Ven­tur­ing out onto the high seas

Cruise vir­gin JAYNE THOM­SON boards the Ven­tura for a trip to the Ca­nary Is­lands and finds lots to like but not ev­ery­thing to her taste

Hayes & Harlington Gazette - - Getaway -

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.

Can’t com­plain.

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

Af­ter­noon tea

Jayne’s cabin In­side the Ven­tura

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