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Sail Date: April 2008
Background We are a retired couple in our 60s who have cruised about 8 or 10 times previously, only with P&O, mostly on the Oriana or Aurora, but once on Artemis. We have always wanted to go on a Maiden cruise - had imagined this ... Read More
Background We are a retired couple in our 60s who have cruised about 8 or 10 times previously, only with P&O, mostly on the Oriana or Aurora, but once on Artemis. We have always wanted to go on a Maiden cruise - had imagined this would be something unique, with special events and special entertainment. We made a reservation on the day bookings opened and got a "guarantee" cabin for the grade we had requested. We also subsequently added the one week cruise immediately following - visiting 4 ports on the Spanish and French Atlantic coast. Travel to Southampton We drove down to Southampton taking advantage of the free parking offered for this cruise. The queue from well outside the dock gates took an hour before we reached the unloading point. There was then quite a long queue (in the rain) before we got inside the terminal building. As "frequent" P&O cruisers we had the advantage of priority check-in once we were inside, but even that was quite slow due to the number of such passengers arriving. Once on board at 1.30pm our luggage arrived within a couple of hours. It may be that the long queues to reach the ship and subsequently to check-in were a result of this being the first time that P&O have had to embark so many passengers. The Ship Ventura is the first large ship in the P&O fleet - taking around 3,400 passengers I believe, as compared to 1,800 or so on the Oriana or Aurora. She is built to the standard we have come to expect with P&O - well fitted out, beautifully furnished, excellent artwork everywhere. As she is designed to attract a new type of cruise customer (families with young children), the lounges and public areas are more open and "walk-through" than we are used to and we felt the lack of quiet places to sit down in comfort and read or relax. The bars are all spacious, although the three largest - Havanna, Tamarind Club and Metropolis are regularly used for entertainment, much of which is relayed at a volume which appears to be designed for those who are hard of hearing. The theatre is outstanding - up to the class of the best London theatres, seating 750+, with comfortable seating and excellent production facilities. The Atrium and shopping area is OK with more shops and more space than we have seen on the smaller P&O ships. There is a limited library, but no dedicated library reading room as on the Oriana or Aurora. Our Cabin Our cabins - A622 on deck 12 for the Maiden Cruise and B406 on deck 11 for the one week follow-on cruise, were identical, with reasonable space, excellent furnishing, a terrific walk-in wardrobe area (more hanging space than we have seen on other ships) and a typical, adequate bathroom/toilet with shower. The cabin had a balcony with two semi-recliner chairs and a small coffee table. There was a flat screen TV, excellent tea and coffee making facilities and a fridge. Our cabin stewards were first rate as we have always found on P&O ships. One of the few snags we encountered with this brand new ship was that public area announcements could not be heard on one of the TV channels as stated, so every time anyone heard the sound of any announcement, everyone rushed to the door and stood in the corridor to listen...... A minor annoyance which should be put right quickly, we hope. The only other "snag" was, we believe, a sign of the times - some films on the TV were free to watch, others required a payment of a few pounds. Just another way that Carnival is seeking to increase income. A similar situation applied to cabin food service - some items were free, others required a payment. The TV has an "interactive" function where one can find messages (usually promoting services from the Spa, Photographers, Tours Team or Art Gallery) and a facility for checking the on-board account expenditure to date. TV channels included Sky News (UK version), BBC World and BBC Prime for nearly all of the time. One comment we would make - something to take into account when choosing a cabin with a balcony - is that the balconies on decks 10, 11 and 12 are set back from the side of the ship and are built vertically one above the other with decent privacy. But we could look straight down into the balconies of cabins on decks 8 and 9 which are staggered out (presumably give larger balcony and/or cabin size). We felt than the people on these lower decks at times felt quite uncomfortable with us looking down on them resting or having drinks or a meal. Dining There are two large self-service cafeterias on deck 15 which are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, children's high tea, an evening meal and a limited midnight buffet. In practice some food is available from 6.30am until the early hours. The restaurants are bright and airy, but with limited space for serving food and the choices reflect that limit. Seating is insufficient at peak breakfast and lunchtimes, even with the small outside area at the stern and the few tables in the area around the covered pool. Breakfast and lunch are also served in one or two of the "main" restaurants, with waiter service. This was our preference on most occasions unless we wished to have a quick breakfast before going ashore. During the daytime there are two food bars on deck 15, one serving pizzas and the other burgers. These are free of charge. There is also an ice cream bar for which there is a charge. We had an excellent pizza for lunch on one occasion, but did not sample the burgers or ice cream. There are a number of evening meal options on Ventura, but at the time of booking it is necessary to make a choice for dinner between "Club" dining (the same table every evening at one of two restaurants - Baytree or Saffron - at either 6.30pm or 8.30pm) or "Freedom" dining - eating in a third main restaurant (The Cinnamon) at a time of your choice without reservation. We had chosen Club dining second sitting at a table for 8 and apart from one or two evenings when the galley was struggling to cope, we were seated promptly and looked after by excellent restaurant staff very well. We met some people who had chosen Freedom dining and heard that at peak times it was necessary to make a reservation the day before if you wished to eat at a particular time. In addition to all those eating options, there are three alternative dining venues for which there is a cover charge. The "White Room" - conceived and inspired by Marco Pierre White, we were told - had a charge of £20 per head for dinner on the Maiden Cruise, but this had increased to £25 per head for the following one-week cruise. "East" had a charge of £15 and £20 respectively and "Ramblas" also had a charge, but we did not enquire. We heard good reports of the White Room and it was fully booked by the second day of each cruise. The menu there did not attract us sufficiently to justify the additional charge. We did eat at East and had an excellent meal from an interesting menu. There did not appear to be any difficulty in getting reservations there. We did not sample Ramblas, but friends tried the Tapas snacks available in the bar area (I think is was 3 Tapas for £2.50) and said that this was very good. Several of these would make a light lunch. The food was generally good, although there are signs of economy in the choices available and the quality of some dishes and the reduction in provision of fresh vegetables.. Beef in particular, was of poor quality on several occasions and the "standby" offering of sirloin steak at dinner was inedible on a couple of occasions. Staff were very embarrassed about this and promptly offered an alternative. Meals came out from the galley ready plated - your choice of main course on a bed of rice, pasta or potatoes with minimal vegetable decoration and the waiters then added another potato choice and one vegetable of the day by silver service. There were 4 formal and 4 informal nights on the maiden cruise and 2 of each on the one week cruise. The rest were "smart casual". We were impressed that nearly everyone made the effort to comply with the dress code on formal nights and it was a pleasure to see even small children smartly kitted out - some even in scale size DJs! We suspect that those who chose not to "play the game" ate in the cafeteria on formal nights and kept clear of the main public areas. Daytime entertainment Much is made of "Cirque Ventura" - an area on the highest deck with equipment (and trained staff) for trampoline, flying trapeze, juggling, walking on stilts, etc. Workshops are held (for which there is a charge, I believe). This will appeal to young people, but only operated in good weather. There is limited space for deck quoits and shuffleboard and 4 table tennis tables. There are - as always - many scheduled daytime activities to suit most, but not all, tastes. But with the ships spending more days in port than at sea, these activities are less important. There are 4 swimming pools - none reserved for adults only - and plenty of sunloungers, so long as you are prepared to look around and not stay close to a pool. There is a comprehensive Spa and hairdressing / manicure salon. The steam room and sauna are not mixed sex on this ship which is a shame and the facilities did not therefore appear to be used much. There was much promotion of the various massage services available. The gym / fitness center was very good, although, to my shame, I only used it three times. Evening entertainment This is a very subjective matter and our comments can only reflect our own tastes. One overall comment - we found the music much too loud, especially in the shows performed in the Havanna venue. Even in the Metropolis bar we had to move away from the area where