Ventura – A Perfect Fly-Cruise Med Break

 

Its been some time since my wife and I took a last minute, spur of the moment cruise but when this one on P&O’s Ventura was spotted on a travel agent’s email the temptation, and price, were too great to resist.

Add to that the fact that we had never cruised on Ventura and there were 4 Mediterranean ports of call we had never visited this really was a no brainer…

 

 

The itinerary for this one week fly-cruise was in effect one half of P&O’s current fortnightly schedule for Ventura’s FlyMed programme. In simple terms passengers can select either a week or two weeks sailing between Venice – Genoa – Venice or Genoa – Venice – Genoa. Interestingly the latter option gives an overnight in Venice. ( Taking the 2 week option would include port visits to Florence, Naples and Dubrovnik)

In order to add a little more spice to this cruise we chose to book a three night pre-cruise extension in Venice and a one night post-cruise extension in Genoa. What we experienced in both these cities will be covered in future editions of my ‘One Way to do’ series.

On embarkation day we made our own way from our 4* hotel,  situated in the easily accessible Mestre district of Venice,  and arrived  at the terminal at around 11.00 am. The P&O organisation was very slick including guides along the route from the port people mover station. Luggage was dropped off and, after a short 10 minute wait in the terminal building, we were checked in.

It is worth noting here that P&O do not operate a ‘priority’ check-in desk at Venice. This was no big deal as the system in operation was efficient and we were very soon on board and enjoying a drink in the sunshine at  ‘Breakers Bar’. According to my onboard account the first pint was served at 11.34. Not bad at all.

No need to scramble for a buffet lunch either. We found the ‘Waterside’ buffet restaurant and Frankie’s Pizza were both open. When we needed solid sustenance  we chose the excellent Frankie’s Pizza Bar just a few steps away. When in Italy…

We can certainly recommend the fiery hot Diavola: it was so good we repeated the order a few days later.

Cabins became available as promised at 1.00 pm and, needless to say, our luggage had also been delivered.

As  part of this package  we had booked a ‘Guaranteed’ Balcony Cabin and, prior to departure from the UK,  we received due notification of our cabin number – A614…

 

What also impressed on embarkation day was the number of positions around the ship where information and booking facilities were  available for the speciality dining restaurants, various drinks packages and booking for Spa treatments and services.

We were interested in making use of Ventura’s ‘Retreat’ facility though an enquiry at the Spa revealed that on this particular cruise bookings for ‘The Retreat’

 

 

…were only being taken when made for a full week. The cost for one week per couple was quoted as £175.00.

With only two sea days ahead of us on this cruise we decided to give The Retreat’ a miss on this occasion.

Internet packages were on sale with the additional 40 minute added bonus for those signed up on day one – not to be sneezed at.

We did however make use of one of the wine packages, in this instance the 6 bottled ‘Captain’s Collection’

 

Sailing away from Venice is always a  spectacular event, particularly as cruise ships pass St Mark’s Square and the campanile and domed Venetian skyline …

 

 

Our request for second sitting and a table for 8 in the Bay Tree  Restaurant had been granted and later that evening we met up with our dining companions for the week ahead. We found ourselves dining with one other couple and four solo travellers: three ladies and one gentleman.

We had noticed from the ship’s entertainment programme that the main evening’s show was not the usual ‘medley of entertainer introductions’,  but an all male quartet close harmony group. Called ‘The 4 Tunes’ these guys were really good: two of them had actually played the part of Raoul in the West End production of ‘Phantom of the Opera’: no mean achievement and a reflection of the quality of entertainers on board this P&O cruise.

Our second day on board was a sea day as we sailed south through the Adriatic Sea. For those not wishing to soak up the sun on deck there was a full programme of ship’s activities ranging from the usual ‘well being’ lectures to the highly recommended Ipad classes. There certainly was plenty of activity and no one could ever claim that there wasn’t a variety of activities to suit everyone.

