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P&O Cruises Ventura ~ Western Mediterranean Review

Saturday 22nd May 2010

This cruise has been a long time coming. Its been so busy of late that I have had little time to think about it, but the day has arrived. Todys cruise is even more special because Mum is coming with us, that means military precision packing of the car with cases, a wheelchair and  mobility aids, but thats Mr C’s problem, nothing to do with me. Dam….. there was room to spare, I could have packed yet another case!

The journey to Southampton was a sunny one. I think summer has arrived at last. I had expected some delays but the drive down to Southampton was a breeze. Not that I was driving, I had the easy job of just sitting, which involved closing of eyelids and eating the occasional Jelly Baby supplied by Mum in the back. I instructed to Mr C to drive down the Avenue into Southampton, as the M3 was a little bit stop start and I would imagine the M27 & M271 could be much the same, so didnt want to risk it. The Avenue was a breeze and cut out the need to drive through the busy Southampton front road, plus we arrived straight at Dock gate 4. There she was, sitting in the sun, Ventura. Last time I saw her a couple of weeks ago she was drenched in murkey grey drizzle sat in the very same place. We were directed to a holding queue of cars for CPS parking as it was already busy even at 11.20am, but it moved quickly and we were soon being greeted by a very nice lady from CPS. We had a disabled sticker already on the Ventura carparking sticker in the windowscreen, so she dealt with us swiftly , hung a wheelchair sign in our window screen so they knew to park us by the key collection point, and I had no sooner signed the car over, then the porters had taken the cases away and we were ready to go. It was a little bit of a logistical challenge with the hand luggage, walking frame, two wheelie cases, a laptop bag, camera bag and a soft bag containing Mr C’s DJ’s. We did struggle but I caught up with a ‘Wheelchair assistant’ and asked where we could find such a person? (I knew really that they are usually assigned once upstairs at check in, but sometimes blonde hair comes in really useful) seeing that we were a bit overloaded he advised us to stand just inside the doors and he would send a colleague down to us, and sure enough Dave arrived liked the cavalry. I have to say that Dave was an absolute star from start to finish, he really did go the extra mile. He had already spotted my Portunus Gold card in my hand, so he knew we were regulars. We went upstairs in the lift, which is huge by the way unlike the one at Mayflower, and out of the lift we were immediately given Priority boarding cards and asked to wait as check in had not started. There was not a seat to be had anywhere, so much for getting here early, so he asked us to just stand for one minute. The next thing we knew we were whisked over to a check in desk and given ViP treatment as we checked in and were shown to the other end of the embarkation lounge. We had not been sat for 5 minutes and we were invited to board the ship just as the call was put out for Golds to commence check in. We went through security without all the usual pushing and shoving and we had chance to move through at a leisurely pace, removing laptops from bags etc and then repacking again at the end. Next thing we knew we were miraculously the first to embark! So now you can see what a star Dave is, obviously a man with contacts! Gold Portunus drinks were in Tamarind and naturally we were the first to arrive so we were meeted and greeted and sat with champagne before I had time to think about it. Daves help was very much appreciated and I hope he went on to make a lot more peoples day in the same way. Goldie drinks was possibly the quietist I have ever seen, and we were told that there is actually only a very select amount of Golds on the is cruise. Im sure Helen said that there were only 47 of us, which does seem incredibly low, but s he did advise that we will be having a ‘special’ special Portunus Gold event this cruise. Yippee, about time too! Hardly any Goldies or suite passengers turned up while we were there, which was for well over an hour. Maybe they were all sat outside enjoying the sunshine, while we were sat enjoying the champagne? The sandwiches though are getting worse. We were presented with 4 fingers of very dried up excuses for a sandwich, with a couple of lettuce leaves, which were embarrassing really and I think P&O should not bother if thats the best they can produce. We did eat them though because we were hungry and they did bring another plate after that as demand for them was not high today. Mum drank tea but was not impressed when Mr C ordered the third glass of fizz, lol. At 1.00pm we were advised that our stateroom was ready. I was tempted to nab a Butler as two had turned up to escort passengers but there didnt seem to be any suite passengers to assist. Instead Mr C went ahead with one lot of hand luggage and put them in the cabin and then came back for us.

Oooh Im liking my choice of stateroom. We had two Superior deluxe balcony cabins right at the aft of D deck, just as far back as you can go on the port side, and we have an extra bit of balcony which was even more of a bonus. The balcony is huge! Love it! The stateroom itself is exactly the same ‘pod’ as our Queen Victoria Princess Grill suite last December so I’m more than familiar with the layout, although it doenst have quite the luxurious feel that the one on QV did. But its cool. Its larger than the standard balcony cabins and we have a larger bathroom with bath and shower above, sink with plenty of space and shelves to stash all my essential items. We have a different piece of artwork on the wall at the foot of the bed to any that I have had before, and I have been on here a few times now! Outdoor scenes of a cricketer and a kite. The room has sort of a virtual divide between seating and bedroom area. Big king size bed, dressing table, bedside cabinets, in one area and 3 seater sofa and coffee table and chair in the other. The rooms divided by a half moon shaped unit housing two flat screen TV’s the tea and coffee making facilities, plenty of glasses, and the fridge. Additional benefits of the superior deluxe balcony stateroom are fluffy bathrobes, slippers, champagne, flowers and chocolates on arrival. Use of binoculars and an atlas, plus a magazine rack of recent publications. You also get canapés delivered twice a week.  As I said the balcony is massive with the extra bit tagged on. D deck balconys are not liked by many as theoretically they are overlooked by the balconies above, but I feel more as if I can sit up and look at the entire ships length of balconys and dont feel looked on at all. Infact I feel in a very commanding position from my reclining chair. Mum is only next door and Victor is soon in to introduce himself. He has the balcony partition open in a jiffy with the aid of the corkscrew but I didnt see what he did. The sun is absolutely beating down on our balcony and its scorching. Too hot for mum and she has to move across to the shade. We had a lovely  hour sat out on the balcony watching them load stores, which didnt look easy as we seemed to be sitting low in the water and they were having to almost crane the stuff down in cages to the loading bays from the forklifts. Mr C was despatched to the Waterside for a tray full of lunch and we sat in the sun and filled our belly’s. Cases have arrived! Things are going more than smoothly and efficiently for us today. We set too and unpacked for Mum and  sorted all her stuff out, hopefully where she can find it. For some reason Mr C felt he had done enough and chose to go and rest his eyelids on the balcony while I tackled our stack of luggage. Times like this when I wish I hadn’t packed so much, but I really do need it – all of it!!

Oooh we have a big brass band on the quay side. Its been ages since I experienced a proper Sailaway in the sunshinbe. All that was missing really was the streamers. Now that would have been an impressive sight from our balcony looking the entire length of the ship! Quite a few people had turned out to watch us sail on this scorching hot afternoon so there was plenty of waving going on. I bet we looked impressive from where they were stood with the lovely blue sky and the sunshining, but I was glad I was stood where I was and not down there. Mum decided it was time for a lie down, so me and Mr C headed for Breakers Bar. As suspected it was busy up there but the atmosphere was good. By the time we got back Mum had decided a visit to the shops was in order so that she could buy her perfume, so Mr C was dispatched with the wheelchair, while I looked at the inside of my eyelids for half an hour. They were looking good and the rest was more than needed. But I had to drag myself out of bed at some point and decided to go for a nice soak in a nice bubbly bath. I was tempted to open one of the many bottles of champagne that seem to have all ready accumulated in our cabin, but decided to wait for another day. Smart casual of course this evening and I had a little bit of trouble selecting a dress but I managed.

