Tuesday 13 February 2024

I have been to ... Amsterdam aboard MV Ventura

As it was my seventy-fourth birthday on 7th February, Sue and I decided that I would be nice to have a short break. She discovered that P&O Cruises’ Ventura was doing a short four-night cruise to Amsterdam starting on my birthday and booked it.

Wednesday, 7th February: Southampton

Despite our alarm clock deciding to stop working during the night (the batteries gave out without any warning!), Sue and I woke up just after 6.30am and by 8.40pm we were on our way to Southampton.

We had seen that there had been an accident earlier that day on the southern section of the M25 and expected to experience some delays, which is why we left slightly earlier than normal. The traffic going out of London on the A2 was reasonably light, and we reached the junction with the M25 in just under 25 minutes. The number of vehicles on the M25 did not appear to be any greater than normal, although there was some congestion along several stretches of the motorway when everyone had to slow down because the variable speed limit was in operation. This was probably due to the earlier accident causing a build-up of traffic that had to be cleared.

We reached the junction with the M3 just before 10.00am and by 10.35am we had parked in Winchester Services, where we were able to stop for breakfast and to restore our personal comforts. Sue and I stayed there for about 40 minutes and by 11.15am we were back on our way to Southampton.

We reached the Ocean Cruise Terminal in Southampton Docks by a little after 11.45am and joined the queue for the valet parking service. We were booked in almost immediately and by midday we had unloaded our luggage, dropped it off with the porters at the appropriate gate, and were inside the terminal waiting to be booked in. There was no queue, and we were directed to go straight through the security check and aboard the ship.

Once aboard, Sue and I went straight to our muster station to check in before going to the Cinnamon Restaurant (Deck 5 Midships) for a complimentary lunch. We shared a table with a family who were going to Amsterdam because their daughter and her friend – who was travelling with them – were studying the diary of Anne Frank.

The lunch menu had not changed since our last cruise and included:


Oak-smoked Duck Breast, with Pickled Carrots, Coriander and Cherries. (Both of us)

Main Courses

Pan-roasted Barramundi Fillet, with Tarragon Crushed New Potatoes, Fine Beans, and a Sauce Vierge. (Sue)

Carved Sirloin of Beef, with Tomato and Bacon Jam, Sweet Potato Fondant, Tobacco Onions, and a Béarnaise Sauce. (Me)


Selection of British and International Cheeses, Banana Bread, Black Grapes, Mulled Apple Jelly, with Fine Cheese Biscuits. (Sue)

Sticky Muscovado Sponge Pudding, with Candied Orange and Mascarpone Cheese. (Me)

There was a slight delay after lunch before our suite was ready for us to occupy, and Sue and I spent some time on the Promenade Deck (Deck 7) watching the world go by. An announcement at just after 2.00pm to the effect that all cabins and suites were ready saw a general exodus from the public areas of the ship, and we did not reach our suite until nearly 2.30pm.

Our suite was on Deck 12 Aft …

… and gave us a view across the southern end of Southampton Docks.

Somewhat unusually, our luggage was not waiting for us when we got to our suite, and we had to wait for nearly half an hour before it arrived. During this time, our Cabin Steward – Vaibhav – and Butler – Martin – visited us to introduce themselves and to ask if we needed anything.

Once our luggage had arrived, we unpacked and then had a short break out on the Promenade Deck before going up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant (Deck 15 Midships) for a snack and a drink. Although we were able to find something to eat, getting a drink proved more difficult, and eventually we gave up and went down to the Tamarind Bar (Deck 7 Midships) to see if we could get served there. Unfortunately, we timed it just wrong as the Officer-of-the-Watch decided to have a crew drill just before we got there, and service was suspended for 15 minutes as crew members reported to their emergency muster stations.

By the time bar service resumed, a queue had formed at the bar and all the waiters were occupied dealing with it rather than circulating around the bar area taking drinks orders. At this point we gave up and returned to our suite to have a drink there instead.

The Ventura set sail just after 5.00pm …

… and by 6.30pm she was well on her way out to sea.

