Travel operator: wife
Travel operator: P&O Ventura
A further reason we were disgruntled with the cruise was that the timing of the Ventura going up the Missisippi, the Captain decided to take the ship up throughout the night as he thought there may be some problems with immigration affecting disembarking. This was an understatement! As we had been looking forward to seeing our travel up the Missisippi we were up 5.30 am (even though it was still dark) to see if we could watch the approach and docking at New Orleans. We had been told the night before by the Captain that we would need to take a ticket number available from 7.15am to get off the ship to attend immigration. These tickets however were given out before the appointed time, luckily for us, we had decided to call by chance at 6.45 to find that they were being made available. We had ticket no 4 and found out later as the day went on each batch had 80 people in . We also found out that all the crew were being seen prior to the passengers for the immigration process.
We sat watching people going through the process in disbelief, there were elderly people with various ailments, some having severe mobility disabilities and also including blind people having to walk 150 yrds to what can only be described as a cattle shed.
We eventually had clearance through immigration to disembark at 13.15, wasting a half day of our last days holiday! The forms filled in that day were exactly the same questions which were on the Esta visa application, which we had to pay for prior to the cruise. 14 dollars per person. Surely the immigration could have access to all passengers and crew via the computer systems in place to ensure a better welcome? The money and business that is brought in by the cruise liner passengers to New Orleans must be welcome, taking into account the still damaged surrounding areas, but we for one will certainly be thinking very seriously about going into America via a cruise ship again. We had a further delay on the homeward flight of a further 7 hours delay. Happy New Year.
P&O as a big company, you should be able to affect change to this system, and we suggest you boycott these American ports until a better system is adopted. We know this can happen as on a previous cruise with Princess Lines the company removed an Island from the itinary for these reasons and hey presto the problem was solved and the stop reinstated
Travel operator: P&O
This was our first cruse and it was all that we expected if not more. The cabin was on E deck, very clean and well equipped; the cabin boy was very helpful and was there when ever we needed him.
I expected to be travel sick but honestly you hardly felt a thing, we did set dining for 6.30pm personally this was a wise choice especially having two young children with us. The menu had a wide variety of dishes we suited all. Wine prices were very reasonable and there was a massive selection.
Breakfast you could not fault however the dining areas got quite busy around 9.30am mostly this was properly due to couples taking up larger tables set for four, we always found somewhere to sit even if it was on the open deck.
Bar price’s were very reasonable considering you would expect them to be inflated, I saw no difference than my local pub. They had a local Caribbean larger on draught on the open deck bars however nowhere else which was disappointing as it was rather nice and not as strong as Stella. From memory I think John Smiths was served draught.
Don’t feel you have to book the excursions with P & O as at every port taxies and tour buses are always available, please negotiate with the price as everything is negotiable especially if you are in a party. We found the taxi drivers very help full and the always arrange to pick you up at whatever time suits you, however don’t pay them for the return trip until they pick you up as some drivers ask. We spoke to some people who went on the P&O trips and they weren’t disappointed.
Money: we didn’t really know what to do until we asked people who had previously cruised. When you check in on your first day you can register a credit card, explain that you would prefer to tip your cabin boy and the waiters especially if you are set dinning directly rather than they take a percentage, this way you only give if you are happy with the service, I took three plain envelopes and wrote the name of the cabin boy on one with a little polite message and one for each of the waiters as you generally get two per table, these I put cash in (sterling).
I wouldn’t bother taking travelers cheques as they are not accepted on the boat and you will find it hard to cash them at the port. We took cash and dollars, you can change the cash on the boat however there rates are not that good, your cabin has a safe so you only need to take out what you need each day. Cash or dollars are not accepted on the boat only if you are in the casino.
Taxi fares vary, we didn’t pay any more than 7 dollars per person for a single journey. On the beach expect to pay about 10 dollars for a sun bed and brolly, you shouldn’t need any dinner after consuming a large breakfast. We took bottle water purchased from the boat so you knew it was safe.
