I’ve just disembarked the most eventful cruise I’ve ever taken, the cruise was 12 nights long and we were at sea for Christmas day.
We had storms, we had medical emergencies, you name it, it happened on this cruise.
Like most people, I wasn’t able to see my family last Christmas so we decided to make this Christmas a good one.
Cruise Ship: P&O Ventura
Date: 17th December 2021 – 30th December 2021
Destination: Canary Islands
I knew that this cruise could be great, but also knew that if anything went wrong, it wouldn’t just be me affected. In total there were 6 of us taking the cruise and I really really wanted my family to enjoy the cruise.
I thought I had worried about everything that could happen beforehand but things happened onboard and onshore that I didn’t even consider.
It definitely wasn’t the perfect Christmas I had imagined.
We boarded the ship on the 17th of December and embarkation was pretty easy.
Covid Testing and Embarkation – Extra Pressure!
It’s never nice doing the covid tests and worrying if you’ll test positive, but in this situation, one positive result could have meant the end of Christmas for all 6 of us.
We drove through the covid testing centre and arrived in multiple cars so were all messaging each other ‘NEGATIVE’ when the results came through. Never has negative been so positive!
It was such a relief I genuinely could have cried. I didn’t, I was too excited, but I could have.
The ship that we were cruising on was P&O’s Ventura. I’ve cruised with P&O before but a couple of my family members hadn’t, I’d promised them good things, so hoped that P&O wouldn’t let me down!
I knew that there were a few things about P&O that they wouldn’t like, such as the formal nights and dress codes, but I hoped this wouldn’t be a problem.
I had heard that there would be a formal night on Christmas day and I hoped that wouldn’t be the case, a few of my family members don’t like to dress in formal wear, so I knew they wouldn’t come to dinner in the main dining room if that was the case, which I did feel a bit bad about.
I didn’t want them to be excluded from Christmas and the idea of having Christmas dinner in the buffet just seemed a bit sad.
We Were as Prepared as we Could be…
For some reason our luggage tags weren’t ever available to print before the cruise, which meant we had to go to a desk to get luggage tags when we arrived at the port.
Normally you can print everything at home to avoid queuing up to get things but it wasn’t the end of the world, but I’d definitely have preferred to skip this step.
After that, embarkation was fast and thankfully, we had all of the paperwork we needed. Cruising at the moment does need a lot of paperwork and I feel like my printer can feel it, whenever I NEED to print something, it decides it’s an impossible task and it denies all knowledge of knowing how to print.
We needed health declarations, vaccine evidence, our negative test results, passports and travel insurance and a few other things later in the cruise line UK return forms and Portuguese entry forms.
Comparing Ventura to her Younger Sister Iona
I wasn’t too sure how I’d like Ventura, given that I had recently cruised on the newest P&O ship Iona quite recently, I didn’t know how I’d feel about going from the biggest, most exciting P&O cruise ship to a smaller, older version.
My brother particularly liked Iona, so I hoped he would like Ventura too.
Boarding The Ship Was Magical – P&O Ventura’s Decorations
When we boarded the ship, we were instantly surrounded by Christmas. I hadn’t really thought about Christmas before this point, I was too nervous about one of us testing positive or forgetting a piece of paper that we needed but as soon as we boarded, it was incredible.
There was singers singing Christmas music, the atrium was decorated beautifully and there was even somebody ice skating in the middle of the atrium. I don’t think I’ve ever had such an amazing ‘wow’ moment when walking onto the ship.
My parents and brother were already onboard so they met us in the atrium and told me about the juggling elves they had just seen.
It definitely seemed like a strange kind of Christmassy dream but apparently that was real.
The ship was beautiful, really beautiful and all the crew members were wearing Santa hats.
A British Christmas
This was definitely a good sign that this Christmas cruise was going to feel Christmassy. Being away from home for Christmas is always going to be different but given the fact that P&O are a British cruise line, and I’m British, I hoped that it would feel familiar.
I was also very excited to try the P&O cruises’ Christmas food, P&O have some of my favourite cruise food and I knew that they’d be able to master roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, which is very important to my Christmas!
On to our Muster Station and Beyond
After meeting the rest of my family we had to go to our muster station to have our QR codes scanned and then we went straight onto a bar to grab a drink.
