This page will serve a way of accessing the actual posts and as a summary & review of the cruise as a whole.
First, here are the links to the blog posts.
- The cruise started with travelling to Southampton and embarkation;
- Then we had two days at sea, the first one, then the second one , then the first formal dinner and also some details about the ‘New World’ wine package we ordered for the cruise;
- The next post was about the second formal dinner and also about our call at Palma (although I didn’t do much);
- Then we were into the heart of the cruise – calls on successive days at Barcelona (where we looked at some Gaudi architecture), Cannes (where we had an excellent lunch ashore and then went to St Paul de Vence), Livorno (where of course we went to Florence), and Civitavecchia (where we went up to Rome on our own on the train);
- After all that effort we enjoyed taking it easy during the third day at sea before the afternoon-only call the day after at Gibraltar;
- Then there were a final couple of sea days before we disembarked in Southampton.
I also posted some blog entries about Ventura herself:
- about the ship itself,
- a small post about power points in the cabin, and about The Exchange now it’s become non-smoking
- I posted about our unexpected dinner with Carol Marlow, P&O Cruises managing director.;
- and finally here are some images of some of the dinner menus.
So now it’s time for the review. As an overview I can say that we had an excellent time. The cruise got better as it went along, partly because of my foot problems clearing up, but also because the weather improved, and because we worked out what we wanted to do on board and where to do it.
First the basics. I had been wondering how we would feel about the Ventura cabin after the slighter swisher cabin on Solstice, but in the event we were perfectly happy. There is a bit more seating space in a Solstice balcony cabin – there’s a good-sized settee for two, for example – but on balance we prefer the better clothing storage space in the Ventura cabin. The furnishings, etc, all seemed perfectly comfortable, and of course on C deck we had that enormous balcony.
We had a perfectly good time at dinner. We chose Club dining, second sitting, on a table for eight, and in the event we ate in the main restaurant (Saffron) every evening – we didn’t bother with an evening meal in either The White Room or East. Most nights there were six of us at the table; twice there were eight, once we were down to four, and one evening we were seven. Whatever the number, we had some good conversations and we never considered asking for a table move. Service was good – thank you Pio and Silvano – and we did especially well with Josefa, our wine waitress. I’ve posted previously about our issues on previous cruises with the quality of P&O’s wine waiters and waitresses. Well, Josefa was the best we’ve met. Not only was she efficient, she was also very friendly. Our head waiter also came to the table most evenings and was chatty and friendly. I enjoyed the food as well. Most nights I chose from the day’s selections, but a few times I had one of the standard choices, especially for starter – I had a caesar salad several nights. I think I only had four courses on one night – all other dinners I stuck to just three courses, and that seemed about right. The only reservation I have about the dining experience concerns the restaurant itself. I was perfectly happy last time, but since then we’ve eaten in Solstice’s Grand Epernay dining room. That’s a stunning space, and the smaller P&O restaurants do feel unimpressive and a bit claustrophobic after that.
We had breakfast in one of the buffets every morning. It didn’t matter which one as the same food is available, although Val says she remembers only seeing hot puddings in the Beach House and not in Waterside. We also had lunch in the buffets on just over half the days. On other days we were either ashore or having tapas in Ramblas; and on one day we had the Curry Luncheon in East. We didn’t bother with ‘set lunch’ in the dining room. We had no problem getting seats in the buffets, though we often had to share a table. But with one exception we met interesting people and had good conversations on these occasions, so by the end of the cruise we were looking for a table to share rather than fining one on our own. We had coffee in Tazzine almost every morning, and enjoyed that, although later in the cruise we had a few coffees in Ramblas.
Drinks: after our experience of high prices and indeterminate measures on Solstice last year, we were very pleased to get back to reasonable prices and stated measures on Ventura. We were very happy with our experiences with drinks & bars on this cruise, as a look at our room account at the end of the cruise showed! We definitely felt that the wine package was good, both in terms of value and experience. There was only one wine that we both felt a bit disappointed with, the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, which was very bland – it didn’t really have that Cabernet Sauvignon acidity that I look for. But it wasn’t nasty or unpleasant, just very anonymous. Val had a few reservations about the New Zealand Pinot Noir – she felt it was very light – but I was happy enough with it. We’ll probably buy a package again on the next cruise.
Entertainment: I can’t tell you anything about this as we didn’t go to anything. Not a single thing. I think we’re not ‘show people’, so we didn’t feel we were missing much. The only daytime activities we took part in were the music quizzes in Exchange (and we stopped going to these in the second half of the cruise), and I went to a few of the Tate Talks. I have to say I enjoyed these very much – the presenters were certainly experts and, and presented the material interestingly – but I also have to say that a lot of them were very sparsely attended. I see that they’re not featured in next year’s brochure, and I can understand why not.
During the days, especially in the early part of the cruise, the weather was not great so we did spend quite a bit of time inside the ship. We didn’t really bother looking for a lounger round the pools, which was just as well as the towel hogs were definitely out in force. It didn’t bother us too much, but it was clearly an issue for our table companions. As I said in one of the detailed posts, one morning we were having a breakfast cup of tea on the Terrace Bar area and we counted twenty loungers – the majority of loungers in that area – with towels on them but not people.
As the cruise went on it become clearer that actually everyone was having their own cruise; by which I mean that different passengers have different cruises, even on the same ship at the same time. We found our favourite spot – the Terrace Bar, especially during the late afternoon. There were a number of days when we had a wonderful hour or so, sometimes longer, any time from five o’clock onwards to about seven o’clock, enjoying a glass of wine in the sun. Further forward various sorts of mayhem were happening, especially during the ‘Great British Sailaways’, but we avoided these and had our quiet restful hour or so on the Terrace. I’ll remember the departure from Cannes and the hour that followed it for a long time – the sun was shining straight onto the Terrace, and we were looking back at the outline of the Alpes Maritimes. Wonderful.
This cruise was good enough that we’re very much looking forward to our next one on Ventura next year.