Excuse the title, that is a bit of a mouthful and hardly flows off the tongue, does it? More like a tongue twister. I wanted to share my thoughts on how we felt about our Christmas aboard the P&O Ventura. I was slightly nervous about going away at Christmas. We have done this once before – pre-children. It was after a brutal year and we decided to treat ourselves to a little trip to the Maldives. This was supposed to be THE amazing holiday.
We had worked really hard all year and this was our reward. Except Mr C ate an evil pasty from the reduced fridge in a well-known supermarket and became very ill with food poisoning and then the fog came down, the plane fell apart (no joke) and as such we were delayed for almost 2 days. We lost 2 days of our 8 day holiday. I then came down with the heaviest cold, and spent the entire time, on a tropical island, shivering under lots of towels. Not good. I didn’t have high hopes for our P&O Christmas cruise around the Canary Islands on Ventura. This was not helped when we realised that Southern Rail would be on strike and therefore there would be no trains running to Southampton. Cue panic. In the end we had to hire a car. It was not boding well already, would it improve?
Where We Stayed The Night Before
As we were coming from Jersey we always leave ourselves plenty of time. The island often becomes fog-bound meaning that planes are cancelled at the last minute. The day after we flew to England the fog came down and no planes left for the whole of the day. It was good job that we had left ourselves plenty of time! We had booked to stay in the Novotel. It was ok. It costs more than the Premier Inn just down the road and comparing the two I would say that the Premier Inn has the better rooms.
The Novotel just felt a little dated; only one lift was working too. It markets itself as being family friendly and likes to proudly claim that the children will receive a welcome pack. Less of a welcome and more of a disappointment. The welcome pack was one paper mask from the Angry Birds movie. Saying that, the lobby area of the hotel is lovely, there is a small area for kids with a games console, some books and other bits and pieces. We had breakfast in the Novotel and it was a much more civilised affair than at Premier Inn. The Novotel also has leisure facilities but unfortunately we didn’t have time to use them.
Overall: I’m not sure it is worth paying the extra when you can stay in the more modern Premier Inn.
P&O Ventura Christmas cruise around the Canary Islands
The Embarkation Process
You are given a time to arrive and with 2,000 other passengers getting on the ship, it is important that you stick to your boarding times. Embarkation was smooth and efficient. We were not hanging around too long. If you do have small children then take some magazines or games to keep them occupied. There are plenty of seats and a small cafe area.
On arriving onto Ventura we were immediately impressed. You arrive into a grand three floor atrium with glass lifts. Our children were very fond of the glass lifts. The atrium was decorated beautifully for Christmas. A tall Christmas tree with twinkling lights, garlands that wound up the staircase and Christmas music playing. You could not fail to feel full of festive cheer.
On the ground floor of the atrium is the Costa Coffee. This is very reasonably priced and when you purchase a coffee you will find that cake is included at no extra cost. The cakes were delicious! On the ground floor is also a well-stocked but small library, cruise desk for where you can book further cruises and a Whitewall art gallery. The art gallery had some lovely pieces of art including Lowry, Cisz and Gray.
On the other floor of the atriums you will find lots of shops stocking clothes, perfume, make-up, watches, books and jewellery. As soon as we got on board we headed to our room to unpack.
Inside Cabin – Sleeps 4
As we have two young children we always go for the inside cabin. Now it might not be the biggest of cabins (we had opted for the smallest cabin for four) but it was big enough and it felt very roomy. The design of it means that you don’t feel on top of each other. It has a walk in wardrobe area that separates the sleeping area from the bathroom. We found that we had plenty of hanging space. The bathroom is compact but well stocked with White Company products. On the Ventura you have a shower curtain (I personally prefer a screen door, which is what is on the Britannia, a newer P&O Britannia ship).
Compared to the Britannia the decor of the cabin also felt a little more dated. However, in some ways I preferred it as I found it more homely. There were some signs of wear and tear and the carpet behind our door had really seen better days and could have done with being replaced. It also looked a little grubby. The carpets in all of the main communal areas look very clean and well maintained.
What You Get Inside Your Room
Every room comes with a mini fridge which is well stocked with beers, spirits and water. No white wine though! The cabins also have an LCD TV where you can watch on demand TV and movies, you can also track the boat’s progress across the sea and check your bill. The TV could be frustrating to use and I found that I had to stand on my tip-toes to get it to work. It was also a little slow.
Tea and coffee facilities are provided in your cabin. You will also have a cabin steward who gets your room ready every night and morning. In our case that would include sorting out the Pullmans and leaving a lovely chocolate on your pillow! The kids loved this small detail.
Balcony Cabin – sleeps 2
Hello 2017! We are back from our Christmas break, the Christmas jumpers have been packed away and the jeans are feeling a lot tighter. How are you all? I hope that you all had a lovely break with your families and that 2017 is kind to you all xxx . . . #momswithcameras #childofig #pixel_kids #MyHappyCapture #oureverydaymoments #LifeCloseUp #motherlylove #ohmamamoment #dailyparenting #capturingchildhood #letthembelittle #myhappycapture #worldoflittles #rememberingthesedays #TheMagicInEveryday #developinglife #capturemypositive #documentyourdays #unitemotherhood #thismamaloves #mydarlingmemory #lionessmama #2017 #happynewyear2017 #happynewyear #familyphotography #pocruises
My Mum and Dad had a balcony cabin (lucky things). This does feel like a more spacious room and it is lovely with all the natural light that comes in. The balcony is also a really good size. We were all able to fit on it comfortably (there were 7 of us in total)! The balconies on Ventura are much bigger than the ones on Britannia.
