For us, Ventura was the final ship in the P&O Cruises fleet that we hadn’t been on yet. So, last year, we thought we’d rectify that by booking a 4 night mini cruise to Zeebrugge and Amsterdam, departing 1st February 2019. We had already sailed on her younger sister, Azura and so therefore wasn’t fazed by not finding our way around the ship as both ships are very similiar in design and layout.
1st February 2019 – Embarkation Day: Southampton:
After spending a comfortable night at my friend and fellow passenger Dan’s house, it was time to head to Southampton and Mayflower Terminal to board Ventura. We arrived at around 12.45 and only had to wait 10 minutes for us to check in as our letters were called out fairly quickly. Check in went very smoothly, although their computers were down so we weren’t able to register our debit cards until we embarked the ship. Smooth and seamless through security and onto the air bridge and we were nearly there! Except, the air bridge alarm system went off and we couldn’t board the ship. This happened a few times in the 20 odd minutes we were waiting but we finally embarked the ship around 13.25 and proceeded to our cabin.
Our cabin was situated portside, forward on Deck E and was an obstructed view outside cabin. It had a wonderful large picture window which let in a great deal of light, even though there was a lifeboat in the way. The layout is very good, logical and was similar to that on Azura. There was a good amount of storage space and a decent size bathroom too.
After we dropped our stuff off at the cabin, we then navigated ourselves to The Waterside for lunch. This was Ventura’s buffet style restaurant, situated on Deck 15, aft. It was relatively quiet when we got there and so didn’t have a long wait to find a table. We enjoyed a bite to eat (a full roast beef dinner to be precise) before we went and had a wander around the ship to see what all was on offer.
Muster was at 16.40 and we were mustering in The Exchange pub on F Deck, Deck 6 forward. It was standing room only in Muster Station B but we managed to find a seat of some sorts. The drill took around 20 minutes but was a mad dash at the end to get up onto deck as the Captain had announced the ship was set for departure. We were lucky though, when we finally got up onto Deck 15, we were still alongside, so we didn’t miss a thing. So, shortly after 17.00, we slipped our lines and departed Berth 106 and made our way down Southampton Water, passing Hythe on our starboard side and Southampton on the portside. We were off! Zeebrugge here we come!
Dan and Anthony then met up with Christian and Charlie for dinner at the Saffron Restaurant. This was specifically for guests who were on freedom dining. We had a little wait to get a table in the restaurant and so we were given a buzzer which would buzz when there was a free table. We were advised that it could take 45 minutes. So, we then headed to the Red Bar which was close by and had a drink there. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long until we got the buzz from the buzzer. There, we were treated to a fantastic first night meal on board.
After dinner, the night was ours . We decided to go and see the show, called WE3. It was wonderful. It was three talented individuals who made their own music and sounds through their voice. Was certainly something very different but it worked well indeed.
After the show, we headed to the Havana Club, where we all enjoyed a few refreshments before heading to The Waterside for a midnight snack before retiring for the night.
A great first night on board Ventura!
2nd February 2019 – Zeebrugge, Belgium:
It was a overcast and wet welcome we recieved as we arrived into Zeebrugge. We got up and had a breakfast at The Waterside. Christian and Charlie were heading into Bruges, so Dan and Anthony decided to head into Blankenberge. This required taking the shuttle bus, which took 15 minutes or so. The drop off point was fairly central and was close to Blankenberge’s railway station. Once off the coach, Anthony and Dan had a walk around the centre and were brave enough to make it to the beach. With the wind and drizzle being a factor, it certainly was a far cry from a nice summer’s day at the beach. After the photos and videos were taken, it was time to head back to the shuttle bus and back to Ventura. Once we got back to the port, we were dropped off at the cruise terminal, showed our cruise cards to a port official and then transferred to a port shuttle bus which took us the last 500 yards or so back to the ship. Having been to Zeebrugge before, this was the first time that this procedure has happened. Still, it was good to get back to the ship as both Anthony and Dan were hungry.
