Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 401 out of 500
Accommodation: 155 out of 200
Food: 249 out of 400
Service: 287 out of 400
Entertainment: 77 out of 100
Cruise: 295 out of 400
Overall Score: 1464 out of 2000
Size: Large Resort Ship
Cruise Line: P&O Cruises
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9333175
Builder: Fincantieri (Italy)
Original Cost: €535 million
Entered Service: Apr 2008
Length (ft/m): 951.4/290.0
Beam (ft/m): 118.1/36.0
Draft (ft/m): 27.8/8.5
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (42,000kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 15
Total Crew: 1,239
Passengers (lower beds): 3,074
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 37.7
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.4
Cabins (total): 1,546
Size Range (sq ft/m): 134.5-534.0/12.5-49.6
Cabins (for one person): 18
Cabins (with private balcony): 880
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 25
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 3
Hot Tubs (on deck): 6
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: UK£
Family-friendly, large ship cruising to suit British family tastes
Overview. Ventura is mainly suited to British families with children as well as adult couples who are looking for a big-ship environment with comfortable but unstuffy surroundings and lots of options.
The Ship. Ventura is the P&O version of Princess Cruises’ Grand-class ships, along with sister ship Azura. There are promenade walking decks to port and starboard sides, underneath the lifeboats. You can’t walk completely around, however; it’s narrow in some places, and you have to weave past a number of deck lounge chairs. There are three pools: two on the pool deck, one of which can be covered by a glass-roofed skydome, and one at the stern.
Inside, a three-deck atrium is the focal point. Designed on a gateway theme, central to which are four towering black granite archways sourced from India, it’s the place to see and be seen, and the best location to arrange to meet friends. The upper-deck public room layout is challenging because you can’t go from one end of the ship to the other without first going down, along and up - not good for anyone with mobility problems.
Public rooms include a perfume shop, library, a Cruise Sales Centre, Fortunes Casino, and several bars, including The Exchange (an urban warehouse bar), and The Beach House (outside with great aft views and views along the ship’s sides - over everyone’s balcony), and Red bar. Check out the train that runs around the upper part of the upper bar of The Exchange.
Passenger niggles include the constant push for on-board revenue, low passenger/space ratio, mediocre self-service buffet food, and a charge for shuttle buses in many ports.
Smoking is permitted only in designated spots on the open decks. Gratuities are automatically charged to your onboard account.
It’s possible to get married on board, with the captain officiating.
Families. Children will be pleased to find that, for 2-4-year-olds, Noddy is on board. There are children’s clubs for the under-twos up to 17 years, plus a rock ’n’ roll school. Youngsters can also enjoy Scalextric at sea with Grand Prix-style track, 3D cinema, and interactive art classes. Family shore programs feature aqua and ‘theme parks.’ There’s a useful Night Nursery for the under-fives.
Accommodation. There are many different accommodation price grades, according to size and location chosen, but really just six types of accommodation: suite with balcony; family suite with balcony; outside-view twin/queen with balcony; outside-view twin/queen; interior no-view cabin. More than one-third of all cabins are of the interior variety. Some have extra third/fourth berths that fold down from the ceiling. While the suites are quite spacious, they are quite small when compared to suites aboard some other cruise lines, such as Celebrity Cruises or Holland America Line. In 2013, a total of 18 single-occupancy cabins were added (12 outside and six interior), in line with those aboard Azura - good news for solo travelers.
Standard in all cabins: bed runners, 10.5 tog duvets, Slumberland sprung mattresses, and Egyptian cotton towels. Tea/coffee-making facilities (plastic and basic), and packets of UHT milk, not fresh milk, are provided. The tea-making set-up is adequate, but getting fresh milk can sometimes be a problem. Bathrobes are available only for passengers occupying grades A, B and D accommodation. There are UK three-pin sockets plus US-style 110-volt sockets for electrical devices.
Cabins have open closets (no doors = no money wasted), which actually provide easy access. Balcony cabins have teak patio furniture, and an outside light. Decent-quality personal toiletries are by Temple Spa.
