P&O Cruises ship Ventura - 14 day Caribbean cruise

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Ventura - P&O CruisesOften the dreaded downside of connecting with an overseas cruise is lugging around baggage and the transfer arrangements. Expecting a fair degree of hassle before boarding the ship we decided to treat ourselves with valet parking at Gatwick so simply drove up to the departure terminal and left the car with a man from I Love Meet & Greet. It was only a bit extra over standard parking but no standing in the gloom, struggling on and off buses - a real sense of luxury.

Entering the packed departure hall what a surprise to find a dedicated P&O Cruises check-in desk and no queue. Bags were tagged and we didn’t see them again until we entered our cabin onboard ship.

As usual I expected the long haul flight to be something endured rather than enjoyed but our Thomson charter was a Dreamliner. This was my first trip on a Dreamliner and my first experience of a genuine improvement in long haul economy flying – I could stretch my legs out fully, it was quieter, faster, the entertainment system WAS entertaining and even the food was decent for an airline.

Landing in Bridgetown, Barbados we bypassed immigration, customs and baggage collection because we were meet by buses on the tarmac that whisked us directly to the ship where security and boarding was swiftly and efficiently handled. With several trips around the world under my belt I’ve never experienced such a fabulously hassle-free long haul journey.

The Caribbean’s best (high) season is from December – April when it’s hot and dry; from May – November it can be very hot, muggy and wet, with the risk of hurricanes from July-November. We arrived in December and only got caught out in one tropical downpour, the rest of the time it was a perfect 80 degrees.

The Ventura is a vast ship of up to 3,200 mostly British passengers arriving on flights from Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. It’s a family oriented ship, classy but not in the least snobby. Our fellow passengers were as an eclectic a group as imaginable – mostly couples in the older age group but also young families, middle aged and young couples and singles. There were people who preferred the buffet and fast food outlets to the elegant dining rooms and the Wetherspoons style pub to the sophisticated cocktail lounge – something to suit everyone.

Dining on board VenturaThe six silver service dining restaurants are complemented by three buffet restaurants plus a pizzeria and fast food outlets – if you can find it in a city you can find it onboard Ventura. There are almost as many bars as restaurants from elegant cocktail lounges to a classic British pub called the Exchange and what a pleasure to see no overpricing of drinks, which were priced the same as home.

As well as a large theatre, cinema, nightclub, casino and plenty of shops there are four swimming pools (two are adults only) and for night owls one of the buffet restaurants is open throughout the night. For some passengers life onboard seemed so good that some never left the ship.

It took quite a few days before we stopped getting lost in what amounted to a small town, with miles of corridors, but staff were everywhere so there was always someone to point us in the right direction. Catering on such a large scale is no easy task to do well but the quality and presentation of food was amazing. The main dining rooms had the option of sitting at the same table and eating at the same time or being totally flexible. They also managed to create an intimate atmosphere on sociable 4 or 6 seater tables or private tables for two.

Its impossible to be unaware of the Norovirus risks on cruise ships but P&O Cruises enforced hand sanitation when passengers returned to the ship and before entry to restaurants so it was more hygienic than most restaurants at home.

VenturaOur route started with a couple of days in Barbados and called at St Vincent, Dominica, St Lucia, Antigua, St Kitts, Grand Turk, Tortola (BVI) and St Maarten and returned to Barbados. There were four ‘at sea’ days when the benefit of a balcony was really appreciated, as sunbathing around the pools got fairly crowded. Except for the pools the ship never seemed crowded which often made me wonder if I was missing out on some fascinating activity somewhere else.

A daily newsletter provided hour by hour details of events and activities going on around the ship as well as the range of excursions available at the next port. The cabin TV also ran a video loop of what to expect on shore excursions as well as a webcam of where the ship was going and a route map of where we were.

Being independent spirits we didn’t book any of the organised shore excursions but simply took a taxi around the island or more often headed for a selected beach. I’m glad I did plenty of research beforehand, as there was little practical island information beyond the organised tours.

Table for TwoBridgetown aside none of the island capitals had much to offer and Dominica’s capital Roseau was pretty grim, more like an overgrown Creole village than a capital.

But it’s the sun, sea and sand that are the Caribbean’s great appeal and they don’t let down on them. St Lucia, Antigua, St Kitts, Gran Turk and Tortola (BVI) were our favourite islands for beaches and beautiful warm turquoise waters and all have been listed as well worth a return visit.

The biggest disappointment was St Martin/St Maarten, the dual French and Dutch island that was tackily overdeveloped around Philipsburg and choked with traffic that could barely crawl around at 5 mph. We spend the same amount of time sitting in traffic as we did sitting on the beach.

The Ventura was our first ever cruise on the high seas and we enjoyed the experience far more than expected. The food and service exceeded our expectations, there wasn’t a hint of seasickness and it was the perfect way to explore a host of iconic islands that it would have taken years, and a lot more cash, to explore in normal holiday mode.

