When the lovely people at P&O asked if I fancied a trip on Ventura, my first thought was obviously “HELL YES”. And then my second thought was “do I have to bring the kids?”. Because as much as I love my little ones to absolute death, there are some things in life that are slightly more enjoyable without my mini-me’s (sorry guys, you’ll understand this one day). Day spas, for example, or fancy restaurants. Nights out and days of culture. These are all usually better without an accompanying wailing baby or a toddler asking “do you need a wee or a poo, mummy?”
But the kiddos were indeed invited on board Ventura and P&O were keen for me to find out all about how family-friendly their facilities are. Apparently I’d be able to visit the spa, fancy restaurants, have nights out and experience some culture all with my kids in tow. Excellent!
Elfie is three and a half and Hux is almost one and a half. Elfie spends five mornings a week at pre-school and Hux four hours at creche, so they’re pretty socialised kids who really enjoy activities and mixing with other children. I can honestly say that they really really loved the children’s clubs on-board.
Ventura has four different kids clubs depending on the age of your children: for 2 to 4 year olds there’s the Toybox, for 5 to 8 year olds there’s Jumping Jacks, The Den is for 9 to 12 year olds and Decibels for the teens up to 17. There’s also Tumblers, a parent-supervised play area for under 2s; unfortunately Hux was too young to be signed into any of the facilities but he really enjoyed playing with other children and I met other parents this way, too. Tumblers also operated a ‘toy library’ which was great for us: we borrowed various toys and books throughout our trip that Hux loved playing with while we were relaxing with a glass of wine on our balcony (more on this later!).
Elfie went crazy for the kids club. Each day was themed: Space day, Jungle Day, Dinosaur Day, Circus day, with different activities planned around this theme. She spent her days getting her face painted, making cookies, going on Gruffalo hunts, making Elf wands… she adored it. The staff were absolutely brilliant and obviously loved their jobs and the kids in their care, they were always so welcoming and warm. They were very accommodating of Elfie’s medical needs too and I was allocated a pager for our whole stay so they could always reach me in case of emergency.
As well as the Kids Club there were other highlights for the children: the Noddy character dinner is something that Elfie keeps talking about and there were special parties for them to attend (I’ve never seen Hux freaked out before but the lifesize Noddy definitely did it for him).
Crucially for me, though, there were night time kids facilities to take advantage of. I don’t get out much so was really looking forward to the opportunity of a couple of lovely meals out, cocktails, live music and, erm, karaoke.
At 7pm the Toybox turns their lights down and story time begins. Elfie would arrive in her PJs and snuggle on beanbags with her new friends to listen to stories followed by DVDs. The latest you could pick them up was 11pm, but if your child is younger than 5 you had the option of transferring them into the night nursery, which is where Hux spent his time. This was a room of cots and toddler beds where babies and toddlers could snooze the night away (until 1am, anyway) while their parents (ME) partied. Your children had to be settled and sleepy by the time you left them and again you got given a pager in case they woke up. I had a couple of interrupted nights out but on the whole Hux was very happy there.
If I were to cruise again I think I would definitely wait until Hux was 2 so I could take advantage of the Toybox for him; as I was unable to leave him in any of the Kids Clubs he had to be accompanied by either my mum or I. However, I spent most of the time mind boggled that such brilliant child-care were offered free of charge and I wouldn’t hesitate using any of the Kids Clubs again. Having such wonderful and structured children’s activities to choose from would definitely be another factor in us choosing a P&O cruise for a holiday.
P&O sent us away for a complimentary week on Ventura but as always I’ll be writing about our experiences completely truthfully. You can read my disclosure on this here.