Our 2 Day Adventura

March 28, 2011 -

John Heald

Before I start today’s blog I need to educate my North American friends about how we British spend our vacations, or to use proper English…….how we spend our holidays. First of all there are the people who refuse ever to leave the comfort of the Great Britain and this means holidaying by car.

I spent many holidays with my Mum and sister Suedrip in a place called Cornwall. It was OK, pretty postcard scenery, lovely people, and once or twice the sun even got off its arse and winked through the clouds long enough for us to take our rain coats off for a few minutes. I am sorry though, but I would never spend my valuable 4 weeks holiday a year doing this. No sodding way. The M25 and M4 are (our versions of I-95 except people use their indicators) have beaten me and many others to a pulp and we have raised the white flag in surrender.

Taking a holiday in Great Britain just cannot be done any more unless you enjoy crying a lot and head butting the windscreen for hours on a gridlocked motorway, your car wedged between two supersized camper vans driven by retired people nibbling on sandwiches with the crusts cut off while three legged hamsters overtake you. I remember these journeys well and of course there were no Eye Pods or DVD players for us kids and I had to content myself with pulling my sisters hair and farting. Those journeys were hell and I cannot imagine how much worse they must be as a parent with the kids screaming “Are we there yet?” over and over again.

Then there is the other kind of holiday us Brits take. It’s a package holiday where a tour company will fly you on their planes to their hotels. When package holidays gave the British a chance to experience life at close quarters with people from other nations such as the Germans. You know, we used to make fun of the Germans saying that they put their towels on the sun loungers at 4 am to reserve the best spot. In fact, there was a joke going around that the only reason the world got a German Pope was that he was the first to put his towel over the balcony.

But things have changed as most Spanish resorts have been conquered by us Brits. And these package holidays are advertised on TV and some have me reaching for the vomit bag. One such company who I won’t mention by name in case they send the lawyers around, use a famous couple to advertise their holidays. I won’t mention their names either because they will mean bugger all to most of you. He is a footballer (sacccccerrrrr player) and she is a pop star …………. well I say pop star in much the same way as I would say Judge Judy gives the best lap dances in the world…………but she sings and some people by her music and so she is famous. Between them then this couple are millionaires a few times over.

The commercial is bloody awful. It shows her riding a horse in slow motion in the surf, him playing barefoot keepie uppie hackysack thingy on a beach while wearing a black Verscahearmani suit set to a breathless porn film-type music……..not that I have ever seen a porn movie you understand but I would imagine this is the type of music it would have.

Now I have been on one of this companies package holidays and none of it resembles the typical package holiday that this company is famous for. There isn’t a clipboard-wielding 18 year old holiday rep or a group of electricians from Manchester puking in the swimming pool and I can’t help wondering how often this famous couple have actually used this holiday company ………. bugger all would be my guess.

But now there is a third choice of holidays and that of course is………..cruising. And Heidi, Kye and I got o experience why P&O is Great Britain’s favourite cruise line when we sailed on the Ventura for 2 days. And………….here she is.

 

This was a 2-day cruise and the demographics were truly representative of every generation. Believe it or not there are still British 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.

That image is slowly being irradiated and shuffleboard has been replaced with activities 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. 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, Chinese Pole acrobatics and Tight – Wire shows plus much much more………….watching someone fly through the air on a trapeze.

The ship is simply stunning and has a wonderful “at home” feeling about it. The decor is that of something that would not look out of place on the front cover of Country Living or Home & Garden with just the right amount of traditional P&O traits with the latest groundbreaking technology.

The lobby 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 used this as a place to relax and read as they sank into the oversized sofas and enjoyed a cocktail or a crapafrapacino and scone and cream from the coffee bar.

The Ventura has been designed to maximise 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 gadgets galore 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. Take Las Rambles…..designed around the famous cosmopolitan centre of Barcelona, complete with tapas, paella and huge jugs of Sangria.

There is a pub, the gorgeous Metropolis Bar which has the most perfect views of the sea and so many public spaces and lounges that I have to say, 2 days was not enough time to explore them all. Smoking is not permitted inside any areas of the ship including passenger staterooms. Smoking is, however, allowed on stateroom balconies and on certain areas of the open deck.

