We have cruised with P&O many times, it was our first trip on Ventura although we were familiar with the layout having cruised on Azura and some Princess ships. This cruise was mainly to visit Greece and some of the ... Read More
We have cruised with P&O many times, it was our first trip on Ventura although we were familiar with the layout having cruised on Azura and some Princess ships. This cruise was mainly to visit Greece and some of the Greek islands, but also included Ibiza and Gibraltar. The itinerary had changed twice, Turkey was swapped for Rhodes. The order of ports was changed this meant that we had Santorini to ourselves, instead of being with another four ships, good call!
The ship was using the Ocean Terminal in Southampton. The terminal works very well at getting people through as quickly as possible. Porters take your luggage from you in the drop off lanes, next time you see it is outside the cabin. The only slight hold up is having to complete the health questionnaire on arrival, why not offer it for download from the Cruise Personaliser. P&O complicate this by giving you a boarding time, ours is 15:00, it always is whatever P&O cruise we take! We decided to aim for 13:30, and only had to wait around until 14:00 before being called to check-in. We arrived at our cabin by 14:30 and our luggage was already waiting for us.
Disembarkation is equally efficient. A few days before the end of the cruise there was an announcement on the back of the Horizon newspaper advising that if you were traveling independently to tell Reception what time you would like to disembark. Instructions are then dropped off at your cabin. We selected 09:00, as did another 800. Our meeting place was the Arena theatre; we duly filed in at 08:00 and filled the theatre from the front to the back, following the instructions of one of the entertainment team (she had quite a job on to retain order!). At 09:00 we left the theatre in a line from front to back, surprisingly this is very efficient if everyone does as they are told. The baggage reclaim is a big hall with the luggage located in deck order. There were plenty of trollies and staff to help find the odd misplaced bag. We were ready and waiting outside for our taxi by 09:25.
Cruise Critic Roll Call Meet and Greet
No M&G was organised beforehand, we knew that we would all be too busy enjoying ourselves!
We had opted for Freedom Dining which gives great flexibility, but it can get busy at peak times, the best strategy is to be prepared to share a table (requesting a table for two will probably result in being given a pager). We tended to eat in the Saffron Restaurant, we also used it for breakfast and lunch. The Saffron Restaurant is very big, but the service is very good. The selection of dishes each evening seemed a little limited, some nights we resorted to the always available steak or salmon. The breakfast choices in the MDR are comprehensive, but I don’t think the choice has changed in the 10 years we have been sailing with P&O. Lunch in the MDR is also pleasant, and fairly quiet with a good set of menu choices and usually an interesting curry.
Other dining options that we tried were the Waterside (buffet) is a useful alternative for breakfast and lunch (we did not try it for dinner). It became congested at peak times and on sea days. People did tend to spread themselves out and hoard tables.
The Poolside Grill provided a quick and hearty service of burgers and hotdogs. This was very handy when returning from trips. The Poolside Pizzeria was very good with pizzas cooked to order taking about 10 minutes.
We also tried the Select dining outlets which incur an additional charge. The Epicurean provides top level dining at a modest charge; we had Chateaubriand (which we had always wanted to try). The service is attentive and personal this makes for a very special and memorable evening. Watch out for the Earlybird offers, a free bottle of house wine if you book to dine before 6:30 The Glasshouse is more relaxed, we tried the special wine pairing meal (usually once a week) the food was amazing and paired with wines that were surprising, but worked well. Each course and wine is described; again the service could not be faulted and was probably the best meal of the cruise. We also ate in the Glasshouse on another evening and again the food and service was very good. Be aware the Glasshouse tends to be where people queue to get into the theatre
The Beach House is more of an American style diner, great selection of food, but you need to be hungry; once again, personal and attentive service in a relaxed pleasant environment. My Rib Combo was excellent and there was a lot of it! We did eat in Sindhu where we had an Asian lunch which was charged at £7.50 each and we thought was very good value. Beautifully prepared food with individual service.
