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tartanexile81

A Review of a Four Day Cruise on Ventura

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This is Part 1 of my review

 

Although we're P&O regulars this was our first cruise on Ventura. However as we've been on Azura a few times we were pretty familiar with the layout so we were looking forward to being onboard, despite the negative comments we'd read about some shorter cruises.

 

We were staying with friends in Surrey for a few days before the cruise so travelled down by train on the day, arriving in Southampton at 2:15. We made sure we exited the station by the taxi rank side and there were lots waiting for our quick trip down to Ocean Terminal, our favourite departure point. When we got inside there seemed to be lots of people waiting so we prepared for a long wait but as usual the system worked efficiently so in just over 40 minutes we had checked in and got through security. We'd taken advantage of the promotional offer of a free upgrade to try a mini-suite on Deck D for the first time. We really liked the layout with the usual great storage, and with a sitting area towards the balcony. We also loved having a bath as well as an over-bath shower but we didn't really like the balcony which was completely overlooked. We didn't hve time to use it much on this cruise but certainly on the longer cruise to the sun we've got booked on the Ventura we'd rather have a C-deck balcony. Although this means losing the extra space in the cabin, we really use our balcony a lot to relax in the sun and would rather have the extra space there and a bit of privacy.

 

Right, so on with the cruise. Our case arrived within a few minutes after us in the cabin so having sanitised everything, our next job was to hang things up. We had lots of wooden hangers and extra wire ones and once we'd sorted out the cabin we set out to have a wander round the ship. We had a look at the Horizon to decide what we'd do that evening, and oh yes, I nearly forgot, to drink our complementary bottle of champagne!

 

As we were Freedom Dining we'd decided to have dinner in the Beach House, after a pre-dinner drink in the Metropolis. I guess I'll inevitably compare Ventura with Azura and I must confess we both much prefer the Planet Bar on Azura to Metropolis as we love the amazing photo 'tours' around the world every evening! The Beach House however was a very good choice and wasn't very busy probably because it was the first night. We started with coconut breaded prawns as a shared dish then the fillet steak cooked to our taste on a lava rock before finishing off with ice-cream. The food was delicious and the dress code well adhered to. For some reason we'd never used the Trattoria on Azura but we really liked the casual feel of the Beach House without it just being a buffet. The staff were great and we chatted to the couple on the next table. After dinner we headed to the Red Bar for a few drinks and thought the pianist was really talented, playing popular songs to great arrangements. The only comment we'd make was that we would have liked a bit more chat to introduce the songs but he's obviously a really shy person. I can particularly recommend the French Martini which is a delicious cocktail. We always like this bar, whether its called the Blue Bar (Azura), Crooners (Princess) or the Red Bar on this ship and we always find the bar staff there particularly friendly and helpful.

 

DAY 2

We weren't due to arrive in Amsterdam till the afternoon so we got up very late and had brunch in The Waterside. I'd intended to go to the Zumba class but got up too late to join in so instead we sat on our balcony enjoying the sail through the canal into Amsterdam, looking at the local views. It was a cool but sunny morning so fulled by seevral cups of coffee to warm us up, we sat it out! It seemed to take a long time even when we got close to the port as the captain had to take the ship further on to 'turn' before negotiating into our berth. We were right in the city centre, close to the Central station so really convenient for transport and the main sights. We headed down to get ready to disembark at 2:00 but by then the queues were horrendous. I have to say the process to disembark was the worst we've ever come across so we didn't get off the ship till 3:30. The face-to-face immigration process was blamed and that certainly didn't help as there was only one gangway and two local immigration staff for the whole ship but what annoyed us most was the fact that people were just jumping the queue by walking down stairways which were meant to be closed and the officers were doing nothing to stop this despite many complaints. Amsterdam is a regular port of call and these difficulties really should have been anticipated and prevented.