music was being played, in order to hold a conversation. Luckily we happened to carry earplugs in our luggage and we made use of them on several occasions…! There were 3 venues in use each night - the arena theatre, the Tamarind Club and Havanna. Each venue had three performances, enabling people to see 2 of the shows if they wished, as well as having dinner. The theatre company shows were terrific - the best we have seen on any P&O ship - and contained elements of dance, song and acrobatics. There was over-reliance on the lead male singer (an excellent voice, but finding it tough to perform 3 shows a night) which was a shame because there were other members of the team with good voices as well. We had a classical pianist on each cruise and both attracted a loyal following. The Tamarind Club was billed at the Ventura Comedy Club. There was a comedian or a duo there almost every night. We suspect that P&O have some way to go to discover and retain good comedians. Comedy needs to be good and reasonably sophisticated to attract a wide audience and when comedians have to rely on bad language, smut and sex in order to present an act, that is not to our taste. We feel that this is also not appropriate for an audience which includes young children (who were still around at the shows at 10.45pm) The other cabaret acts were sometimes OK, but not of the standard we have met on previous P&O cruises. This was particularly disappointing as we had expected the Maiden cruise, at least, to be something special and to have some top class entertainers. One act that did stand out was called "Legends" on the Maiden cruise. Children's facilities We did not have children with us. On the maiden cruise there were - we believe - only about 40 children on board. On the subsequent cruise there were 400 children. We were told there will be 800 or more on board during school holidays. We understand that the facilities for children are excellent and they certainly have a large dedicated area and dedicated staff to organize their day. For passengers without children, the impact of large numbers around the pools is significant. Ports On the maiden cruise we visited Barcelona, Villefranche, Livorno (for Florence), Santa Marghareta, Civitavecchia (for Rome), Alicante and Gibraltar. On the one week cruise we visited Vigo, Lisbon, Bilbao and Brest. We booked ship excursions (actually coaches to transport us to the city and back so we could "do our own thing") for Florence, Rome and Santiago de Compostella (from Vigo). The coach service was reliable and the attendant guide good on 2 occasions and poor on one. Elsewhere we explored locally, making use of the shuttle bus provided into town where appropriate. We like to explore on foot at our own pace, not in a crowd. We research for walks and sights of interest on the internet before each cruise and always try to find a suitable restaurant for an inexpensive lunch in a non-touristy area. We usually get recommendations by posting questions in the appropriate Forum in the sister website www.tripadvisor.com There was an initial problem with disembarkation by tender at Villefranche (the first time they had done this with a full complement of passengers) and on a couple of other occasions there were problems getting ashore because of a lack of shuttle buses to take passengers out of the port area. We hope these are teething problems which will be sorted. Final Disembarkation This operation ran smoothly and once we had remembered what color our suitcases were, we found then easily amongst the vast collection in the arrivals hall at Southampton. The car was easily found and the journey out and home uneventful. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
We've been cruising now for 5 years and in that short time have managed to squeeze in around 14 cruises, mainly with P&O but also with Cunard and NCL. We have really enjoyed spending the daughter's inheritance up to now, ... Read More
We've been cruising now for 5 years and in that short time have managed to squeeze in around 14 cruises, mainly with P&O but also with Cunard and NCL. We have really enjoyed spending the daughter's inheritance up to now, although she is due to join me on a cruise next month (hope she doesn't get the bug too!). We were very excited about the prospect of being among the first to try out the brand new Ventura. There had been a lot of hype in the build up and we were a bit worried that we would be disappointed. How wrong we were to be worried! I'm not going to talk about the journey or the checking in, because it's hardly rocket science and is all a bit dull. I'm not going to talk about the ports of call either, as many of you will already know a lot more about them than we do! And I'm definitely not going to talk about food, except to say it was very nice, I ate too much and gained too many pounds. (But be sure to do the formal afternoon tea in the dining room at least once. Toasted crumpets! Ooh yummy.) But the ship - WOW! What's not to like? It definitely targets a different demographic from the other ships, and as 30-, 40- and 50-somethings, even though we weren't travelling with kids, our party seemed to fit in quite well. Theatre - one of the best we've been in at sea; deck space - plenty and loads of sun beds; service - excellent as usual; I particularly liked that bit where you could walk right round the front of the ship on the prom deck. Bars Our first experience on board was in the Tamarind Club. A mid-ships bar, this is nicely positioned wherever you are based onboard - not too far from anywhere. This is a gorgeous bar and was a hive of activity throughout the cruise, hosting singers, comedians, speakers, dancing and also providing a comfortable waiting area at the tender ports. It made us smile one day to see Noddy in there with all the small kids, watching a Noddy movie too! Situated at the top of the atrium, the Red Bar is an exquisite cocktail bar with an opulent feel. This is an excellent people-watching spot too and a good place to sit and watch the atrium colors change. Ramblas bar with its Spanish feel was a nice place to sit both day and night as adjacent to the bar area is a courtyard area built around a tree (is it real? LOL!) - this provided one of our regular morning coffee stops. Explorers is the 'pub' bar. This is a very nice and roomy area with the novelty of a train that runs round the top of the bar. Sitting adjacent to the casino, this is the venue for pub quizzes and the karaoke. This wasn't our favorite venue as it is the only smoking bar on board, so got a bit too smoky for us. Our favorite bar by far was Metropolis. Situated at the stern, way up on Deck 18, the view of where we'd just been was awesome. But the bonus was that the bar also has wings either side which give a great view along the whole length of the ship. This bar has large screens showing cityscapes in the evening - a different city each night - and as the sun goes down for real, it goes down over the city on the screens. The pre-dinner nibbles in here are based on the city theme for the night, and we were delighted to find that there is also a special cocktail associated with each city. We did our duty by trying them all during the course of the cruise - just research you understand. Cabins We had a mid-ships inside cabin on Deck C. Size-wise this was pretty much like any other inside cabin, but what set it apart from the rest of the fleet for us was the walk-in wardrobe area. We loved this as it was so convenient. Other nice touches were the Nick Munro-designed kettle, tea pot and cafetiere, and the interactive TV. The TV took a bit of getting used to, but I can see it being very useful and it was handy to be able to keep track of our onboard account. Lifts With over 3,000 passengers and 19 decks, we expected the lift situation to be troublesome. But we found that this wasn't too bad and the lifts themselves were very whizzy. Beware if you take a midships lift though - some of them have glass backs, so ladies, take care when adjusting your pants, LOL!!! Atrium I already mentioned the color changes of the lights in the atrium; this can create some nice effects in your photographs. We liked the bottom of the atrium best as there is a decent sized coffee shop to one side, the art gallery (Hurrah! No art auctions!) is down here too, plus the library/book shop. In the middle of all this are some comfy sofas and chairs, just the place to chill out when you've found your library book. Kids' Stuff We had a quick peek in the kids area - oh how I wish my parents had brought us cruising as kids, instead of that caravan in Mablethorpe! Kids of all ages are very well catered for and even have their own deck areas. The little night nursery was very cute too. The Cirque I've not included this in the kid's stuff as some of us had a go too! Right up on Deck 19, the bungee trampolines are surprisingly hard work, but great fun. We didn't have the nerve to try the trapeze or the tightrope walking this time though. Apparently the oldest passenger to have a go on the trampolines during our cruise was in his 70's - good for him! Conclusion Our feeling at the end of the cruise was that this ship has something for everyone. We would really like to sail on Ventura again and we are just debating whether to change one of our future cruises so we can make this happen sooner rather than later. Anyone cruising on Ventura in future, you are in for a real treat! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
I was very excited to be going on Ventura after waiting 12 months since my booking. The problems started at Southampton when i had to wait for 2 hours in a Q to park the car.This is unacceptable for any passenger but especially disabled ... Read More
