Cruise - Ocean Cruise
Southampton - Barbados
124 people found this review helpful
In April this year we were due to do our usual West to East Transatlantic cruise but were beaten by the volcanic ash. As a result of this we did a 15 day Mediterranean cruise on Ventura which was our first time with P&O. Having sailed for the past 12 years with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Sun Cruises and Thomson we were keen to make a comparison. We were so impressed that we booked again for the East to West Transatlantic. After this cruise the question is, are we still impressed with P&O and Ventura? Read on………..
We boarded a coach at Gatwick courtesy of P&O which took us to the ship. From the time of putting our cases on the coach we did not see them again until they were delivered to our cabin. On boarding the ship we again missed the welcome on board drink that we had become used to on RCI/Celebrity. Also there was no one to take our hand luggage and direct us to our cabin as with other cruise lines. A steel band was playing in the Atrium which was a nice touch bearing in mind we were heading for the Caribbean. Again we found the ship to be in good condition as was to be expected as Ventura is still less than 3 years old. The pools looked clean and there appeared to be plenty of sun loungers, more on this later. Lots of different sun bathing areas with 4 separate swimming pools although the one at the rear of the ship is really only a plunge pool.
We had an outside cabin with obstructed view on deck 8 Ecuador Deck. Although we had a safety unit outside the window we still had an excellent view out and lots of light. Why do ships have decks both numbered and named? Why not just number them? It’s a lot easier to remember!! We liked the design which was different from all the previous ships we had been on. There was a large amount of hanging space and plenty of drawer space. It was also the first time that we have had tea making facilities in the cabin with biscuits that were replenished each day. We also liked the complimentary bottled water on arrival together with the dish of sweets. The standard of the ‘Pamper Pack’ had gone down since April. It now consists of just a small container of conditioner and another of body lotion. The cabin steward was excellent and replenished the ice bucket each day which he placed in the refrigerator to keep the ice pristine. This time we found the television system very slow when selecting films and there were no news channels available when crossing the Atlantic. This is a time when you like to keep in touch with what is going on. As an instance no one knew about Hurricane Thomas which was to affect one of our ports of call.
These were always crowded which meant playing ‘Find a Table’. Because of our experience in April we gave up almost immediately and used the restaurants instead. The only hand gel dispensers in the buffets are positioned at the entrances to the food counters and many people were ignoring them. Why not put them at the entrance to the buffet area with a member of staff to ensure passengers use them as they do on other cruise lines?? The selection of food at the buffets whilst good did not in our opinion come anywhere near the selection offered by RCI/Celebrity. Whilst appreciating that P&O are aimed at British customers they need to take on board, excuse the pun, that some of their clients have more international tastes. Not everyone likes ‘Traditional English’ breakfast. The P&O Breakfast included black and white pudding which is certainly not to everyone’s taste. Hash Browns were made into a fried triangle instead of the normal grated potato. No Corn Beef Hash except as a special once a week. Smoked Salmon, Crispy Bacon, no different types of Scrambled Egg, Chipolatas etc. were not at the buffets as on other ships. In general the quality was good but the selection poor. One problem was that the plates are so hot that they are almost untouchable resulting in salad that is almost frying on the plate as pointed out by one of the comedians. If you asked for a cold plate they often did not have any.
There are 3 main restaurants on the ship and depending on the dining option you had chosen or if you were on the 14 or 15 day cruise determined which restaurant you were in. We were in the Bay Tree Restaurant which is done out in dark wood and gives it a less hospitable feel. We noted that there was no hand gel dispenser at the entrance to the restaurant. We had a table of 8. The first table we had was very dark because one of the wall lights was not working and neither were some of the ceiling lights. We reported this and were told they would be attended to. However the following evening they were still the same and we asked for a change of table. We and the other people on the table then moved to a table where it was much brighter. This resulted in a change of waiters and head waiter. It turned out to be to our advantage as Joe the Waiter, Michael his Assistant and Sim the Head Waiter were all superb. Certainly some of the best we have experienced in 29 cruises. Quick, efficient and courteous. Nothing was too much trouble. Again the food was of good quality but lacked choice. No salad course on the dinner menu. Sorbet only served once in 14 days between courses. They still adopt the system that one knife does all. The disadvantage of this is that whilst the steaks are beautifully cooked the knifes quite often are not as sharp as they should be resulting in being unable to cut the steak. Having said this we never had a meal that had to be sent back and the food and plates were always hot. There was a good selection of wines all at very reasonable prices. Far cheaper than RCI/Celebrity and no 15% added on.
