The Arena Theatre (Decks 6 and 7, forward): P&O Cruises 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. 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!"). In 2018 a new hi-tech LED wall was installed, similar to the one on Britannia and sister ship Azura.
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. The theater doubles as a cinema during the day, sowing a selection of films.
* May require additional fees
There's plenty of going on all day throughout the ship, with a full programme published daily in The Horizon, which will be delivered to your cabin the night before.
You'll find quizzes and bingo in The Exchange pub (Deck 6, forward) throughout the day. You'll find tennis and table tennis on the sports deck (Deck 19) and deck quoits and shuffleboard on the Sun Deck (Deck 16); bridge and whist take place in the Peninsular Room (Deck 6).
Films are shown throughout the day in the Arena Theatre.
There is a small casino, Fortunes, which adjoins The Exchange. Note there is no smoking anywhere inside the ship, including the casino.
Tazzine (Deck 5, midships): Costa Coffee cafe in the main atrium, serving specialty coffees and pastries.
The Exchange (Deck 6 forward): The ship's pub 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 Tamarind Club (Deck 7): A walk-through venue on Deck 7, where you'll find a dance floor and plenty of seating. This is a populart spot for a pre-dinner drink and you'll also find singers and bands playing here from early evening.
Havana (Deck 7, aft): Right at the back of the ship. 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 and the venue for the early evening family disco. This is also where you'll find Craig Revel Horwood and the professional dancers from Strictly Come Dancing put passengers through their paces, thanks to P&O's ongoiung link-up with the popular BBC show.
The Red Bar (Deck 7): An attractive drinking hole at the top of the three-story atrium which has a pianist playing every evening.
The Glass House (Deck 7): Wine guru Olly Smith's popular spot for wine sampling and small eats.
The Terrace Bar (Deck 15): A lovely spot at the aft of the ship overlooking the pool, with a wrap around balcony with plenty of seating and wonderful views.
Laguna Bar (Deck 15): Main pool deck bar, which is crowded and noisy throughout the day.
Beachcomber Bar (Deck 15): This is beside the part-indoor (there is a retractable roof) Beachcomber Pool.
Breaker's Bar (Deck 16): Overlooking the main pool deck.
The Metropolis Bar (Deck 18): This is the classiest spot onboard and the one witbn the best views, 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.
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 which also serve free snacks such as pizza and burgers. There is also a newly-installed (2017) ice cream shop, selling Jude's icecream. Nearby, the Beachcomber Pool is under a retractable roof so you can swim in all kinds of weather. It has two hot tubs either side. 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 children.
The Retreat (Deck 17): This adults-only, for-fee area was added following the 2013 refit and 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. 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. (Open: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.)
Sports Court (Deck 19): You'll find the Sports Court right at the top of the ship, towards the aft. It is designed as a basketball court, but offers a range of equipment for playing various sports including short tennis, cricket and football. Friendly tournaments for adults and children take place during the day. Directly below here ar the golf nets.
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 on Britannia.
On Deck 6 you'll find most of the shops, including a handbag shop, jewellers, logo shop and watches. The library is also here; it's 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. Just before bhere is a Dixons, where you can get chargers, headphones, leads and memory cards.
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.
The ship’s Wi-Fi is available in three 24-hour package options; The Connect Package (£7.75 for 24 hours) provides social media access and internet messaging services; The Browse Package (£12.50) offers internet browsing (with the exception of video streaming), internet messaging, email and social network access; and The Works Package (£24.95) offers web browsing, including YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music streaming, video calls, email, instant messenger services and social media access.
In the Oasis Spa there is a hair and beauty salon offering a wide range of hair, face and manicure/pedicure treatments for ladies and gentlemen. There are 13 treatment rooms, offering 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 (especially on port days) 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.
Ventura is one of five family friendly ships in the eight-strong P&O Cruises' fleet. But be warned, though the ships are family friendly in terms of their facilities, it's a different story if you venture out of school holiday times. P&O Cruises' classic cruiser -- over-60, retiree, not too fond of kids -- still dominates on these ships in term time and on longer cruises.
Of the five (Azura, Oceana, Aurora and newest ship Britannia are the others), Ventura is arguably the most family friendly, with a massive kids' club called The Reef at the back of the ship on Deck 16. It is divided into five age groups: Tumblers (6 months – 2); Splashers (2 - 4); Surfers (5 - 8); Scubas (9 - 12) and H2Os (13 - 17). Note that under-2s must be accompanied by a parent.
It is the biggest kids' club on any ship in the fleet and has separate rooms for each age group to play and hang out in -- (Toybox, Jumping Jacks, The Den and Decibels) -- with a packed daily activities programme to keep the youngsters entertained. Each room has age-appropriate facilities, such as soft play for the Tumblers, a climbing frame for the Surfers, ping-pong for the Scubas and video games for the teens. All under-13s must be signed in and out; teens come and go as they please. Kids are welcome to use all the pools (bar Oasis) onboard, but there is a dedicated splash pool and a dip pool outside the children's club.
At the start of the cruise, parents (and kids) are welcomed by a super-exuberant and large kids' club team (The Reef Rangers) 12 decks below in the Havana room, which also plays host to the kids' discos and visits from Mr Bump and Little Miss Sunshine. They outline what's on offer throughout the cruise, which might include a scavenger hunt, painting, drawing, dressing up, theme days or the aforementioned family disco.
Opening hours for The Reef are 9 a.m. - noon,1 p.m. - 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. - midnight. A night nursery operates from 6 p.m. - 2 a.m. and is open to kids from 6 months to 5 years old. Parents are issued with pagers.
There is a dedicated space in The Beach House, which is put aside from 5 p.m. - 6p.m. for children's tea, with a selection of kids' favourites (fish fingers, baked beans etc.).