 

On disembarkation, we walked quickly to the tram terminal outside Central Station then took a tram to Museumplein for our pre-booked tour of the Van Gogh museum. The local people were really helpful in advising us which tram to take and although they said we'd be better with a 24-hour ticket, we just paid for the trips we did and asked the driver for a one hour ticket each time. I think this was about 2,50 Euros per trip. The Museumplein is an interesting grassy 'square' with lots of young people lounging around in the sun and with quirky statues of rabbits which were part of a charity appeal by Unicef as well as the beautiful Reiksmuseum at one end. Our tour of the Van Gogh Museum had been arranged for 3:00 and although we arrived VERY late we were allowed entry without question and went straight in avoiding the long queues of those who hadn't booked. I recommend pre-booking as it can save a lot of time. This is a modern museum very well organised and with an amazing amount of paintings, mainly by Van Gogh but also by his contemporaries, to enjoy.

 

We then took a brisk walk along one of the main canals to the Anne Frank House. They seem to allow very few pre-bookable tickets for the house so again we had to queue, this time for 45 minutes. The story of Anne Frank and her family is so touching that it was well worth the wait. We then moved very slowly around the house admiring the rooms and reading the clippings etc. By then, we were feeling hungry so instead of heading back to the restaurant we'd intended, to use recommended on TripAdvisor, we found a French restaurant nearby with a menu we liked the look of. Service was pretty slow and the food was average but we'd already done a lot of walking so we were happy to relax for a while in a very convivial atmosphere with a glass of decent French red. By the time we'd finished eating it was getting late so we took a quick walk walk to the Prins Hendrikkade, the cruise starting point just by the Central Station, where we joined the last canal cruise of the evening around the port and various canals. I'd read on CC that it was best to do a canal cruise in the evening and I really enjoyed seeing Ventura all lit up as we passed her and also all the bridges with lights on but my OH said he's rather have done a tour during the day. Either way, I'm not sure there's really a great deal to see other than the buildings you've already seen walking around but, being Amsterdam, a canal cruise is an essential. It wsa so easy to do and within easy walking distence of the ship so there's no need to pay three times more to to a ship's tour.

 

We were pretty tired by then and although we'd intended to have a wander round the Red Light District we just walked the 15 minutes back to the ship and enjoyed a night-cap on our balcony at the end of our first day in Amsterdam.

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AMSTERDAM DAY 2

We made an early start and were off the ship by 8:00 a.m. and went straight out to catch the Number 26 tram just outside the port. We got that to the Central station then changed to the number 16 which took us to the flower market. We started by having breakfast at a cafe in the market which was pricey but the coffee was great and considerably better than what we'd have been drinking in the buffet on the ship! On the other hand, the flower market was really disappointing, full of stalls concentrating more on tacky souvenirs that quality flowers. Next we took another of our brisk waks to the Albert Cuyp street market. I can't resist markets but unfortunately we had little time to enjoy it because unfortunately we had to be back onboard by 11:30. We really were very disappointed by how early this was and had hoped for an extension after the debacle of yesterday but it was not to be. I rrally feel that P&O is saving lots of money and fuel by reducing the average speed of the ships, giving more sea days and less time in ports. This may suit the shareholders but it's not what cruisers want.

 

After our morning onshore we headed back on the ship and waited for sailaway which was delayed by late-comers. The captain in his sailaway announcement also gave a sincere apology for the slow diesmbarkation the day before. We were sitting on our balcony when we saw them running along the jetty just afte 12. We sat and enjoyed the afternoon sunshine for a while then went down to the Glass-House for a snack and a drink. The bar may be called the Glass House as the one on Azura and share the wine and food menus but that's where the similarities end. The same bar on Azura was designed in conjunction with Olly Smith and has a really modern, cool feel to it, so the old-fashioned Spanish Bodega look on Ventura didn't really work for us, and also the staff were the least friendly we met on the ship.