The slots on deck 6 were calling to Mum and she felt the need to go and feed a couple of £5 notes into them. We deposited her there and headed for Ramblas for a pre dinner drink to see our friendly waiter Brian. We sat chatting at the bar to Carol and Pete, who were sat next to us and I confess we over ran our promised time to go and collect Mum. We found her sitting on a seat waiting for us. Ooops! Must watch the clock better next time. We were dining in Saffron Restaurant, table 96, and were greeted on entry by non other than Executive Purser David Shepherd, who seemed very surprised to see me. Its lovely to be welcomed back onboard when the officers seem genuinely pleased to see you. We were shown to our table for 3 and Im impressed. I would have liked a window table, but instead I do have a prime people watching seat, which is one of my favourite ship board past times. We are receiving lots of attention this evening. Edrich the Restaurant Manager is over to welcome us back onboard, closely followed by the F& B Manager. The section waiter Krishna, is next over to introduce himself (now nicknamed ‘Harry’) the waiters could not be better and make such a fuss of Mum. I will clock their names again tomorrow evening, but I know one is now nicknamed ‘Achhooo’ for no other reason other than thats what it sounds like, lol. Mike was the next over to take our wine order and got half way through his speal and stopped himself as he knew he had seen us before, he couldnt believe that it was only 3 months ago in the Caribbean when he was last serving our wine. Mum can not believe the amount of attention we are receiving but I think she had better get used to it.  Mr C did a bit of a Darren and ordered double prawn cocktail, followed by lamb and lentil soup, followed by stuffed cheese chicken and than a ginger pudding and custard. I had prawns, minestrone and the pork. The pork was beautiful and just melted, very nice indeed. I finished that off with a kiwi pavlova, then a cappachino and some millionairs shortbread. No complaints at all.

Mum was ready for her bed straight after dinner so I made sure she was settled and into bed, before we headed upto Metropolis. Theo has made it to a descent bar after his stint in the coffee shop in February. Yay my favourite cocktail maker in a bar I can sit at the bar at. P&O have introduced a whole new bar menu at long last and I have lots of new ones to try. Thoeo recommended the new orange Cosmo’ and it sounded good to me so a large one of those was in order. Im liking the look of the entire new list so I can see I have a lot to get through in the next 14 nights. I cant remember what the next one was called but it was Jack Daniels muddled with Raspberries or something. Another of Theos  recommendations and its now one of mine too.

We have had a lovely, but very tiring day so its down in the lift to deck 9 and into D732. Mr C is knocking out the Z’s before Ive even had chance to get my make up off, although it has to be said, I was very impressed with myself for even managing to remember to take my make up off, cleanse my face and clean my teeth! Good night!!

Sunday 23rd May – at sea

And what a glorious sunny morning it is too. The sun is behind us and just starting to move around the port side as it rises higher in the sky. I nip around to Mums next door and shes awake but has slept well, which is more than she has done in a long time. We have ordered breakfast for 8, which is still another hour away so I make her a cup of tea and she chooses to laze in bed for a while longer. Breakfast arrives dead on 8.00am, thankyou Ross. He asks if we would like the same every day but we are undecided as yet so decide to keep him posted. We dined in Mums this morning as the sun shone through onto the sofa and kept us nicely warm. Mums decided she still hasnt had her full quota of sleep and declares she is going back to bed for an hour, so Im back to my ‘office’ to catch up with some work.

Work done and Im out on the balcony to soak up some of that lovely warm sunshine, oooh bliss. Its not long before mum wants to get out and do some exploring so after a little browse in the shops we decide its nearing lunch time so head to the Waterside a nice salad and fishcake washed down with a glass of wine just hits the spot. Then its back to the balcony to lay in the sun and sip champagne cocktails. The Bay of Biscay is flat calm today and the sea is a lovely aqua colour glistening in the sunlight. Im mesmerised just watching the patterns in the gentle waves and sat there quite happily for most of the afternoon with mum until the sun disappeared over Metropolis and I retreated to underneath my duvet for some well earnt sleep.

Pre dinner drinks in the Red Bar this evening with Mum. After a very enjoyable 45 minutes people watching we head down to Saffron for dinner. Mum is given the ViP treatment again and wheeled across to the table. The waiters are waiting to greet her and she is lovin the attention. I had a lovely meal and chose the turkey roulade for main which I have to say was delicious with the apricot marmalade. Ooh and the banana soufflé afterwards was to die for. Yummy indeed. Its getting late for mum, so after making sure she was safely tucked up in bed it was time to go see Theo in Metropolis. I have set him a mission to see how many different cocktails he can invent me with my Hibiscus flowers so he is giving that one some thought and will produce his first offering tomorrow. In the meantime I just settled for a Hibiscus champagne before selecting a couple more cocktails from the new list to try. He did give me an incy taste of a new one on the list which contained balsamic vinegar, and while I will admit it had a good afterkick, the taste was quite shocking so I wont be purchasing one of those. No idea what all the other ones were that I tried but they were all very nice

Monday 24th May – at sea

Ooh dear I really must stop sampling the new cocktails, my head hurt this morning! And I took a bit of convincing that I could actually stand up, lol. Round one of breakfast arrived dead on the dot of 8.00am which consisted of pastries and tea, then an hour later we dispatched Mr C to Waterside for bacon, egg, sausage mushrooms and beans. Thats better. Im ready to face the day now, but maybe a little snooze first.

Its rather cloudy today and more than a little windy out on the balcony so when we eventually get organised we head out and down to decks 7 & 6 for a nosey around. We stopped by reception for some Euro’s and while waiting the queue I’m kept entertained by the various questions that people choose to queue to ask about. Most asked question today seemed to be about the Captains Welcome Onboard cocktail party. Why are they invited? Where is it? Will there be food was the most amusing question I heard asked! Another one that amused me was the lady complaining that she couldn’t read the print on the daily news sheet and had asked for one in large print, which still hadn’t been delivered. So the assistant purser behind the desk asked which bit she was having difficulty reading, to which the lady snapped that she didn’t know because she couldn’t read any of it to know what it said. The young girl behind the desk was trying to be helpful by reading the list of the days activities out but the woman didn’t want to listen. Getting to and from the reception are via the shops on deck 6 was not easy as the shops had insisted on putting out the market stalls either side, making it very congested and not passable in places with a wheelchair as people gathered to look at the wares. We decided to head to the coffee shop on deck 5 but so had half the ship by the look of it and there was no chance of a seat, so it was back to the lifts and upto  deck 7 to Ramblas for a coffee and more people watching. Mum was fascinated by the little restaurant so we decided to take lunch in there. Ham & figs, orange chicken…. mmmm delicious, but after a couple of drinkies im ready for my bed again. The sun was making a real effort to get out but it wasn’t quite fast enough for me and after a little bit of work catch up, I was under my duvet. I woke up late afternoon to find the ship bouncing about a little bit, which is never good when you are trying to get ready for a night out. It doesn’t help that we are right at the very aft end I suppose, but it was nothing major.

Captains Cocktails in the Red Bar and Mum amuses herself with some frock watching, while I do pretty much the same. Captain Julian Burgess addresses us all from his balcony and introduces his senior team, followed by Noddy, but hes very camera shy and I wasn’t quick enough with the camera for that one. The boys are ready and waiting to attend to Mum when we arrive at dinner and a few more people have turned up this evening. We have had a quite a few empty tables around us the last couple of nights but all but one are occupied now. I had some delicious strawberrys to round off my meal and Mum is sent on her way with a rather full bowl of chocolates! Mum is ready for her bed and after making sure she is settled we head to Havana for the Freddie Mercury Tribute. We bump into Marion who is onboard to help out the tours department and I cant believe she has never been on Ventura before. Like most of us though she is impressed. Freddie Mercury was excellent and is one of the few tribute acts that I haven’t seen onboard. Havana was packed out. In complete contrast Gerrard Kenny was playing in the Areana theatre so there really is something to suite all tastes. Dancing in Tamarind and the duo in Metropolis. Mr C has bumped into an old work colleague from home so hes happy to have found a drinking buddy. As soon as Freddie Mercury finishes his last song I make sure we are out of the door before the masses and in a lift heading for Metropolis. Its rather quiet up there and I guess that could be due to the bit of a bouncy thats occurring at the aft end. Theo has waited for my arrival though and immediately launches into his first invented cocktail with my hibiscus flowers. Im impressed as it made me a purple coloured martini type drink, well it was in a Martini glass anyway and it matched my purple dress this evening, which was pretty impressive. No random men around at the bar to come nagging at us. Mr C learnt all about porcelain hip replacements last night, and the night before I learnt how one bloke came to be travelling alone after ditching his girlfriend the week before. But its ok he has someone else lined up to fly out to Nice for Cannes! Mr C’s buddy comes up for a drink and so I feel obliged to have a Margaritta with salt rim before heading for my bed while he heads to the Exchange and Casino with the boys.

