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Helen

Age: 46

Occupation:PR manager

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: P & O Cruises

Ship: Ventura

Sailing Date: 2010-12-31

Itinerary: USA and Caribbean

This was our first full cruise (our previous experience was more than twenty years ago with Carnival and was a 4 day trip around the Bahamas) We went with our 17 year old daughter and my parents who are seasoned cruisers and highly recommended P&O. We were extremely impressed with the standard of Ventura, its helpful staff and the sheer number of ports of call they packed into our holiday which we felt made this particular cruise (4 US ports and 7 Carribean ports) extremely good value for money if the main purpose of your holiday is to visit as many destinations as possible.

One slight drawback is that we flew out on New Years Eve and encountered a 5 hour delay at the airport meaning we did not arrive on board Ventura until late that evening. We missed the first formal dinner and only just managed to see the fireworks at midnight. This aside, the cruise was faultless. Prior to this holiday I didn't really think of myself as a 'cruise person' but I am now a convert and can't wait to go again!

We mainly ate in the silver service restaurants - Saffron for breakfast and Bay Tree for dinner. Both were excellent with a good and varied choice of meals. The waiters, though initially a little forgetful, soon got used to our requirements and by the middle of the cruise an orange juice was always waiting for my daughter on arrival (as she rarely eats starters) and they even remembered special requests such as skimmed milk etc at breakfact without being reminded. Lunchtimes we occasionally used the Boardwalk self service buffet and whilst the food was good quality and plentiful, the main bug bear was trying to find a vacant table whilst we carried around our trays of food (fine if you've chosen a salad but if you've opted for a hot dish it will probably be cold by the time you find somewhere to sit!) The 4pm chocolate buffet was a feast for the eyes though not great if you are on first sitting for dinner unless you have a huge appetite! We sampled afternoon tea in the Saffron restaurant which was beautifully presented, with finger sandwiches, small cakes and pastries, hot crumpets and scones with clotted cream. We would have gone more than once but see previous comment re 1st sitting for dinner! We did not have the opportunity to try Whites, East or Ramblas for which you pay a small additional cover charge Other passengers were full of praise for Whites though

We had an inside cabin on deck C, whilst my parents and daughter shared a balcony suite. Despite family jokes to the contrary, we never felt like second class citizens - our room steward was the most polite and helpful individual I've ever met. Nothing was too much trouble for him and whenever he heard us approach he would pop out from a cabin he was cleaning and rush along the corridor to open our door for us. The room was well appointed and the beds were extremely comfortable with Egyptian cotton sheets and fluffy pillows. One slight problem was our shower which became blocked but we mentioned this to the steward and he arranged for a plumber to sort out same day. Although we did not have the benefit of a window, if we wanted to find out what the weather was doing or where we were without leaving the comfort of our cabin, we simply tuned into channel 9 and the ship's CCTV located on the bridge!

We're not great 'joiners' and one of our major fears about going on a cruise was that it might be a little bit like 'Butlins on the sea.' There were plenty of activities to choose from but we never felt we had to participate. I attended an interesting talk about Reflexology (beware though - most of the spa talks are thinly veiled attempts to sign you up for expensive treatments which I fell for!) My husband enjoyed the gym which was free to use and very well equipped. He also enjoyed the golf 'driving range' on deck 19.

Shows and entertainment in the evening were varied and included tribute acts, magicians, comedians including the excellent Tom O'Connor, plus some theatre style reviews- something for most people. My parents felt they weren't quite up to the standard of other P&O med cruises they'd been on, although we felt they were perfectly acceptable.

The spa treatments tend to be pricey and beware of the hard sell 'home treatments' they try to flog at the end of the session - they can leave a huge hole in your pocket!

Organised trips on the whole tend to be poor value for money. The majority of the Caribbean ports of call were much cheaper to organise independently. There are plenty of taxis who will provide similar half and full day trips around the island for much less (also as many of the Caribbean islands have Government-regulated fixed price tariffs for taxi fares you need not worry about being ripped off) The one P&O trip I would recommend was our final day in Barbados - a half day "Farewell to Barbados" trip gave us a whistle stop tour of the island before delivering us safely to the airport in good time for our flight home and made the most of our final day in the Caribbean.

With the exception of the delays on arrival which sadly spoilt New Years Eve, I could not fault this cruise. I felt it was excellent value for money and the staff on board were without exception helpful and friendly. Prior to choosing this cruise we were very worried about the formal evenings and whether we would fit in. We actually enjoyed them very much (there were only four during the entire 14 days and we missed our first evening due to arriving on board late!) Despite other reviews claiming that 'formal evenings' mean formal throughout all public areas, the reality seemed to be that this only applies to the silver service dining rooms. We saw plenty of people using the upstairs buffets who were casually dressed and there does not appear to be a dress code in most of the bars and entertainment areas so if this is putting you off going on Ventura please don't stress unduly.

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