Ventura, which launched in 2008, and sister ship Azura (2010), aimed to break the mould for P&O Cruises' 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 is significantly larger -- by 30 percent -- than any other ship in the fleet (bar Britannia, the flagship). This 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 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. There are also no art auctions, just a gallery with discreetly priced artwork. There's a casino onboard as well, 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 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.
The 2013 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.
Ventura has also seen a number of 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 starred chef Atul Kochhar's pan-Asian restaurant East, has become Sindhu, the superb contemporary Indian restaurant popular across the fleet.
The 2015 mini-refit also Marco Pierre White's The White Room replaced by The Epicurean, a molecular gastronomy restaurant which debuted on Britannia. The ship will be going into drydock for another refurb in April 2018.