Lots of bars as you would expect, some with an emphasis on gin. There is a wide selection of craft gins available in the Red Bar and Metropolis. Most drinks at pub prices, but if you want more than two glasses of wine a bottle of the house (white in our case) is an economical option at £16. The Tamarind Club could be difficult because it is also an entertainment venue it can become very crowded and difficult to get a seat, and there were people just sitting there for the live music and not having a drink.
Our cabin was port rear on deck 9 (D612), it was a very good size; it is described as an superior deluxe balcony. The décor and fittings were in reasonable shape. Between the bathroom and main room is a spacious hanging area that really works well. The beds are high enough to take some pretty big suitcases underneath. There is a spacious sitting area with a sofa, chair and variable height table. The balcony does not have an overhang and can be overlooked (no topless sun bathing here!), but it is a good size. Our steward Denzil looked after us well, and was always keen to do more. This grade of cabin comes with fluffy bathrobes, binoculars, atlas and on embarkation Champagne and chocolates. This cabin was very quiet, nothing rattled, but when they test the lifeboats which are immediately under the cabin, the noise of machinery is deafening! Lifeboat tests are usually on port days and at fairly sociable times, any other time and I would be very worried!
I enjoyed the lecture series, David Russell on aspects of the Royal Navy and John Mercer talking about the First and Second World Wars and some of the personalities. Both fairly male orientated, both very good. I took the Behind The Scenes Tour this was excellent and really worth the £75, but be warned it can be as long as five hours. The most impressive area was the navigational bridge, so spacious and an amazing view, a close second was the Engine Control Room the Chief Engineer Neil Collins really knows this ship inside out.
The shows in the Arena Theatre, well we saw both shows with tenor Ben Makisi and they were very good, we would have liked to see more but there was a problem with the theatre. If you didn’t have you bum on a seat at least 30mins before curtain up, forget it. Some passengers had cracked the code and were obviously prepared to eat early, queue and wait for the shows, it seemed that their objective was to get good seats in at least two shows a night. Along with the Havana lounge and Tamarind Club these were the three targeted venues. In the end we gave up and enjoyed leisurely evening meals and drinks in selected quieter bars, each to their own.
A special mention for Entertainment Manager (didn’t this used to be called Cruise Director?) Leon de ste. Croix, a real trooper! He can sing dance, do stand up and lecture on astronomy. He had to cope with a lot on this cruise, theatre main projector was off line for several days, one performer failed to appear due to BA problems at Gatwick and a critical member of the dance team went sick meaning a new show had to be shelved. He also had to apologise for a misprint in the newspaper which resulted in passengers changing their clocks a day early, late breakfast was busy that day. All this he carried off, Leon did not pay me to write this!!
We were pleasantly surprised by the ship’s photographers and their low key approach, it worked, and we actually bought some, £8 a print is very reasonable. The photographers were also very skilled and did manage a reasonable picture of us!
This has to be one of the best gyms afloat that I’ve tried and I used it 10 times (still put on weight though!). The 15 weights machines give you a complete workout. Plenty of tread-mills, cross trainers, bikes and rowing machines. My only suggestion would be to add a sit-up bench.
We did not require the services of the Medical Centre, but I was taken round it on the behind the scenes tour, the facilities are comprehensive. One thing I learned was that they are unable to diagnose and treat a stroke, to do this they would require a CT scanner.
My wife had a full back massage which she found to be very beneficial, £75 for nearly an hour. Her therapist Theresa was very friendly and professional, and made a follow up phone call the next day just to make sure there were no problems.
Ports of Call
We had been here before, and just took the shuttle bus into town where we had a good walk around and some lunch. There was a lengthy queue for the return shuttle bus, about half an hour. There was an even longer queue to get back on the ship, not quite sure what went wrong there.
