If you have been following my recent series of posts about being on a P&O cruise of the Caribbean, you will have read all about the amazing places that I visited. If not, you can find a full list of the posts here. This final post is a review of the amazing ship that I spent two weeks on, The Ventura.
The Ventura was launched in 2008 and is one of the biggest of P&O’s ships. The facilities on board are very varied and you do truly feel like you are floating around in a five star hotel.
Perhaps the thing that most people associate with cruising is the abundance of high quality food and Ventura certainly did not disappoint. Included in the price we paid was full use of the dining rooms for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner; full access to a 24 hour buffet; and ‘snacks’ from the poolside pizzeria and burger bar. In addition to this, you could buy ice cream, drinks and you could also pay a small supplement to eat in one of the other restaurants on board. All of the food was delicious and I think you could quite easily avoid paying anything over what you had already paid (aside from drinks – although water is free).
We went to every one of the restaurants and I would highly recommend them all. The best thing about going to the other restaurants was the variety. I think my favourite would have to be East, which was the Atul Kotcher restaurant. I love Asian food anyway and this was a perfect blend of lots of different Asian dishes and cuisines. We paid £15 each (I think) for a full three course meal and it was phenomenal. We also went to The White Room, the Marco Pierre White restaurant, where I had the best prawns I have ever tasted. We went for one of my friend’s birthday while we were on board and it was a great place for a special occasion. There are a couple of tables on a private deck too so it would be worth booking early in the cruise to see if you can manage to get one of those. We were just in the restaurant itself so we were a little disappointed that we couldn’t get an outside table, but as soon as the food arrived we forgot all about any disappointment! This restaurant cost £25 each and was well worth it. The Glasshouse and The Beach House were £10 and £5 respectively and both were well worth a visit too.
Perhaps because of all of the amazing food on offer, there was a great range of ways to burn off all those extra calories! The gym is right at the front of the ship, above the Captain’s bridge, which makes for amazing views while you work out – it is definitely far better than the usual arrangement of staring at your own increasingly sweaty and red face in a terribly placed full length mirror. There were some exercise classes available too but I have to say that I thought these were overpriced – £8 for a Pilates class when you have already paid quite a lot for the holiday seems a bit steep to me. I didn’t actually go to any of the classes so I can’t comment on the quality of them. There were also golf and football facilities but as neither is really my thing I didn’t even venture up to the pitches.
There are lots of pools on board: The Laguna, The Beachcomber, The Terrace and The Endless Pool in the Oasis Spa. Laguna was the family-friendly party pool so there was load music, the pizzeria/burger bar, a bar on the terrace above and a stage where there would be daily performances from the Ship’s entertainers. This was also where the sail away parties were held which were always a lot of fun. The Beachcomber was where I spent most of my time though – it was a good mix of being quitter and more relaxing than the Laguna but not as quiet as the Endless Pool, which was an adults only pool. The variety of pools was really good though because it meant you could decide based on what you were in the mood for.
Bars and Entertainment
There were so many bars on the ship that I won’t mention them all here. My favourite bar was Metropolis because it was really relaxed and it had quite a different atmosphere from most of the other places on the ship. The décor was all based around major cities in the world which was really cool because it reminded you of the fact that you were actually travelling and the ship actually goes to all of the locations that the big screen was alternating between. It is so easy to forget that you are moving because the ship is so steady and feels so stable that it’s always funny when you suddenly remember, like when you go out on deck.
The club on Ventura was called Havana but I have to say that I didn’t like it nearly as much as the club on Aurora. Part of the issue was that because of the time of year, me and my friend Elle were the youngest people on the ship by about 30 years whereas because we went on Aurora in the Summer there were loads of people about our age. Aside from this though, the major problem in my eyes was the layout. I think that too much emphasis had been placed on it being a show bar for it to ever be an effective club: the dance floor was pretty small and the seating was all tiered and facing in the same direction so when you did go onto the dance floor you felt like you were on a small stage. I thought that The Tamarind Club was actually much better because it had a better atmosphere and we saw a few good bands there.
