Ventura has now completed her inaugural summer season and is starting her first winter season in the Caribbean. Since her launch in April P&O have welcomed on board over 57,000 passengers.
Nigel Esdale, P&O Managing Director commented” As anticipated, her first year of operation has seen large numbers of our past passengers wanting to experience the ship. She has also played host to unprecedented numbers of newcomers who have been attracted by her innovation, scale and choice.
In general newcomers have reacted very favourably to Ventura and we continue to see this as our primary focus. That said, we have had some challenges in marrying the differing needs and expectations of a new audience with those who have travelled with us many times before. Indeed the first year of operation for any ship is always its most difficult and the team on board have worked extremely hard to consistently deliver against our passengers’ expectations. Their commitment has been rewarded with customer satisfaction scores that are now comparable to her fleet companions.
Customers aren’t just telling us what a fantastic holiday they’ve had; they’re also telling visitors to the growing number of cruise dedicated online review sites. A large majority of recent reviews on such sites gave Ventura an overall rating of 4 stars and above, and an overwhelming number awarded 5 stars. Don’t just take my word for it though, read exerts from these reviews, which I have included as an addendum or, better still, visit one of these sites for yourself.
Despite eliciting such praise from our customers, we continue to review and enhance all elements of Ventura’s operation and I am pleased to be able to share with you some of the changes we’ll be introducing.”
We have experienced particularly heavy demand for Freedom Dining at peak times, especially during the summer school holidays. In order to realise this concept to the full, and thereby ensure that it does indeed offer customers the flexibility that they desire, we have increased the number of tables within the Cinnamon Restaurant and will be introducing specialist software to enable the team to effectively manage the utilisation of the range of restaurants around the ship.
More significantly though, passengers will no longer need to book a table in advance. Instead they can enjoy the ultimate freedom of arriving at the time they would like to dine and, where possible, they will be seated immediately. This is the system that we operate on board Oceana with great success. Additionally, our entertainment scheduling is being improved and phased to offer increased choice and flexibility at a range of times, thereby alleviating ‘peak time’ demand.
It’s not just the main dining rooms that will offer an improved service, the Waterside food court and adjacent family dining restaurant, The Beach House, haven’t escaped our attention. The standard of presentation is being enhanced in both these food courts and The Beach House will evolve to offer an additional informal dining venue with waiter service. This will offer customers, particularly families, another plated meal option.
I also have some good news for passengers travelling in one of Ventura’s 880 balcony staterooms next year. In spring 2009 we will be introducing new furniture including a reclining chair, which will allow sun-lovers to make even more of their balcony. This will have the added advantage of helping to alleviate the high demand for loungers on the open deck, which we experienced during the summer school holidays.
I acknowledge that sunbed availability has been an issue during some of the summer school holiday cruises. In order to address this we have decided to devote some of the space originally allocated to Cirque Ventura on Deck 19 as an additional sunbathing area. This will give those passengers who like to spend some time relaxing in the sun more space to do so. We will retain the bungee trampolines which have been a real hit with passengers aged from 8 to 84! And we will continue to offer the Cirque Ventura circus skills school teaching the art of juggling, tightrope and stilt walking.
Of course, some of the challenges presented by welcoming such a vast ship into the
P&O Cruises fleet aren’t just on board; the sheer number of people boarding this vessel has inevitably meant a greater requirement for car parking. This has been at the forefront of our minds when planning for the brand new cruise terminal currently under construction and, as a result, the new terminal will be better able to accommodate such demands when it enters use next year.
The reviews online, the customer satisfaction scores and the letters we regularly receive from our customers, all indicate that Ventura is becoming a much loved member of our fleet, with the children’s clubs, East, The White Room, Cirque Ventura, the stage shows and our staff on board all cited as reasons why customers’ holidays on board Ventura are so extraordinary. We are sure that the adjustments we are making will compliment the experience and further enhance the success of Ventura.
In summary, Ventura is carving out her own substantial niche within the P&O Cruises fleet and is offering the contemporary and innovative holiday experience that she has been created to deliver, and is appealing to the very customers that she was designed for.