Dolphin delight in the Bay of Biscay
42 of 44 people found this review informative
|Reviewed By: Draper-Stumm, London on 2nd Aug 2011|
|Cruise Line: P&O Cruises||Times cruised before: 6-10|
|Cruise Ship: Ventura||Sailed: July, 2011|
|Destination: Western Europe||Age: 36-45|
|Cabin: Balcony||Occasion: Annual/regular holiday|
Our 7 night cruise on P&O Ventura was our 7th cruise and 2nd on P&O. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip from start to finish, but there seemed to be a little sparkle missing which would have taken this trip from very good to fabulous. We usually cruise with Princess, and have also recently tried Celebrity's new solstice class of ship, so our standards are high. I expect fabulous food, friendly staff and comfortable rooms. Ventura did meet all these markers, but we still felt something was missing.
1) Main Dining Room (Cinnamon)- We always do freedom dining and this worked well - we never had to wait for a table if we arrived before 7:15pm and we always got a table for 2. Food was good, but on some occasions presentation was lacklustre and staff seemed to be moving at industrial pace at times, so you felt you couldn't fully enjoy it - we ate there on 4 occasions, and the 2nd half of the week things were back to impressive standards, almost as if there had been a shift change of head chef. I also felt that they had cut back a little on quality and quantity of food (I only mention this as it seemed less food and not as well presented as on past cruises - as I haven't been on Princess since 2008, where the food has always been impressive, I do not know if this has been a move by Carnival to trim costs during the recession). I don't mind less food (I am only 8 stone anyway and my hsuband always finishes my meals), but there did seem to be a change from past years.
2) Specialty Restaurants - FAB, FAB, FAB! Marco Pierre White's White Room was scrumptious; the Beach House was wonderful (biggest prawns I've ever seen anywhere!), and East was some of the best asian food we'd ever tasted. Ramblas tapas was also very yummy. There was no charge at the Beach House (except for a few dishes); Ramblas was £2.50 for 3 tapas; £20 in East for dinner and £5 when they did a special "at sea" lunch; and White Room was £25. All worth it for ambiance, service and food. Ventura really excels here and much better than other ships we've sailed on.
3) Pools, outside space; spa/gym - lots of deck chairs if you didn't want to sit right next to the pools; like Princess Grand class ships, which Ventura mirrors, the ship is broken up into about 3 sections, so you never feel crowded. Good bars and show lounges with a variety of entertainment - comedian and Elton John impersonator very good. Husband loved the gym and even I used it - good selection of equipment.
4) Rooms - the same as on Princess Grand class ships; good wardrobe space; bathrooms small but efficient. Tea and coffee making with biscuits a good added bonus; and there was a bowl of sweets. On Princess they have a fruit bowl which you can order replenished throughout cruise - that would have been a good addition. My only gripe was where we were placed. For fist time ever we booked a guarantee balcony (JG), which should have put us on C or B deck mainly; instead we got "upgraded" to Riviera at the top of the ship and aft (R723) - although this was handy for the buffet (no noise problem!) and aft pool, there is an overhang so sun worshippers (not me) won't get all day sun. However, it was handy when it rained as we could sit out no matter what. Our cabin steward Jesroy was WONDERFUL and kept everything clear and always fresh towels when we wanted them
There was a lot of vibration up here during port manuevers (I expect that if I am aft), and also the boat seemed to sway a lot up at the top, even in calm seas. I have never felt this on other ships, although we are usually on C deck (which on Ventura, Azura and Grand class Princess ships lovely double sized balconies and are lover down). I really cannot explain the swaying (the Bay of Biscay was relatively calm) and I wonder if it is because the ship has an extra deck than Grand Princess I think. If I sailed on ventura again I would definitely pay extra for a specific room on C deck and not do guarantee.
5) Embarkation/Disembarkation/Staff - Embarkation was run with great precision; no faults there. We opted for self service disembarkation, and although there was a huge queue winding throuogh the lobby and casino on the morning, we were off within 2 minutes and got our car quickly - well done Southampton crew! Staff were generally friendly and helpful, but I did feel that some seemed a bit rushed and were not as friendly, kind or helpful as I have always experienced on Princess. Some also had very poor english and occasionally you had to ask for something two or three times before they understood. However, many staff were excellent and friendly, just not everyone I came across.
5) Ports and tours - ports were great. In Le Havre we visited the museum near the harbour, which ahs a fantastic impressionist collection. In La Rochelle we did our own thing; in Bilbao we visited the amazing Guggenheim; and in La Coruna we took teh Santiago de Compostela On Your Own tour, which was a coach journey (approx 1 hour) to Santiago and a guide who gaveus info on the journey, maps and led us into the main square before leaving us to explore for the day. P&O offer a free curtesy shuttle in ports to centre of whatever town they are docked in(excellent - a lot of cruise companies charge for this!) The ports were a really good mix and gave a taste of different parts of France and Spain - bay of Biscay is also calmer in July, so its a good time to go.
5)Highlights - loved the ports, loved the specialty restaurants and best of all, we saw dolphins (often playing chicken with the ship - making a bee line for the side and sidappearing underneath!) on 4 occasions - absolutely magical!
The ship caters to families and children, and while there were many starting their holidays, we were not bothered by them (but then I wasn't sitting round the pool and if you were you might have hated them as they were having a jolly time splashing about and running around - most of the time thought the little ones were off having a fab time in the kids clubbs with face painting, pirate costumes, Noddy and Mr Bump - if I was a kid I think it would have been heaven). There is an adults only chill out pool within the gym/spa area. The ship also seemed to be good for the disabled - I saw lots of elderly with mobility issues as well as those with more serious conditions enjoying their holidays! Well done P&O for giving those with mobility issues a chance at a great holiday.
* drinks are reasonably prices - bottled beer £3.50-4.00; pint about £3.00-3.50; glass of wine starting at £3.50; cocktails ranged from £3.50-5.00 from what I remember. By London prices that was cheap!
All in all, it was a great trip; I just feel that it if they raise their bar another notch Ventura could be amazing! It certainly wasn't "butlins on sea" as some have described it. I would certainly cruise on Ventura again, but maybe not on the Riviera deck.
|Quality of Food|
|Main dining room was great on some days and jsut good on others,. White Room, Ramblas, Beach House and East were fabulous!|
|We didn't do much, but enjoyed the evening movies, comedian show and Elton John impersonator.|
|We mainly did our own thing, but impressed by free shuttle bus and enjoyed our trip to Santiago to Compostela which was reasonably prices at £34 each I think.|
|Jesroy our cabin steward was fab; so were staff in East, White Room and Ramblas - but some seemed overworked, shy, or not that friendly.|
|lots of stuff to do, from dance classes and yoga to bingoa, quizzes and movies.|
|Cabin was fine but I found riviera deck seemed to sway more than my liking. Would choose a cabin on C deck next time.|
Jun 20 2013 09:54AM)