This is a selection of photos taken while on board the P&O Cruises ship Ventura during a three night break between the ports of Southampton and Zeebrugge. With Ventura being a sister ship to the Azura and with us having done a couple of cruises on that ship prior to Ventura there weren’t quite as many photos taken as usual. For a comparison between Ventura and Azura and further links to see pictures of Azura itself please read this: P&O Cruises: Azura Versus Ventura.
Embarkation was as good this time as it was on our prior trip to Amsterdam on Azura. We used CPS and arrived to hand over our car about 40 minutes before we were scheduled to board. It took about 15-20 minutes to queue again before we could give our keys to the driver, grab the bag from the boot, and walk into the terminal where, because it was close to our boarding time, we were again given a fast track ticket to immediately queue instead of waiting around to be called. Check in was smooth, done quickly, and we were on the ship 5 minutes ahead of our due time. Dropping off our bag, unpacking and hanging things up, we then went for a quick wander to see what was the same and what was different on Ventura compared to Azura. We started up top.
Almost all of the outside space was identical to what we’d seen before with the main exception being the presence of two circus ring areas for the ship’s circus training!
Nobody really wants to see views of Southampton when they’re on a cruise ship but it simply can’t be helped and when I’ve got a camera in my hand I feel compelled to take some pictures of the city.
We wandered into Metropolis which wasn’t serving drinks at that time (otherwise we’d have had our first drink on board there) and were a little disappointed with the decor when thinking back to the impressive TV screens in Azura’s Planet Bar.
Heading back along the top deck we saw that one of the two main pools was covered. As explained in my comparison post about Ventura and Azura we liked this a lot even though we never got around to having a swim on this cruise simply because the wind can be a bit nippy in northern Europe late in the season and the covered section reduced the space for smokers who often make going for breakfast in the mornings a rather revolting experience.
The colour scheme on board Ventura is far warmer than its sister ship and the atrium in particular was a far more welcoming place than the same space on Azura. While some areas did look a little bit old fashioned (the Glass House most obviously) we found it overall a friendlier feeling ship to be on.
Our state room was exactly what we were expecting in terms of layout and facilities; we’ve been on enough Grand-class cruise ships to be able to move around these rooms in the dark without issue now. We did have a few problems with our cabin that needed addressing when we first got on board, though. The TV was reporting an error connecting to the ship’s network but that was soon remedied using the skills I’ve developed from decades in the world of IT (I rebooted the router). More irritating was that the connecting door on the balcony wasn’t locked and kept swinging open with a loud bang in the wind even while we were docked in Southampton. We didn’t know who our steward was (Princess usually leave a card explaining who your steward is and how to get hold of him/her but there was nothing like that on Ventura) so explained the situation to the first employee we saw in the hallway; he said he’d tell our steward without actually finding out what room number we were in which didn’t inspire confidence so we made our way to the reception desk off the atrium and decided to forget that too once we saw the queue of people waiting to have some issue or another addressed stretched out of sight. We eventually left a note for our steward on the bed knowing that it would be seen when it was turned down for the evening and this problem was rectified by the time we retired for the night.
We spent the first full day at sea, at times with some decent swell and high winds and occasionally just drifting in nearly flat conditions. It was a strange thing to be at the aft of the ship, at sea, with no apparent wake. I would guess that there is a tax benefit to having a mostly wasted day out of port and it probably doesn’t hurt to have a captive audience for all those bars on board but we did hear a few people complain about it. Personally, it was quite nice and I think not a bad idea for an introductory cruise to show people what a ship is like when it’s not simply in port; you really don’t get a real feel for cruising on a 2-nighter.
On the Sunday we awoke to find ourselves docked in Zeebrugge. There had been rain overnight with more forecast for the day in Belgium but with a clear sky initially it lent Ventura a fresh look as we headed off to breakfast. Breakfast on Ventura, I must point out here, was significantly better than that we’d experienced on Azura with a few more options each morning; it’s still pretty basic fare but we did appreciate the improvement.
We had a lovely day in Bruges (to be covered in another post) but were then delayed getting away from Zeebrugge partly due to high wind speeds that eventually required making use of tugs to get the ship out into the open sea.
Pools were emptied and covered over for safety during the ensuing return trip as the ship faced gusts of up to 62 knots and it spent a fair amount of time leaning to starboard. By estimating the difference in height of the drinks we had in the glass against each edge along with the diameter of the glass I was able to approximate the lean of the ship at 7 degrees which doesn’t sound much but made for entertaining “uphill” walking in places. We had dinner with a group of four, only three of whom were present due to one of them feeling the effects of the rough crossing. We’ve had worse; we enjoyed it.
Monday morning’s return to Southampton was early enough to see a lovely sunrise. It was, however, bitterly cold and a hell of a shock to the system.