Us Brits love to eat as my beach ball stomach shows and the food on the Ventura is both varied and brilliant. There are 11 restaurants in all, including four reserved for family dining, and the service was superb. There are early and late dining options as well as anytime dining. The first night Heidi, Kye and I ate in the dining room and being adventurous I had the roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding.

Now I am not just saying this but honestly, next to my Mum’s, this was as good as I have ever eaten. Yorkshire Pudding is supposed to be big and fluffy but many restaurants make it as flat as Kate Moss’ chest. P&O makes a brilliant Yorkshire Pudding and the traditional pass around service made it extra special.

Heidi had the salmon which she said was excellent but reserved her highest praise for the sticky toffee pudding which she described as………. mmmmmmmmmmm …………and with a glint in her eye asked Ronald the waiter from Goa for some more. He obliged bringing her an even bigger portion which meant that with a full stomach there was bugger all chance of any rumpy pumpy for me that night.

The second night we ate at the Pan Asian restaurant called East. There is a small surcharge for this as in most cruise ship speciality restaurants and for me, the meal here was simply divine. East serves a wonderful mix of spicy food from India, Thailand and beyond in the most relaxing and inviting environment.

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. Along with the regular dining rooms and East 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 chefs in the world has made his restaurants as the place to be and to be seen. The same can be said for his restaurant on Ventura which again has a small surcharge…….but it’s the price of an appetizer in land based eateries and the food is spectacular.

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 parlour (spelt correctly) on one of the open decks..….no charge here except to the tailor who you will have to pay to loosen your pants.

British people still holiday as a family, it remains a strong tradition here which is why P&O truly are Britain’s favourite cruise line and kids…….well they are in holiday heaven. 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 a room where parents can leave children aged 6 months and up while Mum and dad enjoy a romantic dinner free from 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 accepting babies and I know for many parents this is one of the deciding factors when they book. Other lines could and should learn from this.

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………right up there with 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, comedians and on the second night of our cruise The Four Tops performed. Now I don’t know if they were the original Four Tops but who cares, they were brilliant and the Brits loved them.

Time is running out on this blog thingy and 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.

Something else that impressed me was that the captain during his welcome aboard announcement described the voyage as “a party cruise.” This surprised me because the word party, quite incorrectly, has been associated with bad people doing bad things. But P&O were not afraid to call it that and there was nobody doing naughty things to each other on the middle of Lido deck and no outrageous behaviour.

There were people just………..well………..ummm….. partying or to put it another way, celebrating …………and yes…………….dare I say it…………….they were having fun. Look, I know that I have no right to call myself a travel writer just as Charlie Sheen has no right to entertain at a children’s party. However, I do know ships a bit and what works and P&O’s use of the words “party cruise” on this particular voyage described it perfectly. Oh and one more thing here. The last night of the cruise was formal dress code………on a 2-day cruise. When the girls and I left the cabin that night I thought that very few would be dressed formally but boy was I wrong. Not only was every ……. yes every passenger dressed formally but they were dressed formally properly. There were more tuxedos than I have seen in many years and the ladies all had beautiful dresses on. There were no free drinks to entice them to do this. Nope, the program said “formal dress” and that’s exactly what happened……..everyone dressed formally. Now you know me, I am not a big fan of dress codes but here, on the Ventura, it made sense and the ship looked even more splendid for them doing so.

Here are a few random photos as taken by my Mrs.

You know, the Ventura’s tag is “The Superliner Designed for Britain” and indeed it is with parts being as British as Shepherd’s Pie and ummm……..curry.

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 spell our words correctly but…….we all love the best in cruising and certainly that is what I discovered here on the Ventura. And so I hereby am unofficially changing the Ventura’s tag line to………”Ventura the Superliner designed for Britain……and her former colonies.”

I know though that most of my North American friends won’t get to sail on a P&O cruise so the final message then goes to my British blog readers. Life is simply too short to put up with traffic jams and crap hotels. You work hard. You only get one summer holiday a year. So go on, get your bottom on a P&O cruise……..because life is simply too short. Go on, book now, you deserve it and if no other reason…………to try the best Yorkshire Pudding this side of my Mum’s kitchen.

Goodnight.

Your friend,

John

For more information on P & O visit:

www.pocruises.com

www.facebook.com/pandocruises

And don’t miss my good friends James Cusick’s blog about life onboard a P & O ship. His web thingy is http://www.jamescusick.co.uk

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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.