Basically we enjoyed every part of the holiday apart from the trip to New Orleans, firstly I was disappointed that we didn’t sail down the Mississippi River during the day, it was a bit like going through the Panama Canal in the dark or visiting Blackpool Illuminations in the day time. And the immigration fiasco, you can’t really blame P&O however if the immigration department cannot deal with large ships the P&O should make a commercial decision in excluding New Orleans from their itinerary. As I mentioned I would love to cruse again and defiantly with P&O especially to the Caribbean, however should the USA be on their destination then frankly I would give it a miss, because of the fiasco I feel my holiday was cut short by two days and I would rather be sat in the harbor of Barbados than a dump like New Orleans.
When we originally booked the ship was going back to Barbados however the itinerary changed and we could not really cancel as everything was booked and we didn’t want to disappoint the children, the thought of sailing up the Mississippi during the day made the trip somewhat appealing especially with it being a 90 mile trip, nobody said it would be in the middle of the night.
Don’t be put off by the size of the ship or the amount of passengers it carries as we bumped into some one we knew on the first day and we didn’t see them again until the last day.
The children’s clubs were brilliant however the adult entertainment was not all my cup of tea, I would have liked to see more live music on the upper decks in the evenings rather than the boring pub quizzes they put on.
Travel operator: P&O
We boarded a coach at Gatwick courtesy of P&O which took us to the ship. From the time of putting our cases on the coach we did not see them again until they were delivered to our cabin. On boarding the ship we again missed the welcome on board drink that we had become used to on RCI/Celebrity. Also there was no one to take our hand luggage and direct us to our cabin as with other cruise lines. A steel band was playing in the Atrium which was a nice touch bearing in mind we were heading for the Caribbean. Again we found the ship to be in good condition as was to be expected as Ventura is still less than 3 years old. The pools looked clean and there appeared to be plenty of sun loungers, more on this later. Lots of different sun bathing areas with 4 separate swimming pools although the one at the rear of the ship is really only a plunge pool.
We had an outside cabin with obstructed view on deck 8 Ecuador Deck. Although we had a safety unit outside the window we still had an excellent view out and lots of light. Why do ships have decks both numbered and named? Why not just number them? It’s a lot easier to remember!! We liked the design which was different from all the previous ships we had been on. There was a large amount of hanging space and plenty of drawer space. It was also the first time that we have had tea making facilities in the cabin with biscuits that were replenished each day. We also liked the complimentary bottled water on arrival together with the dish of sweets. The standard of the ‘Pamper Pack’ had gone down since April. It now consists of just a small container of conditioner and another of body lotion. The cabin steward was excellent and replenished the ice bucket each day which he placed in the refrigerator to keep the ice pristine. This time we found the television system very slow when selecting films and there were no news channels available when crossing the Atlantic. This is a time when you like to keep in touch with what is going on. As an instance no one knew about Hurricane Thomas which was to affect one of our ports of call.
These were always crowded which meant playing ‘Find a Table’. Because of our experience in April we gave up almost immediately and used the restaurants instead. The only hand gel dispensers in the buffets are positioned at the entrances to the food counters and many people were ignoring them. Why not put them at the entrance to the buffet area with a member of staff to ensure passengers use them as they do on other cruise lines?? The selection of food at the buffets whilst good did not in our opinion come anywhere near the selection offered by RCI/Celebrity. Whilst appreciating that P&O are aimed at British customers they need to take on board, excuse the pun, that some of their clients have more international tastes. Not everyone likes ‘Traditional English’ breakfast. The P&O Breakfast included black and white pudding which is certainly not to everyone’s taste. Hash Browns were made into a fried triangle instead of the normal grated potato. No Corn Beef Hash except as a special once a week. Smoked Salmon, Crispy Bacon, no different types of Scrambled Egg, Chipolatas etc. were not at the buffets as on other ships. In general the quality was good but the selection poor. One problem was that the plates are so hot that they are almost untouchable resulting in salad that is almost frying on the plate as pointed out by one of the comedians. If you asked for a cold plate they often did not have any.
