Having never cruised with P&O Cruises prior to 2017 we’ve now completed three short holidays with them on two ships, Ventura and Azura, sister ships of the Grand-class design operated by either P&O or Princess. As such, it seems only reasonable to compare the two ships and give an opinion as to which is better or worse in any particular area, the obvious caveats of this being it’s naturally a subjective review of the cruise ships and everything is dependent on how the ship and crew were on the dates that we sailed.
Nothing obvious to distinguish state rooms on Azura and Ventura other than the art in our room which felt more vibrant, youthful, fun in Ventura as you can just about tell from the comparison photos below. There was a more grown up feel in our Azura rooms. For reference we have stayed in cabins A610 and B237 on Azura and we’ve stayed in B215 on Ventura. Space and layout were identical.
The bed’s mattress on our Ventura cruise was on its last legs – very obviously suffering a dip but not enough to cause discomfort or give me reason to complain for the short trip we were taking – but there is a planned refit in 2018 that will hopefully refresh this.
Azura requires you to put a card in a slot to turn on lights in your room; Ventura does not. We prefer not having to do this and not just because we’ve almost walked out with our card left in the room on occasion. While the idea behind the card slot seems reasonable – reduces electricity usage for the lights in the room when you’re not in there – this is offset by finding all the TVs left on when you walk into cabins when you first arrive. I’m pretty sure they eat up far more power in that time than a handful of light bulbs for an entire cruise.
In terms of layout the pools on Ventura were the same as on Azura for all intents and purposes. To see pictures of the pools on Azura see here: P&O Azura or On Azura. The one big change was that one of the pools was covered on Ventura.
Having a covered pool makes a lot of sense when taking a cruise in northern Europe late in the season and it’s certainly worth considering when weighing up Azura or Ventura for similar cruise ships depending on the time of year you’re cruising. As an added bonus the covered pool reduced the amount of space for smokers to light up on the starboard side of the top deck which made for a more pleasant walk to the buffet for breakfast in the mornings.
Late Night Lounge: Metropolis/Planet Bar
The late night lounge at the top of the ship, aft (and equivalent to Skywalkers Nightclub on Princess ships) is either the Planet Bar on Azura or Metropolis on Ventura. There’s nothing to choose between them in terms of their layout or functionality (either a pianist or the ship’s resident acoustic duo on alternate nights providing some gentle live music) but this is a location where Azura wins out over Ventura.
Planet Bar, Azura
The Planet Bar has a sculpture related to the theme and large TV screens providing fabulous, relaxing views of the planet (naturally); Metropolis has some abstract piece of metal that could possibly be a deflated weather balloon and plain, black, glass panels. By way of comparison Ventura’s Metropolis feels colder, quieter, and duller than Azura’s venue and it was definitely less busy on our cruise.
The big overall difference in the two ships to us is that Azura feels a little more modern than Ventura but Ventura typically feels warmer, cosier, and friendlier (Metropolis notwithstanding). This can be demonstrated immediately with a comparison of the atrium areas of both ships. While both are laid out identically and contain identical main features Ventura’s atrium has pleasing, relaxing, warm accent colours whereas Azura is more monochromatic and has a light sculpture that somehow feels a little oppressive in the space.
Cocktail Bar: Red/Blue
At the top of the atrium on both ships is the piano/cocktail bar: Blue on Azura, Red on Ventura. On Ventura the colours are plain to see and, being red, there’s warmth in the decor. On Azura it’s less obvious where the blue influences are and the carpeting looks like something from the 1980s: bold, bright, really not right for the area. The warmer colours on Ventura should have made the area feel more enclosed but we actually found the opposite to be true with the Red Bar seeming to have more space in it.
Ventura, Red Bar
Azura, Blue Bar
Both bars suffered from slow bar service. We’re not sure why but on three trips with P&O on their cruise ships we’ve yet to get a drink quickly from the Red or Blue bars even when there’s been practically nobody else around. Maybe that’s their signature move.
The Glass House
This venue is the main location to get wine (P&O keep a great range of wine very well) and it serves some food for a modest fee. As an aside we’ve only eaten here on Ventura but can happily say that the food was absolutely fantastic for the price; some of the tastiest, most succulent fish I’ve ever eaten, and plenty of it; far superior to the main dining room food, hence the additional cost, but highly recommended.
In terms of decor fitting the name of the venue Azura wins with its clean, mostly white, glass-like look. But, again, Ventura feels cosier even if the Mediterranean theme present looks a bit dated and was obviously prepared for the venue’s previous name on the ship, Ramblas. You’ll have to take my word on how the place looks on Azura because I don’t have any decent photos that show it off.
Glass House, Ventura
Midship Lounge: Tamarind/Malabar
There’s not a lot to choose between these cabaret lounges on either ship when it comes to functionality or appearance. Both have a touch of the exotic to them and both had similar events taking place during the days and nights. Ventura’s Tamarind lounge, however, was the clear winner when it came to not smelling like it had sewage running down its wall, an affliction suffered by Azura’s Malabar on both occasions we’ve sailed on her seven months apart.
Ventura, Tamarind Lounge
Azura, Malabar Lounge
The largest lounges on the ships, situated aft, were both pretty similar again, differing only in very slight aesthetic changes. Hence there being only the one photo from our most recent cruise. Manhattan on Azura was always rammed in the evenings when we wandered past so we never stayed; by contrast Ventura’s Havana was busy but there was always room on our trip so we made sure to pop in when the music sounded like something we’d appreciate and we had an enjoyable time listening to the DJ and people-watching tipsy passengers dancing.
The pub on board Azura is called Brodie’s; the equivalent on Ventura is The Exchange. The layout, available space, and general decor for The Exchange was quite poor compared to Brodie’s. The theatre is the Arena on Ventura and the Playhouse on Azura; we never went in the latter so cannot compare them although I imagine they’re identical.
I can’t remember what the carpeting looks like on Azura along the photo gallery section between Malabar and Manhattan as it didn’t seem interesting enough for me to photograph but on Ventura the corridor that runs from Tamarind to Havana is certainly bold and interesting to walk on if you’re drunk or the seas are rough, I imagine.
Azura is the newer ship with the most recent designs and it’s targeted at a general cruiser. Ventura is older, seems geared towards families a bit more, and has some (some might say) dated looks and feels in places. There are certainly areas where Ventura could improve – the pub/casino layout could do with a shift around, the Glass House might benefit from a few design tweaks more in line with its name, and Metropolis would be improved with something more in line with the big city feel of its name too – but given a choice between cruising on the two ships with identical itineraries we would pick Ventura over Azura as it feels friendlier. That said, there’s very little to choose overall as you’d expect from sister ships run by the same cruise company and from a purely practical perspective the only thing you might really need to consider when selecting Azura or Ventura for a cruise with P&O would be whether a covered swimming pool would be beneficial.