An overview of the various dining
options on P&O Cruises’ Ventura with
Food and Beverage Manager Alasdair
Richard H. Wagner
Once upon a time, dining on cruise ships did not require
much thinking. There only was one place where a
passenger could eat and the cruise line said when you
had to be there if you wanted to get fed. Nowadays,
however, on modern ships such as P&O Cruises'
Ventura, there is an array of dining venues with a number
of options that allow the passenger to have a variety of
dining experiences during the course of a voyage. In the
interest of informed decision-making, I talked with
Alasdair Ross, Food and Beverage Manager, about the
dining options on Ventura.
The main dining rooms
Ventura has three main dining rooms, the Saffron
Restaurant, the Cinnamon Restaurant and the Bay Tree
Restaurant. All three are similar in size and décor with
wood-paneled walls and large colourful still-life
paintings of by artist Paul Wright. The Saffron and the
Cinnamon are located one above the other bordering the
ship's main atrium. The Bay Tree Restaurant, which is
somewhat larger, is located at the stern of the ship on
Only the Saffron Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch
and afternoon tea. This is done on an open seating basis.
Upon entering the restaurant the maitre d' asks how many
people are in your party and whether you would like to
share a table. A waiter then guides you to your seat.
The breakfast menu contains a number of standard items
that are available each morning. "Each day we [also]
have a different special to give [the passengers]
something else if they don't want sausage, bacon and eggs
While the lunch menu changes daily, the afternoon tea
maintains tradition with the familiar cakes, pastries,
scones, and sandwiches.
In the evening, all three main restaurants have the same
dinner menu. The cuisine and the style of dining reflect
British tastes. "Over 95 percent of our passengers are
British so we cater for our British passengers. We try to
do different things with different styles but a lot of people
want the British style food; that is where they are
comfortable. Traditionally, we like hot food. Also, our
passengers like silver service whereas for American
passengers that isn't important. So we have the silver
service. They like the theater of the silver service "
For dinner each passenger is assigned to one of the three
restaurants. The Bay Tree and the Saffron follow the
traditional passenger ship dining system, which P&O
calls "Club Dining." The Cinnamon follows a flexible
dining system called "Freedom Dining."
"Club Dining is where you sit at the same table every
night. You either do the 6:30, which is first seating, or
8:30, which is second seating. [Those passengers] go to
the same table every night, with the same people, and
with the same waiters. Everything remains the same and
that is what P&O traditionally did. Then you have the
Freedom Dining concept, which allows people to come
in any time between 6:00 and 9:30 and request the table
size that they wish. They can sit wherever they wish. If
there are no tables available, they are given a pager and
are beeped when there is a table available for them. It
seems to work very well and we are getting more and
more people requesting it."
Located high on the ship near the swimming pools and
outdoor facilities is Ventura's buffet restaurant. The
food serving lines are along the center line of the ship
with the tables radiating out to the sides of the ship.
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer an often spectacular
view over the surroundings as the restaurant is quite a
way above the sea.
The buffet is divided into two areas called "The
Waterside" and "The Beach House." A passenger can
use either section. "The same menus in both; the menus
are changed daily."
"Breakfast and lunch are very busy." The Beach House
offers a continental breakfast from 6:30 to 7:00 and then
a full English breakfast from 7:00 until 10:00. The
Waterside opens at 8 a.m. and has a full continental
breakfast until noon. It then changes over to lunch, which
it offers until three. "On the sea days, the Beach House
will be open for lunch as well."
"In the evening, we do a special buffet dinner in The
Waterside with a different [style of] food each night - -
Italian, Indian, Asian/Oriental, Mexican. That is an
alternative for passengers who do not wish to eat in the
main restaurants. It is very popular. Certainly, the Indian
dinner night is a very popular night. Traditionally, the
British passengers do like their curries. So, they like to
go to the Indian dinner. Depending on what the buffet is,
you can have 200 [passengers dining there]. On the
formal nights, most of the passengers are dressed up so
they go the main restaurants."
"The Beach House in the evening is the Beach House
Grill. It offers a menu that has a selection of starters,
main courses and desserts. The main courses are based
around grills and sizzlers. We have three items on there
that are main courses that are charged. So there is a
supplement for the filet steak, the surf and turf and the
fruit de mer. It is for people who do not want to use
Freedom or Club Dining but who still want to sit and
have a served meal. When we sail out of [scenic] places
[The Beach House Grill] is a very popular venue
because the guests get to see the views."
The ship's dress code does not apply in the buffet
restaurant. "The dress code is formal and smart casual
on this ship. On some P&O ships it is smart casual,
informal and formal. They stipulate the dress code in the
main restaurants and also in the Red Bar and the
Metropolis. The rest of the venues, people can wear
what they wish to wear. We do suggest smart casual and
not t-shirts and shorts"
Aside from the buffet restaurant, there are two casual
dining venues in the Laguna Pool area. This is an
open-air area but both venues are sheltered from the
elements by the next deck. One venue is a combination
pizzeria and ice cream parlor while the other is a light
grill. Both venues carry the prefix "Frankie's".
