and bow ties. The 'dark suit' option was chosen by very few, and I thought they stood out more than those who hadn't changed their dress style from the casual evenings, looking like they had just stumbled in from the office. Bars - Something to suit everyone, from the Metropolis cocktail bar down to the Exchange station Pub (I didn't think downmarket station pubs from the 80's still existed until I saw that one), but the prices were not bad. Entertainment - Much better than expected. Shows usually about 45 minutes, and clearly a lot of money and effort thrown at the productions. Also pleasantly surprised to see that there is a rotation of shows, so you won't see the same acts/shows repeated on a 14 night cruise. One poor entertainment point was the quality of the film projection on the films that were shown. P&O have spent a huge amount on the rest of the entertainment and insufficient on the film projection equipment*. If you want to see a film in TV standard definition quality, blown up onto a cinema size screen, so everything is fuzzy (or if they are showing it in one of the bars, on a 4:3 screen not widescreen), then this is for you. *When I asked, I was told that the equipment that they use to show the films was not intended to do so, but was only intended to show backdrops, etc as part of the stage show. It shows. And a final point on entertainment. If you know that a show is going to be full, what sort of idiot leaves a single spare seat between them and the next group, so that you have two or three empty seats on their own in a row. So don't be shocked when someone asks you to move up. Swimming pools and deck chairs. People were out at 6:30am, especially on sea days, putting out towels to reserve chairs. Their tactics were successful as P&O were utterly ineffectual about doing anything about it, other than to print a small bit in occasionally the newspaper. Port stops, mostly good, but excursions were completely extortionate. And I thought that the captain seemed to express just a little to much pleasure in announcing for several days running, that some people who had gone ashore to Rome had been left behind, especially as he then went straight into a sales pitch for the excursions. Venice - You would have thought that for people travelling independently to the ship, P&O would appreciate that they may need some information such as the berth number and automatically provide it. Alas no. You may also think that they would tell you when check in opens, not just a suggested arrival time. Alas no. You may also think that they would tell boarding passengers which restaurants were open at lunch time, so everyone is not queuing at Waterside. Alas no. Kotor - A long 20 minute tender ashore for a pleasant morning stroll, but not much there. I suspect it is lovely about 8pm in the evening with a cold beer, but of course we had left by then. Corfu - A free port shuttle bus ride to the port gate, and then change to a second (possibly chargeable) P&O shuttle bus ride to the town gate, for a pleasant morning stroll. I know from previous visits Corfu town is lovely about 8pm, but of course we had left by then. Rome - From Civitavecchia, a free port shuttle bus ride to the port gate, and then a second chargeable town bus ride to the station, followed by a train to Rome. Absolute chaos at Civitavecchia railway station on the return, as everybody arrived back on the same train, all wanting to catch the single bus that would get them back to the ship before it sailed. Made worse by American's who struggled with the concept of public transport, and had never experienced the joy of the Northern Line on the tube in the morning peak. A nice day seeing the sights, but, and there is theme developing here, I know from previous visits it is lovely about 8pm, but of course we had left by then. Ajaccio - France, very definitely France, even down to the dog on the pavements. But nice all the same. I suspect even nicer about 8pm, but of course we had left by then. Ajaccio to Genoa - Force 8 winds, so the sick bags were out and being filled. However as I don't get sea sick, after an interesting show where the cast were struggling to stay upright, up to Metropolis to watch the front of the ship going up, up, up and then down, down, down crashing through the waves. Lots of carpets being cleaned around the public toilets the next morning. Genoa - A stroll into town down a street that would have made the Kings Cross area in the 90's feel upmarket. At 9am it was interesting. At 9pm I suspect it is very interesting. A pleasant morning spent strolling the more upmarket areas of Genoa and using the funiculars and lifts to see the views, before returning to the ship for lunch. I used the bus to get back to town in the afternoon, as I had seen enough tattoo parlours and shifty people selling other "goods" and "services" for the day. Livorno - Been to both Pisa and Florence before (and been