Last week I was invited, along with fellow travel bloggers and a journalist, to experience a day aboard the Ventura – a P&O Cruises cruise liner. I was picked up from my home in London and driven to the Port of Southampton, where the Ventura had just docked. The ship sails 365 days a year so we had a small window of opportunity to take a guided tour and have a taste of what a cruise holiday would be like.
Whilst we were waiting to go through, it struck me just how many of those disembarking the Ventura were under 50 years old. Gone are the days where a cruise holiday was for ‘the oldies’. In fact, I have quite a few friends who cruise and love it. But is a cruise holiday for me?
Cruise liners are often referred to as ‘floating hotels’ and this certainly is true. Upon boarding you are met by a large reception area and two, grand staircases. It’s rather luxurious – just look at the flower arrangement!
The staircase is just perfect to make an entrance on a black-tie Gala night.
The Ventura can host 3,078 guests and 1,205 staff members, which honestly makes my mind boggle. It’s no wonder then that there are 12 dining options, numerous places to have a drink, a theatre, a casino and a luxurious spa (for adults only).
If you get bored of eating, drinking or being entertained, you can visit the on-board art gallery, do some tax-free shopping or visit a travel agent to discuss shore excursions.
Arena is a two-tiered theatre where guests can enjoy West End style shows, cabarets, films and guest talks. If you’re a Strictly Come Dancing fan, then book one of the Strictly Come Dancing cruises and watch some of your favourite dancers from the show perform on stage. There are even judges to complete the experience – Craig Revel Horwood has been a guest judge.
There are three Select Dining restaurants (where you pay a small surcharge) to dine – one of which is two Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar’s restaurant, Sindhu. For just £20 per person, you can enjoy three courses in a modern, sultry setting. It’s perfect if you’re celebrating an occasion.
After a tour of the ship’s restaurants and entertainment areas, we were treated to a mini spa treatment and a tour of Oasis Spa and its facilities. There’s a hair and nail salon, gym, spa treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge and the Thermal Suite. There’s also an adults-only pool and outdoor relaxation area.
I know if I were on a cruise, this is where I would spend most of my time! The heated benches in the Thermal Suite were just so relaxing – the perfect place to unwind and read a book or magazine.
I chose the Head First scalp massage for my fifteen minute spa treatment and it was lovely. After a very early morning start and a long drive, it was just the thing I needed to dissolve any tension I had and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
After our treatments it was time to enjoy a wine tasting masterclass in the Glass House, which is one of the Select Dining options. It’s called the Glass House because it’s only here that you can purchase any wine aboard the Ventura by the glass. I was both delighted and also rather apprehensive as I’d not eaten anything all day so was expecting to be a bit tipsy after the first glass! But this was wine tasting with a difference – it was paired with a canape. My wine-buddy Megan from Why Wait to See the World, and I were relieved! I have to say, the food was delicious – particularly the steak.
I was really impressed with the wine that we were given to taste. There were some unusual options, such as Grillo from Sicily. My favourite had to be the Brachetto (which is a sparkling, semi-sweet red) from Piedmont. I first had it years ago in Bologna and it’s not a very popular wine over here in the U.K so I was delighted to end the tasting with it.
Here are all the wines we tasted, in all their glory. (Not mine, I drank most of my glasses!).
After the wine tasting, we were invited to have lunch in the Glass House and I sat with fellow bloggers Megan and Kate and journalist Laura. I’m so glad I chose this table because, like me, these ladies enjoy their food (and prosecco). The Glass House is one of the Select Dining options aboard the Ventura – meaning that you pay extra as it’s not included. However, the prices were so reasonable I thought they were mis-typed. The rib-eye steak, for example, was less than £9 and it was such good quality. The small plates are priced at less than £6 for three so we ordered three small plates (9 dishes in total) to share as starters.
Some of the dishes we tried were the ceviche, chicken liver pâté , quail scotch eggs, chorizo sausage, pork belly and butter bean cassoulet and tempura prawns. Most of the dishes were delicious – there were only a couple that I didn’t particularly like – but that’s what’s great about sharing as someone else will no doubt like it. And of course we washed it down with prosecco (and a glass of red for Laura).
Both Laura and Megan chose the rib-eye surf and turf, Kate had the sirloin and I opted for the sliders. I would have gone for the steak but we’d already tasted it during the wine tasting so I thought I’d go for something different. The sliders were really yummy and each one was different. The chips were just how I like them – crunchy!
We were meant to take a look at the top deck but as we had ordered so much food, we just didn’t have time. All the other tables went, by the way. Given how fabulous lunch was, I have no regrets!
I’d like to thank Jenny, Emma and Andrea from P&O Cruises for their hospitality and a really eye-opening day. I genuinely would consider booking a short cruise, now that I know how luxurious it is, how delicious the food is and the quality of the wine. The staff were fantastic too and I’m sure it would be a memorable experience.