Iglu's Head of Commercial, Dave Mills, has recently returned from his family holiday onboard P&O Cruises' Ventura. Here's what he had to say:
To be honest, it wasn't without trepidation we booked 12 nights at sea in a 200 square foot cabin with a semi-nocturnal 6 month old.
P&O Ventura was to be a home-from-home for the three of us, on a fairly standard western itinerary including Barcelona, Rome, Corsica, Villefranche and lastly and leastly Gibraltar.
As soon as we reached Southampton it was clear we were in for a level of service which ultimately permeated every aspect of the holiday. No sooner had we been dropped off, our luggage was whisked away to be delivered to our cabin — leaving us to check in almost instantly and without even the slightest logistical issue. Having a baby with us meant we were afforded the same fast track check in as that enjoyed by gold tier Peninsular Club members, the little sailor hat we'd bought him already paying dividends!
On board Henry's celebrity spread like a cuter, more endearing norovirus, as the octogenarian masses coo-ed and gaga'd at one of the only onboard dopplegangers of their own grandchildren — culminating in him being the poster boy for the unique (and fairly expensive) cruise DVD.
A few of Sal's NCT group were soon swapping stories of their first family holiday with a baby, most of them opting for self catered villas and cottages — the consensus opinion concluded that without the order and facilitation of home, the cycle of feeding, changing, playing, changing, sleeping & feeding was significantly harder work than being at home — here the cruise paid dividends.
Noddy's Toytown Tea for example, was my personal highlight — not only did it provide my daily fix of ice cold milk and fresh chocolate brownies, but meant at 6pm each day, we'd turn up and be given mildly heated stage 1 baby food, all necessary cutlery, high chair and bibs, which Henry was free to decorate Jackson Pollack style with a mixed palette of apple & blueberry and butternut squash. Then gloriously, at 6.25pm, we were free to leave this masterpiece of messiness and carry on our merry way for a last dip in the nearby aft pool (the rules on babies in pools sensibly lax when the pools weren't busy).
The night nursery from 6.30pm until 02:00am was the intention for later part of the evening, though almost invariably, circa 20 mins after dropping Henry off our pager would predictably chime and we'd be summoned to retract our mutinous child. It seems the boy's nightly mission was to disrupt and orchestrate his sleeping peers into a cacophonous chorus of wailing.
No matter — the staff at the White Room (and Rambla and East and the main restaurants for that matter) were more than accommodating, offering rusks or fruit juice for him, and even helping to rock him back to sleep — well done Marco!
After dinner, what we saw of the shows were impressive, the James Bond montage for example in Reel to Reel definitely captured the allure of Ms Galore & Rider et al!
Getting about during the evening and daytime was easy enough — the bugaboo could easily be stored in the ample wardrobe area, and would fit through the door by taking a wheel off, which became simple enough. Even tendering in port was also no big deal, as the slick landing crews had done so with buggies thousands of times before.
It's only really when ashore that the limitations of cruising with a little one kick in like Villefranche sur Mer, where we were really limited to exploring the beautiful waterfront and beach area, others without all the kit and caboodle were free to explore up the hill into the older part of time — glorious Mediterranean sunshine, ice cold Rosé and deliciously fresh moules marinere didn't feel too much like second best though!
This concept of watching the masses get bussed away to the most popular tourist landmarks and natural wonders whilst we were left with the classic "old town or beach " conundrum was one we became familiar with. It was a little frustrating not to be able to explore immersively, but being forced to holiday at a slightly slower pace was probably exactly what the ships doctor would have prescribed!
Back on the ship though things definitely could get pacier — the gym, like most onboard gyms resembled a showroom for exercise equipment; gleaming new machines all crammed in ready to use with just a few of the dancers and entertainment crew elegantly and seemingly effortlessly modelling the wares. And me... sweating away on the cycling machine, trying to justify quadrupling my daily calorific intake. Actually the gym facilities were some of the best I've seen at sea, although the Pilates 'rack' looked more of an instrument to deter bad behavior than something for the modern woman.
Outside the gym, most of our ship board time was spent around the popular pool decks and the lido restaurant — which suggests why the cabins closest to the top often command the highest rates.
Here, staff were attentive, space fairly plentiful and thankfully the sun had, well and truly got its hat on.
The aft area pool & bar were our secret oasis of solace if we wanted a quieter area, but being just outside the school holidays, the main source of hubbub were the entertainment crews occasional forays into on deck karaoke.
These tireless motivators seemed to be on hand at all times to organise a host of daily sports events and competitions on deck, whilst below, their colleagues on the lower decks would be holding discussion groups on water retention, arthritis and dealing with poor circulation — something for everyone then!
Each day the gents would have an onboard speaker, experts on the land speed record, the RAF or the the reign of Julius Caesar were on hand if ever one got truly bored!
So all-in-all, a well put together holiday. It was glorious to be surrounded by fellow travellers genuinely having a terrific time. The multi-generational appeal of cruising was über apparent, with many other young families exploiting the grandparents as a bring along support network.
No complaints about the ship or her crew, though be careful with the tumble driers in the laundry — many of my trousers, shorts and shirts, seemed a lot tighter at the end of the cruise...
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