Wheelchair-accessible cabins have a shower enclosure, except one (R415) that has a bathtub with integral shower. They are mostly in the front section, but the Bay Tree restaurant is aft - so be prepared for lots of waiting time at elevators. Wheelchair users should note that breakfast in the three main restaurants typically ends at 9.30am on sea days (9am on port days). To take breakfast in the self-serve Waterside casual eatery, wheelchair users need to wheel across the decks containing the Beachcomber and Laguna pools and lots of deck chairs - not easy. Alternatively, they can order room service breakfast - typically cold items only. There is no room service breakfast on disembarkation day.
Dining. P&O’s marketing blurb claims there are 10 restaurants. There really aren’t. There are five genuine restaurants (Bay Tree, Cinnamon, Saffron, The White Room, and East); the rest are more casual eateries.
The three principal dining rooms, Bay Tree, Cinnamon, and Saffron, have standard à-la-carte menus. The Bay Tree offers fixed seating dining, with assigned tables and typical seating times of 6.30pm or 8.30pm. In the other two, you can dine when you want, with whom you want, between 6pm and 10pm - P&O calls it Freedom Dining - although at peak times there can be long waiting times for a table.
Once or twice per cruise, additional special dinners are served in the main dining rooms, one being a ‘Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ event. The ship’s wine list is ho-hum average.
Other dining options. Specialty dining venues include the White Room, located high up on the ship above the children’s play area, with a quarter of the tables on deck. It features modern European dishes by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White in an environment that is intimate and attentive but not stuffy - good for families. Reservations are needed, and there’s a cover charge. The food is cooked to order, unlike in the main dining rooms. Occasionally, Marco Pierre White sails aboard the ship, and holds cooking classes for up to eight participants in one of the ship’s galleys; the extra cost is high, but worth it, and includes a tasting of the finished product.
For complete privacy, private balcony dining, with selections from the Marco Pierre White menu, is also available as a rather pricey (but perhaps worthwhile) extra-cost option.
The Waterside is a large, self-serve buffet ‘seaside chic’ dining spot, with indoor-outdoor seating, but the seating is rather poorly designed and cramped, and the food selection is poor (better for lunch than for breakfast or dinner).
On the same deck, adjacent to the forward pool, are Frankie’s Grill and Frankie’s Pizzeria.
Tazzine, a coffee lounge by day, turns into a cocktail bar in the evening.
The Beach House is a casual dining spot for families, open 24 hours. Marco’s roof-side café serves gourmet pizzas, grills, and original ice cream flavors such as chocolate truffle and prune and Armagnac. Children’s cutlery, bibs, and beakers are available.
East is an Asian fusion eatery on the main indoor promenade. In addition, 24-hour room service is available in cabins.
Entertainment. P&O claims the 785-seat Arena Theatre, at the front of the ship and spanning two decks, is the largest showlounge aboard a UK-based cruise ship, but in fact the showlounge aboard Queen Mary 2 is larger, with 1,094 seats, as is the Showlounge aboard Independence of the Seas. Havana, the main nightclub and entertainment venue, where movies are sometimes shown, is an activities room by day and a sultry Cuba-inspired club by night, but sight lines are extremely poor from many seats.
A video wall in the Cosmopolitan club lounge screens real-time footage of the world’s seven most famous city skylines - Sydney, Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and London. It’s neat.
Spa/Fitness. The Oasis Spa is located forward, almost atop the ship. It includes a gymnasium, aerobics room, beauty salon, separate male and female sauna and steam rooms, and 11 treatment rooms. An internal stairway connects to the deck below, which contains an extra-charge Thermal Suite. Harding Brothers provide the spa staff and services. Treatments include special packages for couples, and the SilverSpa Generation, as well as a whole range of individual treatments. Active types can take instruction in Cirque Ventura’s activities, including juggling, acro-balancing, tight-wire walking, stilt walking, and clowning.