P&O Ventura Mini Cruise Day 5 – Guernsey
This morning we were blessed with blue skies and bright sunshine as the ship pulled into St Peter Port, Guernsey. A short distance across the bay the smaller Channel Islands of Herm and Sark were visible from our balcony as the pilot boats guided us in.
This is a tender port so Ventura dropped her anchor a little way off the harbour as the crew launched six double deck tenders, each capable of accommodating 100 plus passengers.
We breakfasted in the Bay Tree with a full English and then collected our tender tickets from the Cinnamon restaurant at around 9.30am by joining a queue which snaked around the atrium but was moving quickly. Around 5 minutes later our numbers were called and the five of us made our way down to the platform on deck 3. We took seats on the upper deck of the tender with great views of Ventura behind us as we set off to the harbour.
The short trip took just a few minutes and we were soon ashore taking a map from the waiting tourist board team and heading off to explore the streets of this very pretty town. We strolled along the waterfront then a little way up above the town but please note Guernsey is very hilly so we didn’t venture too far as we were mindful of the grandparents. We stumbled across a lovely public garden with an amazing art installation featuring a bright pink sculpture of the word LIVE and an opportunity for you to add your bucket list wishes in chalk. Mine was a Caribbean cruise in a suite, a wish I’ll be lucky enough to fulfil later this year ; ) We dropped back down the hill into the bunting filled shopping streets for a bit of retail therapy.
As we’d tendered in, Andy had spotted a lovely looking cafe with a leafy terrace up above the harbour and many of our fellow cruisers had made their way there. It’s called The Terrace Garden Cafe and is a Thai restaurant by night and cafe/beer garden by day filled with quirky statues and stunning views across the island’s capital and beyond to its neighbouring islands. It was also very reasonably priced too with our cheapest bottles of Merlot so far!
After our refreshments we took a tender back to the ship and were back on board in time for lunch. We had a look at the al a carte lunch but I didn’t think the menu was very inspiring so we went up to the Waterside buffet for lunch. The layout of the Waterside is not ideal, all the food is laid out in a centre section which is enclosed by fencing making it difficult to see what’s available and very claustrophobic when it’s busy. Another slight frustration is that the child friendly food such as burgers and pizzas are served at the pizzeria and grill by the Laguna Pool so if you’re dining with kids then you spend most of the meal dashing between locations to satisfy everyone in the party. I hope they’ve rethought the buffet layout on Britannia and it’s more like the logical design of Royal Caribbean’s open plan Windjammer.
After lunch we took advantage of the glorious sunshine and changed into swimwear and found a quiet spot near the aft of the ship by the kids pool. Finn, Grandma and I braved the rather chilly waters, thankfully it’s much shallower than the other pools and Finn could even stand up.
We shared a further bottle of red and then went to change ahead of a much anticipated sailaway. We’d seen plenty of YouTube footage of P&O parties featuring union flags and British classics such as Rule Britannia and Land of Hope & Glory but all we got was the entertainment team on the stage above the Laguna pool dancing along to a bit of S Club 7 and YMCA which seemed slightly lacklustre in comparison to our memories of the P&O owned Ocean Village sailaways we enjoyed several years ago. They didn’t even sound the ship’s horns as we headed out of port : (
Afterwards we went down to Havana Bar to the family Junnk workshop where last nights boy band took us through some acapella singing and clapping, did a Q&A session then let’s the kids loose on their instruments. Finn loved it.
For our final dinner of the cruise we went to Saffron restaurant and I had a lovely steak and chips, Finn had a hot dog and Andy had a lamb dinner that looked remarkably like the one from the previous night! We declined dessert and resisted the urge to party the night away watching Badness, a Madness tribute act, as Finn was falling asleep at the table. As a result we went back to the cabin to pack our case before finishing the last of our red wine as we sailed homewards to Southampton.
P&O Ventura Mini Cruise – Summary
All too soon our mini cruise was over and maybe four nights is simply not long enough to enjoy a ship the size of Ventura but here’s a few thoughts on the disembarkation process and the ship in general.
We’d been allocated as Green group to disembark with a departure time of 9.20am. Passengers could either self assist from 7.30am (where you carry your own luggage off) or were allocated a colour for a specific departure time. We’d put our luggage outside our room just before bed the night before as requested but it’s worth noting that P&O don’t issue luggage tags for disembarkation, your luggage will be waiting for you in deck number order in the terminal.
We checked our bill (not quite as scary as I feared thanks to some on board credit we’d received when booking with cruise.co.uk) then made our way to Saffron restaurant for our final al a carte breakfast. On disembarkation day this is done in just two sittings, one at 7am with doors closing at 7.15am and one at 8am with doors closing at 8.15am. The only other alternative is the Waterside buffet as there is no room service breakfast on the final day.
We vacated our cabin by the required 8am and headed down for breakfast where there was a huge queue snaking back through the atrium. Thankfully it moved very quickly and we were soon sat at a shared table for 8. A final full English was enjoyed by all before we went through to The Exchange, a pub / sports bar we hadn’t had the opportunity to visit while on board, and found some seats It’s also home to a very small casino, just five or six tables and a few fruit machines which suggested us Brits don’t gamble like the American’s do.
Within twenty minutes and a little ahead of schedule Green group was called and we swiped our sea passes for the final time and went ashore. We were quickly through the terminal, found our luggage and went off to the car park to collect our car. The car parking / key collection was incredibly efficient and we were on the long road home by 9.45am. We were blessed with a smooth run back to Manchester and after dropping off Grandma and Grandad to the south of the city we were back on our sofa in the northern hills a little after 2.30pm.
In summary it was an enjoyable cruise with two great ports of call, some surprisingly good weather and calm seas. I liked Ventura but felt it lacked some of the wow factor of the newer RCI ships. The service on board was very efficient but not particularly friendly. The staff didn’t quite seem to go the extra mile we’ve experienced on American ships and I wonder if perhaps P&O have moved their best staff to Britannia?
I loved the cabin layout, it was a good size with a decent balcony and great storage. We barely saw our cabin steward but she kept the room immaculate and we enjoyed chocolates on our pillows nightly although there were none of the ubiquitous cruise ship towel animals.
The food was of a good quality, hot and tasty but in my opinion just not quite fine dining. I think RCI or Carnival just have the edge over P&O providing higher quality food and more varied menus but I’m still very much looking forward to my Christmas dinner on Britannia later this year. I suspect we’ll also book a few of the speciality restaurants while on board too.
I loved the variety of bars on Ventura and the very reasonable drinks prices, good quality wines from around £15 a bottle, beers around £3.50 – £4.00 and cocktails for £4 – £5. I also liked the fact that P&O let you take drinks on board with you for consumption in your cabin.
The entertainment was really good, a great mix of shows, films, comedy, tribute artistes and family friendly acts. There seemed to be entertainment on in every lounge throughout the evenings and you could literally go from show to show where as we found ourselves searching for things to do on Adventure of the Seas last October.
It was a reasonably priced taster cruise so perhaps P&O cut a few corners here and there but It may be a different experience on a full 7 or 14 night holiday. I’ve no major complaints at all, we had a really lovely time, I just felt there was a lack of the wow factor in places. That said, it was good to be back at sea and to experience P&O as well as showing the Grandparents what cruising is all about. It’s certainly whetted my appetite for our next cruise which is a 14 night summer cruise on MSC Opera visiting the Greek Islands, Romania and Russia in late August. Thanks to everyone who’s followed the blog and I hope you’ll follow our further adventures later in the year!