Having enjoyed cruises in the past, my wife and I decided to take our 12-year-old grandson with us on our latest trip in the run-up to his barmitzvah. The fly-cruise package on the P&O ship Ventura seemed ideal, as it caters specifically for families.
Travelling from Venice to Genoa, the seven-night trip stopped at Kotor in Montenegro; Corfu, Greece; Civitavecchia, Rome, and Ajaccio, Corsica. The liner stays in the Med until mid-October – with some very good prices – and then goes transatlantic for a winter Caribbean programme.
Having checked-in our luggage at Gatwick airport, we were impressed to see it already in our cabin when we arrived on board Ventura, which was harboured 15 minutes away from Venice airport. One lesson we had learnt from our previous experience of cruising was that the cost of a larger cabin is well worth the money. Ours had a good-sized lounge and meant the three of us were not confined in a small space.
Having heard about the ship’s excellent activities for kids, our grandson was keen to try them. There are clubs for every age group running throughout most of the day until 11pm.
There is also an evening sleeping area for babies aged six months upwards, enabling parents to have a quiet relaxed dinner and see a show.
One annoying aspect, however, true of all shipping lines, is that children under the age of 13 must be signed in and out. The rule is very rigid but it does ensure children are kept safe.
“Very good” was how our grandson described his club as it became more difficult to pull him away, even for food.
Dining is an important part of a cruise for most people and Ventura looks after its clients well; with the outstanding Marco Pierre White Room setting exceptional standards. There is a £25 charge but nothing like what it would cost at his establishment at Wheeler’s of St James’s. If the weather is suitable, try to book a table on the balcony high over the stern. The celebrity chef does take a cruise from time to time but if he is not around the sous chef gives an informative morning demonstration.
Atul Kochhar’s East does what it says on the package (he is on certain trips too), and new is the Glass House by Olly Smith, the wine specialist, with a tasting menu for £30 including appropriate vino in the evenings. Hermolis kosher food is available and, while the ship has a reasonable stock (frozen), it is best to book ahead. The standards of the Vegetarian Society are also adhered to.
The entertainment on Ventura was excellent, with the amazing 870-seat Arena Theatre featuring superbly choreographed song-and-dance routines, comedy and theatre performances.
TV in the cabins brings passengers information on the ship’s tours and a daily Ventura update, plus rolling international news. There is also a UK newsletter available in the library.
Eighteen new single cabins added this year make Ventura more than just a family ship: it is now a floating holiday home covering many markets.