This is our second time on Ventura, our first time was 5 years ago, soon after the ship was first launched. This first cruise was a bit of a disappointment which we put down to the newness of the ship/crew and we booked this 4 night cruise to Zebrugge and Guernsey hoping that Ventura would redeem herself.
We regularly travel on P&O (and other lines), our mainstay ships are Oceana and Azura, although we have travelled on Oriana and Aurora as well. We very much like P&O and have four more trips with them booked. Azura is probably our favourite and is a near identical sister ship to Ventura.
We were travelling with our 9 year old daughter.
Embarkation was straightforward, we arrived early at 12pm and we were onboard before 1pm. This avoided the rush as we have previously found arriving between 1 and 2 results in a protracted wait in Ocean terminal which seems unable to cope with the number of people to embark a large ship.
The cabins were not yet ready so we made our way to the open deck and had a simple lunch (burger) sat in the sun. Lunch was tasty, hot and well cooked.
The cabins were available at 2pm so we dropped off our luggage. We had an inside (C717) aft cabin. These are perfectly adequate with plenty of hanging room in an open wardrobe and sufficient drawer and shelving space to store your clothes.
The cabin was superficially clean, although you didn’t need to look far to find dirt and grime. We were missing flannels and many of the other items (glasses etc.) were only left out for 2 people, not 3.
Throughout the cruise we felt that the cabin steward was coasting. The room was not vacuumed once, towels were not folded (not even the bath mat picked up off the floor and removed for cleaning), flannels not replenished correctly and the upper Pullman was not secured or made up properly, one duvet was ripped.
Muster was held on time and well organised. As part of the muster drill we were asked to check that all lifejackets had a whistle and light, and if missing, report this to our cabin steward. One of the lifejackets was missing a light, we informed our cabin steward and he advised us that he already knew about this and had put the life jacket in the corner of the shelf thinking it wouldn’t be selected and he had ordered a new light. Throughout the cruise this had not been replaced.
We ate in the Beachhouse twice. In the evening part of the buffet is a waiter service restaurant serving a simple variety of food including Mexican, Pizza, Indian and British. The food was good, although they could spice the Chilli up a bit. The sizzling steak and chicken was excellent.
We did have one issue though. We ordered 2 glasses of wine which arrived and we started drinking them. The waiter came over to us and asked us 3 times if the wine was OK (which it was). It then transpired that he had served the incorrect wine, and once we had confirmed it was OK expected us to pay the increased amount as it was a more expensive wine! Suffice to say we declined which was a fiasco in itself and we ended up being changed twice and had to progress a refund.
We ate in the main dining room once. Service in here was slow and the food was only adequate. E.g. Smoked salmon starter – 2 out of the 3 servings were dry (salmon and bread). Sea Bass was undercooked and the skin was not crispy. The lamb was OK but no mint sauce was brought, roast potatoes were undercooked. We had a table set for 8 people and throughout the meal our table was ‘raided’ for napkins, glasses etc. which was intrusive.
We also ate in the glass house. This is a new addition to Ventura. We like the Glasshouse very much on Azura and the menu and concept has been brought to Ventura. It feels like a half hearted attempt to replicate this excellent venue though. Previously this was a Tapas bar on Ventura, and in the refit they have merely changed the signage and menu. This makes it not as ‘cool’ as the one on Azura but some may prefer a more traditional environment.
The food in the Glasshouse is first class, we had the steaks and they were cooked to perfection. The restaurant manager is also a very pleasant man and is very hands on which ensured that service was also excellent. In fact this is the only time we felt that service was as it should be.
We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Service in here was very patchy, tables were not always being cleared very quickly and obtaining juice at breakfast was a challenge. Either there would be no glasses, or the machines would be empty. The same was the case for some food items in the servery. Maybe we got unlucky but this is not what we normally find on P&O and we do eat late, outside of the main rush.
We attended the show which was well executed and very typical of all shows on cruise ships. The shows run for several years and a refresh would be nice, if you are frequent cruises you get to see them many times!
Throughout the ship there were a variety of bands playing all sorts of music. There was something for everyone.
A new feature of Ventura is the dance floor in the Atrium. This has been successful on Azura and is being promoted by P&O, including a feature on the Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen video recently released.
Our daughter does Ballroom and Latin dancing at home and looks forward to doing this when on a P&O cruise. On our Azura cruise in April she spent most evenings doing this.
We were therefore rather disappointed to find that on formal night, there was music in the Atrium but no dancing (despite being advertised in the paper) as the Atrium was being used by the photographers and it was impossible to dance. We waited from 9:30pm until 11 before giving up as did a number of other people expecting to dance.
Our daughter was very disappointed and wrote a letter to the Cruise Director regarding this – she did this at her own volition and it was a nice letter. This was handed into reception who assured her that he would get the letter. No courtesy of a reply was received which doesn’t impress.
As always these were excellent, the staff always work hard and have a great attitude. Our daughter had a taste of freedom now being in the older group where she can sign herself in and out. To aid communication we bought her an inexpensive Pay as You Go mobile phone (only £10 in Argos), she texted if she was going somewhere other than agreed and we did the same. The fees for texting are quite modest even when at sea and was reliable.
Zebrugge and Guernsey were the ports with a day at sea in between.
We got lucky with the weather, apparently it was heavy rain in the UK and we had sun in nearby Belguim. This time we took the shuttle bus to Blankenberge and walked along the sea front and round the town which was very pleasant.
The day at sea was nice, the weather was kind and we say out all day and our daughter did a mix of kids club and swimming.
We tendered in Guernsey, this was a slow process, with 1to 2 hour waits for tenders. We decided to do our packing and go after lunch, when the wait was 20 minutes or so. We had no issues getting back which we did at 4pm.
Once again we were disappointed with Ventura. There is something about this ship that doesn’t seem right. In general our gripes strike at poor management, we have no problem with the P&O product, it suits us well. Staff don’t seem motivated to go the extra mile. The cruise director was also notable by his absence.
We did wonder if the short cruise lowers the standard of service. There was no questionnaire at the end of the cruise and I understand that on longer cruises the questionnaire results are used to determine staff enumeration. Perhaps with this carrot removed service drops?
Based on this cruise (and the one 5 years ago) we will be sticking to the other ships in the fleet, as we have not experienced problems on them.
14 out of 20 people found this useful
Times cruised before: 10+ Sailed: May, 2013
Quality of Food
Glasshouse - Excellent, Beachhouse in the evening - good, Main dining room - poor service and adequate food.
Overall good but the new dance floor in the Atrium not being utilised correctly
Manager of the Glasshouse - excellent service and management, bar service good but cabin steward and waiters poor - is this due to this being a short cruise
As always - best facilities of any line for children.