After dropping the stuff off at the cabin, it was time to head to The Waterside. It was bit busier this time, with quite a lot of people crammed into the small buffet so was a bit like having a battle of the elbows at trying to get food from the buffet. However, it was mission accomplished. After lunch, a spot of relaxation before heading to the jaquzzi for an hour or so. Here we met some very nice people and the conversation was flowing. Christian and Charlie also passed by as they returned to the ship and Dan spoke to them whilst Anthony was engaged in conversation with the other occupant of the jaquzzi. The good thing was that there was a roof over the pool and the jaquzzi so the heat was kept in. Was very pleasant indeed.
By the time we got out of the jaquzzi, it was time to go and get ready for departure and also for dinner. It was formal evening, so it was a case of dusting down the old suit. Departure from Zeebrugge meant we required two tugs to pull us off the berth. It was wet and squally so we decided to stay on Deck 7 promenade, port side to see us sail out.
After sailaway, we made our final preparations for dinner and met up with Christian and Charlie to enjoy another wonderful meal in the Saffron Restaurant. It was Christian’s 30th birthday so a case for celebration! Tonight’s service though was so quick that we were finished within an hour. Usually dinner can last anywhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours, so this was a bit too quick and rushed for our liking as it’s nice to have a chat between courses. None the less, the service was excellent.
Entertainment for this evening was a comedian, called Nick Page. Now, usually the highlight of any entertainment on board is the comedian. However, this was a real let down. His show started off very well but we felt he overstepped the mark with some of his jokes and in particular Anthony was annoyed and angry with some of the references he was making. So, an email has been sent to P&O Cruises to complain about the content and they have been prompt in their response. We know comedy is subjective but when you make references to unsavoury subjects, you know that’s beyond comedy.
Afterwards, we decided to have a few drinks and enjoy the karaoke which was taking place in The Exchange. In fact, it was excellent! The entertainment there was superb and the majority of the singers were fantastic! We were there until the small hours of the morning and that’s where we met Tracey and Alison. Was very nice to meet them and we had a good hour or so conversing with them until we called it a night and headed to the buffet for yes, some more food! Of course, to soak up the alcohol.
Afterwards, it was time to hit the hay. It had been another great day but the comedian certainly had put a dampner on things. Buy heyho, that’s life I guess. Tomorrow was Amsterdam and the forecast would be sunny! Things were promising!!
3rd February 2019 – Amsterdam:
It was a bit of lie in for us this morning as we knew the ship wasn’t departing Amsterdam until 10pm that evening. First look out of the window and the sun could be seen YAYYYY!!!
We headed up for breakfast at the Waterside and this time it was a bit of a farce really. The buffet itself is pretty small and the number of people trying to get food at the same time resembled a bit of a bun fight. People were pushing in front of queues, especially those coming from the cold selection to the hot selection, thinking it was their right to just barge in front – the lack of manners was indeed quite shocking. The layout there really needs a rethink. Works so much better on Azura and the Horizon Court on Princess ships. We managed to grab something to eat and we were joined by Christian too.
Once breakfast was finished, Anthony and Dan went back to the cabin to charge the cameras before heading ashore. The planned route was to go over the bridge and onto the outlet which gave great views of the ship. Then once back across the bridge, we managed to grab a few bow shots of Ventura before heading into the centre.
Amsterdam is a great city in which to walk. Easily signposted and a short walk from the ship, the Dutch capital affords great sights, musuems and shopping opportunities. Of course, there is the famous canals and you can take a leisurely cruise along the many canals around the city. It really is a beautiful city and was lovely just to walk around the city.
After a good couple of hours ashore and a good walk around the centre of Amsterdam, it was time to go back to the ship and grab a bite to eat. Was a relief to get a seat and have some lunch. We were anticipating it to be only afternoon tea available in The Waterside but luckily enough, lunch was still being served so we were able to get a bit more something substantial.