We decided to take things slowly, as one of my family members isn’t able to walk long distances and the embarkation did involve quite a bit of walking, embarkation day is a lot of fun, but can also be stressful and tiring, so don’t forget to allow yourself time to take things slowly!
We were on board for 12 days so had plenty of time to explore.
We Bought Drinks Packages
We bought drinks packages from the inside pool. I bought the soda package which was great.
Can Adults Buy P&O’s Childrens ‘Soda’ Package?
I was told pre cruise that P&O’s soda package was only available for children but the website also lets me buy it. The crew were happy to sell it to adults onboard and I was very happy to have it. It is available for adults and we never had any problem using it.
It did make me laugh to have a sticker on my card that said ‘CHILD’ but hopefully P&O will remove the ‘childrens’ from the title of the package, as it is available for all adults, and rightly so, us adults need our soda.
Why Does Ventura Look so Familiar?
P&O’s Ventura was built in 2008 and you may recognise her even if you’ve never been on a P&O cruise ship.
Both P&O cruises and Princess are owned by Carnival Cruise Line, in fact Carnival Cruise line owns all of these cruise lines. This means that Ventrua is the same design as the Princess ships Grand, Golden and Star Princess.
A few years ago I took a cruise on the Golden Princess, which has since been sold and it was really strange being on Ventura and seeing the similarities.
I almost expected to see the Princess cruises logo at the bottom of the swimming pools.
I tend to think of P&O as being the British version of Princess.
Ventura Was at Reduced Capacity
There were lots of covid measures in place during our cruise and one of these was reduced capacity.
At full capacity Ventura can hold 3192 passengers.
On our cruise she had a little less than 2000.
I did think that this reduced capacity may make the ship feel quiet but it really didn’t. I think 2/3rd full is about perfect and I’ll be sad when full capacity is in place again.
There were other ways that Covid affected our cruise, but more about that later.
Our Cabins Were on The Pool Deck (Great Location if You Like The Buffet!)
After having a drink we decided to go on to find our cabins, we had 3 cabins onboard, 2 balcony cabins and 1 inside cabin, for once, I wasn’t in the inside cabin!
There was a little Christmas decoration outside each cabin door and inside each cabin was a little Christmas tree which was so cute.
My cabin was cabin L243 on the Lido deck.
Our balcony cabins were next door so we asked our cabin steward if he could open the partition between the two cabins.
It was helpful to have this open as we could all watch the sail aways and ins together without having to go in through the doors, through the cabin, into the corridor, through the cabin and back out the doors again.
The rooms are only cleaned once per day on P&O cruise ships in the morning, this means that the housekeeping team have different jobs to do in the evenings.
We would often see our room steward working as a waiter in our dining room.
I have a massive amount of respect for anybody who works in housekeeping on a cruise ship, or who works as a waiter. I can’t imagine doing both jobs but the crew always did it with a smile.
The crew were really great on our cruise, especially considering they were away from home for Christmas.
Our cabin steward was brilliant and we tried not to make too much work for him to do.
Magical Cookies Kept Arriving…
One thing I did need our room steward to do was to take away the plates when we had magic cookies arrive at our cabin.
In total 5 plates of around 12 cookies arrived in my cabin during the cruise, I didn’t order them, there wasn’t a note, clearly somebody has just told the staff to keep me well topped up with cookies, and that they did!
I found my all time favourite cookie on Ventura. Amazing.
We Watched The Muster Drill in Our Cabins
While we were in our room, we had to watch the safety videos on our TV which we did.
Pre 2020, muster drills were completely in big lounges or spaces around the ship but now they’re done in your cabin or phone, and I much prefer that.
To learn how muster drills have changed since the cruising shutdown of 2020, check out this post: Muster Drills Have Changed For The Better (REVIEW of New After Covid Process)
The Buffet Has Returned to Self Service
When we had finished the muster drill, we went straight onto the buffet. It was getting towards dinner time so we didn’t want to eat a huge meal but I was looking forward to P&O’s yorkshire puddings so I decided to get one.
The buffet was back to self service which I did find a little strange.
When the pandemic hit, almost all cruise lines changed their buffets so that the food would be served to you by the crew, cruise lines are starting to go back to self service now which takes a bit of getting used to.