There are 3 main restaurants on the ship and depending on the dining option you had chosen or if you were on the 14 or 15 day cruise determined which restaurant you were in. We were in the Bay Tree Restaurant which is done out in dark wood and gives it a less hospitable feel. We noted that there was no hand gel dispenser at the entrance to the restaurant. We had a table of 8. The first table we had was very dark because one of the wall lights was not working and neither were some of the ceiling lights. We reported this and were told they would be attended to. However the following evening they were still the same and we asked for a change of table. We and the other people on the table then moved to a table where it was much brighter. This resulted in a change of waiters and head waiter. It turned out to be to our advantage as Joe the Waiter, Michael his Assistant and Sim the Head Waiter were all superb. Certainly some of the best we have experienced in 29 cruises. Quick, efficient and courteous. Nothing was too much trouble. Again the food was of good quality but lacked choice. No salad course on the dinner menu. Sorbet only served once in 14 days between courses. They still adopt the system that one knife does all. The disadvantage of this is that whilst the steaks are beautifully cooked the knifes quite often are not as sharp as they should be resulting in being unable to cut the steak. Having said this we never had a meal that had to be sent back and the food and plates were always hot. There was a good selection of wines all at very reasonable prices. Far cheaper than RCI/Celebrity and no 15% added on.
There are also 3 dining alternatives. Marco Pierre White’s, White Room at £20 p.p, East at £15 p.p and Ramblers at £5 p.p. We used the East twice and thought it was excellent value for money. The food was fantastic and beautifully presented. We also tried Ramblas and again the food was beautifully presented and terrific value for money.
Drinks & Gratuities
This is an area where P&O really score against their competitors. We found the prices cheaper than a local pub and there was no 15% gratuity added to the price. If you go to the Red Bar and order a double spirit you receive a free mixer which is a known brand. Example, double Gin with Tonic, £4.30. In the other bars a Pint of Old Speckled Hen bitter £2.70, pint of Lager £2.90. Again P&O really score with the gratuities. Recommended is £1.50 per person per day for the cabin steward and £1.60 per person per day to include all dining room waiting staff. Total for a 14 day cruise per couple £86.80. Why can’t other cruise lines adopt these prices?
The entertainment team was lead by the Cruise Director, Leon de Ste Croix, who in our opinion is one of the best we have sailed with. There are 3 main entertainment areas on the ship. The Arena Theatre, Havana Bar and Tamarind Club. The theatre is used mainly for shows put on by the Ventura Theatre Company who we found to be good but not as good as they were in April, and by the main celebrity acts. The 2 comedians were excellent. One of them even managed to get the sun bed saga into his act. The other 2 venues were used by the ‘Tribute’ acts and singers. They did tributes to Tom Jones, Annie Lenox, Lu Lu and Freddie Mercury. The problem was that we saw them all on our April cruise. My own opinion is that P&O rely too much on tribute acts and some of these were not that good. To me the test is, if you can shut your eyes and recognise who they are taking off then they are good, however too many rely on trying to look like the individual but sound nothing like them. Also there is the usual, Bingo, Karaoke, various Quizzes, His and Hers and other variations of TV game shows which are really getting a bit ‘Old Hat’.