It was back to the cabin to have a rest and watch a bit of television. According to Anthony’s app on his iphone, we had walked over 7 miles today. So, the feet were a bit grateful for a lie down on the bed. We watched a little of BBC HD, a dedicated BBC service on board P&O Cruises and caught up with a little “Keeping Up Appearances”. Was rather apt as Clive Swift, who played the suffering Richard Bucket in the sitcom, had passed away a few days previous.
After a period of rest and relaxation, dinner time was coming around again. It was around 19.00ish that we met up with Christian and Charlie for another wonderful meal in the Saffron Restaurant. Departure wasn’t until 10pm from Amsterdam so we had plenty of time to relax and have a nice quiet drink whilst listening to the house band, PULSE in the Tamarind Club. We decided to say and watch a bit of the game show, Spin It To Win It (Wheel of Fortune) and was quite entertaining before we headed up top to see us depart from Amsterdam.
It was rather cold up top and blustery but that didn’t stop us. We were interested in seeing us do a three point turn to get out of the port and my Ventura didn’t disappoint. Aided by the Captain, pilot and officers on the bridge, Ventura moved away from the berth and carried out the turn to perfection before heading down stream towards the locks and out into the North Sea.
After we had witnessed departure from Amsterdam, it was time to go and have a few more refreshments and this time it was in the Havana Club, It was fairly busy tonight as many people would be taking advantage of a long lie in the morning as it was a sea day. After a few drinks in the club, it was time to head up to The Waterside for something to eat and a chat. We could see from our seats the pilot being disembarked onto the pilot boat. Never fails to amaze their dedication and cause when embarking and disembarking a moving vessel. Afterwards, it was time to say goodnight and off to the land of nod.
4th February: At Sea
Today was our final day on board and we were at sea. A fairly leisurely start to the day, we didn’t get up til around 10ish and once ready we headed up to The Waterside for our usual breakfast.
Today was also the chance to go around and take some photos of the interiors on board Ventura. Dan and Anthony took the opportunity to take some photos before meeting up with Christian and Charlie for lunch. Today, we decided to choose a sit down meal in the Saffron Restaurant. To be brutally honest, the menu selection was somewhat disappointing and confusing and the overall lunch wasn’t anything to really write home about. For a lunch, we had expected more and was disappointed. However, we’d be back for the evening meal. It would surely make up for it.
After lunch, Dan and Anthony went to see Ventura’s take on the TV gamehow, The Chase in the Havana Club. Named The Pursuit, it was exactly the same rules for the choosen volunteers to play and one of the cruise staff would face the constestants. It was really fun and entertaining but the contestants won in the end with only 1 second in it! Yay!!
It was then time to go and see P&O Cruises newest and flagship show, “Astonishing”. Created by Stephen Mulhern and Jonathan Wilkes, it was a show mixed with dance, song, magic and illusion. This was the first of three shows that day and was in a packed Arena. It was absolutely tremendous. The illusions were very clever as was the dance and song routines but the best was the illusion that the audience took part in. It was mindblowing! We still are not sure how it was done but was staggering!
Afterwards, it was back to taking photos around the ship.
After the show, it was time to relax before dinner so back to the cabin we went. Again, just laid down on the bed and watched some television before getting ready for our final dinner in the Saffron Restaurant.
We met Christian and Charlie outside the restaurant but we were given a buzzer again as there wasn’t any tables for four available at the time. That was fine, so we went and grabbed a drink at The Exchange bar close by. This was a great pub style venue with Fortunes the casino also interlinked. We didn’t have too long to wait, roughly 20 minutes, before we all jumped 40 feet in the air when the buzzer went off and onto dinner we went.