I was very excited to be going on Ventura after waiting 12 months since my booking. The problems started at Southampton when i had to wait for 2 hours in a Q to park the car.This is unacceptable for any passenger but especially disabled passengers, which i am sure i was not the only one . There was a long Q to get on board and the Lady at the security check in for bags etc asked me if it was nearly at the end as she had been on duty for 4 hours already.She said its always like this when Ventura is in .We finally got on board at 4.00 and it was time to sail.We did not go to the muster station for the emergency drill as it had already started and no one asked us if we were going. This is the first time i have seen this happen where people don't need to go to such an important meeting. We met first timers who had not been either.The cabin was beautiful.The problems started straight away. We were booked for early dinner and when we went down the Q was horrendous. When we went for our table for 2 we found 4 tables for 2 stuck together to make a table for 8. We were lucky the others were lovely people but had also asked for tables for 2. The service was really slow and the dining room was really cold all week. The food was sometimes only lukewarm.The self service restaurant  was our next call next morning for breakfast and the Q here was worse than the night before. This was like this all week. Not much staff to cope with over 3.000 people. Lots of complaints about the wait for cups glasses cutlery etc.I have been loyal to this company since 1997 and have never seen anything like it .I did not like the fact that the hand washing gel is now self service. There were lots of people not bothering with it and i was very worried about picking up a bug. There were 4 ports of call and there were shuttle busses to take you from the dock . When we went the first morning for the bus and guess what there were at least 300 in the Q and hardly any busses. Lots of people complaining.. The other 2 days the exact same thig with people waiting in the long Q.I felt very sorry for people who were on their first cruise.Lots were saying NEVER AGAIN.I heard lots of people saying they will be going back to Royal Caribbean as they know how to treat customers.I would not travel on Ventura Again. I had hoped to book AZURA for next year but not now as it will be just the same or maybe even worse.I have booked Arcadia for October . I have travelled on her before and there were no problemsFor my 2010 cruises i will be looking at Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and Cunard  as i met lots of satisfied customers from these companies Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2008
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed ... Read More
Background We are an English couple and began cruising about 10 years ago on Thomsons & Airtours but in recent years have tended towards the American lines. Celebrity, Princess & NCL are our favorites but we have also enjoyed Costa, QM2, RCCL & Star Cruises. We don't like to book too far in advance and typically look for offers on the internet 1-2 months before we want to sail, so we have been lucky enough to find some fantastic deals and arrange our own airfare and independent transfers when needed. Looking for something special for Paul's 70th birthday on 17th April had become unusually challenging as many ships were transatlantic at the time and for medical reasons we can't get insurance for North America at the moment. When we found an offer for the Ventura's maiden voyage about 6 weeks before sailing it seemed to good opportunity to try P & O. Nearly everyone on board had booked up on the day bookings opened a year before, so it must have been a cancellation cabin. Although we love to try different ships we had never sailed with P & O before, mainly because most of the itineraries sail from Southampton and as I am not a natural sailor the 2/3 days sailing each way to the Med does not particularly interest me. Also, their prices are typically around 50% dearer than comparable cruises with other companies. At £1,119 each for an inside cabin this was the most expensive cruise-only fare we had paid in our 25 cruises, and as a maiden voyage on a much-hyped ship we had fairly high expectations. Travel to Southampton & Embarkation We drove ourselves to Southampton port - as we had a discounted cruise fare we were not entitled to the usual free parking offer and had pre-booked with CPS for £117. Unusually, there was a terrific traffic jam and it took us about an hour from our first sighting of Ventura to the car park drop-off point. There was no obvious reason for this and we had embarked equal -sized ships there before without any problem so it was probably just bad luck. But we had plenty of time, and once we had left our car the check-in procedure was quick and efficient and after a short wait for security checks we were on board about 2.30pm. The Ship - First Impressions Ventura is a lovely ship, almost identical in layout to the Golden & Grand Princess, that we know and love, so we had no trouble finding our way around. She was "specially designed for Britain" which primarily means that the dEcor is generally less flamboyant than on her American sisters. Our Cabin We had booked an inside guarantee and after a daily website check had found our cabin allocation about 2 weeks before leaving - R248 is towards the front of deck 14 (Riviera deck) one deck below the lido deck. Our cabin was fine, brand new, spotlessly clean, exactly as we had expected and no different from any other modern cruise ship. There are sparkling new tea and coffee facilities in the cabins along with a single rose bud and some boiled sweets in a matching steel vase and dish to welcome us aboard. 2 small complimentary bottle of water were provided which was nice. No mini-bar but drinks could be ordered from the room steward. Richard, our steward, introduced himself and was extremely efficient and pleasant throughout the voyage. Our luggage arrived promptly (although there was an announcement later in the afternoon that there had been some technical problems and luggage delivery was delayed). Room service was available but we did not use it. The menu was slightly strange - for example you could order a salmon meal for free but a chicken sandwich cost £1.50. Apple pie was free but chocolate tart £1. Toiletries provided in the bathroom included some novel items such as eye cream, refreshing balm for aching feet (extremely useful !) and lip gel as well as the usual moisturizer, soap, sewing kit etc. There was a dispenser in the shower holding a combined hair & body shampoo but no conditioner. Fellow Passengers All British, and apart from 2 couples on their first cruise almost exclusively P & O "regulars". There were a huge number of "Gold" members (150 days + on P & O, I understand) for whom a special event had been arranged with Michael Portillo as guest speaker. There were a few families but the majority of passengers were aged 60+. As cruses in general, we found everyone to be extremely pleasant and happy to share tables and to chat. There were 4 formal nights and 4 semi-formal (jacket & tie expected for gentlemen) on our 14 day cruise and the dress code was honored by everyone and we really enjoyed dressing up for a change, as so many ships have let the dress code slip. Seeing 3,000 people dressed correctly for the "Black and White Ball" night was amazing. The other theme nights were "Latino","Pirate/Tropical", 60s/70s and 80s/90s. Dining - Cinnamon Restaurant I had been pleasantly surprised on booking to have been offered the option of "Freedom Dining". Unlike Princess only one restaurant is dedicated to Freedom and as a fairly new innovation for P & O it did not seem particularly popular. Some people who had requested a fixed table had been moved onto Freedom to make up the numbers, but for us this was good as we walked into the restaurant between 8-8.30pm and were seated immediately every night without having to wait or queue at all. The restaurant manager was nice and soon got to know that we liked to share a larger table. The service was always good and we were happy to have the £1.60 daily gratuity added to our account -some people did have this removed and there were tip boxes in the restaurant on the last day for those who preferred to tip in cash. Food is very subjective, but in our opinion the menus were alright without being brilliant and the food fell broadly into the same category. We considered it overall far below the levels of quality we had experienced on most other ships. Each evening there was a choice of 3 starters, 2 soups (but no salad option apart from an "always available" Caesar Salad), 5 main courses (generally 1 fish, 1 vegetarian and 3 meat) and "always available" salmon, chicken or sirloin steak, 3 desserts plus a choice of ice cream & sorbet. A cheeseboard, coffee/tea and different nice home-made after dinner sweets were offered in addition to a dessert. The menu descriptions were not always terribly accurate but there were some interesting options such as some game dishes and an excellent lobster thermidor, but there was a distinct lack of steak, which is Paul's favorite on the American ships. In fact the only beef offerings during the 2 weeks were a couple of roast beef meals (one of which, it was universally agreed, was awful), one "pot roasted rump steak" (which also turned out to be slices of roast beef) and one braised steak. A good but small beef wellington on the last formal night was the only meal he considered to be a "proper" cruise ship steak dinner. Most nights there was at least one choice which I would have categorized as a cheap, everyday meal such as shepherds pie, toad in the hole, sausages & mash etc and not the sort of dish I would expect to find on a cruise menu. That said, these dishes did seem to be quite popular. There were bread choices listed on the menu but all that the waiters ever seemed to have when they served bread was the same old soft rolls every evening - brown or white was the only choice. Each meal came served with a garnish of potato and/or a vegetable