This was the real problem area on the ship. On the first sunny day all the sun beds had towels on them by 8am. The following morning I went up to decks 15 and 16 at about 7.15am and could not find a sun bed without a towel on it. I complained at the reception desk and was told that this was a recurring problem which they were aware of and they would look into it. At about 9am the Cruise Director came on the tannoy system requesting that people did not reserve sun beds and if they were not going to be used for more than 15 minutes towels should be removed. He pointed out that we were ‘British’ and should be considerate to our fellow passengers. Later that morning we were on deck 15 when we heard a row start between 2 females on the deck above us. It would appear that people had left their sun beds unattended for a considerable period of time and other passengers fed up with trying to find sun beds had removed the towels. This row with colourful language went on for some considerable period of time. I also heard of 2 males having a fight over sun beds. I again went to reception and asked what they were going to do to stop the problem and was told that it was up to the passengers to sort it out!!! P&O seem to have forgotten that we are fare paying passengers and it is not for us to be put into confrontational situations with other passengers. Other cruise lines get to grips with the problem should it arise so why not P&O? There are several ways of dealing with the situation and P&O should get a grip of things. On walking around the ship I found two lots of stacked sun beds but the problem was there was no where to put them out as all the space was taken. Another problem was that the swimming pools were dominated by children and teenagers. The ‘Endless’ pool at the front of the ship on deck 16 is for persons over 16 years of age yet it was being used by parents and their young children. Again the crew took no notice. Whilst these matters may appear at first sight trivial it should be borne in mind that this was a 14 day cruise of which 8 of the days were spent at sea so sun beds and a swimming pool became a priority.
Again this is an area that P&O excel at. 2 days before disembarking we received our luggage labels, boarding cards with allocated seat numbers and detailed information. On the last night the cases had to be outside the cabin by 12 midnight at the latest. This was then the last we saw of them until collecting from the carousel at Gatwick. Well done P&O.
This is a modern ship, well set out with well thought out cabins. The public areas are light and airy as are the passage ways to the cabins. The atrium is smart but did not have the ‘WOW’ factor that you associate with the newer American ships. It is aimed at the British traveller and from the people we met on board P&O has a very loyal following. Having said that we met people who have been loyal to P&O for many years who said they would now be looking at other cruise lines as they felt the standards had dropped. Despite the lack of choice in the buffets and restaurant the food was always of good quality. The cost of drinks and gratuities make a huge difference to the cost of the cruise holiday. However this time the lack of sun beds, attitude of staff in enforcing rules, being unable to use the pools, people allegedly being put ashore for bad behaviour and general low standard of entertainment has made me think again. I heard it described as a holiday camp at sea, one family on their first cruise called it the “Hi De Hi” Ship and said it was not what they had expected. Having said all of this the question is, would we cruise with P&O again? We will certainly never go on Ventura again but may try one of the smaller ships to see if high standards do exist or if they are a myth.
Travel operator: P&O
Great food in Cinnamon restaurant and friendly staff too.
Smooth embarkation from start to finish.
No rip off prices on board which was a real surprise. Well done on that.!
Cabin. Our room was spotless from day one. Our cleaner arrived and left with with minimal fuss. Sheer joy.!
What needs to be improved:
Surley staff - particularly in Waterside. Goodness, I don't think any of them smiled or greeted anyone in a friendly manner throughout our trip - at all.! Same could be said for the initial boarding staff. Does no one teach these people basic customer care skills?
Sighposting. After 7 days on board many people were still confused about how to get from A to B. I never did find the gym and gave up completely on ever getting to the beauty salon *sigh*
Entertainment. Oh my goodness it was dire. Someone please tell that singer from Electric (or whatever the group is called ) that she really, really must sort her wardrobe out - and soon.
Gratuities - I was unhappy that £11:50 per head was deducted from my account for staff gratuities - I like to decide who, in my opinion, has earned such a gratuity; my cabin cleaner did but I doubt he received it so we decided to leave him our own gratuity.!
Day's off board = Vigo. Oh my goodness me; if ever there was a place that really hates the Brits, this IS it.! Be prepared to head further inland if you want to avoid what can can only be described as borderline racisism.! Seriously, P&O, you really, REALLY need to look at this situation - do you want to continue patronising this particular docking site with unwelcome visitors?
La Rochelle was beautiful though and everyone welcomed visitors from Ventura with open arms.