The dress code of P&O is another thing that I love about this company. In the two weeks we were on board there were 4 formal nights and the rest were smart casual, sometimes with a theme. Even on the smart casual nights, I would say that most people were on the smarter side of casual. I love getting dressed up and I always use a cruise as an excuse to wear the ball gowns that I never get to wear more than once in normal life. My main piece of advice would be that you should wear all of your tight clothes at the start of the trip because after two weeks of eating that amazing food, you may not be able to wear them any more!
The Arena Theatre and Headliners Theatre Company
I should probably say at this point that the reason I was on the cruise was because my friend’s brother is working on Ventura as a performer in the Headliners theatre company, so I guess you could say that I was bound to like the shows BUT I should also say that I work in a theatre and do a lot of amateur shows myself so I think I am pretty picky. I was really impressed by the standard of the shows though. I think that the standard of the company was really high and I loved all of the big chorus numbers that really showed off the huge amount of talent on the stage. I think a couple of the shows were a bit dated, but I think part of that might be due to the general age of the passengers – maybe dated is ideal for a cruise where the average age is 80! I think that my favourite show was called Reel to Reel and had a theme of films so there was a Bond section for example. It was really good because there was such a range of different films so I think it would appeal to most people on board. Another reason I liked it was because there is an aerialist in the cast and she did an amazing Spanish Web in the Bond section which was very impressive.
My main issue and the only thing that might put me off another P&O cruise was the wifi situation. I am slightly ashamed to say that I am so dependent on my iPhone that I never even considered that there wouldn’t be free wifi everywhere on the ship, but I feel like I am not so addicted to the internet that this would be an unusual situation for anyone of my age. There was wifi available via satellite and it was really fast and it worked well so that was good, but it was very expensive – like 50p a minute. Given the current situation at for me home, not using the internet really was not an option for me as I would definitely not have been able to not contact my mum for two weeks. Even if I hadn’t had a lot going on though I feel like that is pretty overpriced for internet and it’s such a shame because that was the only way that I felt I was being ripped off at all – I generally felt I was getting really good value for money – and I don’t think that this is a sustainable way for P&O to offer internet in this day and age. It’s funny because just 6 years ago I didn’t even consider whether or not there was wifi on the ship, but now I feel that it’s a crucial service that should be provided at a reasonable price. With regard to the demographic they attract, I think that P&O should seriously consider their internet/connectivity options if they want to attract a younger crowd (which they definitely should because I think people my age would totally love a cruise in every other way).
Overall I loved my time on Ventura. The only negative thing I would say about Ventura was that I had a nagging feeling in my mind that I preferred Aurora, which I was on in 2009. I think that P&O seem to be going down the route of the bigger ships, which admittedly are still smaller than most (if not all) of the Royal Caribbean Fleet, but in my mind that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I felt like there was much more of a sense of community on Aurora because by the end of your two weeks on board you really had got to know the staff and the other passengers in a way that you really couldn’t on Ventura. However, there is no denying that a larger ship allows for a lot more facilities so I guess that is something you have to weigh up.
I know that cruises seem like very expensive holidays, but I am such a fan and I really feel that you get your money worth. When you consider that all of your entertainment, food, accommodation and travel is included in the single price, I think you are actually getting pretty good value for money, and even the drinks the things that aren’t included aren’t particularly pricey (generally cocktails were about £5, which is considerably cheaper than every bar where I live).
Given that I have never been on another Cruise Liner, you should maybe take my recommendation with a pinch of salt, but I have to say that my two experiences with P&O have been overwhelmingly positive and I am certain that I will be back… especially if they sort out their wifi situ. Since I got home I have spent a lot of time looking through the brochure and I cannot wait to plan my next adventure with P&O!
The main image is courtesy of P&O; all other images are my own.