I’m sure it’s okay though, as it was impossible to get into the buffet without sanitising your hands multiple times, I saw the crew stopping people who tried to walk in without hand sanitising and the crew were really good at enforcing the mask rules too.
When do Masks Have to be Worn?
Generally speaking masks have to be worn at all times, if you are sat down drinking or eating, you can take off the mask or if you are outside and socially distanced it’s fine to take it off.
Masks did have to be worn at all times in the theatre but there were no seats closed for social distancing.
I’ve been on cruises before where people haven’t wanted to follow the rules and have caused trouble that way, on this cruise there was one person who was adamant that nobody could sit besides them for social distancing, it was the first time I’d ever seen somebody being so annoyed at others for not following rules that didn’t exist?
The crew confirmed, there were no seats to be left for social distancing.
We saw some amazing shows, including the magic show Astonishing and the shows would often be completely sold out.
It definitely felt a little weird to be sitting next to people again, but there’s nowhere else you’ll find a group which is fully vaccinated, recently tested and mask wearing people.
Was There Covid on The Ship?
Covid is on almost every cruise ship, even with the testing, it’s impossible to reduce the risk to zero but I think it’s important to remember that even an ‘outbreak’ at sea has a smaller percentage infected than the general population on land.
The majority have no symptoms or very few symptoms and I knew that P&O had processes in place if I did catch Covid.
They have cabins set up for quarantining guests and I felt very safe onboard. Safer than I do on land for sure.
I did take off my mask a couple of times to take photos, but only when nobody else was around.
Did Covid Affect Our Cruise?
I never saw anybody question the mask rule, or try to avoid wearing a mask which was great. It just became part of everyday life and nobody really thought about it.
Apart from mask wearing, Covid procedures didn’t really affect our cruise.
The ship was at reduced capacity and that was great but everything was open as normal.
It definitely didn’t stop anything from feeling Christmassy.
The crew were all wearing Santa hats and masks, which I imagine makes an already very difficult job much harder.
The Daily Schedule on a P&O Cruise
The daily schedule onboard mostly consisted of things like live music, game shows, trivia, guest speakers, dance classes.
We actually did win trivia once which was amazing, I always take part but haven’t ever won before I don’t think.
Christmassy Events on The Schedule
From the moment we boarded, there were Christmassy activities on the schedule but this really increased when we got to Christmas eve and into Christmas.
We visited Gran Canaria and Tenerife first and were docked in Lanzarote on Christmas eve which was amazing.
We wandered around for a couple of hours in Lanzarote, me in a dress and sandals on Christmas eve and we found a lovely beach to sit on.
It’s been a really long time since I’ve sat on a beach or felt the sunshine, it was great.
If you’re from somewhere cold, I’d definitely recommend a Christmas cruise to somewhere warm.
We had beautiful blue skies on Christmas eve and so lots of people were sunbathing.
It was around 25c (77f) which to us Brits is really warm.
P&O Conducted Covid Tests
In the morning we had a covid tests done onboard, we needed these in order to visit Portugal on Boxing day.
Around 50% of passengers decided to have the test so that they could disembark in Portugal, the remainder stayed onboard.
The covid test was done in the speciality restaurant Sindu and it was very easy, the test cost £18 per person and this was added onto our onboard accounts.
We Visited Sindu – A Speciality Restaurant
We did visit the restaurant Sindu during our cruise. It’s described as Indian cuisine with a British twist and I decided to treat my brother and mum to a meal there, as I know how much they like it.
It is a specialty restaurant which means that it costs extra and each dish had a price, the same way as it would in a restaurant on land. My dad unfortunately couldn’t make it to dinner as he was too seasick, but more about that later.
Does Santa Visit Cruise Ships?
Santa does visit cruise ships! He can often be seen dancing on the pool deck or giving out presents in the atrium.
On our cruise he arrived on the pool deck and the house band were playing Christmas music.
This was the first time our cruise had ever felt busy and I wondered where all of these people had come from.
In the evening there were Christmas carols in the atrium, the atrium did fill up pretty fast so we sat there for half an hour or so before the carols having a couple of drinks.
P&O have Costa Coffee Cafes Onboard
On the bottom level of the atrium was the Costa Coffee, the rest of my family had bought a soft drinks package which allowed them to have hot drinks from Costa.
