Instead of the usual short UK break in the school holidays, my wife, two children Hal (8) and Tilly (11), and my mother in law opted for a multi-generational long weekend on P&O Cruises’ newly refitted superliner Ventura, travelling from Southampton to Belgium.
Given the ship’s vast onboard facilities, weather doesn’t have to be a concern either.
As it turned out, the Saturday of the late May bank holiday weekend was unusually serene as Ventura sailed out along Southampton and past the Isle of Wight.
We had an overnight sail to Zeebrugge, where we would spend a day chocolate and beer shopping, moules and fritesmunching in Bruges.
Activities: Hal had researched the ship extensively in preparation for our two-night taster cruise and discovered that one of the four main pools has a retractable roof to allow for swimming rain or shine.
The main deck was for swimming, al fresco snacks and sailaway champagne. Tilly and Hal were in their element splashing around in the various pools and hot-tubs.
Bruges was almost a side-show to the myriad of activities and entertainment available to us and the 3,000 other passengers.
With a full spa, extensive gym and an adults-only chill-out zone on deck, there are plenty of stress-relieving options for grown ups to indulge in on Ventura.
Kids club: Children were kept amused at the four age-related supervised clubs – Toybox, Jumping Jacks, The Den and Decibels – strategically positioned at the opposite end of the vast vessel.
Food: In the evening there are 11 bars to choose from and endless dining options including two vast buffets, three formal dining rooms and an al fresco pizza place.
Early children’s supper is provided, with toddlers getting a surprise visit from Noddy, and then being returned to their clubs for evening activities to leave parents free for casual drinks and dinner.
Pay a supplement of £30 each on this short cruise (the price reduces the longer the voyage) and you have the option to visit the more luxury restaurants on board. We tried Marco Pierre White’s stylish White Room.
For £25, you can also sample a mix of Asian cuisine created by Michelin-starred maestro Atul Kochhar.
The other alternative dining choice is The Glasshouse, a favourite with wine lovers overseen by TV wine expert Olly Smith. Here you can sample some highly recommended and unusual wine by the glass.
After dinner, the ship offers night-time shows including tribute singers, energetic main stage productions, karaoke, multiple discos and live bands.
Who’s it good for? Short cruises such as this are aimed at first timers and those looking for an alternative weekend break to the Continent, so test the water with your family before heading off on a longer cruise.
Book this holiday now with P&O Cruises.
P&O Cruises offers a two night break on Ventura from Southampton to Zeebrugge in Bruges departing on 29 June 2013 or 13 September 2013; from £229 per person all inclusive.
If you're planning next year's holiday, you can also take Ventura’s sister ship Azura to Belgium from Southampton departing on May 10, 2014; from £199 per person sharing an inside cabin. Prices start at £279 per person for a cabin with a balcony.
Fancy visiting Rome and Venice on a cruise? Take an Italian adventure with Crystal Cruises.