To see an updated list of all the Caribbean cruises in the upcoming months, go to their website for a range of cruises including Transatlantic voyages!

Ventura's facilities include four pools, an Oasis Spa with thermal suite, gym, theatre, age-specific children's clubs and a variety of restaurants and bars including East fine dining restaurant by Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar, The White Room by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White and The Glass House grill and bar with wines selected by TV expert Olly Smith.

For more details see www.pocruises.com/cruise-destinations/caribbean or to book, visit www.pocruises.co.uk, call 0843 373 0111 or contact your local travel agent.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 8 Comment(s)

  • peterlynch
    over 7 years ago
    I'm envious, & I'm sure you will have a great time.

    I suggest you buy a Caribbean islands travel guide so you can find places that are not always packed with fellow cruisers. When we docked at St Martin there were 7 other gigantic cruise ships in at the same time - so it was bedlam trying to get to the same places they all recommend.
  • sedghill
    over 7 years ago
    Thank you for this review Peter. My mum is 80 in October and we are booked on the cruise in November. It sounds great and you give some good tips here.
  • pipsqueak48
    over 7 years ago
    We too did a fjords cruise on Ventura in June 2008 when she was almost new and had a great cruise.
    We have not long ago returned from a Ventura fly/ cruise to Med and Adriatic and loved all the ports especially Venice, Dubrovnik and Kotor which is a gem.
    Really enjoyed reading about the Ventura cruise to the Caribbean as have never been and am now tempted to start looking for next year. It sounds lovely.
  • Barrowman
    over 7 years ago
    What an excellent review Peter. We were on Ventura's third cruise to the Fjords in 2008. Although a new ship with new staff the ship ran like clockwork and we had a most enjoyable cruise on her, we wouldn't hesitate to sail on her again should the right cruise come up....

    As a metter of interest we have just returned from a cruise on Emerald Princess, an almost identical ship to Ventura and it did bring back fond memories of our time spent on Ventura.....

    Now where's my P&O brochure gone!!
  • peterlynch
    over 7 years ago
    Yes, all the pools will be very busy on sea days but there is plenty of seating, with sea views, along the side of the ship.
  • Flowerpowerlife
    over 7 years ago
    Thanks for the review. We are cruising on Ventura in Spring so it's good to know what others think of her. I'm encouraged that there are a couple of adult only pools. I do have slight concerns that this is a family friendly ship so may not suit us, but as we're outside of school holidays, I'm hoping we should find some areas for a quiet read on a sea day.
  • jane-granger
    almost 8 years ago
    We didn,t do the Caribbean on her but have cruised on Ventura before, I agree she is a wonderful ship, I have tried hard to find fault and there is none, We did spoil ourselves a bit last yer and had the Strathmore Suite , the little extras, like canapes every evening, fresh fruit/flowers daily were lovely and our butler ws superb , he booked my pampering day for arranging hair/massage/nails etc .... and expertly timed them all so I was back in our suite in time to get ready for the last Formal night, he also noticed when my dress was out hanging ready to wear that the bottom was slightly creased and despite us having an iron and board he whisked it away and 15 mins later it was back pristine !

    We also loved 'The Beach House' for a slightly less formal dining on a few nights, all in all in my opinion the best Ship I have ever cruised on, !
  • shayne
    almost 8 years ago
    Hubby & I came back from cruising the caribbean on Ventura on 22nd December, we had the same itinery, we loved the ship as not as formal as some of the other cruise lines, though there was four formal nights with a chance for hubby to get his tux out.
    The food is amazing & i am surprised we did not come back two stone heavier. The ship is spotlessly clean, the staff are constantly cleaning & the staff have to be commended, they do work hard, nothing is too much trouble & they are very polite. There is something for everyone of every age group so no chance of getting bored on the days at sea. The gym was busy, not with me though, i did enjoy the spa & had a couple of treatments which was bliss, hubby had his haircut & was very pleased with it.
    The sailaway partys were good fun & had everyone singing & dancing & one night waving flags at the english themed party to celebrate 175 years of P&O. we was same as you, we did our own thing & got taxi's, we did not like St.Vincent or Dominica, to be honest, they were a dump, maybe if we had explored further we might have a different opinion, I loved St, Maartin, but hey i'm a woman & love to shop & it is the cheapest island as it is duty free. We have looked at other cruise lines & P&O have the cheapest tips, all cruise lines have compulsory tipping but with P&O it was £49 per person for the fortnight, which we were happy to pay, also some people i talked to said they went to reception & said they were not paying as they wanted to tip personally to the staff, which is ok to do with P&O, some cruise lines you have no option but to pay & can be £200 per person, also when we had drinks bought to us they do not have a service charge, with others you not only pay £200 tips, everytime you purchase a drink, you get charged 10%, so in effect, your paying tips twice, which i will not do, we had a fabulous time & would book with P&O again.