and the waiters served another type of potato and a second veg at the table. Dining - Other Venues The Waterside is the main buffet restaurant. It has serveries on both sides of the ship identical to the Horizon Court on Princess, but on Ventura each servery is divided in half by a rope and the dishes are then repeated on the other side, so basically you get half the number of items. We found the selections adequate but limited and unexciting. There was nothing cooked to order - so eggs for breakfast came ready-fried in trays from the galley and I missed the pancakes and waffles so readily available on American ships. The lunch selection was a fairly basic, an unchanging salad bar with a daily selection of cooked meats, smoked fish etc and usually one curry (or similar), one English pie cooked in individual dishes and one or two other hot dishes. The exception was the cake / dessert section which was fantastic both at lunch and afternoon tea time every day - a large section brimming with a huge assortment of individual cakes, tarts, slices etc and warm scones at tea time. The Beach Hut is the extension to the Waterside further to the aft. The food choices were the same but I preferred this area as it was brighter, lighter, generally less crowded and I thought the food from this servery tended to be hotter. It seems a silly complaint, but the worst thing about the buffet areas on Ventura is the ridiculous trays they provide ! They are huge and heavy (even before being loaded with crockery and food) unlike the usual lightweight melamine sort, and make it almost impossible for 2 tray-carrying diners to pass in an already crowded environment. Once you do find a table there is nowhere to put the trays and the staff who are so keen to force them into your hand when you enter the buffet are less keen to collect them up - although by the end of the cruise a number of us had become "tray avoidance experts" !. Frankie's Pizza bar is situated between the pools and the pizza were cooked to order in a few minutes and lovely. There is also a burger bar which we tried once and it seemed OK but we are not burger experts. We did not try any of the other dining options. East had an interesting oriental menu with a £15 per person cover charge and seemed to be quite busy. The White Room seemed rather out of the way on a high deck at the back of the ship. We went to look on the first day but could not find a menu (they don't display menus outside the main restaurants either). I think the cover charge was £20 each and we might have been tempted if Marco Pierre White had been on board himself - many people like us were surprised he was not there for the maiden voyage. We spoke to 3 or 4 couples who had dined in his restaurant and liked it, apparently the service was exceptional. There is also a Spanish Tapas bar in the "Ramblas" Bar. This area did not seem to be well used at all which is a shame as I thought it was rather nice. Entertainment We found the evening entertainment to be very good. Shows were repeated 3 times, at 7.15pm, 8.45pm and 10.45pm which was wonderful as it gave the opportunity to see 2 shows. We tended to see our first choice of entertainment, usually the main theatre show, at 7.15 then eat and then see a show in one of the other venues at 10.45 if we were not too tired. It was interesting that many of the P & O regulars that we spoke to were disappointed by the entertainment. There were perhaps too many comedians, and some were better than others, but there was always another type of show instead and we found at least one every night that we thoroughly enjoyed, and as you only get one show on most ships the second one was a bonus anyway. The Production shows were all excellent and original, especially "Chronicles" and "Plunder" - the latter takes place near the pool and I don't want to give too much away but it would be best seen from the deck above, we were near the pool bar and did not have a good view or sound quality but the show is fantastic. In addition to the main show in the Arena Theatre there was generally a gameshow and/or comedy act in the midship Tamarind lounge and a music act in the Havana nightclub at the back of the ship. These were also repeated 3 times per evening. An excellent young classical pianist called Maria King was one of the most popular entertainers, performing several times with some varied programmes and not all classical, she had a lovely personality too - some people said she was funnier than the comedians !! The cruise director was very pleasant but his role seemed to be purely an introducer/announcer rather than an entertainer or personality in his own right. Daytime entertainment we considered quite poor. There was an excellent history lecturer on board but apart from him there was little of general interest, the only regular quiz was at 11pm each evening, although in the last couple of days they did add in a couple of afternoon events. There were the standard spa-sales-based talks and some computer and camera courses (which I think were chargeable) but nothing that particularly appealed to us. The "Horizon" daily newspaper looked full of events but many were multiple-listings, eg the Cirque Ventura's bungee trampoline (which cost £3 for about 5 minutes) was listed every hour. The best event of the cruise was the "British Sail Away Party" from Gibraltar, which was a bit like Last Night of the Proms and nearly everyone was on deck. Children Very few on our cruise and the ones that were on board seemed to spend most of their time with the various childrens' clubs. Apparently 300 children were due on board on the next cruise and up to 800 in the summer ! The childrens' facilities are well advertised and probably good. Noddy even put in an appearance at the welcome party !! The Ship - A Little More Detail Ventura has 4 pools, a small one on the back terrace, two main pools on the lido deck (one with a retractable roof) and a lovely "endless pool" in the spa area where you can swim against the current. The sunbeds around this pool were the only ones to have cushions, the ones elsewhere on the ship being less than comfortable. No ship can have everything, but the facility we missed most on the Ventura was a card/games room. There were non-hosted bridge & whist games in one of the restaurants at certain times but the only place to play a private game was in one of the bars or in the buffet restaurant. We heard others bemoaning the lack of a cinema, dance floor and chairs on deck. But Ventura has a lot of good points too, most of the public rooms (with the exception of the Havana lounge where many of the seats have blocked views of the stage) are very nice, comfortable and friendly. Bar prices seemed very reasonable compared to the ships we are used to, at about £2.50 for a pint of beer, spirit or glass of wine. Cocktails started at about £4. There does not seem to be an additional "gratuity" added to bar bills which is a pleasant change. Likewise you tip the cabin steward (and anybody else you wish) in cash at the end of the cruise whatever you see fit, there does not even seem to be a recommended amount. Again, this seems far more like a tip than the fixed $10 day (or whatever) added to the bill on most ships which has become more like an addition to the cruise cost than a gratuity. Ports of Call I intended this review to focus on the ship, as there is a lot of information already on CruiseCritic.com about the standard western Med ports that we visited - Barcelona, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Villefranche & Gibraltar. There were also 2 new ports for us. Santa Margherita which I had considered to be the jumping off point for Portofino but in fact was a really lovely Italian resort in its own right. We tendered right into town and had a lovely day exploring the interesting shops, harbor and beaches. Alicante was our second new port and had a lovely long beach but other than a lovely harbourfront promenade the town seemed rather grotty. I suspect the better area would have been along the beach towards Benidorm where the hotels seemed to be located. Another time we will take the tram that ran from the shuttle bus drop-off and explore in that direction. This was a maiden cruise and we had expected some hiccups but the only real problem we encountered was at the first tender port where apparently there had been some technical problems with some of the tenders and it caused a huge queue. There were also long queues to get on and off the ship at some other ports and going by the anger expressed by a lot of passengers I gather this is not a usual P & O failing, so I am sure the organization will improve with a little time and experience. Summary I do not intend this to be a negative review - Ventura is a nice ship, we enjoyed our cruise very much and would be very happy to sail on her again. However, I don't think we are likely to take many P & O cruises for the very same reasons that we have not done so in the past - namely itinerary and price. This was a good cruise without being particularly memorable and there was nothing that made us feel we had had good value for the extra money over other cruise lines. That said, for anyone who likes several sea days on a larger ship and prefers not to fly then the Ventura will be a good choice. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Hi, I am new to this site, I have read many of the posts but have only just joined. I thought I would post a positive view of Ventura to maybe reassure those still to sail on her. It's a bit long. We cruised on her third cruise ... Read More