Tuesday 25th May – Lisbon

I woke up briefly in the middle of the night wondering if Mr C had made it back to the cabin ok, but the bed is so big I couldn’t really tell if he was in residence or not, so I rolled over and didn’t give it another thought lol. Next thing I knew it was daylight and the coast off the river Tegus was passing the balcony. I nipped out for a look and then suddenly remembered that there were balconys above.  Good job I had a nightie on, lol. Thats the first time I have seen anyone on the balconies since the sailaway in Southampton. I soon nipped back in for my fluffy while bathrobe before going back out again. Its a really dull cloudy morning so I hope it clears. I always get scared as we pass under April 25th bridge and from where I was stood, aft and below Metropolis it really did look like we were going to hit, but of course we didn’t. Mr C was despatched for breakfast collection shortly afterwards and after a little bit of work at the laptop I sneak back into bed while the clouds decide what to do with themselves.

It stayed warm and pleasant all day but the sunshine didn’t make much of an effort. We headed off into town at about 11.00am giving any chance of queues for the shuttle buses chance to die down. I was very impressed to find loads of shuttle buses available and a wheelchair accessible bus available. There were two in operation all day departing every 20 to 30 minutes. The shuttle bus didn’t drop us in Black Horse square like it always has done in the past, but instead took us right to the top of the town and dropped us opposite Hard Rock Cafe. We were advised that we could book the return shuttle for our journey back to the ship or we could just turn up on the hour or 30 mins past, and we opted to do the latter. We walked all the way back down to Black Horse square which has now been pedestrianised at the sides, but you can still get the trams from there and the open top bus. We then walked back up through the main shopping street, stopping for a good supply of the famous custard tarts and then made our way to Bon Jardim for chicken & chips. Having Mums wheelchair meant we had to sit outside and thankfully it wasn’t cold. Mum loved the chicken and chips and really enjoyed the meal. But the entertainment was something else. There was what can only be described as the local lunatic ejected from the restaurant after a couple of bottles of wine had taken hold of him. He continued to stand outside the restaurant for the duration of our meal ranting and gesturing at anyone who would listen or make eye contact with him. He kept mum entertained anyway. Then there was the sunglasses seller who came harassing diners so the waiter grabbed his arm and told him to leave. The sunglasses seller then decided he was going to have a go at the waiter for putting greasy finger prints on his shirt sleeve. As if that wasn’t enough a local girl came and stood just across the pavement, took a guitar from her guitar case and continued to gesture as if she was playing it, but not making contact with the strings, hence no noise was produced. It was fantastic entertainment all round and must be unique to the barking locals of Lisbon. We were at the right end of town for the shuttle bus back to the ship so boarded straight onto the 2.00pm wheelchair adapted bus back to the ship with no queuing, which was impressive as the queue was very long. Back at the ship I could not believe the behaviour of some of our fellow passengers. We were on deck 4, had a wheelchair and clearly needed to go up in a lift. Fully able bodied people came and crowded every lift door, giving no consideration to wheelchair or pushchair users. What was wrong with them taking the stairs up one flight and going along to the next set of lifts to their chosen deck. We stood and waited for several lifts to come and go all the way to deck 15 and back until we finally got in one. Im not as patient as Mr C who was pushing the chair and if I had been in charge I would have simply taken a few people legs out and perhaps that would have made them think twice about being so selfish next time! Grrrr!

Mr C got us back to the cabin and then he felt the need for a swift one in the Exchange. I made some tea and me and mum sat and ate custard tarts on the balcony. But work was calling me from my laptop so I nipped back inside to do a little bit of work, but my eyelids got tired so I went and sneaked under the duvet for half an hour. Next thing I knew Victor was at the door with canapés and more fruit. We had a large bowl of fruit the other day, and todays is just a smaller one. Everyday something seems to arrive for us, compliments of one person or another. I can just hear the Captain making an announcement outside the cabin to say all pre departure checks are complete and we are about to leave. Im almost beginning to miss Captain Paul Browns 6.00pm announcements blasting through the cabins, but I guess I wont be saying that next time our paths meet lol. The sailaway sing along up on top deck has been cancelled for some reason? It might be inclement weather, but its not really inclement. I hear Leon announce it will be back on for Barcelona. Ventura has now let go her lines and turned and we are heading back under the April 25th bridge along River Tagus and should be passing through Gibraltar straights at around 9 tomorrow morning.

I must decide what we are going to do this evening. So much choice on here its fab. Annie Lenox is on in Havana. Jayne Curry, singer is on in Tamarind. Grande Illusion is on in the Arena Theatre. A night at the Races in Exchange. Sophistication, duo, in Metropolis. Plus there is decisions to be made about where to dine!….I will let you know what we decide.

Well, we decided on pre dinner drinks in Ramblas with first class drinks service from Brian. Mum had a prime people watching spot so she was easily sorted. We had a look at the menu and decided we would to the Saffron. Mr C had the lamb shank which did look excellent and he said it was. Mum had the baked salmon fillet and I had the grilled Sirlion which was beautiful and tender. Although I did struggle to cut it and when I asked for a steak knife Viresh informed me that they didn’t have any on the ship! A smaller knife was found which did make it easier.

It was Annie Lennox tribute in Havana this evening so Mr C went and got some seats at the bar while I helped Mum to bed. Now I know we had chosen to sit at the bar so were bound to get people stood infront of us, but when when a couple stood with there backs to be practically an inch away from my knees I was a little cheesed off! So Mr C got up and went and stood directly infront of them. Instantly the woman dared to tap Mr C on the shoulder and inform him that she couldn’t see, so I felt obliged to pipe up and tell her I was not over impressed with the back of her head either!! People!! Annie Lennox was good although I did think her songs were a bit long, then it took me a while to work out she was doing a bit of a mashup with them, lol. We got out before the end and headed for Metropolis. Theo was on a break so the Head Wine waiter did the fatal mistake of taking our order. Lets just say that cocktails are not his speciality but the entertainment value was first class as he put it together.  Some of it even made it into the glass lol. Theo was not impressed with his efforts when he returned. Its a shame he didn’t choose to come back 3 minutes earlier just as the wine waiter was making a frozen Margaritta. He ended up with a full blender full for one little glass, lol. Theo couldn’t wait to get stuck into my Tuesday night creation with the hibiscus flower. It had a purple tinge to it this evening again, but was more of a champagne mix. Tomorrows challenge is something red to match the dress.

Wednesday 26th May – at sea

Ohhh I so wish I hadn’t asked Theo for something milky and calming to send me to sleep last night. It was lovely but my head was pounding this morning. I eventually dragged myself out onto the balcony and tucked myself into the aft corner to catch the rays while the fresh air bought me slowly back around to the land of the living.

We headed upto BeachHouse for breakfast but that was closed, but decided to take advantage of the plentiful supply of empty tables in there and walk back to Waterside for trays of breakfast. Easier said than done. One side open one side closed, resulting in open side being rammed. Then just as I about ready to get out of there wise waiter decides that section is closed and puts a rope across the entrance so I cant get out! Did he expect me to jump? Mr C was an eternity getting his breakfast so Im guessing he was trying to find which bit was open and which bit was closed. Im not a lover of the self service places, one reason being the tray rammers who get you in the back or those that think it is their right to go in the opposite direction to everyone else. I decided to go on a hunt for some sunloungers. No chance!! Well not in an accessible spot with a wheelchair thats for sure. Loads of books, bags ad towels out doing their thing though. Mr C didn’t believe that I had looked everywhere, so he went to do a reckie after me and sure enough everywhere was rammed. You would think the balcony would be the perfect choice for some lazing in the sun, but the sun popped above Metropolis at about 5 past 9 and stayed directly above the ship practically all day. We found two seats at a table out by the aft pool and thats where we stayed until about 3.00pm. There was a barbeque up by the midship pool but the effort involved in getting there with a wheelchair was too much so we opted for some salad from Beach House. I kept nipping back to the cabin to do a bit of work and do some washing in the laundrette just along the corridor. People do worry about cabin locations alongside or opposite the laundrettes onboard, but on Ventura they do have and external and internal door so noise really is to a minimum and it is only open 8.00am to 10.00pm. I don’t think it would bother me being opposite or next door. Same goes for the inside cabins that look as if they are directly behind the lifts. You don’t even realise as you walk down the corridor.

