My name is Andy Cockayne, I work in the Marketing Team at Bolsover Cruise Club. Although I regard myself as fairly well travelled, it was 20 years ago (July 1994) when I last cruised – all that changed in July 2014 when I took my second (and my familys’ first) cruise on board P&O Ventura around the Med.
Here is my blog account for the first 4 days of our wonderful holiday, the remaing 3 days will feature tomorrow!
Day 1 – Genoa, Italy
After a very early flight from Manchester we were pleasantly surprised at how quick the cruise check-in procedure at Genoa was, all done with a smile too!
I just have to mention the ship, it is an amazing sight when you first see her, she is very elegant and certainly takes your breath away!
By 10.30am we were sat by the Laguna pool on deck 15. We had packed our swimwear in our hand luggage and so could start to enjoy the pool and warm sunshine straightaway, something my daughter was very happy about!
Around 12.45pm we were advised that all cabins were available and so we headed off to try and find where we were to be staying for the next 7 days – it can be quite confusing trying to find your way around the ship but the deck plans located by the lifts are very useful.
Our cabin (E520) had 2 single beds and 2 upper berths (like bunk beds) folded away above the twin beds. There was a notice to say that our cabin steward would tend to lowering the berth and so we left well alone! No sooner had we entered our cabin then our steward Leester came to say hello and right from the outset he was a friendly chap!
After a spot of lunch we enjoyed the pool for the rest of the afternoon before going back to our cabin around 5pm to find our luggage waiting outside. So before getting ready for dinner we quickly unpacked!
Having booked Freedom Dining, we had the flexibility to dine whenever we wished between 6pm and 9.30pm and so to keep things simple on our first night we visited the Cinnamon restaurant around 8pm. During dinner we noticed that we had left Genoa and were heading for Livorno, if we hadn’t been told we would never have known, very smooth!
After dinner we watched a live band in the Tamarind Club but by 10.30pm we were absolutely shattered and our beds beckoned. Our room had been made up with the ‘berth’ bed lowered for my daughter and a ‘Welcome Aboard’ balloon floated above!
Day 1 Highlight – The quick check-in process at Genoa, a big well done to P&O Cruises! Oh and the ship of course, she is truly amazing!
Day 2 – Livorno, Italy
By the time our alarm woke us at 7am we had already docked in Livorno but on inspection from our window we saw that the weather wasn’t great, it was raining!
After breakfast (in the Waterside buffet on deck 15), we made our way to the disembarkation deck, which on this occasion was deck 6 and proceeded to board the coach to Pisa & Florence, an organised excursion booked through P&O Cruises prior to our trip.
The transfer to Pisa took around 45 minutes but the weather was deteriorating and by the time we arrived in Pisa it was raining quite heavily. This was certainly unusual weather for the time of year!
After purchasing waterproof ponchos and an umbrella we followed our guide to the ‘Square of Miracles’ or Cathedral Square as it also known, where the tower is located along with the Baptistery and the Cathedral itself. For me, the tower is a ‘must see’ and although not quite a ‘wonder of the world’ it is pretty amazing and despite the weather I am so glad we saw it…
From Pisa, the transfer to Florence was approximately 1½ hours but our guide kept everyone entertained with lots of interesting facts about the area and a few jokes!
Florence is a beautiful city with lots of fantastic buildings and beautiful squares to see and wander around. There are also many shops and places to eat and drink.
With the sun now shining we sat in one of the Piazzas (squares) for lunch and watched the world go by, something I can thoroughly recommend!
The transfer back to Livorno took around 1½ hours; back on the ship we managed an hour by the pool and then relaxed on the observation deck for the sail away from Livorno.
Our evening was spent in the Glass House which is actually a wine bar/restaurant created by wine connoisseur Olly Smith. There is a small cover charge payable here but the food was excellent and the service just as good!
Our ‘nightcap’ was taken in the Havana Bar where Robbie Williams was performing (was it really him?!). He was very good and kept the audience entertained throughout!
Day 2 Highlight – Seeing the ‘Leaning Tower’ in Pisa and walking around the beautiful city of Florence with the sun shining!
Day 3 – Sea Day
With today being a sea day it was a time to relax, explore, enjoy the ship and allow our daughter to make some friends!
Our breakfast was taken in the Beach House (the 2nd of the two buffet restaurants) before we ventured to the Laguna pool area.
As with all ‘sea days’ it was very busy but we did manage to find a couple of sunbeds overlooking the pool allowing us to ‘keep an eye’ on our daughter!
Lunch was taken in the buffet restaurant with a healthy option of fish and salad on the menu.
The afternoon was spent around the pool soaking up the sun and chatting to newly made friends; I said it was a lazy day!
Because today is a ‘sea day’ then tonight is a formal evening when the ladies get to dress in their ‘posh frocks’ and the gents don their black tie.
We dined in the Cinnamon Restaurant and once again sat with 2 other couples. It really is a great way to meet (and chat to) new people.
The food tonight was excellent with an option to eat from a menu created by Marco Pierre White. I duly obliged and wasn’t disappointed – the Beef Wellington was delicious!
We finished our evening in the Havana Bar where members of the Headliners Theatre Company performed songs – my daughter was extremely happy to have a photograph taken with one of the group members.
Having not taken a cruise for 20 years, I must admit to being a little concerned over how much the entertainment would suit us, and my daughter in particular, but I have to say it has been first class so far!
Day 3 Highlight – Relaxing around the ship by day and a chance to ‘dress up’ in the evening, great fun!
Day 4 – Naples, Italy
Today we are going to do our own thing and head for Capri, an island some 40 minutes (via the ‘Jet Boat’) from Naples.
Following a healthy breakfast in the Beach House we disembarked the ship and walked across the harbour, purchased return tickets for the ‘jet boat’ and queued to board the boat.
With both my wife and daughter prone to travel sickness I was a little apprehensive about this crossing but it turned out to be fairly smooth despite the weather turning a little inclement as we approached Capri.
No sooner had we arrived onto the island then we found a lovely harbour-side bar and enjoyed a Cappuccino!
We decided to take the funicular railway to the top of Capri, this is the alternative to walking up which takes around 90 minutes. At the top you realise why the island is held in such high regard, the views are amazing!
Capri is a maze of narrow streets lined with designer shops and restaurants. It was very busy but not to the extent that it impacted on us navigating our way around.
When booking our tickets we were conscious not to rely on the last boat back across to Naples and so booked the earlier one which meant we only had a couple of hours before we had to head back to the harbour, but this was sufficient to give us a taster of the island and experience the wonderful views from the top!
Back on the ship it was ‘Tropical Night’ with a sail away party just getting underway. The ship left Naples around 6pm with the weather improving and the party in full swing!
This evening we dined at East, a Ventura ‘speciality restaurant’ with a Thai/ Indonesian theme and a menu created by Michelin Star chef Atul Kochhar. The food was wonderful, I had Lamb Rendang which had been cooked for 24 hours and was truly special! The food, service and experience is well worth the £15.00 per person cover charge.
The party atmosphere was still going strong when we returned back to the Laguna pool deck with live music and lots of audience participation.
Day 4 Highlight – Capri is beautiful and I am so glad we visited. East was a delightful place to dine, the food and service were excellent.
Days 5-8 will feature in a seperate blog post tomorrow!