There are also 3 dining alternatives. Marco Pierre White’s, White Room at £20 p.p, East at £15 p.p and Ramblers at £5 p.p. We used the East twice and thought it was excellent value for money. The food was fantastic and beautifully presented. We also tried Ramblas and again the food was beautifully presented and terrific value for money.
Drinks & Gratuities
This is an area where P&O really score against their competitors. We found the prices cheaper than a local pub and there was no 15% gratuity added to the price. If you go to the Red Bar and order a double spirit you receive a free mixer which is a known brand. Example, double Gin with Tonic, £4.30. In the other bars a Pint of Old Speckled Hen bitter £2.70, pint of Lager £2.90. Again P&O really score with the gratuities. Recommended is £1.50 per person per day for the cabin steward and £1.60 per person per day to include all dining room waiting staff. Total for a 14 day cruise per couple £86.80. Why can’t other cruise lines adopt these prices?
The entertainment team was lead by the Cruise Director, Leon de Ste Croix, who in our opinion is one of the best we have sailed with. There are 3 main entertainment areas on the ship. The Arena Theatre, Havana Bar and Tamarind Club. The theatre is used mainly for shows put on by the Ventura Theatre Company who we found to be good but not as good as they were in April, and by the main celebrity acts. The 2 comedians were excellent. One of them even managed to get the sun bed saga into his act. The other 2 venues were used by the ‘Tribute’ acts and singers. They did tributes to Tom Jones, Annie Lenox, Lu Lu and Freddie Mercury. The problem was that we saw them all on our April cruise. My own opinion is that P&O rely too much on tribute acts and some of these were not that good. To me the test is, if you can shut your eyes and recognise who they are supposed to be then they are good, however too many rely on trying to look like the individual but sound nothing like them. Also there is the usual, Bingo, Karaoke, various Quizzes, His and Hers and other variations of TV game shows which are really getting a bit ‘Old Hat’.
This was the real problem area on the ship. On the first sunny day all the sun beds had towels on them by 8am. The following morning I went up to decks 15 and 16 at about 7.15am and could not find a sun bed without a towel on it. I complained at the reception desk and was told that this was a recurring problem which they were aware of and they would look into it. At about 9am the Cruise Director came on the tannoy system requesting that people did not reserve sun beds and if they were not going to be used for more than 15 minutes towels should be removed. He pointed out that we were ‘British’ and should be considerate to our fellow passengers. Later that morning we were on deck 15 when we heard a row start between 2 females on the deck above us. It would appear that people had left their sun beds unattended for a considerable period of time and other passengers fed up with trying to find sun beds had removed the towels. This row with colourful language went on for some considerable period of time. I also heard of 2 males having a fight over sun beds. I again went to reception and asked what they were going to do to stop the problem and was told that it was up to the passengers to sort it out!!! P&O seem to have forgotten that we are fare paying passengers and it is not for us to be put into confrontational situations with other passengers. Other cruise lines get to grips with the problem should it arise so why not P&O? There are several ways of dealing with the situation and P&O should get a grip of things. On walking around the ship I found two lots of stacked sun beds but the problem was there was no where to put them out as all the space was taken. Another problem was that the swimming pools were dominated by children and teenagers. The ‘Endless’ pool at the front of the ship on deck 16 is for persons over 16 years of age yet it was being used by parents and their young children. Again the crew took no notice. Whilst these matters may appear at first sight trivial it should be borne in mind that this was a 14 day cruise of which 8 of the days were spent.
124 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.