Ventura…A Very Brilliant Superliner

May 3, 2008 -

John Heald

Believe it or not there are still those people who think that cruising is just for people of 70 plus and their parents. One of the stereotypes that go along with this misconception is the image of the nearly dead playing shuffleboard on deck before they have a cup of cocoa and take their afternoon nap.

Well, shuffleboard may be still a fun game to play but today’s older generation prefers something a bit more exciting.

Yesterday as I toured the Ventura I saw that the future of deck activities was already here and that came in the form of the Circus School located on the top open deck at the aft part of the vessel. This involves a Circus trampoline set where guests are strapped to a harness and with views of the Med or the Caribbean bounce, summersault and generally have fun and hundreds enjoyed this experience on the ship’s maiden voyage. Nobody more so I was told by the ship’s vibrant Cruise Director Neil than Mr. Stan Woods who at the age of 84 had the time of his life and caused crowds to gather to watch this young at heart pensioner on the trampoline……………….that for me once and for all dispenses with the shuffleboard and cocoa image.

The Circus School also includes learning the art of trapeze as well as stilt walking and circus clowning and you can imagine how popular this was on the first cruise and how popular it will be for each future cruise.

If you want to see the experts perform then this is the place as the Cirque Ventura performers amaze you with Acro – Balance, Chinnese Pole acrobatics and Tight – Wire shows plus much much more………….watching someone fly through the air on a trapeze………….who would have thought that you would ever see this on a ship.

Our tour was conducted by Cruise Director Neil who was accompanied by three charming gentlemen from P & O’s shore side management all of which made Heidi and I feel very special and very much at home. It was the ship’s embarkation day and once again I felt humbled that these chaps had taken the time on the busiest day of the cruise to look after us.

The “at home” theme was something that generated from everyone we met onboard and from the ship itself. The decor is that of something that would not look out of place on the front cover of Country Living or Home and Garden with just the right amount of traditional P & O traits with the latest groundbreaking technology.

We started off in the lobby which reminded me of a 5-star boutique hotel oozing with comfortable sofas and chairs which are highlighted by sleek mood lighting. It was therefore no surprise that many guests had decided to leave exploring the ship a little while longer as they sank into the oversized sofas and enjoyed a cocktail.

When they did take the time to explore the ship they like me would have been amazed at what they discovered. Once again it has been designed to maxime the public space to the full. I know I keep banging on about comfortable seats but it is a pet hate of mine. You can have the most up to date lounge brimming with plasma screens and more gadgets than Sharper Image but if the chairs are as uncomfortable as using sandpaper instead of toilet paper…………..what’s the point…………………Ventura’s lounges are some of the very best I have seen on any ship…………………for example.

Las Ramblas……………designed around the famous cosmopolitan center of Barcelona complete with Tapas, Paella and huge jugs of Sangria.

The Pub……….Now this is interesting. Not only is this one of the best lounges on the ship complete with British draught and bottled beers including one called Old Speckled Hen but………..it is the only lounge on the ship where smoking is allowed ……………… yep ………… just one lounge and even this has a non smoking section. I spoke in depth to Neil about this and he told me that guests are more than happy to have just one area to smoke in. It was also interesting to discover that on the Ventura smoking is forbidden in all passenger cabins although it is permitted on the balconies…………..I wonder if P & O are setting a trend here……………..I think maybe…………..they probably are.

The ship is bristling with activities and I have to say that probably one of the most impressive areas were those designed for the kids and teens. These are broken up in the usual age brackets with special rooms reserved for the youngest to the teens. However, there were two areas where I came away from thinking………………this is just brilliant.

First of all there is a huge open deck space…………………just for teens. This included a life size chess set and other games as well as music and most importantly a place just to “hang” with other people away from Mum and Dad and hopefully to experience that first kiss.

However, the scene stealer was the cresh. This was a room where parents can leave children aged 6 months and up while Mum and dad enjoy a romantic dinner free from the crying and being puked on. The room the highly trained staff do this in was just beautiful especially the little beds with the child’s name written above them……………..this was the first time I had heard of a cruise line excepting babies and I know for many parents this is one of the deciding factors when the book.

One thing is for sure…………….on the Ventura……………..the kids are in a safe paradise all of their own and the facilities are quite simply……………the best I have ever seen.

While the kids are having fun Mum and dad are enjoying world-class shows and entertainment with three different shows a night at three different performance times. This is very clever scheduling and means that passengers always have multiple choices on what they want to see. Shows include lavish productions with names like Grande Illusion and Explosion….names Heidi associates with my ability to be romantic and my bottom.

I was thrilled to hear that the cast also perform full show called Plunda on the open deck. There is a full stage there and it must be quite a sight to see this Pirate based show performed under the stars.
At dinner you have the option of anytime dining or set seating in one of the two dining rooms.

