P&O Ventura Mini Cruise Review – Part 3

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

Ventura 2

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!

P&O Ventura Mini Cruise Live Review – Part 2

P&O Ventura Mini Cruise Day 3 – Bruges

We had a fabulous nights sleep and The Channel has been incredibly calm. We’ve hardly felt any motion at all while on board which we’ve been grateful for as we have two novice cruisers with us who we’d assured wouldn’t notice a thing. This could be because Ventura is such a large ship carrying over 3000 passengers and nearly 2000 crew over it’s 19 decks, 9 restaurants and 11 bars. Sadly four days simply isn’t enough to sample it all but I’m trying my best!

By 7.30am we were already docked in Zeebrugge, which means sea port of Brugge or Bruges to us Brits, a gorgeous, historical Belgian town unlike the industrial port filled with containers and cranes I could see from my balcony.

We had a relaxing a la carte breakfast in the Bay Tree (one of three main dining rooms on board). The menu was wonderfully British, the grandparents enjoyed smoked haddock and kippers while I played it safe with a full English featuring traditional back bacon and Cumberland sausages you’ll never see on the American cruise lines. There are daily specials too along with a selection of cereals, omelettes and fruit juices as well as unlimited hot tea and coffee.

After breakfast we disembarked to find free transfer coaches waiting on the dock side. A tour guide took to the mic to explain How to DIY Bruges and highlighting the must do’s – basically beer, chocolate and waffles! The shuttle dropped us in Blankenberge, about 10 minutes drive from the port. The town itself was quite pleasant with a carousel Finn insisted on riding, a main shopping street and a beach and promenade. We crossed the road to the train station to purchase our tickets which cost just €5 each return if you show a cruise card and then boarded the hourly double decker train (42 minutes past the hour and bang on time) for the 10 minute ride to Bruges. P&O do offer a coach excursion to the medieval city at £36 per adult but it was so easy to travel independently I can’t imagine they sold many.


One great things about P&O is the destination guides which are waiting for you in your room on arrival, these 4 page, fact packed sheets are a huge help with maps, public transport info and even details on local delicacies. They really help you plan your day ashore where other cruise lines are less forthcoming with info as they always seem to want you to book an overpriced excursion.

We arrived at Bruges station and then followed the crowds and signs to the city centre. It’s a beautiful city and coincidentally not dissimilar to Oxford where we started our adventure. I was pleasantly surprised by the shopping as we meandered streets filled with high street names housed in gorgeous medieval buildings but sadly for me it was a bank holiday so most were closed but I suspect it saved us a fortune. We found the main central squares which is called The Markt and the girls enjoyed a shared a half carafe of red while the boys drank Belgian fruit beer in the sunshine at one of the bars that lined the square.

Bruges Waffles

We were planning a boat ride around the canals but the queues were huge so we contented ourselves with a waffle and fresh cream on the canal bank before walking back to the station in time for the hourly return train (4 mins past the hour) and then an awaiting coach shuttle back to the ship in time for afternoon tea and scones in the Waterside buffet. We had a quick dip in the indoor pool and then the sun came out so we braved the outdoor pool which was surprisingly warm before it was time for a quick shower ahead of dinner.


Tonight we were dining at the main restaurant, we’d been allocated Saffron restaurant, one of two freedom dining restaurants on board. We arrived around 7pm and requested a table for 5. There wasn’t one available immediately so we took a pager and enjoyed a pre dinner drink in the atrium and within 20 minutes the pager went off and we returned to the restaurant and were quickly seated at a lovely window table. I enjoyed tomato soup followed by a roast turkey and then Bakewell tart which was enjoyable but possibly not the fine dining experience I’ve enjoyed on other ships.

Finn was insistent on kids club so I signed him in for movie time then the grown ups went to the Havana Lounge. We enjoyed an excellent Motown Show by The Electrix which got Grandma and I dancing followed by a few rum and cokes before bed, dreaming of a lazy sea day ahead.

