Ventura, which launched in 2008, and sister ship Azura (2010), aimed to break the mould for P&O ships -- bigger, contemporary and family-friendly. The idea was to transform what many people consider P&O's somewhat stuffy ambience to one more in tune with the times -- as well as making a play for the market all UK cruise lines are chasing: new to cruise. By popular consensus, they appear to have succeeded.
Firstly, Ventura (and Azura) is significantly larger -- by 30 percent -- than any other ship in the fleet. That means there's more room for contemporary amenities -- such as expanded kids' facilities, a vast spa, numerous dining venues, and lots of recreational activities (three pools, sports court, golf nets). There is also a significant change in décor: the walls are covered in hip, contemporary art and the decor is a combination of rich burgundy carpets and cream-coloured walls: reminiscent of a five-star London hotel.
In fact, it is hard to find many signs of traditional P&O Cruises in the hardware -- no card room for example (a mainstay on the older, smaller adults-only ships), no faux fireplaces or trompe d'oeil artwork to be found anywhere, and no art auctions, just a gallery with discreetly-priced artwork. There's also a casino onboard, albeit a small one.
The passengers make up is also markedly different. Yes, there are still the over-60s that P&O is known for attracting, but also lots of families with children, especially in the school holidays.
In April 2013, the ship had a multi-million pound makeover which saw a general ship-wide spruce up including new soft furnishings in the cabins and new carpets throughout.
The refurb also saw the addition of a number of features that have proven popular on P&O's other ships. Perhaps the most significant is the adults-only area The Retreat on the forward area of Deck 16. This is a for-fee, limited-number space which is P&O's version of the 'ship-within-a-ship' concept proving popular on MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. It seems slightly at odds with its 'family-friendly' tag to have an adults-only area, but it's proved a big success on Azura, where it was first trialled.
Ventura has also seen two culinary changes: Wine guru Olly Smith's The Glass House has replaced the Ramblas restaurant on Deck 7 (he's also chosen the wines dispensed in the new Enomatic wine dispensing systems dotted around the ship); and Michelin star chef Atul Kochar has put his name and stamp on East, the superb contemporary Indian restaurant.
The refit also saw 18 new single cabins installed, 12 outside and six inside; a new dance floor in the atrium; a new perfumery has replaced the old library and there is Wi-Fi throughout the ship.