We had booked a trip here “The Acropolis and The Plaka”, everything was going well until we arrived at the car park for the Acropolis. On leaving the car park and taking the steps to the base of the Acropolis we became separated from the guide. Although we could hear the guide on the radio she was unaware that we were no longer with the group until she came to hand out the tickets to enter the Acropolis.
For our part we searched the promenade at the base of the Acropolis and asked several people if they had seen our guide with our lollipop. After waiting some time we called the ship’s agent, who was not helpful, and told us to call the ship. Reception was very helpful, and arranged for the Excursion desk to call us back. When Ruth called us back we had returned to the car park and were waiting at the bottom of the steps. Kevin from the Excursion desk also called us with updates on progress.
It was two hours before the guide eventually found us, by which time another couple who had become separated from the group at the Acropolis had joined us. After a while we could start to hear the guide again, and could hear someone telling her that they had also become separated. Soon after this the guide found us at the bottom of the steps, we then rejoined the group and discovered that the coach would not be picking us up from the car park.
On return to the ship we went to the Excursion desk to discuss our problem and were effectively told that the incident was our fault. After a rather heated and fruitless discussion the agent agreed to request an appointment with her manager. No appointment was received, and we returned to the Excursion Desk two days later, to be told that the matter was in hand. The next day we received a letter from the manager apologizing and advising of compensation.
In light of this here are our top tips for an enjoyable tour:
1. Make sure that your guide displays their lollipop prominently.
2. Ask your guide to set up a pre-arranged meeting point.
3. Before getting off a coach ask your guide to describe the flow of the tour and where the coach would be picking up from.
4. Ask your guide to provide an emergency contact number.
5. Take the Horizon Newspaper, port guide, working mobile phone and a debit or credit card.
Once the ship was anchored, shore tenders came alongside to disembark passengers; these are much bigger than the ships tenders and provide a smoother ride. New for us was that everyone had to do a step test this involved stepping across two lines 45cm (18 inches) apart to prove that you were mobile enough to get on and off the tender. In the event there were two large gentlemen on the tender who grabbed you and lifted you on!
We took the Best of Santorini tour, a very good tour with an interesting guide. You get to see a lot of the island, but I’m not sure how much value the included lunch provided. The lunch was self-service in a large venue with at least another five tour parties, yes, we’ve all been there, average food and not our first choice of wine! The tour could be shortened allowing more time in Fira, and perhaps a better lunch.
The ship docks very close to the Old Town, we just walked of and took a long walk around the town and harbour, then enjoyed a leisurely lunch and some shopping.
We have already seen most of the sights of Crete and Heraklion, so we took the transfer to Aghios Nikolaos. The host on the coach, Sandra was excellent, and when we arrived at Aghios Nikolaos she walked us around to and got us orientated. We had a pleasant walk around the Voulismeni Lake, and enjoyed a relaxed lunch, so relaxed that we did not have time to go to the beach. Our host positioned herself prominently in the coach park and we had no problems finding the coach.
Katakolon for Olympia
We took the Olympic Spirit tour, our guide Penny was a star, well informed on the historic aspects and highly organised. She kept the party together even when we lost one member they were soon back with us. It’s a fairly uneven site, but quite compact. The museum is definitely worth a visit, though it can become very busy. Aircraft spotters would have particularly enjoyed this trip because the Greek Airforce was practicing nearby!
We have been here many times and our call was fairly short, not enough time for lunch. Like everyone else, we got off walked into town, did some shopping, had a beer then got back on board. As we walked back towards Ventura you could hear a lot of bottles chinking around us!
Overall, an enjoyable cruise with the exception of some selfish passengers who were totally focused on what they wanted to do, queuing in the Glasshouse to make sure that you got into the theatre is not good, neither is leaving a show early to get to the next venue.
This was also the first cruise where we have had three captains:
Simon Terry left us in Ibiza for urgent personal reasons
Deputy captain Max Rossi took over.
In Athens Marcin Banach took over
All this happened totally seamlessly.
All that now remains is for me to lose the six pounds that I have gained on this cruise, and plan the next one! Read Less