Venturing out onto the high seas
Cruise virgin JAYNE THOMSON P&O cruise ship boards Ventura the Ventura for a trip to the Canary Islands and finds lots to like but not everything to her taste
IF someone had told me a long time ago there was a near-cure for sea sickness, this wouldn’t have been my first cruise. No check-in queues, no long wait in an airport lounge and – best of all – no baggage limit, why haven’t I been on a cruise ship before?
Our-12 day voyage included seven days at sea and five destinations, where we could explore at our own leisure or book an excursion.
We sailed onto P&O’s Ventura with ease. After a brief check in, we were handed our very important cruise card, which you use a bit like a credit card, only without any added interest.
This is the ship’s account of what you buy, and you settle your bill at the end of your holiday. It’s also used to swipe in and out of your cabin, and getting on and off the ship too. What’s more, with no wait for a flight, as soon as you board the ship, your holiday starts. In theory, at least.
I wasn’t impressed by the queue we had to endure twice to obtain a working room key card after mine failed, and the lack of smiles on the front desk. But there was fairer weather ahead. My husband and I stayed in a balcony cabin, and I was pleased with the size and layout of it. (A little less impressed by the size of the shower and toilet cubicle but, after all, we were on a ship).
The room offered modest tea and coffee facilities, a spacious walk-in wardrobe and comfy bed, which was bigger than I was expecting.
I was surprised that after a refit, the company hadn’t gone for more modern décor in the rooms, mind. It looked quite dated. Still, I loved the balcony and the free movies on the telly.
Within a short space of time we were already starting our holiday and exploring the ship. First port of call was to find the top deck in time for the sailaway party.
This really was an experience. We joined in with all the other passengers, who were gleefully singing along to the music as we started our journey.
The ship is huge, and with 12 restaurants and a two-deck theatre, you really can get lost. We did.
Ventura can carry an astonishing 3,078 guests and 1,205 crew, and the ship was near full, but you’d never have known.
Waiting for a lift became quite theatrical for us, as everyone was so friendly and kind. There was always a story to tell, a comparison to be made with another ship.
Unfortunately, on our passage through the Bay of Biscay, we weren’t blessed with calm waters and most of the conversations revolved around handling the conditions. Rocky waves meant the pools were closed and the boat was rocking from side-to-side. The rocky seas lasted the entire trip to Madeira and we were counting down the days to the first port.
But please don’t let this put you off, the sea sickness tablets really work and actually it was quite the experience! It also gave me an excuse to lie in bed.
A word of advice here. Don’t go on a cruise holiday if you’re on a diet – you can eat 24 hours a day. You can scoff bowls of pasta at the buffet, lobster in a posh restaurant, pizza by the pool and a rather indulgent afternoon tea (for a supplementary price).
We were lucky enough to enjoy Club Dining at Bay Tree restaurant. I absolutely loved the old-fashioned style of the restaurant and the very attentive waiters, who really were wonderful.
The staff could not do enough, and if we couldn’t decide between two dishes, they would bring us both.
The majority of the food was delicious and I never left feeling hungry. The cheese was wonderful and, unfortunately for my waistline, I couldn’t go a meal here without ordering it.
My husband and I ordered a bottle of wine each night, In hindsight, we should have chosen a wine package (or not drunk so much).
A range of drinks packages can be purchased on board, including wine, soft drink and coffee deals, but prices were very reasonable and we never had a bad bottle.
We loved the Metropolis bar, where there was music every night and the décor and views were fantastic.
The waiters were very knowledgeable and they make some of the finest cocktails I’ve ever tasted.
My husband and I paid for a cocktail-making course and it was exceptional. But I was eager to try all the restaurants and food on offer. If you want luxury, head to Epicurean or Atul Kochaar’s Sindhu. Although you have to pay a supplement, they really are very good.
I’m not so keen on the buffet area, though, which is canteen-ish and does not match the luxury of the restaurants. I wouldn’t expect it to but I avoided it all the same.
One night, because of the sea conditions, we opted for room service and a night of watching films. It came promptly and there were big portions.
There are evening shows in the theatre, live bands and music and an array of daytime activities such as films, quizzes, talks and classes.
The show seats fill up fast and the shows are well worth a visit. Highlights for us were comedian Peter Piper and Adele tribute act Helen Ward Jackson.
Holidaying on a cruise ship is an experience everyone should try.
Would I go again? Well, I can’t
wait for my next cruise, but I will probably choose an adults-only ship next time.
The kids running wild were sweet. For the first four days. After that...
We loved the four formal black tie nights, where you get to dress up in your finest, the restaurants put on a fabulous special menu and everyone is quite merry. We loved dressing up and sampling the special menus.
It’s that touch of class that sets a cruise apart and makes it extra-special.
Jayne Thomson and her husband enjoy a drink
Jayne’s cabin Inside the Ventura