P&O Ventura Mini Cruise – Day 4 Sea Day

It was a lazy start to a sea day and I caught up on the blog and checked email. Wifi is available on Ventura and is fairly fast and reliable although it’s not cheap. The packages on offer include 250 minutes for £62.50 or 100 minutes for £35 with no unlimited package option so you must remember to log in and log out to avoid wasting minutes.

We just made the al a carte breakfast in the Bay Tree which closes at 9.30am. I resisted the full English and went for Scottish pancakes and maple syrup. After breakfast it was time to explore as we’d still not experienced all of the ship so we took the lift to deck 18 to work our way down. We found Metropolis a lovely crows nest style bar at the rear of the ship and agreed we try and sample a glass or two in there later. We also found The Epicurean fine dining speciality restaurant which has a lovely outdoor dining area. Those lucky enough to stay in suites can enjoy breakfast here too.

We worked our way down through the decks, stopping to show Finn the basics of chess on a giant outdoor chess board on deck 15. Deck 7 has a promenade deck, an undercover but outdoor walkway which loops around the ship. There are several shops on Deck 6 & 7 around the atrium which were packed with sea day cruisers looking for presents and bargains. We mostly resisted the temptation but did add to Finn’s ever growing teddy collection with a Ventura bear.

It was nearly midday so we stopped off in the Glass House for a bottle of red which doesn’t go far when there’s four of you! Then as the sun was shining it was up to top deck to find a sheltered spot and there were plenty of sun loungers and thankfully no chair hogging from what I could see. Soon it was time for one of my favourite sea day pastimes the al a carte lunch and we were quickly seated in the Saffron Restaurant at a table for 5. I wasn’t particularly inspired by the menu at first glance but opted for a chicken curry while the grandparents went for a steak and mushroom pie. The curry was absolutely delicious, one of the best meals I’ve had on board and even better than the food we had in East. The grandparents enjoyed the pies judging by the clean plates they left.

Finn wanted to watch a film, Into the Woods which was showing in the Tamarind Club on Deck 7 and grandma and grandad volunteered to take him which allowed Andy and myself to enjoy another glass of red from the wine box in our cabin. A few hours later there was a little knock at the door and he was back and wanting to go swimming. We went to the indoor pool which was ice cold so braved the outdoor one which was slightly warmer in the sunshine. We shared a small cooked to order pizza from the pool side pizzeria and Finn had a Calippo lolly for a pound from the adjacent ice cream parlour.

We went back to our cabins to relax before dinner and chose a film from the hundreds of new releases available for free on the TV. A really nice feature is you can pause and save where you’re up to for later which was a good job as it was time to change for dinner.

Formal Night

It was formal night and a chance for Finn to try his new DJ suit and dickie bow. He looked adorable and Daddy and I scrubbed up OK too! We went to Saffron for 6.45pm and were seated at a window table within minutes. The gala dinner Marco Pierre White menu was lovely with choices including rib of beef, lobster or lamb. We indulged in the full four courses and I had game terrine, marmite soup, lamb and then strawberries soaked in prosecco.


After dinner we took the lift to the Metropolis bar to enjoy yet another bottle of red as the sun began to slowly sink into the sea. At 8.30 we went to the Havana Bar to watch Junnk, a sort of boy band who sing and play percussion instruments made out of rubbish. We’d actually seen them in their branded t shirts on embarkation day and mistakenly thought they were a stag do! They were fantastic entertainment and the bar was packed so I took Finn down to the front to sit and watch the show. He absolutely loved it and the group stayed around to have photos and selfies taken with all the kids after the first of their two sets of the evening. Finn was getting tired so we left the grandparents to their rum and cokes and stepped out onto the promenade to watch the sun finally set. We then returned to our cabin to watch the end of our film, Captain America and The Winter Soldier which went down well with a seven year old Marvel fan, and get some rest ahead of our final port day in Guernsey.

Click here for part 3.