This first day at sea was also to be the evening of the ‘Gala Reception’. Taking the place of the more traditional ‘Cocktail party’,  this event, as on sister ship Azura,  is held on the three levels of the atrium area. It was well attended and the usual excellent bar service ensured that one’s drink was never short of replenishment. It was also good to see all attendees dressing for the occasion. One highlight for my wife was the opportunity to meet the outstanding star entertainers of the cruise, The 4 Tunes, who just happened to be also enjoying the Gala Reception in the Red Bar atop the Atrium…

 

 

Day 3 was our first real port of call: Kotor in Montenegro. For a ship the size of Ventura Kotor is classed a ‘tender’ port where passengers are transported from the ship to a landing point via ship’s tenders. It was a pleasure to note the efficiency with which the ship’s departments conducted this operation. Most noticeabe was the fact that they opened two double tender docking stations, one forward and one midships…

 

…thereby allowing 4 tenders to be used simultaneously. Coupled with an efficient tender ticket distribution system we were soon heading ashore from Ventura…

 

For our visit to Kotor we had organised a shore excursion with  cruiseexcursions.com. This was purely based on their available itinerary offerings and timing, in particular getting us to see both Budva and  Sveti Stefan

 

 

…while returning to Kotor at a time which would give us the opportunity to climb the 1350 steps and  be rewarded by this magnificent view of Kotor and the bay from St John’s Fortress …

 

Yes, that’s Ventura in the distance.

 

Ventura has three speciality dining venues. On this cruise we opted to try The White Room.  Occupying a prime position aft on Deck 17 the White Room is complemented with an ‘Al Fresco’ dining patio…

 

…that is  ideal for those balmy Mediterranean summer evenings. Two alternating menus are on offer and fans of Marco Pierre White’s distinctively simple, classic Italian fare will no doubt be thrilled. We alas were not that  impressed. While my ‘Second Plate’ course of Supreme of Halibut with baby fennel was superb my wife’s Pan Fried Duck Breast was dry and left a lot to be desired. First Plate dishes (starters) definitely lacked imagination – Palma Ham and galia Melon and Buffalo Mozzarella Caprese being available at any Italian restaurant one cares to frequent.

In our opinion The White Room is not a patch on its sister and similarly positioned restaurant on Azura – Seventeen.

 

Our next port of call was Corfu. For this visit we had pre-booked a full day ship’s excursion (7 hour )  taking in the picturesque village and monastery at Paleokastritsa,  the rather beautiful Achilleion Palace and a visit to a vinyard for lunch and Greek entertainment.

 

The Achilleion Palace

 

We rated this  excursion  outstanding and excellent value for money. Apart from the actual sightseeing and the accompanied knowledgeable commentary from our guide, the lunch, wine and entertainment that were included at the Ambelonas Vinyard was faultless: The wine flowed freely throughout the visit and the food was possibly the best Greek fare we have had the pleasure of eating.

 

 

Indeed, the marinated figs that came with the dessert selection were simply divine…

 

 

Our next day, our fifth on board and a Sunday, was spent at sea. During the morning we made a well timed transit through the Messina Strait which attracted many passengers to the best advantage places on the upper decks…

 

 

The weather was glorious and as if by magic  the ship’s catering staff arranged a BBQ around the  Laguna pool….

 

 

Not for us the delights of an on board BBQ though. Today gave us the opportunity to try out Ventura’s  Glass House

 

…and in particular its ‘Small Plates’ menu…

 

…to be washed down with a good bottle of Olly Smith recommended New Zealand Eradus Sauvignon Blanc.

The following day we docked in Civitavecchia. As this is a  port we have visited on many occasions we felt the urge to do something a little different from the usual routine visit to Rome. Internet research had revealed that between Civitavecchia and Rome was the town of Cerveteri.   It is famous for having on its outskirts the UNESCO World Heritage Site of  Necropoli della Banditaccia – the largest ancient necropolis in the Mediterranean area.

And so travelling by train and local bus we made it to  Necropolis Banditaccia

 

 

Worth mentioning  at this point is the fact that there are now new arrangements in Civitavecchia for getting from the ship’s berths to the local railway station. The new routine entails taking a free shuttle – provided by the port authority – to a point well away from the normal gate used to exit the port. From this new facility…

 

…a chargeable bus service ( €3.20 per couple return) is offered to the Railway Station. In my estimation this new routine adds 20-30 minutes to the ship/station transfer time that we had become used to.

 

Our final port of call before we disembarked in Genoa  was Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica.