"Frankie Dettori, the jockey and Marco Pierre White got
together and created this brand which is 'Frankie's.' We
have our pizzeria, which is open through the day from 11
o'clock in the morning until six at night. The grill, which
is the burger bar with chicken, burgers, hot dogs and
those sorts of things, is also available from 11 until 6 in
the evening. There is a limited menu there which changes
as the days progress."
Another style of casual venue is Tazzine, located in the
lobby at the base of the ship's central atrium. This is a
specialty coffee shop. "The principle in here is if you buy
a coffee, you get the food free. We do that with
sandwiches at lunch time and in the morning we do
different fruits, muffins etc. for breakfast. And then for
the rest of the day, [we have] cakes, chocolates, those
sort of things."
This is a popular venue, especially on port days.
"People who want a light lunch come here when they
have just come on board after being ashore."
Guests on Ventura also have the choice of three
specialty restaurants. Each of the three venues offers
very different dining experiences in the type of food
served, the style of presentation and the environment.
The White Room is a fine dining establishment. The
atmosphere is refined with dim lighting allowing just a
glimpse of the elegant but contemporary décor. Located
on Deck 17, its floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto a
terrace and beyond that over the wake of the ship.
"In the summer or in the Caribbean [the terrace] comes
into its own. Sitting outside there in the evening is
beautiful if the weather is conducive. When the weather
gets hot, a lot more people will sit outside there to have
This venue is called the White Room, not in reference to
its décor but rather because it was developed for P&O
by British celebrity chef Marco Pierre White. "He set up
restaurants here, on Oceana and on Aurora."
This did not involve merely lending his name to these
venues. Rather, Chef White helped to train the staff. In
addition, the staff "work[ed] with him before he took
over the restaurant and when he comes on. They know
the standards he wants to achieve and where he wants to
"He comes on here regularly. He spends three or four
days with the chefs going through and updating menus,
any changes in styles. He also does cooking classes for
passengers when he comes onboard."
"On here, we have a bistro-style menu. It is really very
good. [His cooking] is not very fussy, he is sort of free
and the food sells itself."
The White Room is only open for dinner and there is a
cover charge of 25 pounds. Sometimes, guests ask why
pay extra for a meal when there is a nice meal included
in the fare? Of course, no one is obligated to dine in the
specialty restaurants. However, venues like the White
Room provide a unique experience. The meals are
prepared ala minute using top quality cuts of meat and
prepared according to a master chef's recipes. "If you
went to London and out to an [equivalent] restaurant, you
wouldn't get much change from 110 pounds. Here, you
can do it for 25 plus a bottle of wine."
A much different experience is The East, located along
the indoor promenade in the heart of the public room area
on Deck 7. The room is done in reds and blacks with
hanging globe lanterns. It is distinctly Asian but one
would be hard put to identify the décor with any one
country. Rather, it is a flight of the imagination to an
idealized Asian venue.
This theme is carried through to the menu. "It is a
pan-Pacific/Asian-type menu. It is not specifically
oriental but a mixture of those flavors."
One specialty of the house is the tandoori dish "They do a
lamp cutlet, a piece of chicken and a piece of fish and
they do it with six different sauces. I would recommend
if you are going to East to try that."
The room has a variety of seating. There are open tables
and secluded banquettes. In addition, there is a counter
where guests can watch the meals being prepared. "There
is a front galley and they do some preparation in there so
people can see some of the starters being produced.
They do the tandoori dish in there as well so there is a
big tandoori oven and people can see that being produced
as well. There is a bit more theater in the East."
The third specialty restaurant is a Spanish-influenced
experience. For many years, British tourists went to
Spain for a warm weather holiday. As a result, Spanish
cuisine is popular in the UK. The Ramblas, named after
the famous boulevard in Barcelona, is Ventura's wine and
The Ramblas is both bar and dining venue. It has a large
traditional bar, cocktail table seating and restaurant-style
tables. All of this is in a room designed to give the feel
of a patio in Spanish house, complete with trees. Its
wine menu features Sherries and wines from the Iberian
To accompany them, "you have a choice of tapas or
meals. You can do tapas for 2.50 pounds or a meal,
which is three courses with a choice for 5 pounds. So
you can go in there and enjoy a classical guitarist who is
in there at certain times in the evenings [along with the
food and wine]. It opens at 11 and shuts at 11 so it is
from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. for lunch or dinner."
In sum, Ventura not only has a sizeable number of dining
venues but she offers a variety of dining experiences.
The filet mignon in the White Room and the tandoori dish
in the East stand out in my mind. However, I enjoyed
exploring all of the options Ventura offers.
Cruise shipdining- Ventura - P&O Cruises - overview of dining venues
Alasdair Ross, Food and Beverage Manager
One of the three main dining rooms.
A staton in the buffet restaurant.
Above: Frankie's Pizzeria
Below: Frankie's Grill
Above: By the windows of The White Room.
Below: The outdoor terrace of The White Room.
Below: A dinner in East.
(Click on photos for a larger