P&O doesn't go in for the huge West End-style productions the big US ships have popularised. Instead, expect British comedy; revue-type shows where the emphasis is on the singing talents of the performer rather than what's going on behind her; and magicians, ventriloquists and tribute acts.
There are two main shows nightly in the Arena Theatre (Decks 6 & 7) forward, (times vary; either 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; or 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., to accommodate the two set dining times.
Ventura's in-house performance group Headliners Theatre Company, put on various singing and dancing revue shows throughout the cruise in the Arena Theatre, and also individual performers from the group were showcased at different spots around the ship. On our cruise the main theatre hosted a genuine star -- Jimmy James, a soul legend (not a tribute act) -- as well as Gareth Oliver, a Britain's Got Talent finalist, who entertained with his ventriloquism and comedy on two separate evenings (in typical British fashion, the daily Horizon magazine stated: "Tonight Gareth returns with a brand new show, completely different to his previous performance -- this time it's funny!")
Elsewhere on the ship, the two main venues for live entertainment are The Tamarind Club, which is a walk-through venue on Deck 7; and Havana, right at the back of the ship. In both these venues you'll find singers or bands on at various times throughout the evening. There is also a guest band depending where the ship is based, which will entertain during the day and at sailaways on the Pool Deck. Havana is also the nightclub, with a DJ and dancing till late.
There are a number of bars and lounges. The Metropolis Bar, on Deck 18 aft, is the classiest, reminiscent of a city centre five-star hotel bar. Each evening a plasma screen showed photos of a different city -- such as New York or London -- with a new city each night over a seven-day period. It's a place to sip a martini and gaze at the night sky.
The 'pub', called The Exchange, is on Deck 6 forward. It offers a wide selection of beers on tap and in bottles, as well as sporting events on wide screens and the inevitable karaoke evenings. The ship's casino Fortunes is adjacent and houses the usual game tables and slot machines. Check out its bar -- model trains (look for the Royal Scot and the Flying Scotsman, among others) run around it.
The Red Bar is, as the name suggests, red, and is an attractive drinking hole at the top of the three-story atrium and has a pianist every evening.
There are a number of outside bars, the two most popular are Breakers Bar, on Deck 16 overlooking the pool; and Laguna, on the Pool Deck, where some people sit and drink all day. They are both very noisy and crowded, with continuous booming music. If you want something quieter, head to the adjacent Beachcomber Bar, beside the part-indoor (there is a retractable roof) Beachcomber Pool. If you want something even quieter head to the Terrace Bar, above the Terrace Pool right at the aft of the ship (you have to walk through Waterside to get there.)
Ventura Public Rooms
A central focus is the ship's three-deck atrium. Around each deck you'll find a cluster of public spaces, such as a collection of shops, purser's desk, shore excursions, Internet cafe and a Costa coffee bar, called Tazzine. Live bands perform here some evenings, and the Captain's welcome drinks take place here too, but it's not a destination area such as the atriums on Princess and Carnival ships.
In the refit, a new perfumery replaced the old library on Deck 6. The library is well-stocked, and you can sit with a good book or do a jigsaw. There is also a bookshop next door. Off the atrium you'll find Whitewalls Art Gallery, where you can buy or reserve art (note there are no auctions onboard). The photo gallery is on Deck 7, aft.
High up on Deck 16 adjacent to the Spa is The Ivory Suite, whose primary use is for marriage ceremonies, but can also be hired for meetings. The Peninsular Room on Deck 6 is another meeting room.
One nice feature -- though it isn't technically a "room" -- is the full wrap-around promenade deck on Deck 5. It's excellent for walking or simply pulling up a chair and enjoying the view.
There are two small self-service launderettes on each deck, right at the back of the ship.
Ventura Spa & Fitness
The Oasis Spa is far bigger than the spas on any other P&O Cruises ship, and is now even larger following the 2013 refit and addition of the adults-only area called The Retreat. This is a concept pioneered on sister ship Azura, and proved so popular P&O has added it to Deck 17, right at the front of the ship.
The Retreat (9 a.m. – 8 p.m.) consists of just 49 deck chairs and is bookable on a weekly basis and costs £350 per fortnight, per couple; £200 for a a single for 2 weeks (prices are still being decided for a week, when Ventura repositions to the Mediterranean). What The Retreat offers is: 1. Kids free area; 2. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (should you wish), every day. 3. A guaranteed deck chair. The fee includes access to the Thermal Spa, and you are just above the Oasis Pool, so there's easy access to that. There's not much up there apart from the deck chairs, a couples' cabana and changing rooms but on our cruise it was sold out by day two, so it is popular. Note that once 49 passes have been sold, that's it -- in other words it never gets crowded.
In the Oasis Spa there is a hair and beauty salon offering the usual range of hair, face and manicure/pedicure treatments for ladies and gentlemen. There are 13 treatment rooms, again offering the usual onboard treatments ranging from a 50-minute stone massage (£83), to a 75-minute 24 karat gold facial (£230).
There are also plenty of deals on offer such as pre-booking treatments and getting discounts of up to 30 percent.
The Thermal Suite (£12 a day, or £100 per person for a one-week pass) has hot and cold rooms and heated mosaic beds. Numbers are carefully controlled and it is advisable to buy a pass and book a daily slot to guarantee getting in.
If you don't fancy paying a fee, there are free saunas and steam rooms in the main changing rooms, just as you enter.
The Oasis Pool is located outside the spa and has two hot tubs. Again, it is adults only.
Ventura also has the biggest gym of any P&O ship, with the usual assortment of treadmills, cross-trainers, cycles and weights. There are a huge number of exercise classes (Walk a Mile, Fab Abs, Legs, Bums & Tums etc.), some of which carry a fee, such as Body Sculpt Boot Camp. You can also opt for a Health & Wellbeing Cruise Pass, which includes the boot camp and costs £55.40 per person. Or you can hire a personal trainer for an hourly charge of £47.
There are two main pools on the top Lido Deck. The Laguna Pool is the noisy and crowded outdoor one, with two hot tubs and two bars; Beachcomber, comes with a retractable roof so you can swim in all kinds of weather. More private (and more quiet) is the smaller Terrace Pool at the aft end of the ship on the Riviera Deck, behind the Beach House. Note: All are deep (Laguna is more than seven feet deep), way deeper than US ships, so keep a watchful eye on weak swimmers.
Next: Ventura Family
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