Ventura - Cruise Break
Time to go for some dock photos.  Thankfully the weather was just windy rather than wet.  Unlike when I'd been there four weeks earlier on QM2 and everyone was yelled at for taking photos, there were no barricades or dockside security guards.  Two ladies sat in a car but that was it.  Their gangway was tied down.
Because it started to rain, I bid a hasty retreat back onboard and sat in the Red Bar as the sun came out again.  Grrr!  It wasn't open but there were a couple of bar staff milling around who would get you a drink from another bar.  This was one of my favourite areas last time I'd been aboard and I still liked it.
The internet connection was dire.  Most of my onboard account was going on that!  I went up for sailaway.  Despite the glorious sunshine, it was extremely windy.  We were due to go at 6pm but the Captain came on twenty-five minutes earlier to say we'd be off, though it took another ten or so minutes before we were.  We also listed starboard quite badly as we did a turn, but he warned us about that.  No other Captain had in any of my previous visits.  I tried phoning my dad but we lost the signal pretty fast away from land.  Our weather outside changed throughout the eveing.
It was formal night and thank goodness they's dropped informal, aka: Smart.  Pity they can't full stop since the definition is casual, which is what the majority wear.  I briefly returned to the cabin and found the disemarkation information.  Despite being given a map of the suggested route from Mayflower Terminal (please, Carnival UK, stop calling it a bloody pier!  We're not Americans, you've used it since 1960 and your office is down the sodding road from it!!!!) so as not to clog the roads, you just know many with cars will ignore it.  I was okay.  I would be going by Shank's pony - and I don't mean Peter Shanks has a horse!  Pounding the pavement from Ventura to Oriana with my luggage so hoped it wouldn't rain.
There was a choice of Jimmy James in the theatre or The Beatles Experience in Havana.  Having seen the Beatles tribute act on Balmoral plus another on Norwegian Epic, both of which had a right-handed Paul McCartney, I headed to the theatre.  The name didn't ring a bell until the husband of the couple next to me said Jimmy James and the Vagabonds.  Well what can I say?  I'd run out of superlatives if I tried describing it!  He is an amazing performer for a man in his seventies, holding the audience in the palm of his hand.  So many were out of their seats dancing as the performance wore on and he even came back for an encore.  P&O always seem to book fantastic performers for shorts but fall down on longer trips with the same old, same old.  Afterwards I went to bed.
Monday was Guernsey and we didn't get there.  There had been forty knot winds so instead of going to Cherbourg, as Azura and Queen Elizabeth had previously done, we tootled around at sea.  Now I was having weather deja vu, as this Captain was in Command during my Aurora 2007 New Year cruise when we failed to get into Lisbon.  He hadn't said until the afternoon the port was actually closed, leading us to believe we'd arrive with revised excursions.
You would think they'd remove Guernsey from the navigational info.  So today would be a lazy day.  It wasn't a shock we missed it.  I had on QE2 (once got there and anchored but not tendered) and Grand Princess while managed to get off on Constellation and Boudicca.  It was a little early for lunch so I went to the Red Bar and service was non-existent.  Three staff including the one behind the bar.  It was quicker going to the bar and ordering.  I took a quick stroll around the Prom deck after another very delicious lunch. Our revised activied were announced - umpteen quizzes, a whist drive and line dancing, plus adding the odd film in The Tamarind Club.  Er, hello????  Under 50s aboard!!!!  What about us????
On the interactive channel was P&O's Grand Event video on a loop.  As the hours ticked by, it became more exciting.  Meanwhile, at one point, our speed dropped to just 2 knots from the 8 knots my dad told me we were doing seconds before in a text.  I managed to snap the info channel at 3.8 knots.  After a shower and kip, I put it on to see it was back to 8-9 knots.  After dinner, it was much calmer, which I hoped was a sign of things to come.  Ventura doesn't handle bad weather that well, but at least she didn't aggravate my back like QM2 does.
As it was such an early start with us and Azura arriving for 4.30am, I skipped the Freddie Mercury tribute act in Havana.  Heard the base line from the first show throughout dinner anyway!  The one in the theatre didn't interest me so I decided to go to bed.  I managed all of two hours so got dressed and went on deck.  It was raining and the dolphin's gob was closed off!  How sodding annoying is that?  Best sheltered place with no glass to get the other ships from.  There were so many pissheads around it was ridiculous.  As the night turned to day, there was still no sign of many buggering off to their beds.  I overheard one ask her friends if it was worth going to bed.  Yes if any of you are getting behind the wheel after disembarking!  What are the chances of introducing breathalysers for every disembarking passenger, thus banning pissheads from the road first thing in the morning????  Another group had one young lad start dropping his trousers while a group were in the pool in the rain.  But what was worse than those were the number of cigarette buts stubbed out on the deck.  I'm not one who wants it banned everywhere.  Life's too sodding short to dictate how others live and they certainly wouldn't like being told what they can or can't do.  But with so much plastic onboard instead of wood (which can be treated to make it safe) thanks to SOLAS, it wouldn't take much for one to smoulder and a fire start.  The muster spiel tells you not to throw lit cigarettes overboard but it wouldn't take much for one to roll off an upper deck and onto a balcony.  There should be a smoking room inside, thus having a controlled enviroment.  MSC have the right idea with their smoking pub.  They just need better ventilation.  Cunard have a designated cigar lounge too.  Anyway, I went to Deck 16 after a while and a security officer told me the dolphin's gob wouldn't open until 7am.  WTF????  I pointed out all the ruddy ships will be in by then and this area wasn't sheltered but he didn't care.  I ended up returning to the cabin for my umbrellas as I was dripped on, the fought it as the wind kept whipping up.  One family were going on Aurora afterwards.

And so every one of the P&O fleet was in.  I went back in just as it started to spit again.  If it hadn't been for Oriana, I would have done self-disembarkation but was glad my colour was at almost 9am, which is about what I wanted.  Back in 2008, you were told to just go and they may as well as left it like that because, although your colour was called, the queue to get off was horrendous.  And PLEASE, Carnival UK, let us keep the bloody cards!  They have details and a signature on so are MUCH safer with the person.  Your sister lines let us keep them.  I grabbed a trolley and no one could believe I was planning to walk to City Terminal and off I went for my next cruise and be part of P&O's 175th anniversary celebrations.

So the verdict?  Not as awful as my first Ventura cruise and, if the price and itinerary were right, I would book another.  Back then, she wasn't a P&O or Princess but has settled down and is undoubtedly a Princess through and through.  Those who have never sailed an equivalent Princess will disagree, but she's still missing that something which makes you know you're on a P&O ship.  Many say Azura is more P&O, and I'll find out later.  But this was a really good cruise.  They do need to have better bar opening hours and more staff, plus a better contingency plans for unexpected sea days.  We're not all into quizzes, whist and line dancing!

To see more photos of P&O's Grand Event click here, while my subsequent Oriana cruise review can be found, here.


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© Patricia Dempsey 30th June-3rd July 2012
Not to be reproduced without permission