Sue and I had plenty of time to read and rest before we needed to get ready for dinner at 8.15pm in the Epicurean Restaurant (Deck 17 Aft). We had booked it to celebrate my birthday, and before going up to eat we went for a pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar (Deck 7 Midships) and a stroll along the Promenade Deck.

Our dinner comprised:

Amuse Bouche

Mango and Carrot juice.


Alaskan Snow Crab, Langoustine and Salmon Cavier Cocktail, with Pea and Chervil Custard, Parchment Bread, and a Cucumber Mojito. (Sue)

24-hour Slow-Cooked Ox Cheek in a Bone Canoe, with Parsley Sponge and Beef-flavoured Mayonnaise. (Me)

Main Course

Olney Grounds 14oz Beef Rib-Eye Steak for two, with Madeira and Béarnaise Sauce, Onion Rings, and Thick-Cut Chips. (Both of us)


Mango Sorbet.


Crêpes Suzette, with Vanilla Ice Cream. (Both of us)

Petit Four

Chocolate Truffles.

We finished eating just after 10.00pm, and after a short walk along the Promenade Deck to get some fresh air and to aid our digestion, we returned to our suite to read for a while before getting ready for bed.

Thursday, 8th February: At sea … and then Amsterdam

Overnight, Ventura sailed through the straits of Dover and out into the North Sea.

As the ship’s clocks had been advanced by one hour overnight, it was still dark when we got up. However, by 9.00am, when we went to breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, it was light and we were able to the many ships that use what is the most crowded waterways in the world.

After breakfast Sue and I visited the Future Cruise desk (Deck 5 Midships) where we booked a cruise that we will go on later this year. (One of the advantages of booking on-board is that you only have to put down a £100.00 deposit for each person and you get £100.00 more on-board spending money.)

We then went for a walk around the ship’s shops (Decks 5 and 6 Midships) where Sue bought some new charms for her Pandora bracelets. This was followed by a very brief walk along the Promenade Deck (it was very cold and icy drizzle was blowing across the deck) before we returned to our suite.

Whilst Sue read and dozed, I watched Kenneth Brannah’s take on Agatha Christie’s DEATH ON THE NILE. The photography and special effects – especially those in the first section of the film which is set in the Belgian trenches at Yser – were excellent and the cast’s performances were of a universally high standard. (I hadn’t realised that Russell Brand could actually act!)

Just before 12.30pm the Deputy Captain announced that the ship was about to enter the River Amstel and that by 1.00pm she would be beginning her passage through the locks.

Ventura used the bigger of the two and by 1.30pm she had passed through them and was on her way towards the centre of Amsterdam.

Our passage towards the centre of Amsterdam took us past mainly industrial areas, but these were interspersed with occasional residential areas and several marinas. In one of the latter I saw a very interesting, preserved paddle steamer …

… and several small sailing vessels.

Ventura finally moored alongside the cruise terminal just after 4.00pm, by which time it was getting dark, and it was raining quite heavily. Sue and I spend some time on our suite balcony, trying to see the sights of Amsterdam, but as the stern of the ship – which was where our suite was located – was pointing away from the centre of the city, we could see very little.

We attempted to go for a walk along the Promenade Deck before dinner, but for operational reasons, it was closed. We had our pre-dinner drink in the Red Bar, and at 8.30pm we went down to the Bay Tree Restaurant to eat. Because so many passengers had gone ashore to enjoy Amsterdam’s nightlife, the restaurant was very empty and we had finished dinner by 9.40pm. Sue and I tried to go for a post-dinner walk along the Promenade Deck … but it was still closed and we returned to our suite to read for a while before going to bed.

Friday, 9th February: Amsterdam

When we woke up at 8.00am, it was still dark, and the weather was awful. Icy rain was lashing the windows of our suite’s balcony doors and showed no signs of stopping. I did go out to take some photographs of the view from our balcony …

… but the view was nothing outstanding to see.

After some discussion over breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, Sue and I decided not to go ashore until the weather improved. The AccuWeather app on Sue’s iPhone predicted that the rain would stop at 11.00am so we decided to return to our suite and wait to see if the weather did improve as predicted. Amazingly, almost on the dot of 11.00am the rain stopped, and by 11.20am we had made our way ashore.