I kept checking the balcony for sun but it still want there at gone 3.00pm so we had pretty much given up all hope of it making an appearance all day. But at just gone 4 we had sunshine from the stern so at least I got a couple of hours benefit from it.

Portunus Party in Tamarind this evening. We were greeted by David Shepherd Exec Purser on arrival and then bumped into Ian again, Chief Engineer who was very pleased to see us again. Not many attending the party as the ship is mainly made up of newcomers, which is unusual these days, but Ventura does tend to attract those new to cruising. Plenty of nibbles and drinks flowing and we didn’t win the set of silver goblets (not that we want another one!) but its about time they changed the prize along with those dam miniatures that they give us as a Goldie gift.

We were a little late for our arrival into dinner and I was serenaded by a chorus of Lady in Red! I had the spicy prawns tonight which were really enjoyable and Mike had selected the wine which seemed to go down rather fast. We rounded it off with an after dinner port and a baileys. I have no idea what entertainment was on this evening as I tend to make the mistake of reading Horizon the night before when I get into bed, which is not recommended after a few sherries. I know there was a Ladys Night Ball on in Tamarind but other than that I have no idea. We chose to go straight to Metropolis and it was rammed in there. Standing room only. Couldn’t hear the duo or hear yourself speak it was so busy. They even had to call for reinforcements behind the bar. Theo mixed me a triple layers creation of a cocktail this evening and used the Hibiscus as a garnish – very creative!

We only stopped for a couple this evening. We were both tired and needed a big sleep. Back at the cabin Mr C set the camera up for a romantic balcony shot of us together with my lovely red dress flowing in the breeze. But just as the camera set up was ready, a man with a high power water jet appeared on the high decks above doing a bit of deck cleaning and I had a very lucky escape from a drenching. Not good timing for a photo!

Thursday 27th May – Palma

Not a good nights sleep at all and I think I must have dropped off at about 7.00am for a couple of hours sleep. I think we found a bit of a storm in the night as the rain was lashing into the balcony doors and when we got up there were lots of flakes of white paint on the balcony floor. The sun is shining and its shining on our balcony, Yay!!! Mr C ordered some breakfast for the balcony and we sat and soaked up the rays while we waited for Mum to stir from her sleep.

We ventured ashore at around 11.00am and there were loads of shuttle buses lined up so we never witnessed any queuing but we did opt to wait for the wheelchair adapted bus, which was about 20 mins returning from town the wait in the sunshine was a pleasant one though. When the coach did arrive it was a vey high tech one with individual lift platform and the coach itself took about 6 wheelchairs all lined up and locked down in position along one side of the coach, so it was a fairly lengthy process getting it loaded, but at least they had safety in mind. We were dropped in the usual place opposite the cathedral. The Cathedral and surrounding area has really been cleaned up during recent years. We walked along the main street and then tried to cut into more of the old town, but every alley we went up we were met with the steps to take us a little further up a hill so we were defeated by the wheelchair. We opted to come back to the ship and have lunch on the balcony. There was nearly wheelchair rage on the shuttle bus. Last but one person to be loaded was in a motorised scooter and he would take no assistance from anyone as he tried to manoeuvre it around the bus into position. The driver was only trying to help and indicate where he needed him to make his scooter go and then the bloke decided to stand up in a bit of a rage, which nearly sent the driver over the edge! The point the driver was trying to make was ‘if you can walk, walk onto a non adapted shuttle bus and let some of the less aided  use this bus’ the passenger was not a happy man and the port rep had to be called to calm the situation down! Takes all sorts I suppose!

We were soon back at the ship and decided to bring burger and chicken burger from Frankies, plus a couple of Pizzas and have a bit of a picnic in the sun.  I was sure as hell that the Spanish were not getting 7% off me for anything today! I had booked a British ship so cant see why they should have 7% of what I spend onboard today. We had thought ahead and bought a bundle of Corona beer on the in cabin special offer for Mr C, I sipped champagne and mum made do with a lemondade. Mum needed her 30th nap of the day so she was off to her bed, while Mr C assisted with the removal of my toe nail polish and I applied a new colour, lol. Only a little snooze for me this afternoon, then a big hot bubbly bath, and out onto the balcony intime to see the sailaway from Palma

We had decided to eat in the Beach House Diner this evening, but not before pre dinner drinks in Metropolis. Theo mixed me possibly one of the best ever champagne hibiscus flower cocktails and we sat on the starboard wing looking down the entire length of the ship. I went down at 8.15 to see about a table of 3 and within 10 minutes we were called to be seated via a bleeper. I do love it in the diner, but this time the ambience wasn’t right. I have only used the diner when in the Caribbean before which has usually meant fewer kids onboard so I had never noticed the fact that the kids teen rooms were above us. OMG what a din and a lot of thudding about. I can only presume there was a rock school going on above our heads. We could even hear the background music in the restaurant and the lighting was too bright, again it has always been dimmed and made use of the candle lighting on the tables in the past. Having said all of that, the meal its self was faultless. I have my favourite combo sizzle plate, although the request for rice did translate to fries, but I did end up with both eventually. Mum certainly enjoyed her fish n chips! She soon wanted her bed as is usual straight after dinner but we decided to take her on a brief excursion through to the early part of the deck party. Bless, I think she thought everyone went to bed when she went to bed. It was already busy out there though. After helping mum into bed, we headed back upto Breakers Bar supposedly just for one, but it was so much fun we sort of stayed, lol. It was possibly the busiest deck party I have ever seen on Ventura, although it had list its Pirate theme apart from the odd one or two people in pirate costume. Annie Lennox and Freddie Mercury tributes both did a stint on stage, not that I could see through the mass of people, but thats my own fault for wanting to sit at the bar. I think half the ships bartenders were behind Breakers Bar and were bumping into each other as they attempted to serve the masses of people that hadn’t had a drink for 5 minutes, lol! It was a lovely warm evening and as the ship was barely moving there was barley a breeze either. A lovely evening too for just coming back to the balcony and reflecting on the day, with the distant music of the deck party in the distance.

Friday 28th May – Barcelona

We were the first of the big ships in this morning, closely followed by MSC Fantasia and Costa Concordia which berthed either end of us. Mr C ordered breakfast and hooray, for the first time this cruise we got warm milk for mums cornflakes!! It was gone 11 again before we made it ashore and the boarding of the bus was a little bit of a struggle with no wheelchair adapted one available. When we arrived in town there was a lot of tutting going on as mum had waited to be the last to get off the bus, but the queue of waiting passengers on the pavement appeared worried that there would be no seats left by the time they piled on the bus! Barcelona was rammed as usual. Mum took great amusement in spotting a man by Nelsons Colum wearing nothing but a tatood pair of pants with not anything left to the imagination!!!  Trying to negotiate La Ramblas was a nightmare as the entire city seemed to be heading towards us, plus we were watching for pick pockets and dodgy looking characters amongst the crowd.  We walked the length of the the Ramblas before heading back down the main precinct and back towards the shuttle. We decided it was easier to wait for a new bus back so mum could occupy the front seat, letting others go before us to fill the last coach. When the new coach arrived there was almost a siege as they had to wait for mum to board! Whats the rush!! Then of course we had lift wars on boarding the ship again. Mum and another lady in a wheelchair waited for an eternity while others piled into the lifts, being in the right place at the right time and quicker off the mark. Even when the lift that mum was blocking arrived, able bodied people tried to pile in and I had to suggest that they step aside and let the other lady in a wheel chair enter!

We headed upto deck 15 for some lunch and the sun was beating down on the pool area. We had some very nice fish goujons from the grill – excellent!

Then it was back down to the balcony to sample another bottle of champagne. I cant describe how hot the sun was today, but it was a scorcher of an afternoon! I am loving my balcony. Personally Im finding the decks a little too crowded this time around, so am really glad of my own little bit of Ventura down at the aft of deck 9. I still don’t feel overlooked by any of the decks above me and I rarely see anyone directly above us.