After again a really nice dinner, it was a case of what was on around the ship. We then tried our hand at the casino but broke even so that wasn’t too bad. Whilst Charlie and Christian went back to the cabin to get something, Dan and Anthony decided to find a place to go and have a drink and to meet up with Christian and Charlie and also Tracey and Alison. We checked the Metropolis, it was packed, we checked the Tamarind Club, again it was packed. The Glass House was busy but had no real atmopshere i.e music etc. So, we settled on having a few drinks at the Red Bar. Although this was a pretty quiet, we could still hear music coming from the atrium so helped as a backdrop. Once all the venues are pretty full, it’s fairly difficult to get a good seat and that can be extremely frustrating, especially if there is something you want to see. Tracey and Alison then joined us before Christian and Charlie came back. Was a really nice evening chatting and having a drink. The time seemed to fly by and it was around the back of 11 when we said our goodbyes to Tracey and Alison and then headed up to The Waterside for one last midnight buffet. Another enjoyable buffet was completed and it was time to say goodnight to Christian and Charlie and also goodbye as we probably wouldn’t see them in the morning. After we said our goodbyes, it was back to the cabin to do last minute packing and then for some sleep as it was an early rise in the morning. Again, it had been a very good day.
5th February: Southampton: Disembarkation
Waking up at 7.30 in the morning was a bit of a shock again as disembarkation day began. We were already fast alongside when we looked out the window on a grey and overcast Southampton.
We then got ready and got our cases and headed up to The Waterside for one last breakfast. The lifts were an absolute nightmare to get but eventually we managed to get one. When we arrived at the buffet, it was an organised chaos as everyone was elbows and hands as they tried to get some semblance of a breakfast. We managed to get a seat but Dan had to wait at the table as to keep hold of it whilst I got my breaksfast and he’d get his when I returned. I very much grew to hate The Waterside’s layout and today’s breakfast made those feelings stronger. So was glad when breakfast was over.
Then it was time to disembark Ventura. So with the swipe of our cruisecard, we left the ship at Mayflower Terminal and made our way to the pick up zone where Dan’s mum would give us a lift to the railway station. Anthony had some time to kill before his coach to London in the late afternoon so with Dan went back to Totton and had lunch at Dan’s local and also watched a couple of DVDs before getting the train back into Southampton mid afternoon. The coach was at 16.05 and arrived in London Victoria on time. Some dinner was bought, extra goodies for the London to Edinburgh got and boarded the 22.30 Megabus back to Edinburgh which was on time for once. It was officially over – the cruise completed and time to head back home.
Ventura won’t go down as our favourite ship but still the cruise overall was good. The layout and passenger flow didn’t seem to work as well as her sister Azura and some of the areas that weren’t refitted in the refurbishment last year, badly needed to be. The Freedom Dining, usually very good, was probably the worst we’d experienced with P&O. The fact we had to wait and then felt rushed whilst having dinner didn’t go down too well. It’s simply not a patch on Princess Cruises’ Anytime Dining. The food overall was good, particularly in the Saffron Restaurant. Choices in The Waterside were a little bit disappointing on occasions and the layout pretty dreadful. Entertainment was good with fabulous Astonishing show and WE3 but certainly not the comedian who was extremely distasteful to put it mildly. The passenger flow was pretty poor on board and for other passengers manners, it was like they had left them in Southampton before they embarked as there was quite a lot of rude passengers who saw fit to barge their way in the queues for breakfast, lunch and midnight buffet. Our cabin was superb and very comfortable. Beds made it difficult to get up in the morning as we really enjoyed a goodnight’s sleep.
Whilst never say never, it’s unlikely that we’d go on Ventura in the future on a longer cruise. We much preferred her younger sister Azura or the larger Britannia. Comparing Ventura to her cousin, Sapphire Princess at Princess Cruises and there is no comparison – Sapphire wins all day long.
We still like P&O Cruises and that won’t change. We’d very much look forward to cruising with them again in the future, just not so much Ventura.
All in all, it was a good cruise and we did come back rested and refreshed.