 

This was the only formal night of the cruise and we weren't able to take a relaxing bath as the water wasn't hot enough so we just had to take a quick shower. We had expected our bottle of bubbly apparently included in our booking promotion as well as the mini-suite canapes but neither appeared. Not a good start, but it didn't detract from our enjoyment of the evening so after a pre-dinner drink in the Glass House we went down to the Cinnamon dining room and opted for a shared table. We had a bad experience on a recent cruise on Fred Olsen with dining companions so we were a bit wary but this turned out really well and we had an entertaining evening. Until this cruise we've always done Club Dining but we were really glad we'd chosen Freedom this time and have opted for it for our future cruises. On ships like Ventura and Azura you certainly have some excellent options and we're looking froward to trying the Epicurean on a longer cruise.

 

There was a show in the theatre every evening but we've seen them all several times so we decided to give them a miss and just enjoy relaxing, quieter evenings so we spent the rest of the evening in the Red Bar enjoying music and chatting to some lovely friendly people.

 

DAY 4

Our day in Guernsey dawned cool but clear and the forecast was good so we were optimistic about the day ahead. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the MDR. This to us is so much calmer and more relaxing than the buffet and although I'm not a morning person, this is always a good start to the day.

 

After breakfast, we down to the Cinnamon to get our tickets for the tender. We'd been watching the tenders getting organised before we'd left our cabin and it looked like six were in use. There was no queue and we didn't even have time to sit down before our numbers were called over the PA. The sea wasn't entirely calm and those sitting right at the front got a bit of a soaking when one of the windows blew open. We'd arranged to hire a car from Value Cars and they were waiting right in front of us as we disembarked. We knew that the roads in Guernsey were pretty narrow so had opted for a small car. We were allocated a Nissan Note with only just over one thousand miles on the clock so that suited us just fine.

 

We'd found a walking tour on the internet to have a look around St Peter Port then headed off for a look round the coast. First of all we thought we'd go clockwise but with no signs and no decent map to follow (why had we left our Sat Nav at home??) we got confused and ended up back in St Peter Port. We thought then we'd try the anti-clock-wise route and this was so much easier. The sun was out by this time and the sky cloudless so we saw Guernsey at its best. It really has the most beautiful, tranquil beaches and we stopped numous times to take a few photos or for a look around. There are 'kiosks' around the coast. In the Caribbean they'd be called beach bars but in Guernsey they're a cross between a tea-room and a cafe in the open air. We stopped at Surfside kiosk at Port Soif and they've got tables, regular chairs and beach chairs in a garden so we sat basking in the sunshine enjoying a coffee and some of their lovely home baked cakes.

 

Basically after that we followed this lovely coastal road round the island and if at the last minute we spotted a tiny sign pointing down a narrow road we'd do a swift right and end up with the most amazing views in isolated but really beautiful bays. The weather was absolutely the icing on the cake but next time we're visiting friends in Dorset we'd love to return to Guernsey and explore a bit more.

 

Back in St Peter Port we took advantage of some duty free shopping around the town and the cosmetics are really worth buying. For example one item I bought was £22 in the shop and £35 on the ship. I buy quite a lot of hair and beauty products online from Guernsey so I wasn't really surprised. We really liked St Peter Port: it's an interesting town but do look beyond the shops.

 

There was a short queue for the tender but back on the ship we went to the sailaway from which cruise director Hughie excused himself. Why???? We haven't heard great things about him and this is the sort of thing that shows maybe that his heart isn't in it any more. We'd so enjoyed the Beach House on the first evening that we decided to go back for our last evening and it was as good as before. However it was busier this time so they gave us a buzzer and we hadn't to go too far away. We went to the Metropolis for a drink and chatted to other P&O regulars till out buzzer went after about 20 minutes. After dinner we went to the Havana Club where the show was called Legends and we really enjoyed some great rock classics played by a duo whose name sadly we can't remember. Our last call of the evening was back at the Red Bar as we wanted to tip the great bar staff. I should maybe explain at this point that we asked for our automatic tips to be removed then we gave the staff with whom we came in contact more than they would have received and which cost us more than we would have paid …...but worth it. We listenened to some Strictly Come Dancing style music from the atrium to which people were doing the usual P&O stye sequence dancing then headed back to the cabin to finish our packing then put our case out.