A nap was out of the question this afternoon as work kept me busy. Sometimes wish I was mum who manages to fit in about 40 naps a day! Instead I had to make do with a laze and a soak in a hot bubbly bath. We decided on pre dinner drinks in Red Bar this evening, and the waiters were falling over themselves to serve us. Im sure we had 3 on the go at one point. The V factor was going on in the Atrium which did spoil the ambience in Red Bar somewhat with someone constantly blasting over the mike telling us to book a spa and get 20% off! Buy a photo package etc. No, I will never be a fan of the V, A, O or anything else Factor!

Ashu was waiting for Mum at the restaurant door this evening and an inquest was held as to where we were last night. Don’t think we will be let out again, lol. I really enjoyed the meal again this evening, although I did select the wrong choice of sweet but Viresh had bought back up for me so saved the day with lemon and treacle tart. It was our usual haunt of Metropolis after dinner and Theo was there with his Hibiscus cocktail of the day for me. Full marks again tonight to Theo and his cocktail skills.

Saturday 29th May – Cannes

What a beautiful backdrop greeted us this morning. Clear blue sky, deep blue calm flat sea, panoramic coast line and white yachts glistening in the sunlight. No wind, just lovely calm warm air. Perfect morning for sitting on the balcony and waking myself up slowly. Mr C did the breakfast run this morning, because I fancied something hot for a change, so he was dispatched for a full English while I made the morning  tea – never drank so many cups of tea on a cruise! I nipped down to see what the score is with getting Mum and wheelchair onto a tender but the purser assistant in charge of tender tickets assures me it wont be a problem and to just come down when we are ready and they will do all they can to assist. He suggests that after 10.30 or 11.00am will be a quieter time to give it a try which suits us fine. We went down to Tamarind at about 10.45 and were directed straight down to a tender. Mum was taken from us on deck 4 and taken down to deck 3 in the lift and wheeled out onto the pontoon. She is very unsteady on her feet but received first class help and assistance form 3 of the ships company. At the end of the journey across to shore we simply waited to be the last to disembark and again she was given assistance back into her chair. The lift up onto the upper level of the harbour was broken, and we had been warded that there were approx 10 steep steps up to the next level, but the port authority escorted us through 3 locked gates and out of the secure dock area on the flat, which bought us out by the main harbour. It was a glorious hot sunny day and we strolled all along the harbour, round to the famous red carpet of the film festival and along the prom past all the posh hotels and lovely restaurants on the beach. We walked as far as the Carlton Hotel and then back via Louis Vutton and other such named shops! We looked but didn’t bother to go in to any of them , lol. We browsed the shops of the old town before strolling back around the harbour and through the security gates of the tender berthing area. Surprisingly there were no  queues for the tenders and we were straight back onboard and back to the ship. Straight upto Breakers bar for a spot of lunch and a cooling drink before retreating to the cabin to cool off. I flitted between balcony and cabin to keep up with a bit of work, but didn’t over exert myself.

Mr C took a bit of motivating out of his slumber this afternoon so he was late getting himself ready for pre dinner drinkies. It was still gloriously hot and sunny at 7.45 so me and mum sat out on the balcony watching the South of France glide by. We were barley moving and there wasn’t even a hint of a breeze.  Just as we arrived into dinner I could see that we were just passing Monaco really closely, so it was a shame we didn’t see that glide past the balcony.

Dinner was superb again. Pumpkin soup followed by roast beef and I swear Viresh is psychic as he bought me extra gravy!

We headed to Metropolis for our usual post dinner drink, but Theo was on a break so I missed my personal cocktail of the day. We decided to go and check out 60’s & 70’s night in the Tamarind and ended up staying for a drink and lots of chattering, lol. Why they didn’t have the party out on deck is beyond me as it would have been ideal this evening.

Sunday 30th May – Livorno

I woke up at some ridiculous hour and spotted the most stunning sunrise from the balcony doors and somehow managed to summon the energy to get outside and take a photo, before climbing back into bed for a couple more hours sleep. By the time I opened my eyes again we were docked. The sun was beating on the balcony and we decided against going a shore today. With it being a Sunday, there was little point in going into Livorno. We had been to Pisa many times and it was too far to venture with Mum to Florence. The port authorities were also charging 5 euro per person for the shuttle bus into Livorno so I was about as impressed with that as the dam Spanish and their 7% tax. We opted for a day up on deck, in my usual spot by Breakers Bar, and judging by the amount of people still onboard I think the Sunday call and 5 euro charge had put a lot of people off going ashore. Mr C fetched himself the most enormous breakfast of full English with two omelettes!! I have no idea where he puts it! I had a bacon roll!! We lazed around soaking up the sun until lunch time and then I fetched fish goujons and fries from the grill for me and Mum. Mr C was full up from breakfast! We managed another couple of hours sunshine but it was just too hot so it was time to retreat to the cabin and balcony and just take it easy!

Nearly had a bit of a dress crisis this evening when two of my dresses appeared to have shrunk a little. Thank goodness for the many spares I had packed thats all I can say! Mr C made the wise move of getting out of the cabin and taking Mum to the jewellery sale, where she made a purchase or two, and was a happy bunny. We went  for Tapas in East this evening, just to experience a change of scenery really. Mum likes it! She even partook in the tapas much to my surprise. I have no idea why we went to dinner as none of us were really hungry and the only thing that appealed was battered fish and chips. The table next to us is so loud, I am beginning to think that they think they are the only ones in the restaurant. I know its nice to have fun, but being so outrageously loud is a little unnecessary. We went for drinks in Metropolis where Theo made me possibly the nicest Hibiscus cocktail to date – excellent!

Monday 31st May Civi

For once I hadn’t woken as we had gone into berth, and had no idea if we had arrived or not. We had, and were port side too. Mum was up and ready to go. We disembarked at around 10.30 after a breakfast in the sun up by the pool. There was a shuttle service, including a wheelchair adapted bus, to the port gates, but the non adapted bus had just turned up and nobody knew how long until the next one, so we decided to walk. It was quite a route march but felt slightly better for the bit of exercise afterwards. We were on a mission to find the market for mum this morning, and found it half way up the precinct, up a steep flight of stone steps which was too difficult for mum, so we walked one street along and up and were able to approach the market with no steps. Oh mum loved the market, but if she asked how much the 5 euro bags were one more time, either of us could have hit her around the head with one! Several items were purchased and Mum left a happy woman. We strolled back down to the prom and along the front. The sun was glorious. There was a lot of redevelopment work being done to the prom front and I think it will be really nice when its completed, not that they seemed to be working very fast.

Back to the balcony where we were in full sunshine. I ordered ham baquetts for me and Mum and Mr C fetched himself a pizza (although pizza is available on the room service menu) lovely afternoon on the Chadwick suite balcony extension. I sipped my way through a bottle of Boli, while Mr C finished off his Budd collection and then started on the Portunus miniatures with anything he could find to mix with it. I had the bright idea of painting mums nails, which is not easy on arthritic fingers after a bottle of boli! I then went onto apply diamantes to them for her! The sun was just glorious. All in all a fab afternoon on the balcony. We stayed there right up until sailaway. We sailed passed the Disney Magic which was berthed behind us, but she didn’t return our horn blasts with a ‘wish upon a star’ blast back – miserable things!

