Ventura sailed on the 18th of January from Southampton for the Caribbean, returning to Southampton on 15th February. The itinerary took in Madeira, then a string of Caribbean Islands including Barbados, St Lucia, Martinique, St Kitts, ... Read More
Ventura sailed on the 18th of January from Southampton for the Caribbean, returning to Southampton on 15th February. The itinerary took in Madeira, then a string of Caribbean Islands including Barbados, St Lucia, Martinique, St Kitts, Antigua, Tortola and Sint Maarten before crossing back via Ponta Delgada in The Azores.
Embarkation was smooth and painless at the Mayflower Terminal (a strong contrast to the chaos of our last visit to the Queen Elizabeth Terminal!) and we found our bags delivered very quickly to the cabin.
We choose to take meals in the second sitting fixed dining 'Bay Tree' restaurant and quickly made friends with our four table companions Brian and Anthea, and Mike and Tracey. The craic round the table was exceptional and most entertaining and later in the journey we took part in the quiz sessions (the eight o'clock challenge), one of many the others took part in, and made up a table team of six that proved to be almost invincible - well, eight wins out of 26 days wasn't bad going and provided wine for the table.
Meals were always acceptably good and on occasion memorably so, and food was hot, though additional culinary expertise would have been useful in the soup making department, where the regular Tomato Soup was thin flavoured. On the final formal night, an alleged 'Baked Alaska' was served up which could only described as an offence under the trades descriptions act as it had weary never seem any form of baking. It consisted of a half centimetre thick sort of soft biscuit, with a scoop of chocolate and vanilla ice cream on top, topped finally with a piped swirl of sugared egg white (meringue mix) which did not remotely cover the ice cream, and was then blow torched, leaving the bulk of the egg white completely raw. The was the only really serious affront to the culinary arts in what was otherwise a very good and constantly changing menu - though with 28 nights, some items did reappear once or twice, but never with a completely repeated menu. We dined in the 'Beach House' restaurant on three occasions - an 'American Diner' style menu with a small cover charge of just £5 and additional charges for a handful of options - mine was the totally outstanding Cook it yourself 6oz Fillet Steak on Lava Rock which was exceptional and came with an additional charge of just £2.95.
There were many activities available on sea days, though I chose to find a sheltered table outside on deck 15 aft on the Terrace Bar, where I painted (six oils ad six watercolours were the product of the voyage in total.
Ports were very good generally, though Martinique was a disappointment. Ponta Delgada was excellent with an excursion to the delightful town of Ribeira Grande and Fire Lake. We also took in excursions on Sint Maarten and St Lucia but did our own thing on the other islands. The excursions were generally fair value for ship bought excursions and actually compared well to the external competition from cruisingexcursions.com
Waiters in the dining rooms (Edvon and Manoj were ours and well worth a mention) and the in the breakfast buffet were always helpful and efficient as was our Cabin Steward Vimal, who went out of his way to be helpful and deserves special mention. Bar waiters were also good in our view.
We met many people whilst sitting out on deck on sea days including the very special Jo and Gavin and the subtle humour of Colin, who was on a first time cruise and ready to fly back from Madeira until he met Jo, Gavin and ourselves, along with others who made up a genuinely sociable crowd which was one of the best aspects of the cruise. Overall, the balance between sea days crossing the Atlantic in both directions and island destinations worked out very well indeed for us, though it would not be to everybody's taste.
There was a good range of entertainment on offer, though we did to personally attend all that many shows, especially with our late dining and too much table chatter!
All in all, an excellent cruise which sees us back home relaxed and ready to go again. On the particular point we have already booked the same voyage next year (wth a couple of port variations) securing a pretty decent £400 each on board spend by booking whilst on board. Disembarkation was a bit of a mess as we had a train booked for 09.30 from Southampton Central to meet our train at noon from Kings Cross to Inverness. We had to fight long and hard to get a disembarkation time of 08.30 and then got stuck with a bunch of jobs worths who refused to allow us access to the baggage 'until all the coach passengers had been allowed through. With everything clearly running late, when they next shouted that coach passengers only could go through, we fooled the system by saying we were coach passengers. We then had to beg someone to reach our cases, but at least they were helpful and we made our train. Had we not done so, with 540 miles to go we would have been unable to reach home until the next day. Not, perhaps, the best way to end the cruise, but we will know better next time and will self disembark, carrying our own cases, which allowed disembarkation between 7am and 8am. Read Less