I have to confess, in the past the idea of a cruise may have conjured images of silver surfers playing dominoes and 18-30’s making the most of the all-inclusive booze. Seeing as I fit into neither categories I wasn't convinced a cruise was for me. But, while hunting for a holiday during half term that meant the kids and I could hang out together, while giving them a bit of space and freedom to play in a safe environment, I found a cruise ticked all the boxes.
Despite that, I still wasn’t sure what to expect from the three-night trip on the Ventura from Southampton to Bruges and Guernsey that I booked with P&O. The kids, Zac, seven, and Aimirah, nine, on the other hand, were certain they were cruising people and spent the entire week before jittering with excitement at the thought of a holiday onboard a ship the size of the Titanic.
Within an hour and a half of leaving London, we had arrived at Ocean Terminal in Southampton, our car parked by a valet, our bags delivered to our room and us on board. The holiday had just started and I was already shaking off any preconceptions I had – there wasn’t a beer bong or pair of denchers in sight.
The ship had all you could need for a family weekend; four swimming pools, five restaurants, a kids’ club (with a separate play area for under twos), a spa, gym and plenty of evening entertainment.
Blessed with great weather, the majority of the ship flocked to the poolsand while some of them did get a little lively, we split our time between the quiet family areas and adult-only LA style infinity pool.
With two stops during the weekend, if you need some time on land there is ample opportunity and as Bruges is known as the Venice of the north, you’d be hard pushed not to enjoy wandering around it’s museums and weekend markets. The kids loved the horse and carriage ride over the cobbled streets and boat ride along the canals, not to mention tucking into waffles dripping in Belgian chocolate.
Kids’ Club: The kids’ clubs is designed for children to pop in and out over the weekend, and there was enough to keep them occupied during that time, any longer and I felt they may have got bored. But the intention was for me to spend some time with the kids so they just ducked in and out as they pleased, which suited us all perfectly.
Food: No matter how fussy an eater your child is, they’ll never go hungry on the ship, thanks to the (almost) 24-hour buffet loaded with healthy fresh food, as well as enough sweets and treats to keep Augustus Gloop satisfied.
For an extra £5 you can upgrade to one of the fine-dining restaurants, such as The White Room, an Italian created by Marco Pierre White, which is very good value for money. There’s also a Spanish tapas restaurant and East, which serves Oriental food.
The verdict: By the end of the trip I was a cruise convert. I definitely saw the benefits. Everything was really easy and relaxing. We didn’t have to navigate airports or face long transfers. The children loved it – especially the evening family entertainmentand I found time to actually read a book.
Accommodation: We had a deluxe suite, which was compact but functional, with a sofa bed for the children. Balloons, jelly beans and chocolates were waiting for the kids, while there were two bottles of fizz on ice for me. This certainly set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Cruise breaks, three nights, £309pp:
P&O Cruises is offering a three-night Cruise break on Azura (A407) from £309 per adult and £154 per child (children aged 16 and under) for a Vantage Fare. Departing April 4, 2014, the price includes an inside cabin with upper beds, all meals, and entertainment. Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call are Zeebrugge for Bruges.
Fly-Med, seven nights, £1,049pp:
A seven-night fly-Med on Ventura costs from £1,049 per adult and £699 per child (children aged 16 and under) for a Vantage Fare. Departing 16 July 2014, the price includes flights from the UK, an inside cabin with upper beds, all meals, and entertainment. Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call are Kotor, Corfu, Rome and Ajaccio.
To book: Visit pocruises.co.uk or call 0843 373 0111.