Senior Officers Private Party on the upper tier of the Beachcomer pool this evening but that meant no access for wheelchairs unless they went all the way forward by Breakers bar and back along a very wind open deck. Understandably Mum was not impressed, but at least I got to enter via the steps inside while Mr C pushed her the other way. No doubt about it, if it had been raining outside we would not have been able to attend. At least Ian Chief Engineer, realised that mum had to enter via the ‘back door’ and ensured that all senior officers came over to greet her when they had finished greeting all other guests. Very poor showing of officers again, and those that were in attendance tended to keep themselves to themselves. A few medics in a gaggle, and a few techno engineers in their own group. Drinks were plentiful though, as were nibbles and long chats were had with Captain Burgess, Exec Purser David Shepherd and Ian Marks Chief Engineer. We were one of the last to leave as we had booked a table in East at 8.45. Thankfully they had given us a table in the bit of the restaurant where we could look out on the photo gallery walkway, which meant there were plenty of people watching opportunities for mum to keep her occupied. The waitresses were falling over Mum. One referred to her as Mamma, one as Grandma, and the other thought she was Rose out of Titanic! I know East wouldn’t have been one of mums choice of restaurants but she did well, especially as it was so late. Mum and I had pumpkin soup, pork and pear followed by pineapple and lychee cobbler. All was lovely, but the desert was massive and enough o serve four! Mr C just wanted his bed as he had been on a bit of a drinking mission today. I made him suffer though and gave him the impression we were going for more drinks in Metropolis and got him all the way to the bar before I decided to turn and head back, lol. But not before dragging him through Havana to see what the Phil Collins tribute was like, very good, then through Tamarind to see some bloke singing who again seemed excellent.

Tuesday 1st June – at sea

Hells Bells! What a flaming night! I don’t know if the Captain just wanted some fame in my blog or what, but he must have gone the wrong way around the islands and found every pothole possible last night. Even I thought that there were times that we were not going to make it. I woke up at about 2.00am and the balcony doors had blown open and the wind was making the curtains billow. I struggled to get to the balcony doors and back, the ship was pitching and rolling and juddering. It was relentless all night and there was never a moment let up. At about 2.30 we hit an almighty pothole and down and over we went, along with half the contents of the ship. I immediately dispatched Mr C to Mums cabin because I was sure it would have scared her half to death but he came back and reported all was well. We suffered at least 3 of those massive jolts throughout the night although the Captain only laid claim to two, one at 2.30 and one at 7.30. Maybe it was worse at the back end but it was the worst I have ever experienced on a ship this size. Twice I dispatched Mr C to mums, the second time he had to pick up all the glasses from her floor, but he reckons she was asleep, lol. I certainly wasn’t. The bathroom looked like a bomb had gone off with every bottle rolling around the floor. We lost all the glasses from the shelf in the cabin, the flowers went over, anything on the bedside tables was gone. I have known it to be choppy coming out of Civi before but that was just beyond anything I thought possible in the Med. I just wanted it to stop so that I could get my sleep. I couldn’t believe it when mum appeared at the balcony door fully dressed and ready for her day. I snatched about an hour before I could drag myself out of bed. It was actually quite pleasant on the balcony but there was a strong wind with some salt spray still reaching the balcony.

Gold Portunus Gourmet Feast in the White Room at noon, so that was breakfast. I was really looking forward to something different but left a little disappointed. We were greeted by many officers, and the usual trays of champagne and bucks fizz, but there was little room to stand and socialise due to the buffet being arranged in one area. It soon became more than clear that because of mums wheelchair we were blocking most of the way, so decided to be seated. None of the tables had the usual place named place settings which I found odd given the small number of people invited. As people began to sit at the tables it became clear that there was little room left for many of the officers in attendance. This resulted in many of the tables, including ours having no host at all, while other tables had at least two hosts. Very poor planning, and just that little bit more effort could have made all the difference. The buffet was lovely, which was basically mainly seafood for cold and roast beef or stroganoff for hot. Many seemed confused as to whether they were supposed to go for one or the other, or both. There was a lovely display of deserts on the other side of the room, including plates of chocolates, presumably for the coffee that never arrived, which again was disappointing.

After lunch we took mum to the ‘Massive sale’ in the Cinnamon restaurant. But even she declared it a load of tat, just as I had done last cruise, so it really must be tat. Why do they bother? After last night we all needed some sleep so thats where we headed and I managed a couple of hours which still doesn’t feel nearly enough to make up for last night.

B&W night tonight, so we decided on Red Bar for pre dinner drinks. Mum is intrigued by my Melontini and asks for a taste, which is a bit of a shock as she has never had any alcohol in the last 50 years, judging by her reaction she wasn’t impresses and will be sticking to her one can of lemonade, no ice, from now on. Dinner was ok tonight but nothing special, not one of the most enjoyable meals. An half hearted attempt at cherries Jubilee too – how come they flambé it on Arcadia but not on Ventura? We headed for Metropolis where Theo concocted one of his now famous cocktails, Rainbow Margaritta, I think it was called. Nice!

Wednesday 2nd June – Gibraltar

We don’t actually arrive in Gibraltar until 1.00pm and Captain Burgess has been worried that we wouldn’t make it on time due to the storm the other night, but he tells us we will be there on time and asks that all 3000+ don’t descend on the gangways at once. He has warned its going to be a hot one. We sit on the balcony all morning, and its hot and sunny so we soak it up. We berth starboard side too which puts us in the shade, but as we step ashore we realise just how hot it is. Its baking, intense, sun. There was the shuttle into town for a few euro per person, but the queue was huge. We were walking anyway, but even the pavement into town was packed. The main High Street was just rammed, oh and the heat, it was all a bit much. Mum wanted to see in every other shop, which with a wheelchair was difficult. We went as far as M&S and then turned back, I couldn’t take anymore – I’m not a lover of Gib! We headed across the road to Ocean Village complex and found a nice bar in the shade where we had a couple of ice cold drinks before heading back to the ship. Back on the balcony the sun had come over so we felt obliged to sit and take a few more rays as they could be our last as we head for Blighty. We were constantly being called to the Great British Sailaway, but it wasn’t for us today. As soon as we let go our lines and turned, the wind got up and within half an hour we had gone into a thick pea soup fog. The fog horn was blasting and we stayed in the thick fog until 30 mins or so into dinner.

I had bumped into Carol Marlow as we went into dinner. Carol had embarked today to sail home with us to see the ship from a passenger point of view and chat to passengers for opinions etc. I was highly amused to see her escorted to our ‘Maiden’ cruise table, table 47 in Saffron. She even sat in ‘my’ seat so it must be a good one, lol. But what amused me most was the OTT service that the table received. The Head Wine waiter to serve the wine. The section waiter checking the meal was ok with each individual person at the table, not the standard question to the table in general. Im sure Ms Marlow was quite unaware but two section waiters were observing from a distance for most of the meal, must have put the waiters right on edge.

I was in no mood for going out after dinner and just wanted my bed, so Metropolis was not graced with our presence this evening.

Thursday 3rd June – at sea

Its not the brightest of days, but I can see blue under the clouds so things could improve I guess. We spent the morning strolling, browsing the shops, stopped for coffee in the Atrium where I was asked to be the model for the ‘pain clinic’ eeerm I think not, not even a miracle worker could cure my back problems! Then we headed for Metropolis for a quiet drink in the wing. Mum swears we have never taken her up here before, but we have and sat in the very same spot with her. She was spellbound watching the game of shuffle board below. Mr C magically produced a lovely pair of earings I had my eye on in the shop earlier which was very impressive of him.

We had lunch in Waterside, eventually. I say eventually because we started off on the port side of Waterside, walked all the way through to Beach House, all the way down the other side, and back through the other side of Waterside before we managed to find a seat. I will never be a lover of self serve restaurants.