One of the reasons that I had wanted to return to Amsterdam was to pay a visit to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum), which is located at Kattenburgerplein 1. According to Google Maps, this was a sixteen-minute walk from the Amsterdam Cruise Terminal … but it took us nearly thirty minutes.

We arrived at the museum at just before midday …

… only to discover that we were expected to pay for our entrance using a credit card! As neither of us had taken one ashore (this is one of the things you are advised to do in cities where there is the chance of pickpockets operating) we had to wait until the duty manager arrived so that we could pay with cash.

(It is worth noting that EVERYTHING sold at the museum, including food, drink, and gifts HAVE to be paid for using a credit card. There are NO facilities for cash payments!)

(N.B. I will be writing several blog posts about what we saw at the museum over the coming days.)

Our visit to the museum lasted until almost 2.30pm, and by just before 3.00pm we were back aboard Ventura, having found a slightly quicker route back to the one we used to get there. Once we had dropped off our coats, bags, and cameras in our suite, we went up to the Waterside Self-Service Restaurant for a late lunch.

By the time we got back to our suite we were both feeling rather tired and spent the next couple of hours reading and resting before it was time to get ready for the only formal dinner of our short cruise.

After our usual pre-dinner walk along the Promenade Deck and drink in the Red Bar, we ate our evening meal in the Bay Tree Restaurant, Because it was a formal dinner, the menu reflected that, and both Sue and I ate Beef Wellington as out main course. It was excellent, and well up to the standard we have come to expect from P&O.

After dinner we had another short walk along the Promenade Deck before going back to our suite. We were in bed by about 11.30pm and were asleep before Ventura set sail for the UK.

Saturday, 10th February: At sea

Ventura cast off from her moorings just before midnight and by the time we woke up at 8.00am she was well out into the North Sea.

Sue and I ate breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant and then went for a walk around the ship’s shops … but could find nothing to buy. We followed this with a swift walk along the Promenade Deck (it was far too cold to stay out there very long) before we returned to our suite to read and rest.

At 1.00pm we went down to the Glass House Bar for lunch, but there was a long queue to get a table. After a short discussion we decided to go to the Saffron Restaurant (Deck 6 Midships) for lunch … and were greeted at the door by Jacob, one of P&O’s restaurant managers whom we have known for years. We were able to have a brief chat with him before eating our excellent lunch, after which we again ventured out onto the Promenade Deck for a short walk.

Sue and I were back in our suite by 2,30pm, and after spending some more time reading and resting before we began packing. As the cruise had been a short one, this did not take long, and once this chore was over, we were able to enjoy sitting in our suite watching the ship sail up the English Channel.

At 7.30pm Sue and I went for a brief turn along the Promenade Deck before going for a drink in the Red Bar. At 8.30pm were went to the Bay Tree Restaurant – via the Promenade Deck – for our last evening meal of the cruise.

As the menu that was on offer was not very appealing, Sue and I opted for the ‘Signature Selection’ menu which has an additional charge of £12.95 each if you order all the dishes. The menu was as follows:


Dressed Lobster Claw on a Gruyère Sable Biscuit, with Lobster Crème Anglais and Cornish Crab Rillettes on Toasted Brioche, garnished with Bloody May Cream, Soused Cucumber, and a Tomato and Fennel Tuile.

Main Course

Pan-Roasted Fillet of Dry Aged Foyle Beef, with a Rich Madeira Jus, Truffled Savoyard Potatoes, Caramelised Onion and a Medley of Asparagus, Baby Carrot and Spinach, served on a bed of Pickled Exotic Mushrooms.


Vairhona Tarte au Chocolat, with Milk Chocolate Crème Chantilly Crown and Banana Gelato, finished with Caramelised Cocoa nibs and a Banana and Lime Purée.

This optional menu was excellent when we had tried it on a previous cruise, and we thoroughly enjoyed it again this time.

Sue and I took one last walk along the Promenade deck before turning in for the night. We finished packing the second of our suitcases, and after placing it outside our suite door, we prepared to go to bed. We read for a while, but by 11.00pm we were both asleep.