Hi, I am new to this site, I have read many of the posts but have only just joined. I thought I would post a positive view of Ventura to maybe reassure those still to sail on her. It's a bit long. We cruised on her third cruise Canaries Discovery and it was one of the best cruises we have ever had. We have cruised mainly with P&O on most of the ships in the fleet and as a family group are made up of two over sixty and two mid thirties so can give a good overall experience. Two members of our group have previous sailed on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Sea's, which is the same size as Ventura and were a little concerned before we went that we would not like the ship, as we hated Navigator. We need not have worried Ventura is a beautiful ship well laid out and is a cut above, in our opinion, to Navigator. We arrived at the port earlier than ever before before check in had opened, no problem getting into the port. The queue was outside the door but when we finally got to the door we were quickly directed to the Gold desk which was empty and we were on board in about 15 mins. You enter the ship for the first time at the atrium and being gold members of P&O we were directed in The Tamarind Club for gold drinks, this was a definite wow first impression. We had a cabin on P deck for the four adults in our party and it was very spacious compared to some of the other cabins we have had on the other P&O ships. The new style open plan walk in wardrobe is a huge improvement we usually struggle to get all our clothes hung up. Drawer space is severely lacking but the shelves in the walk in wardrobe do make up for this. Bathroom is snug but adequate, open shelves instead of a cupboard but a decent size. Temple Spa shower gel instead of the previous Molton Brown, OK but we did prefer the Molton Brown and will be taking our own in the future. The position of this cabin turned out to be ideal, just off the atrium so no long walks from one end of the ship to the other and it was handy for many of the public areas. Tazzine/atrium. Tazzine is a great coffee bar, which utilizes the squishy atrium seating as well. Good range of coffee and snacks. Very popular. The Atrium spans three decks and has mood lighting which changes colors and thus changes the look of the area. Well used at the bottom with seating for Tazzines and could also be used a s seating for the library. Chapter One. Library/Book Shop. Small and no seating, but it is very light and open plan and extra seating is not really appropriate as there is plenty in the Atrium. As a bookshop it was in my opinion very lacking in bog standard paperback holiday reading (I run a bookshop I should know) Very heavy on notebooks and gift books which all have their place in a book shop as long as it is big enough for it not to impact on the book range. Lots of Macro Pierre White cookbooks. Cybersudy Didn't use this, wandered in late one night just to see what it was like, plenty of machine and well laid out. Art Gallery. This in my opinion is a welcome addition, rather than random pieces appearing and those dreaded art auction, pieces are displayed properly and are not of the usual artists seen on all the other P&O ships. Talks were given and at no time did you feel pressured into buying, it was more about learning about the art. It is situated just off the atrium and as our cabin was that way we walked through several times a day and the people in there are very friendly. Cinnamon Restaurant. This was the freedom dining restaurant and we only used this restaurant once, for the Gold Portunus Lunch. As with all the restaurant it was well laid out and tastefully decorated. Saffron Restaurant This was one of the club dining restaurant and the one we used for breakfast, again well laid out decorated and done out in light wood. Bay Tree Restaurant This was our restaurant and it is slightly awkward to get to. You have to go up to Prom deck walk to the back and then go down a deck, as this cannot be accessed any other way. Strange at first but we soon got used to it. (Did hear a lot of moaning about this though) Shops A fair mix of stuff, however the daily specials were very repetitive. Red Bar. The Red Bar was one of our favorite places, expensive drinks in the evening and coffees during the day. Comfy chairs and squishy sofas. Cool dEcor with columns of lights and red smashed glass tables. Ramblas Only used this bar one, seem at little under used on our cruise, very nicely set out with several separate areas. A drink under the olive tree is a must. Theatre This was smaller than we thought it would be but we never had any problems getting a seat, middle show very popular. The Tamarind Club. This was a sumptuous lounge, excellent for the afternoon films and was then used mainly for the comedy club in the evening. Very popular. Used for dance lessons during the day. Havana We spent quite a bit of time in here during the evening, mainly for the shows which were great. Metropolis This was our favorite bar for the evening, you do have to get in there quickly as due to its size and popularity it soon filled up. The video wall is brilliant, granted some places were more interesting to look at than others and the need to change the picture more often but it was a great talking point. Cirque We kept meaning to go up here but never managed it. The Beach House/Waterside. A little disappointing on size and choice, a lot smaller than we had expected but we managed OK. Should have been more like Arcadia. Frankies Pizzeria/Grill. Excellent venues for alternative lunch food. A little limited on choices and a few menu changes would have been nice. Pools. We swim every morning at 7ish and so tried all the pools to find the one we liked best. Never tried the one at the back but the Laguna pool was our favorite. All the pools are very deep and we could not touch the bottom in any of them. Tried out the endless pool, very good idea but the design of the bottom of the pool is poor. Thermal suite One of our party used this every morning and found it be be OK but did miss the hydrotherapy pool that you get on Arcadia. Deck Space. We thought the promenade deck was a little on the thin side but adequate to walk around, the bit at the front was fun. There was no shortage of sun beds and lots of different areas depending on what you were looking for. Food/Drink The food was excellent, we did not use East or the White Room as the menus did not appeal. The range of drinks has improved and it was fun trying all the new cocktails Staff. We had brilliant staff where ever we went, much more friendly than we have experienced in the past. There was a lot more staff working the decks so you never had to wait long for one to wander past your sun lounger. Overall. Ventura is a great addition to the P&O fleet and she should be viewed as a ship in her own right and not compared to the others in the fleet. We have noted several things that we feel would have worked better from the other ships but do not compare her in any other way. There were only 137 children on board when we cruised on her and it may feel a different ship with a lot of children on board but there are plenty of places to go for a bit of peace. Go to have a good time and you will. Hope this helps reassure those still to travel. Cheers Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Just got back from the second cruise of Ventura - P & Os new - and much hyped - cruise ship. This was our ninth cruise - tried different ships and different lines and - what a shame - this was our least enjoyable. We weren't ... Read More
Just got back from the second cruise of Ventura - P & Os new - and much hyped - cruise ship. This was our ninth cruise - tried different ships and different lines and - what a shame - this was our least enjoyable. We weren't expecting miracles from the Itinerary "Iberia" - done most of it before and knew it was nothing special - we came for the ship, but they might have told us Brest (in the rain) was closed for a Bank Holiday - we were lucky and heard it from early returnees. NB all transport was free - a plus point. It's actually a little difficult to nail down the reasons for our reaction - because nothing was terrible - or even poor - but then most of it was "fair" , with a little "good" thrown in. Cabin (balcony) was a good thing - reasonable size, fair layout - as good as most and better than one or two. Service was fair without being exceptional. Freedom dining was bit half-hearted - you could turn up and wait - or pre-book - which was a limited sort of freedom. Food in the restaurants was fair to good - but never outstanding - with oddly limited choice(3 starters?)We had pre-booked the White Room - (NB it booked out for the week the first night)that was good but not outstanding compared to other speciality restaurants on other ships)WE didn't try the speciality Oriental, East, which seemed over-priced at an extra £20 or the Spanish (OK at extra £5)They messed up my pre-booking and confirmation at the White Room something rotten - took 5 trips to get it right. The buffet restaurant was over-crowded and also severely limited in choice. Entertainment during the day, except for that for children, was almost non-existent - at least for our sort of thing - talks etc. Saw very little of any entertainments staff generally. Evening entertainment was mixed but on the whole a plus. The headline act of Brian Conley was excellent, and the dance and gymnastic troupe we thought outstanding. There was a show and another act each night and each gave three shows (a first for us). Some of the comedians in the Comedy Club were awful,and a special talk by Mark Williams really very poor - was he nervous or just terrible without a script? The public rooms and the Atrium and theatre were - OK again - never something special. If you saw the advertisement for the "special Scalextric" you were expecting something special - no, it was a track set up in one of the show -rooms - a bit pathetic really. I'm sure I saw a "puff" for a 3-D cinema - must check - there were films run in one of the show rooms but no actual cinema and no 3D. TV was a bit lazy - the channel for the Cruise Director never had anything on it for the whole cruise - other channels had "interactive" choices but all the good films were an extra charge,- quite a lot for children. The pools - there were several - two outdoor. My wife likes it warm so only ever uses indoor. The indoor pool was small and usually held lots of children. The Spa one was smaller and the current machine was broken throughout - she enjoyed the steam rooms though. I know they like extensive reviews here but I find them tedious so I'll close. When I re-read this it's difficult to explain why it was (as it was) a disappointment - but most experienced cruisers had the same reaction. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We went a Ventura cruise for two weeks in the Med. We are experienced P&O cruisers aged early 50s. The basic facts, as objectively as possible: Embarkation was fairly swift a Southampton but the ship left port late due to ... Read More