Travel operator: P&O
Travel operator: Hays
Travel operator: bath travel
East, however was incredible and probably the best food Iv had anywhere in the world on sea or shore. The cover charges should be reversed if anything. The ship was clean, friendly and relaxed, we had a great time in our family party of six and as a honeymoon my wife and I couldnt have asked for more. Deffo pay the extra if you can run to it for a super deluxe balcony cabin, trust me, the 'overlooking' issue isn't one! Also, make time to spend in Metropolis, the coolest, friendliest and quietest part of the ship by some margin. Those in the know head there for what a cruise evening should start like. Cinnamon was top drawer, cannot fault it in any way at all. Photographers have to earn a living but I don't like people assuming I will stand still while total strangers take my pictures, not happening for me. All in all, lots of moaners about on this site, but look at what is a common theme, some people just like to moan. I'm very middle of the road and not someone who suffers poor service easilly. I was happy happy for two weeks and although I had minor issues, they were so minor as to not warrant a mention here. What P&O achieve overall is really good and we'll be back very soon :)
Travel operator: P&O
Our cabin was great, very clean, fantastic balcony, where we spent most of the time sunbathing and getting a bit of peace from the noise as the decks were busy when it was very sunny.
The ship is big and I think in an effort to fill all the rooms, the entertainment, in my opinion was spread rather thinly. I had showed him the dvd that arrived with a brochure and he was really looking forward to the activities, particularly the west end shows, which apart from one or two, were non existent. We enjoy quizzes and tried to go to as many as possible, but on occasion, they were either placed opposite each other (syndicate & James Bond Special) or with the non stop chatter of some of the female entertainment officers through the microphone, you either had to leave one early to get to the other, or give up and stay till the first one finished and forgoe the 2nd. I do feel the female ents officers were either bored (yawning constantly) or having girly chats when there were two, which was of no interest to anyone other than themselves. The 'bands' on board were what Simon Cowell would say were 'worse than cruise ship singers' and we had 4 tribute shows (Freddie Mercury / Phil collins / Amy Winehouse and Tom Jones), we stayed and listened to Mercury but left after 10 mins in to the others. Considering the price we are paying for the 2 weeks and from past experience, this is not the type of entertainment that should be put on a cruise ship, for the money, we expect a lot better. We had 4 comedians, one of which had just worked abroad with Jim Davidson and we were warned about the language etc, which was unacceptable and some parents who wanted to see this show, brought in their young children!!! None of the comedians told jokes, they were more interested in picking on people in the audience and taking the mick, easy money for not a lot of work. Where are all the entertainers we have enjoyed over the years? (Tom O' Connor / Roy Walker / Gerard Kenny / Allan Stewart, who were worth their pay packet).
3 pools on board and all 3 were filled with children from morning to night, no dedicated adults pool. Fiasco at Gibraltar when the ship used tenders for passangers, we waited for over 2 hours after we got our 'ticket' to get off and gave up in the end and handed it back, half an hour later, our disembarkation number was called but we had decided to have lunch instead. P&O apologised for not forseeing this problem. considering that nearly all the 3,500 passangers decided to get off as it was the last port (and only there for a few hours), I thought they could have come up with another more believable excuse.
There were so many ways for P&O to cash in to get more money, the photographs taken were extortionate, even lessons on computers cost money, they had 'talks' on health care: acupuncture etc, which were free to listen to, but cynical as I am, I know it wasnt for the health of passangers, it was to get more money in the tills. On the last 2 days the entertainment was awful and we decided to stay in the cabin during the day and watch movies, which range from £3.95 - £5.95 but in desperation to do something, we paid. The movies shown on board have been in the cinemas here for months and as it doesnt have its own cinema, the viewings ranged from the theatre to walk through rooms on the main shopping area.
It hasnt put me off cruising, but has put me off P&O. We will try another cruise line next time. If anyone reading this will be arriving and leaving by taxi, order the return trip in advance as we had to wait with about 100 other people over an hour before we left the port as another 2 cruise ships were in that day and the taxis chose the other 2 companies as it was easier to get to their passangers than it was for the Ventura. In fact the taxi driver we eventually got said most taxi drivers avoid Ventura and the traffic causes bottle necks in the town. You have been warned.
Travel operator: Go Cruise
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