Sunday, 11th February: Southampton

At just after 1.00am one of the sliding doors out onto our balcony suddenly opened for no reason, but the sound of the air conditioning system going into overdrive as it tried to keep the air temperature inside our suite at its pre-set level woke us up. I managed to get the door closed and locked into place, and we came to the conclusion that it had not been closed properly the last time we had gone outside and that a sudden movement had caused it to open.

We managed to get back to sleep, and when our alarm went off at 6.30am we were somewhat surprised to discover that Ventura was still some way from her berth alongside the Ocean Terminal. In fact, she had barely tied up by the time we went for breakfast in the Epicurean Restaurant, and the unloading of everyone's luggage had only just begun.

By 8.00am we had collected our hand luggage from our suite and then made our way down to the priority disembarkation point (the Red Bar) and we only had to wait a few minutes before we were directed to go ashore. Because it was a short cruise, most passengers had disembarked carrying their own luggage and as a result, we found ours very quickly once we had reached the baggage reclaim hall. Things went so smoothly that by 8.45am we had passed through border control and customs, found our car in the valet car park, and were on our way out of Southampton Docks.

Our journey home took just over two and a half hours, and that included a comfort break at Winchester Services. The traffic was much lighter than we had expected, and we arrived home before 11.30am. Our short cruise to Amsterdam left us feeling refreshed and ready to continue with our decluttering prior to putting our house on the market ... but it also left us looking forward to the next cruise that we have booked!


  1. Hi BOB,
    Chris and I were in Amsterdam in June of 2015 at the end of our Rhine River Cruise from Budapest. We stayed right in the hub of Amsterdam- lovely place- lots of Bicycles there - seems everyone owns a Bicycle...lots of Cafes too - plenty with outdoor seating where you can have a coffee, cake and a smoke in peace. Looking forward to further updates on your Model Railway. Cheers. KEV.

    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      Sue and I have been to Amsterdam several times, and we’ve never had good weather. In fact we were on a cruise that had to leave early as it was snowing heavily and there was a strong chance that we would get stuck there for several days if we didn’t sail early.

      The cyclists take no prisoners! Crossing a road without looking carefully first is a recipe for a disaster. I’ve had several near misses … but at least they are better than the cyclists we have in London who regularly jump red lights.

      I’ve just been painting the edge of my layout baseboard with matt black acrylic paint. It certainly seems to improve the look of the whole thing.

      All the best,


  2. Bob -
    I do enjoy your cruises - especially the menus! One almost feels the need for a Spike Milligan to recite them...

    1. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      I’m pleased that you enjoyed this blog post … and in future, every time I read a P&O menu I’ll ‘hear’ Spike reading it in my head!

      All the best,


  3. I understand why you don't have a second blog focused entirely on travel but you certainly could have a second, very successful blog focused entirely on your travels, Bob

    1. Mr. Pavone,

      I have considered doing that, but for the moment I’m going to stick with just one major blog. I may - however - change my mind in the future.

      All the best,


  4. Many museums and galleries in the UK are now card only for payments. It does feel a bit odd when just buying a postcard.

    1. Nigel Drury,

      I happen to think that it is also discriminatory towards the old and the young as neither groups tend to have or use electronic card payment systems.

      All the best,


    2. All the UK ones I've encountered had contactless machines so mobile phone payment apps would have been fine. Essentially they've just stopped handling cash.

    3. Nigel Drury,

      I still think that it might affect the very young or very old and those who for various reasons do not have access to electronic payment methods.

      All the best,


  5. Good grief! I wish I knew you were aboard. Joined the ship the same day. We are currently close to the Azores on our way across the Atlantic to Hamilton in Bermuda then down to Belize then into the Gulf before heading north to Miami and Port Canaverale.

    1. Fred,

      We will be back in April (20th to 30th) on a cruise to Spain, Portugal, and France. Will you still be aboard or will you be back home or aboard a Cunard ship?

      All the best,


    2. Unfortunately I get off on the 7th April. Well that is the plan currently, but you never know. Drop me an email if you are ever on a P&O or Cunard ship. Get you a tour of the bridge.


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