We have now finished this cruise, and a very good time was had. I know that I said that the Oriana cruise was my favourite so far – well, this Ventura cruise has now taken over.
As with the Oriana cruise I blogged from it. You can find the posts here:
Day 2: which included the first port of call, La Coruna;
Day 5: Funchal, Madeira;
Day 7: Gran Canaria;
Day 8: a sea day;
Day 9: Lisbon;
Day 10: Vigo;
Day 11: a final sea day;
Day 12: disembarkation at Southampton.
I have a lot of pictures but sorting them out and posting them will take some time, I’m afraid. Also I’ve come rather the worse for wear – a heavy cold which has now (Sunday) turned into a hacking cough, and an attack of gout! I blame the wine at Bodega Alvara…
Finally, here’s a summary of my thoughts on the cruise as a whole. I originally published as a separate blog page, but I think it sits better here. It was written on the afternoon that we got home (Friday 10 October – ‘meltdown day’).
Well, we’re home from our Ventura cruise. It’s been a bit of a shock catching up with 12 days’ worth of doom and gloom in a single afternoon [the 2008 crash pretty much happened while we were on this cruise], and trying to think about the pluses and minuses of a cruise at the moment seems a bit strange. But here goes.
The first thing to say is that we had a really, really good time. Perhaps we’re easily pleased, or uncritical, or something, but we found very little that was disappointing and nothing that seriously upset us or detracted from the cruise. That said, we did pick the time and nature of the cruise carefully – I can imagine that a cruise in high summer, with up to 800 children on board, would be different. But on this cruise – 12 nights, late September/ early October, to the Canary Islands – we had a great time.
The cabin was excellent. There isn’t a huge amount of space around the bed, but there’s enough. Most important of all is the walk-in hanging & shelf area, which takes up quite a bit of the floor area. This is an excellent use of the space, in our opinion, and the fact that all our clothes storage was away from the ‘living’ part of the cabin made the latter more friendly. One other benefit – it was good to have the walk-in hanging space between the main part of the cabin and the bathroom.
We also enjoyed the balcony. It’s quite a sun-trap; the weather on this cruise wasn’t especially hot but when we got the sun on the balcony it was pretty roasting out there. There again, that might have been due to the latitude – at 28 degrees, any direct sun is going to be fairly fierce.
Dinner: we were on Club Dining, and were assigned to second sitting in the Bay Tree restaurant. Our experiences at dinner were good. If I was being really critical then I might say that I sometimes found it hard to select a starter or soup (usually 3 starters and 2 soups on the menu). Val on the other hand had no problems with these but on occasion found that the main courses were a little fancy – by the end of the cruise she was yearning for plainer fare. One thing she has asked me to add – it wasn’t clear from the menu that there were off-menu standard choices available, or what these were. She might have wanted to try them, especially if they were a bit simpler.
Breakfast: we had breakfast in the Saffron restaurant every day. What we liked about this was that you could have as much or as little as you wanted, in civilised surroundings. I generally had just orange juice, Alpen & toast, but a few days I also had a single solitary poached egg. Val found room for a cooked breakfast more often than I did.
Lunch: we started by using the buffet, and the food here was good. However we found that by the time we had put a representative sample of the available choices on our plates, they were piled high. So we looked for alternatives. Our favourite was tapas at Ramblas, which we had four times. Excellent. Twice we had lunch in the restaurant (Cinnamon, I think), which was very good; however, the occasions when I went to bed feeling really uncomfortable were these two days, I had simply eaten too much over the day.
We did not take afternoon tea.
Overall we were very happy with the food on board.
We only used some of the bars. We never used Havana; just too brightly lit, too noisy, and how do you see the stage with those high partitions? We also never used Exchange – too smoky, and (in Val’s opinion) not very attractive anyway. I was surprised to find that Exchange is basically the on-board pub – when I read the original marketing stuff about Ventura I’m sure it described Exchange as an ‘urban warehouse wine bar’, which sounded quite attractive. In fact, it’s the ship’s pub: smoky (though changed now, I believe), sports TV programmes, karaoke. We used Tamarind Club once or twice, usually connected with entertainment, and it was OK. That leaves the Red Bar, Metropolis and Ramblas, and we kept shuttling between these three. We enjoyed all of them; Ramblas in the middle of the day, Red Bar for pre-dinner (and occasionally post-dinner) drinks, and Metropolis for after dinner. We liked the two ’round the corner’ wings, from which you can see the length of the ship. The famous video wall didn’t do much for me, to be truthful, but it certainly wasn’t objectionable, just a bit strange.
Entertainment: we picked and chose what we wanted. We saw two shows – one (Grand Illusion) was good, the other (Explosion) we didn’t enjoy – very noisy. We also saw the comedian Martin Beaumont, and the entertainer Kevorkian. Other people seemed to have enjoyed Jane Beamont (singer) and a show of Lloyd Webber songs.
Itinerary: A mixed bag. We hadn’t realised that Santa Cruz and Las Palmas aren’t really tourist destinations in themselves, so based on that we can’t see what the fuss is about as regards the Canary Islands. However, Funchal was good, and we certainly very much enjoyed the three calls on the Iberian coast: La Coruna, Lisbon and Vigo.
Will we go back on Ventura? Yes, if the right itinerary at the right price becomes available in 2010. Either Ventura or her soon-to-be sister ship: 2010 should be her maiden year.