We went a Ventura cruise for two weeks in the Med. We are experienced P&O cruisers aged early 50s. The basic facts, as objectively as possible: Embarkation was fairly swift a Southampton but the ship left port late due to underestimating the amount of baggage to be loaded. The ship is huge and 90% of it is done very well. Two spacious show lounges plus the theatre. Unfortunately, despite P&O adding an additional performance at each of the shows (three times a night instead of two) the theatre and lounges are not enough for 3,200 passengers. The old activities of flower arranging and making a corsage for Ladies Night have been replace with computer skills, circus lessons, etc. Shore excursions were fine from our perspective and there is a much wider choice than a few years ago. We tried the new "Freedom Dining" option which worked reasonably well although "freedom" meant 7.00 pm or 9.00 pm usually and only if you booked at 8.00am two days in advance. Entertainment was a mix of good and bad...not sure the punk rock group was such a good idea. Martin Gold was quite a funny comedian but some of the others were rubbish. Steward service in the bars was good. The ship did not seem as clean as other P & O ships. Now to my subjective view. Ventura is essentially Butlins at sea. P& O have made a great mistake with this ship with their obvious intention to grow their business outside of the established model. I may be wrong but only if they think they can fill this ship every cruise with families with children, and then only those who are happy that there is no control over their children. It is full at the moment because P&O's loyal cruisers are trying it out as well as their new demographic group. In the whole two weeks we were on board I did not hear one "cruiser" say anything other than they would never cruise on her for a second time. We ourselves have cancelled a cruise on Ventura booked for next year. Children are everywhere, the lounges, all the pools, Jacuzzis used as paddling pools....family friendly maybe...but not children controlled surely!! It just doesn't have the feel of the other ships...like it has dropped down a class. No risk assessments can have been done as children as young as two are allowed to jump into the pools without supervision. I wonder when the first major accident will happen. None of the pools are shallower than 6 feet and the very small children's paddling pool was closed throughout the cruise. There are no adult only bars. The poor replacement for a Crows Nest bar on other P&O ships (Metropolis) was full with children running and playing. Very sophisticated...NOT. There are not enough sun beds even though they are packed in like sardines and, unlike other P&O liners, no one stops the "towels on the beds mentality". Ironically the famous P&O non-common sense rule comes into play here as well. We had a massive balcony with two tiny non-reclining chairs and a small table. If all the balconies had had decent seating the pressure on the sun beds on deck would have been alleviated. We warned the reception desk on the second day that using automatic hand cleaning dispensers in the buffet instead of the good old method of a member of the crew proffering it would lead to a Norovirus outbreak and it did on the fourth day. Drinks menus disappeared, as did salt & pepper cellars and the buffet was served to you. In fact anything that might transfer germs. Another classic case of stable doors and horses bolting! The only exception was the ice cream vendor who continued to use his fingers to add sprigs of mint to ice creams at all times. Even after we reported it twice!! The reception desk needs a special mention. An example..and by no means the only one. We complained about our TV not working five times. Eventually an office came down and told us it wasn't working. Duh! In the end I fixed it myself by rebooting the interactive system. Whatever was said to reception went in one ear and out of the other. A classic "lights on but nobody home". The dinner menus have lost the option to have a steak, chicken, salmon option to the table d'hôte although I am informed it is still available on a wink wink nudge nudge system. The problem with a bigger ship becomes apparent in port. Getting on and off is more difficult with longer queues. At tender ports especially this resulted in long waits onshore to get back to the ship. I have seen a review of this cruise already which was basically thumbs down but they did make the point that if people didn't like the kids why cruise on a Family Friendly ship. I think the point was missed. We don't mind well behaved children on a cruise. We used to take ours. But this is a ship where any complaint about children is greeted by the response that it is "up to the parents". In this day and age that is laughable. And what adult would risk going into a small pool filled with children in today's climate...not I for one. Children rule on this ship. And they will do until next season when P&O will see the cancellations and the poor bookings and think again. We had 230 children on board. I was told this will increase to 600 in the school holidays. I pity anyone sailing on Ventura then. God bless Aurora...she still has children...but is never taken over by them. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We took the second cruise from Southampton - Iberia cruise all along the Atlantic coast to Lisbon. Ports called at: Vigo, Lisbon, Balboa and Brest. The crew were unused to treating passengers - when asked for milk in the buffet for my ... Read More
We took the second cruise from Southampton - Iberia cruise all along the Atlantic coast to Lisbon. Ports called at: Vigo, Lisbon, Balboa and Brest. The crew were unused to treating passengers - when asked for milk in the buffet for my coffee I was shown the pre-packed little cartons - not what I wanted and it took a while to get the staff to understand that I wanted "real" milk - and help was not offered without asking! We waited in traffic for 2 hours to get to the ship and onboard - the docks at Southampton are not used to dealing with 3 very large ships. (Queen Victoria-3000 passengers and the Independence of the Seas- 4000 passengers (maiden voyage) and us with 3000. Makes me tired just thinking of all the numbers!! Room very clean - but overall the ship seems very bland - no wow factor - aimed at the family market - so there is a large area purely for children - no adults. The casino shares space with a general use bar - no real comfortable seating - and noisy - they held the bingo here and with all the slots going it was hard work. The smell of smoke and the haze it created not good either Bar staff in general did not seem terribly interested in serving you - in fact in the theatre we gave up and sent the men out to get the drinks - hope it improves. The entertainment was excellent - they had one night only well known faces ( for UK people) and the caliber of the onboard entertainers was good - Chronicles was the only thing I did not like too much - a personal thing. Sea days did not seem to have any activities. Shops very expensive. Food - hit and miss when it was good it was very good - if not very plain and boring - the staff again did not engage with us - except for our wine waiter Roel - excellent - by the second day we were ordering our wine for the next day and getting the bar ordered for the men. 5 stars to him!! If you wanted the new Marco Pierre White onboard restaurant - tough it was fully booked before we left! We asked about lunch service on sea days - NO! The SMELL - yuck - the Tamarind Bar had a problem for 4 nights with the overpowering smell of sewage - it got worse - and then completely disappeared! We found general seating on the ship to be hard and modern - hope it wears in a bit - the bar at the back on the top - Metropolis was great for the backdrops ( moving to different areas of the world, themed nightly). My husband not happy that bars closed - even when it was full of people still drinking! The Havana Club needs a refit immediately - the lined lights are awful and you cannot see over them to the stage or dance floor! This was a first for me on a P&O ship and lots of people complained about the lack of service, smell and told us that Aurora and Oriana were much better and not to judge the whole fleet on the basis of this cruise - so I shall pass the information along! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
This was our 2nd P&O cruise, the 1st one was on Arcadia and we have cruised a number of times with Celebrity and RCI.I am 38 and my husband is 45, no kids. We chose this cruise as it was only 7 nights and would give us a chance to try ... Read More