 

I will be adding some photos and saying a bit more about our coach trip home for anybody interested

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Thanks for your extensive review. Re the tips being removed, did you then tip your freedom dining waiters on the night you ate their? We always choose freedom dining but would have thought individual nightly tipping would just be too messy.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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Thanks for your extensive review. Re the tips being removed, did you then tip your freedom dining waiters on the night you ate their? We always choose freedom dining but would have thought individual nightly tipping would just be too messy.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

 

Yes we did and I suppose it was easier because it was a short cruise. We made sure we took £5 and £10 notes with us. We also tipped on the nights we ate in the Beach House. We're Freedom on Oceana next and don't suppose it would work on such a long cruise

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Thank you for such a lovely and well-written review. We're on Ventura in 12 days for a fortnight so reading reviews from recent cruisers on her really helps to whet my appetite!

 

I don't think I've read anything positive about Hughie Taylor and, having cruised twice on the Grand Princess with two different and very good cruise directors, it's a shame that we will be stuck with someone that seems so jaded and disillusioned. Still, fore-warned is fore-armed so at least we are prepared to be disappointed!

 

I don't suppose you can remember what the bottled ales available in the bars were at all please? Part of the reason that we have booked with P&O is the availability of real ale (albeit bottled) - I don't half miss a decent beer when I'm on a cruise!

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I don't suppose you can remember what the bottled ales available in the bars were at all please? Part of the reason that we have booked with P&O is the availability of real ale (albeit bottled) - I don't half miss a decent beer when I'm on a cruise!

 

Sorry no, although we did look at the menu of what was available. Not a beer drinker so didn't pay much attention, but know there's not as many as there are on Britannia. I can tell you though that the house champagne and French Martinis went down a treat :D

 

I'll be uploading my photos in the next couple of days but I'm having trouble sorting out the app on my new mac so watch this space.....

Edited by tartanexile81

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On our last Ventura cruise wobblybob, bottled ales on board were Old Thumper, London Pride, Hobgoblin Newcastle brown GK IPA AND Speckled Hen(in cans) that should keep you going until dinner

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Thanks for a very interesting and informative review. I am however slightly intrigued as you say you were in a mini suite? I didn't think they had any on Ventura? Do you mean the Superior deluxe cabins - which are I agree very nice (We had one on Azura,) or did you have a "proper" suite?

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Sorry yes it was a superior deluxe balcony (or to quote the Receptionist we spoke to - a junior mini-suite). Sorry - we were on Ruby Princess recently and the same cabins are called mini-suites on her.

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On our last Ventura cruise wobblybob, bottled ales on board were Old Thumper, London Pride, Hobgoblin Newcastle brown GK IPA AND Speckled Hen(in cans) that should keep you going until dinner

 

Hobgoblin?? Oh, I hope they still have that onboard - it's my favourite!! :D

 

Thanks for your reply, and you too tartanexile81.

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Thanks to those who've comment'ed on my review. I like doing these reviews as I think they give my OH and me a record of what we did so hope I didn't go on too much :)

 

So.... I'm now getting better on my new imac so I'm going to have a go at uploading some photos. These ones are of our cabin. We had a forward Superior De-luxe Balcony cabin on D deck, port side.

 

Our relaxing area with our complimentary champagne.

 

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This may give you an idea of how 'exposed' these balconies are

 

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We had a bath!!!!

 

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We love the great hanging space.

 

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Edited by tartanexile81

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We ate twice out of the four nights in The Beach House.

 

The view from our table

 

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The main course menu:

 

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The first time ever we'd had a muster drill in a theatre, probably because we usually have aft cabins.

 

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We enjoyed the entertainment in the Red Bar

 

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Edited by tartanexile81

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Our chaotic disembarkation.

 

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The port choir welcomed us from the terminal building balcony then kept singing inside.... even though we'd been queuing for 90 minutes

 

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The original Anne Frank House. The museum is alongside it and well worth a visit

 

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A view on our night-time canal cruise

 

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