I’ve been pretty quiet recently, and there has been a pretty excellent reason for that. I was invited on a cruise around the Mediterranean with P&O, on their family friendly ship, Ventura.
Well, when someone invites you on a cruise around the Med, you drop everything and you say a big fat yes please. So last Friday, I picked Roo up from school at lunch time, we jumped in a taxi, along with my mum and Elliot, and headed for Ocean Terminal in Southampton.
As a Sotonian, I am no stranger to seeing the enormous cruise liners in dock. The children always get a bit excited when there is a ship in, and we have been known to park up at the quayside (or at the very top of the Ikea car park) and gawp for a while. Going on a cruise has been something we’ve dreamed of for years. A floating hotel that takes you to faraway destinations, how fancy! But pulling up alongside Ventura, knowing full well we were getting on board felt different, and the enormity of the ship really hit us all hard, and certainly took my breath away. Ventura is gargantuan – one of the largest of the entire P&O fleet – and boasts four pools, countless bars and restaurants, a very well equipped gym (they even have a couple of hula-hoops for if you feel like swinging your hips!) and a grown-ups only spa, as well as amazing facilities for younger passengers. Ventura really is an incredibly family oriented ship.
Happily, my lovely friend Alice was on the same ship, with her mum and children, and as soon as we had embarked, we joined them for a bite to eat and a glass of wine at one of Ventura’s pool-side bars. Alice and I got down to the very important business of having a good old catch up, our mums hit it off immediately and our children bonded over a mutual enjoyment of generally being a bit raucous. Fortunately, no one seemed to mind.
The staterooms were ready soon after we boarded, spacious and immaculate, with a full size bathroom, comfy beds made up with soft cosy linen, and a balcony, accessible by sliding doors where we could (and did) sit outside and watch the sun set with a bottle of wine. We arrived to a box of belgian chocolates and a chilled bottle of Champagne, as well as sweets and balloons for the children and a welcome pack – complete with details of how to enrol the children into the kid’s club, and a copy of Horizon, a daily newsletter outlining everything that goes on on ship – invaluable, especially during our days at sea, as there is such a vast array of entertainment and things to do.
Shortly after 4pm, Ventura sounded her horn and we were off. Just for a jot of perspective, I live a good 3 or 4 miles from the cruise port, and I can hear every one of those ship’s horns as they leave. Quiet, they ain’t, but exciting it most certainly was. Cheerio, not so sunny Southampton, see you in a week!
So, for those of you who, like us, are cruising for the first time, here are a few pointers:
- Get to the terminal early. We arrived two and a half hours before Ventura left port, and the queues were immense. It took us a good half an hour after check in to go through security.
- Life on board is laid back and relaxed. If your stateroom is not ready when you board, bag a table and grab something to nibble on and a drink. You have a lot of time to settle in, there is really no need to rush.
- Be prepared for the muster drill. This is mandatory by law and all passengers must attend. On Ventura, we assembled at our muster station as the designated time and were taught how to put on our lifejackets. It’s not a long drill, but it’s important and will put your mind at ease. Get there a little early, especially if you’re travelling with small children, the muster station filled up quickly and not everyone was able to sit.
We were invited on board Ventura by the lovely folk at P&O. Whilst this trip was complimentary for myself and my family, all experiences and opinions are our own.