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Just a quick follow-up to yesterday evening. We had drinks on deck 16 with the Captain and a number of the officers, and some of the things that were said were interesting. We spoke to Captain Dowds and basically told him that we were enjoying the cruise very much; that we liked Ventura a lot; and that we were having serious thoughts about booking a cruise for spring / early summer 2010 on her future sister-ship. Captain Dowds thanked us for those comments. We then had a more general chat during which my recollection is that he said that he was of course aware of some of the reviews of Ventura, that P&O was still in the process of refining the Ventura product (by which I think he meant the overall collection of both the hardware and software, i.e. the ship itself and its systems) – e.g. continual tweaks are being made to the operation of Freedom Dining; but that P&O probably had to do a better job of managing passengers’ expectations, and passengers perhaps had to adopt a more realistic outlook. He mentioned specifically the issue of many, many people (including families) all wanting to dine at the same time – it is never going to be possible for an unlimited number of people to come down to the restaurant at (for example) 7:30 and all be seated immediately.

We talked to a few other other officers, and got very similar responses. I think I detected a bit of frustration on their part that passengers seemed to have unrealistic expectations. For example, they pointed out that P&O has marketed Ventura very heavily as a family-oriented ship, which (when you factor in the mention of Noddy & Mr Bump), most people would understand to mean ‘families with children’. Why, then, would a passenger be surprised that there were a lot of children on board during July and August? – yet apparently that complaint that was made frequently during the summer.

We encountered an example of this sort of thing at breakfast this morning. We sat with a lady who has cruised a number of times, we gathered, and is in a stateroom (i.e. a bigger cabin) on deck 9 for this cruise. Her complaint was about the balcony – it’s open and is fully overlooked – and she was comparing this unfavourably with the hull-hole balconies on Aurora. I’m not going to open a debate here about the merits of the different styles of balcony, but there is a lot of information out there, both from the brochure (deck plans and illustrations) about the balconies on Ventura. Additionally, there is of course a wealth of information from Princess passengers, over nearly 10 years. Yet this lady gave every impression that this was a surprise to her when she embarked – that she was expecting an Aurora-style balcony. Either she had not done her research properly, or (possibly more likely) her TA did  not give the full information.

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