They’d order coffees and hot chocolates while I would order myself a Pepsi.
All of the cakes and food from Costa are included in the cruise fare which is nice.
It’s here I found my all time favourite cookie.
I know technically, this is a biscuit not a cookie but I needed to expand the definition a little for my cookie quest!
I know also that P&O didn’t make these onboard, but that doesn’t matter to me, my contest was based solely on how much I enjoyed eating the cookie, and this was my favourite.
An Evening’s Entertainment with Asa Elliot & Other Celebrities
In the evening we watched a special Christmas show in the theatre with a man called Asa Elliot which was great, you might recognise him from the TV show Benidorm.
He wasn’t the only celebrity we had onboard, Ann Widdecombe the politician and author was also onboard and she did a lot of talks in the theatre.
I never went to any but P&O certainly got their money’s worth for whatever they paid her, she was hosting talks and Q&A sessions every few days and they were always fully booked.
The theatre shows had to be pre booked on P&O cruises app, as did meals in most restaurants.
Joining Virtual Queues Was Much Easier
One part of the app that I loved was the ‘virtual queue feature’ which meant that we would join the ‘queue’ without actually having to go to the restaurant.
The app would let me know when our table was ready and then we would walk down to the restaurant.
We decided to pick freestyle dining but there was also the option for fixed dining.
We usually didn’t have to wait for our table for more than 5-10 minutes but we were almost always eating early when the restaurant opened at around 6pm.
When we tried to book a table for 6 at 7.30 or later, it would sometimes taken 20-30 minutes for the table to be ready. That isn’t a new thing, but the virtual queue meant that we could stay wherever we were, rather than having to queue up or get one of those buzzers that vibrates when your table is ready.
The App is Missing a Few Basic Features
P&O cruises app has some great features like being able to book things on the go, and to check your onboard account but it is missing a few basics.
The daily schedule isn’t in the app, or at least I’ve never managed to find it, which meant that my phone’s camera roll ended up full of photos like this:
If you are taking a cruise where the daily schedule isn’t in the app, definitely take photos like this.
If you don’t everybody will be asking ‘in what venue was that thing we wanted to go see?!’.
The App Didn’t Update
The app did cause quite a lot of confusion on our cruise as it turns out that P&O aren’t able to update the app during the cruise.
Due to bad weather, more about that later, we had shows cancelled and the days changed, the app never reflected the change.
If you had booked a show on night one, but the show was swapped with whatever was on night two, your booking stayed for the same night, but not the show.
It seemed like a weird way to do it, but I booked the theatre almost everyday so it didn’t make a big difference to me.
An Angry Man Stormed Off…
Some guests did get quite angry about it though, one man was being incredibly aggressive, shouting and swearing at a person who worked for P&O.
All because the show had changed and he didn’t have a ticket.
Each show was on 3x a night, and the remaining seats that hadn’t been booked were released 5 minutes before showtime.
He definitely could have seen the show, even though he didn’t have a ticket, but when he became aggressive he was asked to leave and he stormed off.
The things that the crew have to put up with, blows my mind. I don’t know who thinks it’s okay to shout and swear, over a cruise ship theatre show.
Christmas Day Onboard P&O’s Ventura
For some reason I didn’t make it up in time for the 7am fab abs which was held on the ship on Christmas Day.
I had a lay in and ate Chocolate for breakfast, just how Christmas is meant to be!
One of the best things about cruising at Christmas is not having to worry about presents, we each had one present to open and as is Christmas tradition, I got some new Christmas pyjamas which was perfect.
We watched the movie Miracle on 34th Street and had a pretty lazy Christmas day playing games which was nice. I had already watched the best Christmas movie of all time on another sea day, ELF!
Christmas Day Dress Code Disappointment
I was sad to see that the Christmas day dress code was formal because I knew that meant that a few family members of mine wouldn’t be coming to Christmas dinner in the main dining room.
There were other options where they could eat but I’m definitely more of a ‘Christmas Jumper’ kinda Christmas girl than formal wear.
On P&O’s formal nights men have to wear a jacket and a tie or bow tie as a minimum.
P&O are quite strict on their dress codes and they do like their formal nights.
We had 3 formal nights during this 12 night cruise.