Mum had another lie down, so I agreed to a drink in Exchange. I don’t normally drink in Exchange, it just seems so dark and gloomy in there, but I stayed for a Breezer. At some point I knew I had to face a bit of packing today so I did two cases without really thinking about it and Mr C tucked them away under the bed again. I even fitted in a bit of lost sleep and a deep bubbly bath with a glass of Baileys! Last formal night tonight. Mr C was despatched early to the slots with Mum for half an hour while I got ready. Pre dinner drinks in Red Bar which was busy as I knew it would be, but first class service from Zeny as always. I didn’t get my choice of dinner right this evening, so cant say I enjoyed it but that was probably down to my own hasty selection. Parade of the Chefs and we were in prime position to see it all for once. Mum thought they were never going to stop coming out of the galley! We had a stroll through deck 7 to see what was happening and while mum was getting ready for bed I packed her case, so that was another job out of the way. Metropolis was rammed and oh so hot! So hot in fact i had to ask for a glass of iced water! Where do all the people come from on the last night? Another walk through of deck 7 and suddenly I found myself part of the ‘Boys Club’ in Exchange. I didn’t stay too long as I don’t really fit into the category of ‘Boys’

Friday 4th June – at sea

No idea what time Mr C got in from ‘The Boys Club’ last night but it stinks like a brewery in the cabin so Im out of bed to throw open the balcony doors. The Bay of Biscay is being more than kind to us again and is flat calm (unlike the bits between the Islands outside Civi! Wont forget that in a hurry!) If only the sun could get through those clouds it could be the perfect day. We spend most of the morning in the cabin. The sun is coming out and the sea is so calm. I get most of the packing done and then we vacate the cabins for Victor to whizz over with his magic duster. Victor has been superb this cruise. He seems to look after so many cabins, all of them superior outsides and insides, many being occupied by 3 or 4 passengers and some of them resemble a tip inside. Why they have to go into try and straighten things out like that is beyond me. I hope he just makes the beds and bunks, cleans the bathrooms and gets out. He also has a suite to attend to at the aft end, so like I say he does seem to have an excessive amount. Having time to stand and chat with passengers just isn’t an option these days, they have far too much to do.

We have a browse around deck 7 before deciding on lunch in Saffron. Viresh and Ashu wave us over to their section and we are seated at our usual table. We have a small round table which obviously is usually made up for 3, which is just about right and comfortable. But today its made up for 4. Its driving me nuts, there is no room at all for anything. I feel like the three of us are eating ontop of each other and dread to think what it is like at evening dinner with wine etc on the table. Lunch was very nice and it made a nice relaxed change from the hustle and bustle of the buffet upstairs.

Back to the cabin we find that the sun is on the balcony, and its warm. In fact its glorious, so a bit more organising of the packing and I settle down by the rails and just watch the sea dance around in patterns as we glide through it.

The bags are as packed as they will ever be so I have one final long soak in the bath full of bubbles. Ive loved having the larger bathroom with bath.

Our final pre dinner drinks are in Red Bar, one of my two favourite bars onboard. Zeny is ready to take our order when she see’s that we are settled. One of my pet hates is a waiter pouncing on you for an order before your bum even hits the chair. Im sure they have targets to hit and every order is important to them, but I like to be seated, and choose my drink at leisure. Zeny is about the only person that has cottoned onto this. We have to get mum out of the wheelchair and seated, but even while we are struggling to do that other waiters will still ask ‘Drink Madam’ ? Needless to say they never get my order.

Dinner in Saffron and the boys are on form. There has been a lovely assistant waiter at the serving station next to us who has been lovely to Mum and always seems pleased to see us. But Ashu has been a star. He waits for her at the entrance, wheels her to the table, seats her, parks the wheelchair, tells her how lovely she looks, he has just given her the attention she needs right now.

After taking Mum on a tour of deck 7 to see all the nightly activities we get her back to her cabin where I complete her packing and get her case outside ready for home.

We make our final journey upto Metropolis to see what Theo can construct with my final hibiscus flower that he has saved. The last one is a good one, he is a star cocktail maker if any of you ever need a cocktail making!

Saturday 5th June – Southampton

5.15am and Mum is on our balcony, fully dressed for home. Sliding open the balcony doors to ask if we are up yet. Not a wake up call that was greatly received!! I suppose I might as well get up then and watch us sail up the solent. Grand Princess is just ahead of us and we are just approaching Isle of white. I keep nipping outside, then nipping back under the duvet. But I have to face facts, we have to go and face the reality’s of home so I get up and washed and we are one of the first into 6.30am breakfast. Yes, 6.30am!!! Very unsocial able time of day. Ashu and Viresh thought they had seen the last of us, lol. Mr C has his traditional full works breakfast for the last day. Pancakes and maple syrup followed by a full English breakfast plus a ham and cheese omelette. We are just about docking as we eat breakfast, but we know it is going to be ages until they get all the cases off. Mum, being the impatient sort thinks otherwise and cant see why we cant just get off now. The Atrium is already pretty full with a mixture of those doing self disembark and those sitting with hand luggage waiting to disembark when main disembarkation starts. We head back to the cabin for an hour but mum is restless. Outside the balcony doors, we are back in Southampton exactly where we started, with all the dock workers and baggage handlers doing exactly what they were doing 14 days before. The sun is beating down on us too, just has it had on the 22nd May.

We needed to get mum down to cinnamon Restaurant on deck 5 for the wheelchair assistance, which we always knew was going to be a logistical nightmare. The lifts get rammed on disembarkation day. We are deck 9 aft so that means aft lifts to 7, along to midship, midship lift to 5. Well we waited, and we waited and we waited for a vacant lift going down. Every time the doors opened they were full. In the end we got onto a half empty lift going up and went along for the ride. It was quite a process getting her down to Cinnamon and despite being an hour early there were already a fair few in there. I booked mum in with clipboard lady and we headed back to get our things. But first I had a mission. I needed to see the difference between midship and aft suites and also between AC and AD grade suites. The difference between the AD midship and aft suites was minimal, just very slightly different layout and deeper balconys with a sunlounger on the one I entered. The AC grades were larger, had a dining area and a larger balcony with sunloungers and table and chairs etc.

We got back down to Cinnamon in plenty of time and by then it was rammed. Loads of people seemed to have been assigned a wheelchair pusher but we hadn’t which was odd as we were in the first group off. A call was put out to say that there was a slight delay with disembarkation and not to crowd the stairs and atrium. I tried to nip out for some air and I literally had to fight my way through to the stairs. People can be so ignorant and have no concern for others around them. If there had been any sort of general emergency there would have been total chaos. Every where I went was just rammed. Prom deck, the stair wells, the public rooms, people even sat on the floor outside the shops. Ridiculous really.

Eventually the call went out to allow the first set of passengers to disembark. I had to go and request a wheelchair pusher and was eventually assigned one. The fleet of wheelchairs formed a line and were instantly stopped at the restaurant doors. Hundreds of passengers had seiged the disembarkation point and there was no way forward for us. The gangway was a stones throw away and none of the wheelchairs could get to it thanks to the blinkered approach of those with fully functioning legs. Lucky I wasn’t pushing a wheelchair as I’m sure by taking a few peoples ankles out I could have made a path for us all! P&O really need to sort out a more efficient way of getting the wheelchairs off because we queued in that restaurant for a further 35 minutes just to get near the door. But once we were out it was all plain sailing through to the baggage hall. Not without a bit of trolley rage though. There are hundreds and hundreds of self help trollies available in the baggage reclaim area, and I went over and collected two for our use. For some reason a woman tried to take one of my two (we were right next to stacks of 100’s of them at the time) but I politely informed her I was sorry but I needed both of them. Well the amount of tutting that she did she almost choked, and mumbled something about greed. I just had to laugh at her!

The keys were swiftly acquired from CPs for the car and the car was nice and convenient as it had displayed a disabled tag. The car was loaded in the beating down sunshine and we were on our way.

All in all we had a fantastic cruise. For us, everything was spot on. The food, the service, the crew, everything exceeded my expectations. It hadn’t been long since we stepped off her in the Caribbean, and for me that cruise experience wasn’t right in many areas. Given a choice I would have opted for one of the other ships in the fleet when booking this one, but I’m glad we chose Ventura again. A lot of the things that I felt weren’t right last time, were a lot better this time this time around. The choice of Deluxe balcony stateroom was an excellent one and I would choose that grade again. As I have said in my report I did not feel overlooked at all, infact I felt in the more commanding position and felt I could watch the rest of the ship far easier than they could watch me. The balcony was fantastic. I loved the fact I could see both the wake at the aft, and the entire length of the ship infront of me.

