If you’re looking to get away for a few days on holiday then short break cruises are an excellent alternative to a hotel and city stay and ideal for those who have never cruised before. You can explore a city with a day of sightseeing and then enjoy everything the ship has to offer from fine dining, pampering in the spa, cocktails in the bar, entertainment in the lounges and theatre or dancing in the clubs.
My wife and I recently joined Ventura on a 4-night cruise from Southampton. On board was the London-based chocolatier Paul A Young who has a reputation as an incredibly creative flavour alchemist and is a regular on British TVâ€ˆscreens with appearances including This Morning and Sunday Brunch, The Apprentice and Junior Masterchef.
Ventura is a ship where something is always happening, an ideal backdrop in which to enjoy your ‘this is the life’ holiday. One of the larger, family-friendly ships, Ventura has a capacity for 3078 guests and 1205 crew. Perfect for families and great for adults. For families, you can enjoy age-specific kids clubs, a night nursery for under 4's and dedicated family restaurants and early eating times creating a perfect balance. For adults there’s delicious fine dining, wine bars and an abundance of space and places to relax and unwind.
Leaving Southampton on a Monday (a great way to start the week) we were soon heading around the Isle of Wight into the English Channel and after a while taking in some fabulous views of the White Cliffs of Dover before dinner. Our cabin, a Superior Balcony Cabin on deck 9 was very comfortable and well appointed and our hard working cabin steward ensured everything was ship shape and to our satisfaction throughout the cruise.
Tuesday was a day at sea and time to meet Paul A. Young and listen as he shared his insight into the world of chocolate with a Question and Answer session and book signing in the Tamarind Club. Later in the day we attended a chocolate masterclass. This was an intimate, ‘hands on’ class with Paul sharing the secrets of moulding chocolate with plenty of tasting opportunities!
Ventura has outstanding facilities for guests. The theatre and show lounges are amazing and on our cruise we were entertained by tribute acts, bands, disco’s, new movies, quizzes, comedy and dancing. We found a super sail-away and pre-dinner drinks venue – the Metropolis, right at the top of the ship with a huge panoramic video wall featuring a different skyline each evening. Ventura also has a well-equipped gym, sports court and four pools, one with a retractable roof so you don’t have to worry about the weather. If you feel the need for pampering then the Oasis Spa on deck 16 is the place to go with many luxurious treatments on offer.
It’s fair to say that dining is a priority for most cruise guests and Ventura keeps up the excellent P&O standards. Whatever your mood or taste buds dictate there’s eateries to suit. In addition to the main three dining rooms there’s a number of select dining venues to choose from including Atol Kochlar’s Sindhu at East; The Glasshouse, a wine bar and restaurant created in partnership with Olly Smith; The Epicurean at The White Room and one of my favourites The Beach House on deck 15 where the baby rack ribs and steak on a stone were superb, followed by a choice of desserts such as hot fruit sizzlers and warm chocolate fudge cake!
Wednesday morning arrives and we are in the official capital of the Netherlands – Amsterdam. Ventura, here for the day, is docked close to the historic city centre and we had a choice to explore on foot or take a guided P&Oâ€ˆtour such as a ride on one of the canal boats or a visit to Anne Frank’s house. Tours even included the opportunity to venture further afield to visit the famous town of Edam.
Arriving in the port of Zeebrugge the following day many tours were on offer including Bruges, Ghent and Brussels. We were back on the chocolate trail however, with a P&O tour of Ghent with Paul A. Young and a visit to a Belgian chocolate shop and factory. Here we saw chocolates being created, and had the opportunity to ask Paul and our Belgian host questions on the art of chocolate making not forgetting of course the opportunity to purchase from their delicious range and additionally spoil ourselves with genuine Belgian waffles and ice cream in an adjacent restaurant!
All too soon we were back in Southampton, full breakfast of course and then disembarkation.
Thank you P&O Cruises for creating yet more memories on this wonderful short break holiday — yes, this is the life!
For more information and to book a cruise on Ventura or another ship in the fleet have a look at the P&Oâ€ˆwebsite.
Western Europe, 4 nights, £329pp
P&O Cruises is offering a 4 night cruise on Ventura (N616) from £329 per person for an inside cabin. Departing June 22, 2016, the price includes round the clock kids' clubs, full board meals and entertainment on board. Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call include Brussels/Bruges from Zeebrugge and Guernsey.
To book, visit P&O Cruises, call 0843 373 0111 or visit your local travel agent.
Last modified: June 10, 2021