Christmas Dinner Onboard P&O’s Ventura
Our Christmas dinner was really nice, it was 5 courses long and it was really busy in the restaurant.
We usually had freestyle dining but for Christmas dinner, dinner was served at a set time.
In total the meal took just over 2.5 hours which did feel like a long time. I’m usually an in and out in an hour kinda person but the food was great and I loved the Christmas crackers, we all wore our hats as you should!
There were plenty of vegetarian options on the Christmas day menu as there always were, P&O are very good at vegetarian and vegan dining, on every menu is at least one vegan starter, main and dessert which I thought was very good. Plus multiple vegetarian options.
I have photos of everything I ate on this cruise, with their descriptions and dietary information in this post: 51 Meals I Ate on my P&O Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review
Don’t read this one if you’re feeling hungry!
Other Dining Options
We usually ate in the main dining room when it came to dinner time, because there were 6 of us, we would often be doing different things in the day and then would come together at dinner to catch up.
We also ate in the buffet quite a lot and I had some really good food there, the buffet wasn’t huge by bigger cruise ship standards but there was more than enough choice.
They also had ‘late night snacks’ from 11pm so we would often visit the buffet before bed to get a snack or a cup of tea.
The tea and coffee and water in the buffet is always available and free, even if the buffet is closed because they’re changing from one meal to the next. The drinks machines are there and free to use and they are back to self service again.
If you are somebody who likes a different type of tea than the standard breakfast tea it’s usually a good idea to take a couple of tea bags from the buffet to your cabin.
I mainly drink peppermint tea so in the evening I would take a couple of tea bags back so that I could have my morning tea.
My Favoruite Restaurant Onboard Costs £7.50 – The Beach House
We also ate in the beach house which was my favourite restaurant onboard, it costs £7.50 per person which is pretty cheap as far as specialty restaurants go and it’s basically set up in a section of the buffet.
I had a halloumi sizzler, my brother had a giant and I mean giant burger and I had chocolate cake for dessert. The portions were pretty huge and I washed it down with pints of Pepsi.
Every British Cruise Ship Has a Pub, Ventura is no Exception
In the evening we went back to the theatre to see the Christmas show and then went on to watch Karoke in the pub.
We spent quite a bit of time in the pub but I definitely think that P&O should have hosted the activities like trivia, that they hosted in the pub in a bigger venue.
The seats were always taken and if you wanted to go to an event there you’d have to be there very early, which just seemed silly when bigger lounges like the tamarind club and havana were often empty at the time.
A Gingerbread Surprise!
Outside Havana there were these incredible gingerbread houses and christmas cakes, I very much doubt anybody was able to eat any of this, especially in Covid times but it was impressive how they had made the display entirely with gingerbread.
One day it wasn’t there, and the next it was!
There were lots of big lounges onboard like the Metropolis located at the back of the ship which has amazing views from all sides.
I really didn’t expect to like Ventura as much as I did but I loved the open spaces and felt very comfortable and happy onboard.
We Loved Our Cabins
After spending such a long time in our cabins, they really did start to feel like home.
I personally love the design of cabins like this where there is a separate wardrobe area as you walk into the cabin.
There was tons of storage, a kettle so that we could make tea a couple of times a day and very very comfortable beds.
The design does look a little dated and the tv was tiny and falling off the wall, but I felt very comfortable here and didn’t turn the TV on.
The bathroom was small and it did have the dreaded shower curtain, but I have a shower curtain at home so this really doesn’t bother me.
The great thing was that even though the bathroom was small, you could step out into this wardrobe area to get changed.
The inside cabin was an almost identical design to our balcony cabins and it felt really spacious.
There were huge mirrors on all sides and it also had the separate closet area.
This Review Isn’t The Complete Story
I have missed out quite a big part of my Christmas cruise in this video.
Our cruise was 12 nights long and we spent a full 7 days at sea.
It was the roughest cruise I’ve ever taken and it did affect quite a few of my family quite badly.
I didn’t want to include the information in this video, because I don’t want it to take away from the brilliant Christmas I had.
I loved Ventura, P&O were so helpful, the food was amazing, we saw the sunshine and overall we had a great cruise but I think it’s important though to show you the full picture so I will be bringing you a storm related video next, showing you what it’s like inside a cruise ship during gale force winds.