The 7% tax on all onboard purchases made onboard whilst in Spain I just dont get it, and maybe I should have asked? But at the same time I didn’t let it bother me, because I worked around the ‘spending money while in Spain bit, by thinking ahead and pre purchasing some of the in cabin special offers for beer and cans of soft drinks. Ive read reports that on the next 27 night cruise out of Southampton the shops were charging VAT ontop of the prices displayed. Well, I have checked our receipts for purchases made in the shops and all were exactly as per the ticket price, so unsure what that was all about. Whilst talking about the shops. Its a well known fact that the stalls they insist on setting up all over the Atrium are a bug bear of mine, but they are even more so now having taken a wheelchair passenger onboard. The shops sales make it a nightmare to get in and out of the restaurant at night, they even had tables set up in the midship lift areas!! Why cant they keep the shops inside the shops? I think we had three ‘spectacular’ unveilings during our cruise. The first was keeping the Wardrobe shop closed for the first two days for the amazing unveiling of the Joseph Ribkoff new collection. They always seem very outdated fashion to me so I didn’t give it a second look, but did become a bit frustrated when I wanted to see inside that particular shop for something else. The second big unveiling was for Guess bags, and what a build up they got – it went on for days! Again I couldnt see what all the fuss was about? And lastly there was of course the great unveiling of the Tanzenite collection with all the jewellery display cases mysteriously shrouded for the first week of the cruise. Not sales techniques that work for me. I was quite amused by the fragrance and make up specialist in Eternity. I went in one evening to get Mr C some of his aftershave as he had ran out, but they had non in stock, so I as she was displaying a ‘specialist; badge I asked for some advice re similar smelling fragrances or nice ones to sample. You would think I had asked her to recommend a restaurant in Timbuktoo! She was lost, so I left empty handed. A couple of nights later I went back in for a certain Clinique product and I couldnt see any stacked so again I asked her for assistance. She clearly had no idea what I had asked her for and wasn’t familiar with the range at all. Just a gripe of mine, if you claim to be a specialist in something then you should be! In general I found the prices in the shops to be pretty good. Mums perfume was cheaper than any we saw ashore at any of the ports, plus she got her 10% onboard discount. The earrings that Mr c bought me were £10 cheaper than any internet prices I have seen. OK, general things like toiletries and sweets were overpriced to what we would pay at home, but I for one expect that when in a restricted environment.

The food was excellent throughout the ship really. We used room service a few times for both breakfast and lunch and even afternoon tea, and all were delivered swiftly in no more than 20 mins. I was forced to use the buffet area more times than I would have liked to get Mums lunch etc, and I will never be a lover of any buffet dining on a ship, but it has to be said, there was always plenty of choice, if you had the patience to stick with it in there. I thought the food in the main dining room was vastly improved from when we were on in the Caribbean. We dined in East and the cover charge was still £15 per head. I think it was only £10 if you had a table booked upto 6.45pm, so excellent value. Im hoping they will do the same to East as they have done to Sindhu on Azura and open up the bar area. We do go to East bar for drinks during most cruises, but it does feel like you are inside a restaurant so it would be nice to see more of the bar are opened up and be a little more inviting. We still haven’t tried MPW, but the cover charge for that also remained unchanged. I would love to try it, especially eating al fresco, but the timing is just never right for us, so its still on the ‘to do’ list. It was nice to see a new cocktail menu at long last and I had an enjoyable time sampling a few of those.

Deck space was a bit of an issue this time around for us. We were never up on deck early enough to get prime position sunloungers so often missed out. Having mum in the wheelchair meant that we couldnt get up in the goldfish bowl or wings of the aft decks where there did always seem to be seats available. On one of the days we were in port we did go up on deck by Breakers and sat for ages at a table waiting for one of the many books or towels to decide they had had enough sun for one day. After over an hour of watching too many towels enjoy the sun, Mr C did go and dump 3 towels on the floor so that we could all lie down and relax. What amused me was the glares of some of the ‘regulars’ up there, who obviously knew whos towels had been moved. It wasn’t until about 3.30 in the afternoon when a man, who had clearly just returned from ashore, stood at the foot of our seats and muttered something about he was sure his wife should be here. Thankfully Mr C never heard him, or words could have been exchanged!

The entertainment. There was something for everyone and always seemed to be something going on during the day and evening. From Gerard Kenny to the more upto date tribute acts. We didn’t see any shows in the theatre having seen most of them before but all were getting very good reviews from those that did go into see them. I enjoy the tribute acts and prefer the more lively and informal setting of Havana etc. there always seemed to be a guest speaker or the classical pianist in Tamarind earlier in the day/late evening. The one or two cabaret artists that we caught sight of in there also seemed very good. The cruise director informing us twice a day over the tannoy of the things we really shouldn’t miss irritates me as much as the art directors used to. Why they feel the need to give us a blow by blow account of the Horizon today is beyond me, plus Leon speaks so fast anyway that you cant grasp a word he is saying. If you stood the entertainment team infront of me now I wouldn’t be able to pick any of them out, they were a different troop to the ones in February and stuck me as not being very professionally groomed, but then part of me is still stuck in the 70’s with the social hostesses of Canberra! Claire Jane Sweeney was onboard for a few days, and I believe she was filming a competition for GMTV, so look out for that soon!

I cant fault the wheelchair access on Ventura. They seem to have thought of most things. Mum didn’t have a wheelchair accessible cabin as she is not 90% confined to a wheelchair, but with our aid we could get her most places. I always knew the logistics of being at the very aft of the ship could make it a little more complicated for getting to deck 4 forward for disembarkation in ports etc, but we managed. At every port the wheelchair was taken from Mr C and at least two wheelchair assistance would take her safely down the gangways. Even the tender port of Cannes had faultless service from the tender assistance and wheelchair helpers, superb service. I have been on one of the larger Royal Caribbean ships with Mum in a wheelchair and nine times out of ten I had to ask for assistance at gangways and was always made to feel a little uncomfortable for doing so, so 11 out of 10 to P&O. It didn’t matter which restaurant we used onboard, the waiters always had a solution of where to put the wheelchair out of the way and assisted with making sure mum was comfortable at the table. Poor victor, our cabin steward, must have dreaded hearing us leave our cabins though. When he was cleaning in the morning, or turning down at night, his trolley would be half way between our aft cabin and the stairwell exit. It was always stacked high with clean towels and supplies, but every night he and Mr C had to move it to right infront of someones door to allow the wheelchair to pass, then carefully put it all back again. Just two more inches of room in the alley way and we could have passed the trolley no problem. Needless to say we never went aft to fwd on our deck when it was trolley time. I still dont think mum has got her head around why sometimes when we came out of a lift the cabin was just a few doors away, and other times the cabin was a few hundred doors away (or seemed it) she used to go crackers if we came out of the forward lifts and walked her all the way along the length of the passenger cabin deck. She accused Mr C every night of ‘messing around’ lol.

So would I go back on Ventura now, after having returned in February with feeling that she was no longer the right ship for me? Yes, I would. As I said at the end of my previous Ventura report I think the ship reflects what senior management team they have onboard and this time around there was a first rate team in place and it showed in the onboard experience offered. Ventura earnt herself a few more positive marks from me this time around and I would happily cruise onboard her again. But for me I want to give Azura a try sometime soon. She has those little tweaks that I think Ventura needs, but it wouldn’t do to have all ships the same.

To view the full set of photos for this Ventura cruise please click on the “Photo” tab at the top of the page and select Ventura Western Mediterranean

please feel free to post a comment and I will do my best to answer them

7 Comments

  • Pete
    Posted June 20, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    As usual Jane a 1st class review, its like being on the ship when your not if you know what i mean, keep up the good work
    Pete

    Reply
  • Pat
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Another great report Jane – lovely photos of your mum, too!

    Pat x

    Reply
  • Emma
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I’m staying in cabin D732 when i cruise in October. I am looking forward to it even more after reading your review!
    Thanks
    Emma

    Reply
    • Post Author
      Jane
      Posted July 3, 2010 at 8:46 pm

      Emma
      As you can probably tell… I loved D732! Would have it every time if I could.

      Reply
  • Amanda
    Posted July 24, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Loved reading that report Jane, thank you 🙂 we don’t think Ventura is for us, but if the itinery was right you never know..we are off on Azura next March! Thought your mum looked absolutely fantastic!

    Amanda 🙂

    Reply
  • sue lane
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:48 am

    been on oceana a couple of times and royal caribbean, just come back fron ventura on a caribbean cruise, like ventura but prefered oceana,maybe this is because oceana was our first cruise!

    Reply
    • Post Author
      Jane
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 11:51 am

      I think your first cruise will always stand out as being special!

      Reply

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