First and last
Alan Wood | May 13, 2016 | P&O Cruises | Ventura
P&O are completely money-orientated and the customer service is appalling, which is very surprising for an American-owned company. We cruised on Ventura from Southampton to Venice, departing 8th September for 17 nights, our first and probably our last cruise, especially with P&O. Where do I start?
Bolsover as agents were not much better. There were insufficient instructions to find the ship in the first place. We drove from Kent to discover there were two dock areas, East and West, with no indication which route we should take. There were no signs leading to Ocean Terminal until we reached the gate to the dock. It shouldn’t be assumed that everyone comes by coach or has satnav.
On board, there is constant raucous music on most decks and open spaces, live or canned, at uncomfortable levels of amplification. Is it assumed that all the passengers are deaf? All the music was pop, the only quality music being played in five or six concerts by a piano/violin duo called ??Emerald Duo?, who were brilliant but received scant publicity from the entertainment staff.
Whilst the food was excellent in the dining rooms, that in the buffets was insubstantial and there was insufficient seating, so you are left with a tray of food getting cold because you can’t find anywhere to eat it. Tried it twice and reverted to dining room with its fixed time in the evening. We asked to change to Freedom dining for added flexibility but were refused. This restriction often meant that we missed some excellent entertainment because we couldn’t get seats unless we were in the venue 40-45 minutes in advance.
A lot of the entertainment was excellent, especially the ??Headliners? singers and dancers we had, although I gathered from friends who were on Azura in the Carribbean that their ??Headliners? troupe were not very good at all. Incidentally, they’ve cruised a lot, mostly with P&O, and they’ve said they won’t be sailing on these big ships again. But again, why so loud? We had to sit with our fingers in our ears through some performances.
Breakfast and lunch in the dining room were a delight, as was afternoon tea, but having to make our own tea or coffee at other times in mugs was a let down. Plenty of staff anxious to sell you alcohol but nowhere could you order a cup of tea or coffee except at overpriced franchises. It’s a floating hotel, we expected hotel service.
It is very kindly stated that general notices are not broadcast into the cabin. Unfortunately, when you hear an announcement out in the corridor ?? which we presume to be important and not made elsewhere ?? by the time you’ve switched on your TV and found the right channel you’ve missed the announcement. Perhaps P&O should assume that if it’s published in the daily bulletin additional announcements are unnecessary?
Lack of accurate information was our biggest frustration. We got the definite impression that if we had not bought an excursion we were persona non grata ?? we were very much on our own going ashore. Which is fine, if we could get ashore. Venice and Korcula were classic examples. There were particular problems at Venice which we had explained to us, but P&O knew about them before we did and could have advised us in advance, instead of which we struggled to get ashore by noon(!) and had barely enough time to explore before we had to get the shuttle back. In addition it cost ?18 each, when they could have told us about the monorail service at the end of the pier, cost 1 Euro! At Korcula we had booked an excursion so we got away promptly by tender and had a lovely day. But our friends were in a queue of ??about 400? (according to their disembarkation ticket) and gave up trying to get ashore. Incidentally, our 17-day cruise itinerary listed 7 full days ashore and one morning (in Gibralter) and only one involved using the tenders (ignoring the farce at Venice). In fact none of them were full days, especially if you had not bought an excursion, as you were required to be back on board half way through the afternoon having got ashore in time for elevenses, if you were lucky.
In Dubrovnic, the daily bulletin had told us that the currency was Euros. As I knew Croatia was not in the Euro zone and the fact sheet for Dubrovnic stated the local currency to be Kuna I checked this with reception, to be told Euro were accepted but the change would be in Kuna. Euros may have been accepted in shops but NOT for buying access to the walls nor to the cable car. This should be made clear. I queued for a ticket to the walls, then had to queue for Kunas, then queue for the walls again. I still didn’t have enough for the cable car ?? how do you know how much something is going to be if you are not told in advance ?? but fortunately a sympathetic fellow traveller loaned me some currency.
We were expecting a degree of sophisticated gentility on a cruise, instead we got a floating Butlins. As another reviewer has said, we might have spent 17 days in our local pub and saved ourselves a heck of a lot of money. Dress code was not enforced and was too lax anyway in that there were no semi-formal evenings, only formal and smart casual. We dined at White and at East, both supposedly select restaurants for which we paid a sizeable supplement, only to find ourselves in the company of sloppy tee-shirts and scruffy combat trousers. When did this attire become smart casual? And why were they allowed into a restaurant I paid extra for? Other friends have said that Fred Olsen will not allow entrance to restaurants improperly dressed. It was bad enough having to share other times with tattooed people in vests, looking as though they had not had time to dress.
I watch the P&O sponsorship clips on TV with disbelief ?? must be close to misrepresentation!
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