This was our 2nd P&O cruise, the 1st one was on Arcadia and we have cruised a number of times with Celebrity and RCI.I am 38 and my husband is 45, no kids. We chose this cruise as it was only 7 nights and would give us a chance to try the much anticipated new P&O ship. Embarkation at Southampton was relatively smooth although we did arrive a little bit too early to park the car so had to wait half an hour or so until previous passengers had finished disembarking! The ship: The design of the ship doesn't 'flow' too well, mainly because of the different dining rooms, you have to walk down to the Bay Tree because the galley is in between. We did miss the grand multi level dining rooms of RCI and Celebrity; also there is no background music whole you dine which would have been nice. We also missed the lack of a walking/jogging track on the open decks, again this is due to the fact you can't walk all round the pool decks on one level. However the main pool does have a retractable roof which makes it an all weather venue. Public Rooms: We thought the choice of bars was fantastic, we especially liked the Metropolis at the top of the ship with its video wall of a different city sunset every evening with themed cocktails and drinks to match, very sophisticated! Ramblas was also a great venue and we enjoyed the tapas (£2.50 for 3). The Tamarind Club and the Red Bar are also very opulent, swish drinking venues! The atrium doesn't have an immediate WOW factor but it's a pleasant area with four huge black granite arches and comfy sitting areas. Entertainment: The entertainment was outstanding; I think they must have fit 2 weeks worth of shows into one. The production shows were all highly enjoyable especially Masquerade a Andrew Lloyd Webber extravaganza and the Saturday Night Fever show was as good as the West End. The couple who do the acrobatics and aerial performances were amazing and they featured in all the production shows. Brian Conley came onboard in Lisbon and packed the theatre with his hilarious show. There was also the Dusty Springfield tribute and the actor Mark Williams (from the Fast show and Harry Potter films) gave a talk about his career as well as live bands in various venues so really there was no chance to be bored in the evenings! The food: On the whole we enjoyed our meals. We ate in the Bay tree restaurant although there were only 4 of us on a table for 8. There should have been others but they didn't show so I felt sorry as the waiters would be down on their tips. The food was very good and well presented and we enjoyed all our meals there. We ate in the White Room and was glad I pre purchased the gift package at the price of £46.50 for dinner for 2 with a bottle of red or white Chilean wine as it worked out cheaper than paying £20 per person just for the dinner. The service in there was very good and it had a nice relaxed atmosphere. We enjoyed the food although I wasn't wowed like I am with the specialty restaurants on the Celebrity ships, but a very pleasant evening all told. We didn't dine at East, the Asian specialty restaurant purely for the fact we had such good meals in the dining room although we would have dined there if we were on a longer cruise. The buffet restaurants were an improvement on the Arcadia's limited choices, the Beach House being better to navigate than the Waterside as you couldn't walk from one side to the other without having to go all the way out and back in again! We didn't dine there very often but when we did we enjoyed the food especially the curries! Our cabin: We chose a balcony cabin on C deck which proved to be a good choice as the balconies on this deck are double depth to the other decks. It was a nice quiet area towards the aft, our cabin steward, Cezar did his job very well and we liked the tea and coffee tray which you don't get on any of the American ships! The interactive TV kept freezing up but they seemed to have rectified this by the end of the cruise .When it worked there were loads of film and TV programmes and music videos to watch on demand. You can also check your on board account. Fitness facilities: The Oasis pool was supposed to be a relaxing adults only area but there is a sports court above it so the atmosphere is somewhat spoilt by the sounds of golf balls and the like! Also the endless pool feature was not working due to it being damaged by rough weather on the previous cruise, which brings me to another comment. I have read that the ship doesn't handle rough seas too well. We were very fortunate to have very calm seas but one of the spa staff commented that a lot of people were sea sick when the ship was in rough seas because of the flat bottomed design. I have to say that we once saw the Golden Princess (same design as Ventura) pitching and rolling terribly whilst we felt very little movement on the Zenith which was a much smaller ship, so there may be some truth in that. The gym was well equipped with all the latest fitness equipment. They did run some fitness classes, like Pilates, Zumba and spinning but these required you to sign up for 3 at £21.00, I was a little disappointed that they didn't have any free step or aerobics classes although I'm sure they will have on longer cruises. The spa was extensive and expensive; they even had a qualified dentist who would whiten your teeth for £198! Some of the treatments were discounted by 20% on port days. Ports visited: After a day at sea we arrived at Vigo in Northern Spain. The main attraction from this port is Santiago de Compostela and there were many ships tours offering this, however we decided to just have a wander around the old town and sample the wonderful seafood the region is famous for. About 5 mins walk from the ship is an area where they sell plates of fresh oysters for 8 euros a dozen and my husband was in heaven! It was nice to mingle with the locals and enjoy a glass of wine or 2! The next day we arrived in Lisbon after a spectacular approach under the suspension bridge. We took the free shuttle bus into the city centre and again sampled some of the local fare and wandered around the streets. After a nice sunny calm day at sea we arrived in Bilbao, Spain. The ship docks 10km from the town centre so another free shuttle service was provided. We really liked Bilbao and could definitely spend a weekend there; the old town was wonderful with lots off trendy tapas bars and great shops. Another attraction here is the modern Guggenheim art museum which the old couple on our table thought was a complete waste of time, of course if you are into modern art I'm sure it is a must see! Our final port of call was Brest in France which was unfortunately a bit of a let down as it was raining and also a public holiday in France. The majority of shops and cafes were closed so we would have been better off staying on the ship! I'm sure when the sun shines and the shops are open its a completely different place. Disembarkation: This went very smoothly, we were off the ship by 9.30 and the car park was only a short walk with a luggage cart,(porters were available if needed). In conclusion, we enjoyed our week on the Ventura, if we could find a ship with the design of Royal Caribbean, the food and service of Celebrity and the entertainment and reasonably priced drinks of P&O that would be the perfect combination, until then we will just have to keep sailing on all of them! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
I have just returned from the Baltic Splendours cruise - my first foray into this type of holiday. I travelled with my husband and both of us are in our early 50's, so fell fairly in the middle of the age range of those on board. ... Read More
I have just returned from the Baltic Splendours cruise - my first foray into this type of holiday. I travelled with my husband and both of us are in our early 50's, so fell fairly in the middle of the age range of those on board. Check In We were due to embark between 2 and 4pm and joined the queue at about 2.01. We then sat in a queue of traffic for very nearly an hour. We had chosen the on-port parking as we thought it would be easier but having seen the busses all speed past the cars we would choose an off-port parking scheme another time. However, once we had handed our car and luggage over the check-in process was very quick and efficient. We found our cabin easily and one of our cases was waiting for us. The other two turned up within the hour. The cabin struck us as more spacious than we were expecting. We liked the way there was an open hanging area as I would imagine doors would be a bit of a nuisance in a confined space. There were enough hangers for our use. There is a cupboard with 5 shelves in, which also contained the safe, two bedside tables with two drawers each and another large cupboard with one shelf in the dressing table/desk. In addition there are some small open shelves. We found the storage so adequate that we did not use the cupboard in the desk at all. There was a tray of sweets, a single rose and tea/coffee making facilities with biscuits. The tea, coffee etc were replenished every day. The bathroom was compact but with plenty of space to put everything. Two large towels, two small towels and two flannels were provided. There were also two blue towels for use by the pool. There was a lot to read in the bathroom as there were little labels on everything but I welcomed the invitation to put towels to be changed in the shower otherwise they would be left, as I think it is such a waste to change them every day. Our cabin steward looked after us royally and was always friendly and polite when we met him. I did not sleep very well the first night as there was a constant sound, very like a large fan. I thought at first it was just the climate control fan but gradually realized that our cabin was next to the funnel. If you look on the deck plan and your cabin is next to a large blank area then this is it. As the noise is a constant one I soon got used to it and after the first couple of nights slept much better than I do at home. Dining As we had booked fairly last minute we were on the Freedom Dining option. We started booking every day but as we tended to eat early soon found out that this was not necessary, although I understand there was sometimes a wait if you wanted to eat at around 8.30. We thought the food was excellent. The choice was not wide (only 3 starters, for