The Ventura cruise departed on ,11the February for a USA/Caribbean cruise of some 35 days.
Initial impressions of the ship were a bit mixed, some good, some less so. Our cabin was a balcony on deck 12, a reasonable size and a comfy bed. Our cabin steward was good and he did his duties well.
Our first port of call was La Corrina, we quite like this call and went ashore for a shop and some tapas. After this we aimed west to our USA/Caribbean calls.
It was on this leg that the ships shortcomings came to light.
Cabin - whilst the bed was comfy, the pillows were not. The entertainment on the TV was almost non-existent. No wonder they don't put a TV guide in the cabin, it would consist of one page of blank A4 paper. We had BBC and ITV, plus 2 prime channels. These had repeats and stuff that was on the whole very poor. Our TV broke down a few times, and there was a long wait for it to be repaired. These TV sets are very old, and offer square screens for films that need wide screens.
As the theatre was put of bounds for a number of days, (the dance troupe were practicing) films were shown in other venues. Both the Havana and the Tamarind are rubbish venues when used as cinemas. The nickname for the Havana is The Meerkat Bar', you can guess why.
Ships shops - in a word, poor !! The usual collection of overpriced stuff, the general store didn't even have decent souvenirs. Don't expect a fridge magnet, they didn't exist. Day after day they wheeled out the same stuff, but little sign of a good buy.
BUT the drinks shop was the exception, they had a reasonable range at half decent prices. There is also a new rule that a bottle can be taken and enjoyed in your cabin. So a big old well done here.
Food - the menu sounded good, but the stuff we were served was down market to say the least. I felt that sometimes the waiters were embarrassed to bring it. Tough steaks, and old lamb (or was it mutton dressed as) potatoes with eyes in, poor choice of veg, altogether not great.
The ship did get some carrots in Miami (?), This made a change to the never ending dollop of runner beans we were given.
The exception to the poor evening food in the MDR, was the breakfast in the MDR. It was fresh, tasty, and offered a good choice.
The pay restaurants were on the whole good, we used the Epicurean once and we were "happy enough". We used the Glasshouse twice, and were very happy.
Tea/coffee in self service - this setup is a bit rubbish. The decaffeinated coffee sachets are difficult to open, and the sweetener dispenser is not suitable for this. Getting a hot drink was a nightmare and it was easy to start a queue. I understand that P&O want to reduce plastics and waste in general, but can I suggest they consult a passenger who has to put up with this nonsense.
Ships entertainment - for a 35 night cruise, it was as my teacher used to say to me "could/must do better'. I'm afraid the singers achieved the screatcher and screamers zone, could be that they were trying to hard if I'm being kind.
The quizzes were good, but the prizes have deteriorated to "win a crappy badge" level. No wine?
In the evening in the Havana the music offered prior to the main act had such delights as "How ,much is that doggy in the window,". What drivel, he (the entertainment guy) had the cheek to call it a classic. Well I guess you can get classical drivel? It's an insult to our intelligence.
My wife did speak to the entertainment manager about having some "modern music", but his view was that this was what the passengers wanted. He did commit to getting the groups to up there game, and initially it worked. But not for long. The 3 groups were reasonably young, and I suspect they would have loved to offer better music. And by better, I mean something from this century. Just because we are "old", (I am 72) it doesn't mean I am into doggy drivel. We did the 28 day Caribbean cruise in January 2020, and the most popular show by miles was the Freddy Mercury show. The theatre was packed, do can I suggest that more of this please? And less doggy stuff.
I will make one exception here. The ships crew did a show, it was very good and even the captain joined in.
Guest entertainers - a mix of good, bad and indifferent. But the ones we chose to see were ok. Our favorite was David Copperfield, we walked out on the tap dancers. Well done to the acts that put on extra shows when new acts couldn't board on the Azores.
Crew - generally a bit miserable, but after 'issues" in New Orleans when somone jumped ship, and shore leave was stopped. The morale dropped to new lows. This became more obvious when we shared a taxi to a mall in San Juan with crew off the Explorer of the Seas, they were 100% happier, and they actually had smiles on their faces. I will add a "but" here. It did seem that when Captain Willard took over, morale did get a bit better. The waiters were another mixed bunch, some would rather talk to each other than serve us. But some were ok as well.
I.will single out 2 crew as outstanding.
#1 - the young lady who stood outside the restaurant on deck 6 dispensing hand gel. A warm smile and hello is all it took for her to please.
#2- the young lady in housekeeping doing toilet duty on deck 6 by the dining room. A warm smile, and hello, plus some very good singing at the crew show.
Both the above are assets to P&O.
Ships facilities - this ship on the face of it must need a refit. The worst facility by miles were the midship lifts. At one point some 3 out of 8 were non runners. One lift in particular had a habit of wiping the floors selected, and essentially doing its own thing.
Ports of call - these are to a point out of P&O's control, but I will summerise.
Bermuda - a very short call to an expensive port. Supposed to be an overnight stay, ended up at about 5 hours. This was due entirely to the weather. So not worth the time
Freeport - this was a substitute for Nassau for refuelling. Usual port facilities, but passed a few hours at the Senor Frog bar. A good call.
New Orleans - we did US immigration clearance here. It was supposed to be a 2 day trip, but by the time we had landing clearance it ended up as 1.5 days. The paddle boats were not running for whatever reason, and as we went the day after Mardi Gras the city was in need of a clean up. New Orleans is now off my bucket list forever.
Just for info, if you are mobility impaired, then the distances involved in New Orleans to clear immigration are best avoided.
Key West - the best call by far. A lively town, plenty to see and do and best of all. It was interesting.
Miami - we decided to do the Sawgrass mill trip. A good excursion and price to a very busy mall. It was HUGE !!! We enjoyed the visit, and beat up our credit cards. We also sampled the key lime pie, it was excellent.
San Juan - again we opted to visit a mall. It was quite good, and the cheesecake lunch was superb at the Cheesecake Factory.
St Kitts - a typical Caribbean port with various shops selling the usual stuff. T shirts, souvenirs, very cheap drink, and of course the ever popular fridge magnets. Like this port, it's unpretentious, friendly and a nice way to spend a day.
Dominica - we took a shore side trip to the waterfalls and sulpher pools. Our guide was a very pleasant girl called Ash who did an excellent job.
After this we popped into the Ruined Rock bar. It's a 2 minute walk from the ship, and this place has real atmosphere. Look it up sometime, you won't be disappointed.
Barbados - we usually go to the Boatyard, but for a change went to Accra beach. It was not crowded, the water was clean and warm (ish). We had a snack (fishcakes) and drink at one of the sheds, and it was cheap. We will do this again.
Azores - due to the coronavirus issues, we were refused permission to dock. We did dissembark one sick pasenger, but we just bobbed around and used the free WiFi.
In summary - after checking this review I thought I would do a brief summary. The trip had to few ports, and way to many sea days. The weather was generally poor, and the entertainment was dull.
So we decided to book for the 2021 Caribbean only cruise. I know it sounds a bit 2 faced, but we love the Caribbean, so will continue our exploits to this area only.
Should P&O wish to discuss. I was in cabin (not kennel) to 6240. Pardon my cynicism.