We booked our Caribbean Cruise on board the Ventura last June to celebrate our engagement. Both my fiancé and I are amputees and cruise regularly and thought it would be nice to combine celebrating our engagement and a spot of winter sun. We really liked the look of the Ventura's run so we booked our celebratory cruise waited for it arrive. We had to complete several medical forms and declarations regarding our disabilities and wheelchair dimensions and contacted P&O on several occasions to ensure that everything was in order. Wheelchair assistance was booked at Manchester Airport and also special requests where made regarding seating on the plane due to our disabilities for us to be seated close to the toilet and the exit so that we could access them without too much disruption to fellow passengers and also for our safety. When we checked into Manchester Airport we were told that our request had been dealt with and honoured. When we boarded to the plane yes we had been seated close to the exit but there was no toilet on the side we had been seated on. The cabin crew didn't care and didn't offer any assistance or solutions. It was extremely difficult to get to the other end of the plane safely on crutches and one leg, so some kind passengers offered to allow us to cross at the mid section of the plane to the toilet so that the distance wasn't too far and much safer. We didn't abuse their kindness and only accessed the bathroom twice. On the second occasion a very rude steward came over and said "Madam if you put your leg back on the floor and stopped hiding it up your trousers you would find getting around much easier and your can't cross over a row of passengers". I couldn't believe what I had heard. I am an amputee, my leg has been amputated above the knee and it is most visible that it WASN'T hiding or tucked up inside my jeans. I pointed it out and she just shouted at me to get back to the right side of the plane. In the end the senior steward came down and apologised for her rudeness after several other passengers had complained about her comments and attitude. Had they have sat us on the right side of the plane and close to the toilet this wouldn't have happened. Both my fiancé and I wondered was this a bad omen to the start of our much awaited holiday.
When we touched down in Barbados we stayed on board the plane until all the other passengers had disembarked as we needed assistance. My wheelchair came up for me to disembark but unfortunately they had mislaid both my fiancés and another passengers. Who where then left high up in the air on an ambelift without wheelchairs and unable to get down. Both myself and the lady's husband tried to find out what was going on but we were totally ignored by the P&O airport staff and in the end it was the airport staff tried to sort it out. Apparently the wheelchairs had been mislaid somewhere in the hold or somewhere and they couldn't access them so we would have to be taken to the ship without them and assistance would be waiting at the other end. Finally when we arrived at the Port and after checking in my fiancé was put in a P&O wheelchair to board the ship and told he would have to wait in the stateroom until his wheelchair would appear if at all. Being an amputee the wheelchair was his only means of getting around so we pointed out that once they had returned his chair then we would return their chair. How else was he to get around? That didn't go down very well. Finally some 6 hours later the chair finally appeared.
On our first day at sea we went around and explored the ship. The wheelchair access wasn't stunning. We found the ramps extremely steep and narrow, the worst one being the one to the Arena - where all the shows are. It was so steep that I had to access it going up backwards. Coming down it I managed to get friction burns on my thumbs trying to stop my chair from colliding with the wall as the ramp was so steep coming down and very scary. We did ask if there was any other disabled access to the theatre and told NO.
The pool looked very inviting but with no access unless you used the hoist. So I went to the bar and asked very politely if I could access the pool using the hoist and I was told erm NO!!!!! and the barperson just walked away. We went to reception and asked could we use the hoist to access the pool and they said they would sort it out but to no avail. It wasn't until the 12th day after a long letter of complaint and concerns that a member of staff came to the stateroom and said that if we retracted our statement then they may allow us to access the pool via the hoist. Not very good and I didn't retract my statement.
We found the dining experience a nightmare. Our formal dining experience was in the Saffron Lounge. We had requested to be sat on the outer part of the restaurant and close to the exit as being in wheelchairs we wanted to be able to leave when we wanted to and also not disrupt other fellow passengers. Instead they placed us in the middle of the dining room and removed our wheelchairs so we couldn't move and we had to wait until the other passengers had finished their meals and left the restaurant before they would return our wheelchairs to allow us to leave.
Sunbathing was a nightmare around the ship. Passengers started to reserve sunbeds as early as 7am then went ashore and came back to their sunbeds. When we asked was this allowed we were told "well madam if you feel that the sunbed has been unoccupied for a period of time feel free to remove the passengers belongings and hand them in to the bar and explain to the person when they return why you have done this - we don't remove passengers belongings and have no sunbed policy". This was terrible. On top of all of this the beds where so close together we couldn't access most of them. Finally when we did get a sunbed the bar staff kept trying to remove our chairs saying that they where in the way but at no point did they do this to passengers who had small children with buggies and prams. Some of the passengers were very rude and one woman actually stamped on my leg to cross over the sunbed because she couldn't be bothered walking around the back of it. She didn't even apologise just muttered that the ship had too many disabled people on it and wheelchairs should be banned. I have been an amputee for 3 years and I have never until now been made to feel ashamed having an amputation or being in a wheelchair.
We tried to go ashore in St Lucia as it said that is was wheelchair accessible so we presented ourselves to the disembarkation point after having to cue up for over 4 hours to go ashore only to be told oh no madam you are a health and safety risk. Main question here - how do they manage in an emergency situation to get wheelchair passengers off the ship if they can't do it in a calm and relaxed environment? When we pointed this out we where wheeled to a lift and pushed in it until the tender left the ship so that we couldn't go ashore. We went to the guest relations desk and explained what happened and they just looked at us both and said well that's not our problem.
Our whole experience on board the Ventura was horrible and it really spoilt our vacation.
We booked several sightseeing excursions from the UK and had a wonderful time ashore (not booked through P&O) and there was not a problem with the wheelchairs or with our disability even getting on to huge 4x4's and jeeps, no problems at all.
We thought that the entertainment wasn't up to much, the shows very armature and not a patch on Royal Caribbean. The staff on board the Ventura on the whole we found to be very rude and unhelpful. The ship was very dated and tired and too much carpet in the public areas which meant that wheeling a wheelchair was very difficult to say the very least.
The only good thing I would say about this cruise was that our Cabin Steward was lovely and kept our stateroom spotless and very clean. The security staff were also very nice and friendly and helped us get on and off the ship safely and without fuss.
We had both had enough by the 12th day and wrote a very long letter outlining all our problems and complaints and we obtained receipt so that we could follow it up in the UK.
On arrival in the UK we wrote to P&O and after a lengthily wait they finally wrote back saying not a lot and basically that they looked forward to seeing us again so that they could put right some of the little niggles we had experienced, They didn't address any of the issues that we had raised and basically we found their customer care as helpful as we did on board the ship - basically no help what so ever.
Unfortunately we weren't the only disabled passengers that this had happened to and we are in contact with the other passengers who can confirm and clarify what happened.
27 out of 54 people found this useful
Times cruised before: 6-10 Sailed: January, 2013
Occasion: Annual/regular holiday
Quality of Food
we ate salads as the food was very limited and not up to scratch
Shows were armature and repetitive. Comics not very good and tribute bands appauling
we didn't as P&O refused us access on the ones we wanted to go on
our cabin steward and security staff where Ventura's only saving grace