Good……………lets talk about food some more and at this point I want to say hello to one of our guides P & O’s Head of Brand Marketing Philip Price who is a regular blog reader.

Hello mate.

Philip had read an old blog where I visited another vessel (which shall remain nameless) for the day and they fed me bugger all. However, he did not want to follow in the Emerald Princess’s footsteps so at 12:15 pm Philip led us to the dining room …………… or ………in this case……………..Heaven.

I had heard that the food on a P & O ship was of the highest order as I put my food critic hat on I was ready to see if that was the case………………..it was………………and then some.

We ordered from the regular lunch menu which was full of British traditional dishes and obviously at the top of the list was that most traditional of British foods…………………Curry.

Along with a taste of India or Manchester in this case there was a choice of Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas and there lying amongst one of the most comprehensive lunch menus I have ever seen I struck gold……………………..in the shape of a Yorkshire Pudding complimented by Roast Beef and horseradish sauce……………….the rest is history ……………… and so was the Yorkshire Pudding.

The food was magnificent and if Mr. Diabetes had not come to stay I would have indulged in the Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Both Heidi and I came away from lunch thinking we had just enjoyed one of the best meals we had ever had………….Heidi said her fish and chips were divine.

Along with the regular dining rooms there are two more dining areas. The first has a menu designed by one of the UK’s most famous celebrity Chefs Marco Pierre White whose reputation as one of the most adventurous Chef’s in the world have his restraunts as the place to be and be seen and the same can be said for his restaurant on Ventura which has a small surcharge…….the price of an appetizer in land based eateries. Chef White has also gone into partnership with the famous jockey (that’s horses not music) Frankie Dettori and they have a brilliant Pizzeria and ice cream parlor on one of the open decks….no charge here except to the tailor who you will have to pay to loosen your pants.

However, although I did not get to eat there the place that drew my attention more than any other eating area was a restaurant called east. I read the menu and although I had just eaten a Yorkshire pudding the size of Jennifer Lopez’s bottom …………it made me feel hungry immediately.
East uses a fusion off…………well…………..I have no idea but with things like Japanese Short Ribs and Carpaccio of Spiced Yellowtail on the menu it looked and I am sure tasted amazing. This was confirmed by Neil who said that it was immensely popular with many people ignoring the regular restaurant and heading………………. East.

Oh my goodness there is so much I still need to mention from the amazing Spa complete with all the usual suspects plus new treatments designed to pamper you and relax you like never before. There is the beautiful art gallery…………..no auctions on this ship ………… just a very cool and relaxing way to walk among works of art and if you see one you like…………..you buy it. …………………very impressive.

You know, the Ventura’s tag is “The Superliner Designed for Britain”……………..and indeed it is with loads of Britishness all over the place. However, I think they may be doing themselves a little injustice here. When you think about it there are very few differences between you and us…………..OK…………..we may drive on the correct side of the road and pronounce our words correctly but…………….we all love the best in cruising and certainly that is what I discovered here on the Ventura…………..so I hereby am unofficially changing the Ventura’s tag line……………Ventura……………..the Superliner designed for Britain………and her former colonies.

So, if you are in thinking about a vacation in the UK why top off your visit with a cruise on the Ventura…………….the Superliner designed…………………..for you.


This is the only ship I have seen where a beautiful photo and dedication plaque of the Godmother is featured in a prominent position on board. We should all do that.

I want to say a big thank you to our hosts Neil, Tim, Anthony and Philip for giving Heidi and I a wonderful day.

One last thing………………..I saw a comment slapped on the blog from a somewhat annoyed blogger who thought that occasionally the blog read like an advert for the Corporation’s ships. Well, thinking about it………….occasionally I guess it does. I have written reviews on the Emerald Princess and the Cunard Liners Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria and now Ventura.

You know, I read many cruise ship reviews by people with more writing talent in their big toe than I will ever have………………however………………I get very annoyed when I read reviews that are nothing but critical. I guess I review our Corporation’s ships through the eyes of someone who just loves ships and is proud that our 86 vessels are so diverse yet each one offers the chance to experience a brilliant vacation………………….so I apologize for the odd time when I do write about our sister companies and if it seems like I am trying to get people to experience a wonderful vacation onboard them ……………… well………………that’s because………….I am.

One more thing, I have just been given something called a Flip video camera. This is supposed to allow me to post up to 3 minutes of video on my thingy. Unfortunately, considering I have the brain of an amoeba it may take me a few days to figure this out. When I do, you can expect lots of videos from the Carnival Splendor set up and from the bedroom. …………….. Won’t need the full 3 minutes. :))

Goodnight
Your friends
John and Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.