instance) but we were never unable to find something we fancied. Having said that we are open to new experiences and tried several things that we had never even heard of before and lots that we had not experienced before. I would imagine that people who were "meat and two veg" type of diners may have struggled sometimes and fast foodies definitely would have, but then they had the choice of going to the self-service restaurant. The waiting staff were attentive and mostly very efficient. I did hear one person say that she felt they were not as attentive because you didn't have the same waiter every night and so they were not trying too hard for their tip. I felt this was a very cynical point of view and did not find it to be borne out by any of the staff we had. We were served with cheerfulness and flashes of delightful senses of humor, which were always appropriate. Sometimes we dined with others on a larger table and met some delightful and charming people. Others were quite hard work and once I very nearly got up and left when one man was not only moaning about everything and everyone but when we said we were having a very nice holiday started lecturing us on why we couldn't possibly be. For breakfast and lunch we used the Waterside and Beach House self service restaurants. It was sometimes quite difficult to find a table, especially for the first couple of days. However, most people were happy to share and it was another good way to meet new people (I twice missed things I wanted to go to because we had met such lovely people and were enjoying talking to them). It also seemed to get easier as the cruise went on, so whether meal times became more staggered or whether people were taking their food elsewhere to eat I don't know. We also used the Saffron restaurant for a waiter-served breakfast on one occasion, which was very nice but we preferred the self-service. We also ate at the White Room, which was an absolute delight. Everything was cooked to perfection and served beautifully. We tried to book again, but they were full. We did not use East (but heard good reports of it) or the Ramblas tapas bar (where we understand the choice was a little limited) Entertainment We found this to be mixed. There were six "comedy nights" in the Tamarind bar, each consisting of two comedians. Each two did a set each for two nights and then two new ones came on board, so we saw six comedians in all. Some were very funny and some died a rather horrid death in full public view. It's all down to personal taste, I suppose, but given the age of the audience "lager lout and shagging" material did not hit the mark and perhaps the booking of that particular comedian was a mistake. The Ventura Theatre Company worked their socks off. We didn't see all the shows but I think only missed one. They did 4 different shows in the course of our cruise, three times each night they were on. Sometimes the material they had to work with was better than others but they really did try their best and mostly succeeded very well. It was hard to get a seat in the theatre for the middle show but if we couldn't get there early just went and did something else first and went to the late show. The other entertainers in the theatre were generally good and Gary T Thompson was brilliant, as were the Soul Brothers. Bars They are plentiful and varied. We favored Tamarind and Metropolis, but it wasn't always easy to get a seat. Tamarind had a band that played music to dance to, Metropolis had a jazz band and a video wall showing realtime images of various cities by night. There were also: Ramblas which had a Spanish theme and was very handy for a drink after the theatre; Exchange which was supposed to be like a pub and was the only bar you could smoke in so we tended to avoid it; Red which very often had a pianist tinkling the ivories and was very laid back; Tazzine which was a coffee bar with delicious hot chocolate and Havana which was the largest and most underused. The seating in Havana was surrounded by waist high partitions, which meant that when seated you couldn't see the stage properly. It was also used for the family entertainment and as they were rather thin on the ground on our cruise, always seemed to be rather empty. The bar waiters circulated frequently and efficiently. Swimming etc There are four pools, which when weather allowed were well used. The Oasis pool is for adults only but all the others are family pools. One had a roof that could be open or closed as weather permitted. The Oasis pool was supposed to have a machine that created a current for continuous swimming but it did not work for the whole of our cruise. Pools and Jacuzzis were often roped off - presumably for cleaning and maintenance. The gym was well equipped with plenty of machines of torture. We did not use the hair and beauty facilities. The sun decks were well equipped with plenty of sunbeds and we never failed to find one when we wanted one. Excursions As this was our first cruise we booked excursions in most of the ports, but next time I probably wouldn't. In most cases there was either a shuttle bus (sometimes free) or a hop-on hop-off tour (and quite often both) that would get you to the city center or around the major sites. Having said that we did enjoy the excursions we took part in and for St Petersburg it was by far the easiest thing to do because of having to purchase an individual visa if you were not part of an organized group. The worst one was probably Tallinn, where the guide used a remote microphone and we all had headsets. Unfortunately the pitch of voice of the guide and the questionable quality of the equipment made it very difficult to hear what she was saying and I came away feeling I new nothing of the beautiful city. That one I would definitely do by myself with a guide book. The Bad Bits Sorry, but nothing is perfect and there were some things that were not done well. It did say in the book that was sent out in advance of the cruise that a photocopy of the picture page of your passport was needed if you were doing an excursion in St Petersburg. Unfortunately it did not say it anywhere near the excursion pages but in the small print at the front. Being a voracious reader I saw it and went prepared but many, many people had to queue for a long time to get photocopies on board. Big print on the St Petersburg excursion pages would have completely prevented that happening. In general the size of the public spaces was not enough for the number of people on board. For instance the dance floor in Tamarind could really only take about 50 people comfortably. This one is really petty, but worth a mention. The knives for dinner were simply not sharp enough. They must be almost new but they had no cutting edge. This sometimes gave the impression that meat was tough but once you had hacked your way through it the chewing was easy. The staff on Reception failed, on each occasion that I went there, to give anyone their full attention. I work on a reception desk so I do know a bit about it. They were always listening in to what their colleagues were doing and nearly every time the person who was supposed to be helping me would wander off and get involved with another person's query without being asked to. This meant the queue was much longer than it ever needed to be. The excursion to Tallinn was advertised as being one-and-a-half hours walking. Two evenings before they sent out a flier saying this was a misprint and it was in fact 3 hours of walking. The flier invited anyone who may have difficulty with this to visit Explorers and talk to them. Only - when you did go to Explorers it was to find a notice on the desk saying that they were closed until 7pm of the day after next making it almost impossible to speak to them before the excursion. Poor. There was not a great deal of entertainment laid on during sea days. Films were shown but usually for those not going ashore on excursion days. It would have been very nice to have put a couple of extra on for sea days as the weather was very windy and it was not always possible to be doing something outside. The Tate Modern talks were OK but the other major thing offered was digital photography and some of those had a "nominal" fee (sometimes as nominal as £20). I did go to some interesting talks on Russian art but would have appreciated more for adults to do that was not a quiz or bingo. In conclusion We had a lovely holiday and really enjoyed sampling so many different countries. We thought the food excellent, the staff hard working and the entertainment good to excellent. We also met some lovely people whose company we enjoyed. However, I feel that P&O are in danger of falling between 2 stools here. They are pushing the family side of Ventura and seem to have failed to realize that a lot of their loyal cruising customers would also want to sample her delights. Nearly all of them are saying that they will not go on her again so P&O will have to find a new customer base for her and children are at school for a lot of the year. One of the main gripes of the regulars was that the captain was not much in evidence, which was certainly true. We didn't mind but lots of people did. And therein lies the rub, really. We did meet some very pleasant sociable people but I have to say that by and large I have never met such a load of old moaners in my life and it is that which would put me off cruising as my next holiday. We got to the stage where we avoided questions like "are you having a nice time" and "is this your first cruise" because it seemed to start people off on a rant. I think the lady behind me in a queue once was a fine example. As she stood behind me she said "Another queue. It's all queuing on here. I'm fed up with it". There was one other person in front of me! No wonder the captain kept a low profile! Read Less
Ventura Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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