Ventura has 12 restaurants. When you board you will be assigned a restaurant (ours was Saffron) where you eat in the evening. Eating in here and the buffet restaurant is included in your price. Our restaurant was really nice with five star silver service. On the first evening the food wasn’t up to the standard we would expect from a cruise but this must have been teething problems because the following nights the food was superb.
For adults there is always an excellent choice of food and the menu changes daily. For children the menu is disappointing and the menu stays the same throughout the cruise. This becomes very repetitive when you are on a 12 night cruise. There isn’t much choice. About 5 mains and it is very beige. In the end we decided to encourage our 7 year-old to eat from the adult menu as she was so bored with the food on the children’s menu. This is disappointing and something I hope that P&O improves. P&O Ventura sells itself as being family friendly and the food should really reflect that. The service from the waiting staff was mostly excellent and attentive.
The other restaurant that is included in the cost is a buffet one. This is open all of the time. First impressions were that it was better than the buffet area on the Britannia. It felt less canteen like. However, after having breakfast in the buffet restaurant we decided never again. It felt chaotic. People were just pushing in. There were only hot plates for your fruit salad etc. It was very disorganised. It felt a bit like a fight to get your food and I couldn’t be doing with that every morning with two children. After that we always ate in the silver service restaurant which felt like an oasis of calm in comparison!
You can also eat in other select restaurants and pay for your food. These included the Glasshouse, Epicurean and East. The standard of the food was so good in our standard restaurant that we didn’t feel the need to try these out.
There is always plenty of entertainment on board. We partook in the daily daytime quiz which was really good fun and the quiz master was excellent. There were also movies, some of them Christmas films, talks, art classes, dance classes and fitness classes and a spa (which you will need to pay extra for). There is also an inside swimming pool as well as well as outdoor pools. So lots to keep you busy. Also, the usual activities you expect to find on deck including golf nets and a basketball court.
One of the decks loops the whole deck so if you feel the need for some exercise then get pounding the deck. Also handy if you have a pram and a baby that needs to sleep! If you want to escape the children then there is the Retreat at the front of the ship, an adult only part of the ship where there are some fancy loungers, and a small pool and hot tub for adults only. You will have to pay a small supplement to use these facilities though.
Our two love kids’ club and we could not keep them out of there. On sea days they would be always asking to go in. They can go from 9am in the morning with a break for lunch at 1pm and then from 2pm until 5pm (or it might be 6pm!) then they open again for the evening. You can take the children for an earlier meal and then take them to kids’ club, meaning that you could have a meal as a couple if you wanted to do that. We liked to spend our evenings as a family so didn’t use the kid’s club in the evening. However, I understand that kid’s club in the evening was games, sometimes a disco and finishing with a film.
Everyday has a theme and as this was a Christmas cruise there were lots of Christmas activities. The kids were in the nativity on Christmas Day. It was brilliant and how the staff managed to organise all of the children and rehearse the play with them all, I really don’t know! On Christmas Day there was also a grotto and Christmas fair for the children which they loved. A small issue was that Father Christmas got Youngest’s name wrong and Oldest did pick-up on this! There was also some Christmas baking, decorating and on Christmas Eve they were given reindeer food to sprinkle on the floor outside the cabin. On Christmas Eve there was also a party on deck to welcome Father Christmas’s arrival.
Lots of choice. Every night we partook in another quiz. Yes, we were that family! There was a show on every night in the theatre together with other entertainment in the smaller bar areas. We saw a comedian in one of the smaller venues. He wasn’t very good, incredibly sexist and made rather inappropriate jokes about breastfeeding. Jokes that sexualized breastfeeding. There was no warning before he came on that his jokes might offend or not be suitable for smaller ears! One of the highlights for us all was a tribute act to Freddie Mercury. He was brilliant and we had a fantastic evening singing along with ’Freddie’ whilst Oldest lip-synced and played air guitar Brian May style. There is also a small casino.
Lots of bars depending on what your mood is. There was the Glasshouse with wines (and some ales) chosen by Olly Smith, this bar/restaurant gave lovely views out to sea. It is also great if there is a large group of you as you can find big tables to sit everyone round. The Tamarind Club which also had live entertainment, The Red bar, The Exchange which was modelled on an old British pub feel and had traditional ales. This was one of the liveliest of the bars and always had a quiz or the football on. There was a really good atmosphere in here!
At the top of the ship was the Metropolis Bar with panoramic views of the sea. It was a lovely venue: during the day it was very quiet and somewhere nice to read your book with a coffee. In the evenings it had a much more buzzy feel. If you fancy a cocktail then check out their gin menu!
This was our third cruise with P&O and our least favourite so far. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the destinations. This cruise went to the Canary Islands and I will be sharing my thoughts on that in the future. There were small niggles with this cruise, things that could have been improved. Perhaps it was because our previous two cruises had been on the very new Britannia ship. However, it was still a really good holiday. Christmas Day was very well organised, there were lots of Christmas activities that got you in the festive mood and more importantly the children had a ball! Would we let those small niggles put us of booking another cruise? No, we might have already booked one for this Christmas….
If you are thinking of booking a cruise but are unsure then read this post for ten things you should consider before you book a cruise, with some tips to help you save money on your booking!
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