able to stay past 4pm), so opted to stroll around Livorno, which is a surprisingly pleasant port town without the "interesting" characteristics of Genoa. Naples - Easy day trip out to Herculaneum on the tram and train. Enlivened by pickpockets on the tram on the way back, necessitating a trip to the Naples central Police Station (the cruise port police dealing with people off the cruise ships don't speak anything other than Italian, why would they?). The building and police detective who offered to assist were straight out of the casting for Hill Street Blues. Really helpful guy and worth the hassle going there, as the insurance paid up without question. So the pickpockets did me a favour by getting me a shiny new phone. On the way back to the ship from the police station, a bloke sticks his head around a street corner and says "psst, want to buy an iPhone or an iPad". Dubrovnik - A (possibly chargeable) shuttle bus ride to the town gate. At 9am up on the city walls there were half a dozen people, including a guy running laps of the wall. By 11am, Dubrovnik was full. Completely full. I can understand the desire to rebuild after the 1991-92 conflict, but the whole effect now is rather Disney, except I suspect Disney would do it better. The whole city within the walls now only exists for tourists, with every place being a museum, a bar, a restaurant, or a shop selling tourist tat (catering for all ends of the scale from cheap to expensive tat). And what was amusing was that Croatia uses the Kuna not the Euro, so lots of signs saying "No Euros". Or the sneaky bars not saying whether they did or didn't, but you could be sure it wouldn't be to your advantage if you only had Euros to pay. Hot as hades, by early afternoon, so a nice long queue in the sun to get a shuttle back to the ship. Definitely a place that is nicer at 8pm. Venice again - As the ship stays overnight, then we were able to go into the city late afternoon, and be able to stay into the evening after all the day trippers had left. Much, much more pleasant riding a vaporetto back up the Grand Canal as the sun is setting. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
I am very disappointed in this, my first (and last) Cruise. I was mistakenly confident, when booking my cruise with P&O, that I would spend a peaceful and relaxing time on board Ventura. My friend and I booked 2 separate cabins, and ... Read More
I am very disappointed in this, my first (and last) Cruise. I was mistakenly confident, when booking my cruise with P&O, that I would spend a peaceful and relaxing time on board Ventura. My friend and I booked 2 separate cabins, and spent the first 2 days jostling the crowds, unable to obtain a table for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. We spent a long time carrying heavy trays, walking through the 24 hour restaurant and surrounding decks, searching for a table. Upon asking for assistance in finding a table, were told by deck staff "It is difficult - you have to share". After this experience, I spent the remainder of the holiday taking breakfast alone in my cabin, which I did not want to do. (Our evening meals were prebooked at Bayside Restaurant, with the same table with no problems, and served by excellent staff, Jose and Arun). During our 2 days spent at sea, we were hoping to relax on sun loungers, but other passengers had placed their blue P&O towels out early on the loungers in order to "book" them, so there were none free until late afternoon. Many of the sun loungers are so tightly crammed together, there is no space to walk around them. After quite some time searching and walking the many decks, we eventually found assistance from the ship staff, who directed us to the only remaining two sun loungers, tightly packed in a mass of bodies (with no view of the sea). To get on them, we had to climb up the loungers from the bottom. My friend has recently had a shoulder operation, so this was not easy. Our days spent on board Ventura were stressful and not relaxing, similar to spending time in a busy Airport Terminal !! If I book a holiday in a hotel, and experience difficulty in finding a table to dine at, or request a sun lounger, a hotel will be quick to provide me with the service I pay for. I am shocked and upset that P&O cannot cater for the 3000 plus passengers they have on board. There is a serious shortage of 2 seat tables, and they do not provide adequate sun loungers. If you are looking for a relaxing peaceful cruise, then think carefully, because this is a glorified "Butlins" - with plenty of entertainment, activities and endless food, but please bear in mind that the Ventura carries over 3000 people all looking for the same things, within a confined space. Therefore, very poor value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Ventura Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 3.0 3.9

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