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Well, maybe, on Ventura at least. Let me explain.


The inital information about Ventura (in brochures published in spring 2007) told us that there would be a choice of dining style: ‘Freedom Dining’, ‘Club Dining’, and ‘Select Dining’. Freedom Dining is P&O’s term for a turn-up-and-eat arrangement, while Club Dining is their term for traditional cruise-style dining. Both Freedom and Club dining are included in the price of the cruise; the final option, Select Dining, is P&O’s term for being able to eat in the various additional-charge restaurants, if you want to. Thanks to its size Ventura is the first P&O ship to offer a really comprehensive set of dining choices. There are three main restaurants (Bay Tree, Saffron and Cinnamon) for Club and Freedom dining all of which offer the same menu, plus a further three for Select, plus of course the pool-side & buffet outlets.


What has emerged since Ventura went into service in April this year is that there has been a change to the ‘mix’ of dining arrangements. In the original brochure it was announced that Freedom dining would be available in two restaurants – Saffron and Cinnamon – with Club dining provided in the Bay Tree restaurant only. However what’s emerged in practice is that Club dining is actually being offered in two restaurants, not just one: the Bay Tree (as expected), plus Saffron. Freedom dining, on the other hand, is now restricted to just Cinnamon. Presumably this change in the mix results from the actual preferences stated at the time of booking. P&O must have expected a majority of passengers to opt for Frredom dining (it’s often touted as ‘what the passenger wants’), but it looks as if a majority have in fact stated a preference for Club dining. (We did, for our September/October Canary Islands cruise.) Does this suggest that P&O cruisers are a conservative lot? Well, possibly. Certainly, early reviews suggest that the remark most commonly heard on board has been “it’s not like Oriana…”. 


I’m asking returning passengers who post their experiences to tell me what the dining mix was on their cruise. I wouldn’t be surprised if it changed during the summer, especially during the school holidays. Ventura is marketed as a family ship so I would expect a lot of families to be on board during that period, and I also think that families might be more likely to want dining flexibility. But we’ll see.

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