 

 

 

Birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte this lively and colourful town is a peach to both visit  and enjoy. But be warned, you cannot escape that ‘little man’…

 

We were also lucky to be in port on the day of the local farmers’ market and maybe just a small regret that this was a fly cruise…

 

Our cruise was scheduled to terminate in Genoa the following day. On the grounds this was our first visit to the city we had booked a one night post-cruise stay in order to acquaint ourselves with Genoa. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Savoia, a short taxi distance from the cruise terminal…

 

A full review of the excellent well positioned Grand Hotel Savoia can be found at…

http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/forums/travel-places/3543-grand-hotel-savoia-genoa#post_42298

Genoa is a fascinating port steeped in history and architecture and a great place to visit…

 

The visit to Genoa now features as the subject of two of my ‘One Way to do’ series…

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.com/2014/06/13/one-way-to-do-genoa/

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.com/2014/06/18/one-way-to-do-genoa-via-balbi-last-minute/

 

Summary.

This was our first time on Ventura and we had an excellent cruise especially  when considering it was a last minute deal and what we actually paid.

With the one exception of the White Room speciality restaurant everything met our expectations: indeed they were generally and often exceeded. Food and service were of a high standard and quality with more than sufficient choice: requests for additional items such as vegetables were never a problem.

The port intensive nature of this cruise, coupled with many early morning arrivals,  gave us the opportunity to sample a dining experience  we would normally avoid – the buffet breakfast.

I’ll be the first to admit however that, certainly on Ventura,  this was not such a bad experience as I had anticipated…

 

Whether or not this was because we too were early arrivals to the buffet or whatever, we found both the Waterside and Beach House buffet restaurants bright and breezy and well staffed. There was  always a window table available, we never needed to queue  and found the breakfast selections on offer of more than a reasonable standard.

There was a varied entertainment programme on board and those shows or cabaret acts we saw we thoroughly enjoyed. Entertainment venues were always popular and regularly filled to capacity.

The itinerary of this cruise was its dominant attraction and so it proved to be. The length of each visit was more than adequate and there was always sufficient information on board regarding places of interest.

One of the real joys of a P&O cruise is the passengers willingness to get out and socialise. This in turn creates an excellent atmosphere in the various venues which is often lacking on the more Americanised ships. The Entertainment Team under the direction of Hughie Taylor had an infectious enthusiasm and did the company proud while the Captain, Charlie Carr, was a breath of fresh air with his Northern humour.

Amongst other things I was most pleasantly surprised that our four ‘solo’ travellers on our table never once mentioned or moaned as to the cost of solo travelling. What a pleasant change from one particular cruise forum where it dominates solo travellers’ conversation.

No P&O cruise should be reviewed without a reference to that great institution on P&O cruise ships, The Great British Sailaway Party. Given a degree more significance on this particular cruise as we were leaving the French port of Ajaccio…

 

Like the style? Take a look at the video, P&O passengers know how to party…

 

 

All in all a great cruise and excellent value for money. Well done P&O and Cruise Nation – the travel agent through which this cruise was booked.

9 responses to “Ventura – A Perfect Fly-Cruise Med Break

  1. Thanks Richard for the great review of Ventura, having enjoyed a seventeen night cruise on her taking in Venice, Corfu etc I agree  with you Thanks for taking the  time to appraise her I enjoyed the review. Cornish Girl..

  2. Another fantastic review from you Richard. This makes me want to try P&O more than any other review I’ve seen. Your video of the sail away party looks wonderful too – a really great atmosphere!

  3. Tongue in cheek,thank you Richard.We are looking for a cruise late September early October and Queen Elizabeth was favourite,but now who knows.
    Rodger.

  4. Richard, Could you recommend the hotel in Venice, I cannot find waht it is called in your Blog.

    • Good afternoon Rex. We stayed in the Hotel Ambasciatori in the Mestre district. Bus stop right outside and €1.30 return to Piazza Roma. Hope that helps.

  5. Thanks for the review, Richard. Like the others, I’m glad you had a good cruise and enjoyed Ventura.

    I was interested in your comments on The White Room. We’ve had a couple of meals there and have always enjoyed them – maybe we’re easy to please. But we’re on Azura at the end of this month so we’ll get a chance to try Seventeen.

    • Good morning Tom. Regarding The White Room I’m sure fans of Marco enjoy the food. We enjoyed the atmosphere and I thought my Halibut superb. Just that the rest of the meal just failed to excite. You will love Seventeen on Azura.

  6. A very balanced review and one that echoed many of my own findings on a Caribbean late deal. I ate in the White Room most evenings but mostly just because I do that in 17. I agreed with your conclusions at best its fine but its not outstanding and a few meals had me puzzled as to how they met the menu description. Their Glass House was a bit lacking for me P&O would have done better to change the furniture to the more modern decor of the one on Azura I felt. Looking forward to you one way posts.

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