Read about our recent time on board P&O Cruises Ventura, a short break to Belgium in late November 2017
You can watch our video tour of Ventura and day by day holiday below or on our YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/gZH1T1DFBtQ
Entering service 2008, Ventura is a Grand Class cruise ship. With a total passenger capacity of 3192 and over 1230 crew, stretching to 291m long and 14 passenger decks, she is P&O’s 2nd largest ship, after Britannia.
Ventura has a variety of restaurants and bars, 3 pools, 6 hot tubs and a number of shops in the main Atrium area.
The ship is due a refit in March 2018 – from what we saw of the ship she is in very good condition with no obvious issues such as leaks or out of service facilities.
We were given quite a late embarkation time, but as we are just big kids, we wanted to get on early but would rather wait in the terminal than wonder around a cold Southampton. On arrival, porters were busy taking everyone’s cases, so we dropped ours off and headed in to Ocean terminal. We were not the only ones who had turned up early, as the place was full. We took our card and waited our call. About 30 minutes later, we were being called to check in.
Since our may cruise, the procedure has slightly changed, they now require you to enter your pin number at the check in desk if registering a Credit or Debit card (we always recommend credit – read here why). We whizzed through security, only held up by people who leave it until last minute to remove items they shouldn’t have and not shuffling forward so we could put our stuff through the x-ray.
P&O have now produced a handy step by step guide which you get given on arrival, well worth a read while you wait as it explains how check in works.
Our room was ready on arrival. We were in R204 – this was the first inside behind the bridge, next to ‘drive’. High up and far forward, maybe not the best if you suffer motion sickness but for us it was perfect.
The room was clean and tidy, set up as a queen there was ample room. Big mirrors give the sense of more space. You have the usual fridge with Minibar (the prices are the same as in bars), a TV which allows you to view you on board account, a kettle with tea and coffee (and the all-important biscuits). A hair dryer was located in the cupboard.
We don’t travel lightly and had a couple of cases – these neatly fit under the bed as the beds are quite high.
Around the corner there is a large area which a lot of hanging space, above which you will find your life jackets and some more storage space. The safe is located in a shelving unit, it’s free to use and allows you to choose you own pin – we always store our valuable in here.
A standard bathroom, with a shower curtain (not our favourite, but it does its job), the usual free White Company toiletries and an endless supply of fluffy white towels.
Our cabin steward was always bubbly and friendly when we bumped in to him in the corridor – even other stewards would give you a ‘good morning’ or hello in passing. He kept our room tidy and our tea and biscuits well stocked – can’t ask for more really!
Places to Eat and Drink
With so many places to eat and drink on Ventura – you won’t get go hungry or thirsty!
Due to this being a Short cruise, we didn’t manage to sample the Epicurean or Sindhu (East as currently branded on Ventura). We did get to the Glass house once or twice (well, more like 3 or 4 times!).
The food and service in the main dining room was very good, we think it’s improved since our May cruise on Azura. We were assigned freedom dining and dined at the Saffron, we would always pop down about 7:30-8:00 so were usually given a pager as we would request a table for 2.
The first night was a little slow, but a very apologetic waiter who was looking after our table came to tell us there was a delay as a large number of orders had come in at the same time, again apologising as the main course arrived. There was a really good choice of food every night and the portion sizes were very good.
Another improvement we noticed was the wine service. Over the last year we noticed there seems to be less staff doing the wine and you could end up waiting a while but I have to say, they seem to have resolved this. Every night our order would be taken promptly and our wine would arrive shortly after (we tend to order by the glass), and as the glass became empty he would be back asking if you would like to order more. Sometimes eager to sell can be annoying, but when it comes to wine with food, you want them to be eager and prompt – full marks here!
The new menu in the Glass House is very nice also, we highly recommend the salmon scotch eggs and spiced scallops. We personally think the Glass House on Ventura has the best ambiance when compared to Azura and Britannia, on a longer cruise I could see we would have come here for a main meal as the menu sounded delicious.
The bars were all quite busy, but you could normally find somewhere to sit – service was very prompt, we think there may have been some new staff on board as it appeared some were being mentored by more experienced staff.
The Northern gin flight went down very well, as did the Anderson Perfect Serve gin we had, the Strawberry Daiquiris’ and Singapore Sling are cocktails that shouldn’t be missed!
Around the Atrium on Ventura there are a number of shops, from the usual holiday essentials, clothing, jewellery and holiday mementoes. A duty-free shop is located on board also, this allows you to purchase alchol which is collected on the final day or tobacco products. This duty-free shop was closed as we were on an inter EU cruise, it’s also worth noting on these inter EU cruises all prices in the shops exclude UK VAT, this gets added on at the till.
They have a price promise on board where they will beat or match shore prices – we purchased some Pandora charms on board, after adding the 20% VAT they worked out a couple of pounds cheaper than what they are on the high street.
Entertainment and Activities
There were 2 shows every evening, timed so you could always manage to get to one. We are not big fans of sitting in the theatre, so didn’t make an effort to see them. We did pop in to the back when Tom Binns was on as the “Comedium”. We’d previously seen his ‘hospital radio’ show which we walked out of as it was awful, but as the “Comedium” he was quite funny. Matt and Sarah were also on this cruise, we saw them on a previous cruise and enjoy listening to them, we sat at the Red Bar while they sang in the atrium.
It was a lovely dry day in port, but in the wind bitterly cold. We took the free shuttle bus in to Blackenburge and from there took the train to Bruges. The trains leave about 35 minutes past the hour and takes 20 minutes – costing 5euro per person return. From the station it’s a 20 minute leisurely walk to the square where we found Christmas markets, an ice rink and lots of chocolate and waffles!
After a wonder around, we made our way back to the station to catch our train back – these leave about 5minutes past the hour, then it was the shuttle bus back to the ship.
Bruges is a lovely city to wonder around, if visiting it is well worth making the effort to visit. I hope to write up a detailed guide on how to do Bruges on your own as it’s under a fiver a person – as a guide you will pay about £35 per person for an excursion with P&O, a taxi is around 80-100 euro and if you use the port bus to the gates and take a bus from the gates to Bruges train station you will still pay about £20 per person.
Waking up on the final morning we wondered why it still felt like we were moving – turning on the TV in our inside cabin we noticed we were still at sea! Yay was our instant thought, they can’t take us home and we will have to stay on board – could think of worse things. It turns out due to bad weather during the night, the Captain along with the Port Pilot and Port Authority decided it was unsafe for us to dock and instead we headed back out to sea to allow the weather to pass. We docked at 9am, about 3 hours late and after some confusion on which berth we would be docking at. The captain kept us well informed, and provided frequent updates on our progress and any amendments that were made.
We had a breakfast in the main dining room, this was very busy with a long queue but the restaurant manager was doing his best to seat people as others were leaving. He was in great spirits and humour, telling us not to worry as we were late there was plenty of time and enough food to go around.
We had a fabulous 3 nights away. This is the last Party Cruise we will do as from next year, P&O are doing away with the Party and Celebration cruises, concentrating on ‘Short Breaks’ – aiming to provide the same experience on a 2 or 3-night cruise that you expect on a longer one (more info here)
Those that follow us will know we were on board MSC Preziosa in October and had a wonderful time, this Ventura cruise was just a short getaway. But from check-in to all interaction with staff onboard, the food and activities, we have to say P&O really do make you feel more at home and this is why they are firmly our favourite cruise line.