Watching dolphins jump and dance in the sea around us, eating salty, sweet green peppers in Lanzarote, enjoying watermelon flavoured ice creams in Gran Canaria and playing in the black sand of La Palma. Sitting down to the most wonderful food every day, swimming in pools as the ship pulled out of port and drinking cocktails and mocktails as the sun went down over the Atlantic Ocean. These and so, so many more were all experiences on our two weeks cruising to the Canary Islands, Madeira and Lisbon with children on Ventura with P&O cruises. It was the most wonderful family trip which we will never forget.
We adore P&O cruises. They have a certain quality about them that means you can be on a family holiday which genuinely does have something for everyone. Each member of our family shrieked with joy when we saw Ventura, docked at Southampton, the beautiful P&O livery of a Union Jack splashed across the front.
Stepping on board we knew we were in for a treat. We had sailed with Ventura around Italy three years ago and it felt wonderful to be back on board this beautiful ship. We couldn’t stop grinning at each other – what a perfect start to the summer holidays.
Cruising the Canary Islands on P&O’s Ventura with Kids – On board:
Setting off from Southampton meant we pulled up at the port, P&O staff there to whisk our luggage away for us and we were checked in and ready to relax in no time.
We were in two balcony cabins which were a great space for a family with an interconnecting balcony meaning we could sit out in the sunshine and relax while the kids played in the room (not that this happened often, they were way too busy for that).
We loved the space of the cabins with pull down beds over the top which our cabin steward would pull down in the evening for us while we were at dinner and then have magically whisked away by the time we’d returned from breakfast.
Ventura is so well kitted out that for our first three days at sea travelling down to our first stop of Madeira we had so much to do we didn’t stop.
To start with there are four swimming pools on board which our children (aged 5, 8 and 10) definitely made use of, all three of them splashing about while we sat back and enjoyed the sunshine and the occasional cocktail while watching on.
We really threw ourselves into the cruise, taking every opportunity to enjoy everything on offer and there really is so much.
I took myself up to the spa for a long-awaited hair cut on one of the sea days. It was lovely to have the time to relax and enjoy it – something that rarely happens at home between school runs, work deadlines and a house to look after.
For the first time ever I also visited the gym on board a ship. Having taken the first tentative steps into running a couple of months ago it was wonderful to spend a couple of hours in the gym, watching the ocean’s rhythmic blue waves in front of me as I took to the running machine. It was a great environment too, with plenty of other first time gym users finding activities, it was a nice community to be part of.
The children adored the kids clubs. We have had a mixed response to kids clubs and it’s not something we regularly do on our holidays but Ventura’s clubs are so well set out. They are organised by ages with 2 – 4 year olds and then 5 – 8 year olds which our youngest two went to and loved the scrapbook making, pirate quest and dance competitions. Our ten year old thought his group of 9 – 12 year olds was great fun, especially when they were making mocktails and playing ‘assassins’. All the kids clubs are included in the price of the cruise so even if it’s a case of the kids going off for an hour so we could eat dinner as a couple and chat it was easy to drop them in and out. It’s great to know that there’s a teen club too (future planning!).
I really like that Ventura also organises activities for families, so we went along to an ice cream magnet making workshop which was lovely to sit down together and have a go at.
We really embraced the entertainment this year too with our eight year old daughter wanting to go to every show the Headliners Theatre Company put on – from dancing to the show tunes, she loved it and it was brilliant to give her the opportunity to take in a show every evening, they are so professionally done.
The older two also loved that there was a ventriloquist on board who had been on Britain’s Got Talent and they thought he was hilarious.
There was so, so much more going on that you could attend from classes to learn how to use your camera through to dance lessons and morning yoga. It really is a varied, wonderful mix of fun. One of the activities we enjoyed was shuffleboard on the top deck, what’s not to love?!
Cruising the Canary Islands on P&O’s Ventura with Kids – Food:
P&O’s food on board their ships can only be described as fantastic. It really is wonderful with three course, silver service meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you want it. The food is outstanding and with separate chefs for any allergy sufferers everyone is catered for. As a vegetarian I had my own waiter who would come over every evening with the following day’s menus (which all had veggie options) and a special vegetarian menu so I could make my choice. I was really pleased to see that there are also a number of vegan options being listed on the menus too.
We ate so well on Ventura with dishes including Tomato and Mozzarella gnocchi with a pine nut crumb and Swordfish steak with sautéed potatoes and fine beans. My favourite was a roasted cauliflower curry which was incredible and the purple potato gnocchi was also really good.
There were plenty more options on board including pizzas on the top deck, a grill for burgers, a full buffet restaurant which was open nearly all day and a kids tea at 5pm each day, all of these included in the price of the cruise, along with enormous offerings at breakfast and special roasts at the weekend.
If you wanted to there were some speciality dining options that you could pay a little more for too. The great thing about P&O cruises is that the food is so good in the restaurants you really can go on board with the price of your cruise and not pay any extra. However the opportunity to eat from the menus designed by celebrity chefs at a fraction of the price you would pay to eat at their restaurants on land is an incredible one and we took advantage of this and definitely recommend giving them a go.
To start with we ate in Marco Pierre White’s Epicurean at the White Room which was such a wonderful experience. They had a great offer where kids only pay 50% of the price so it was really nice to be able to take them along and I love that if you want they can just eat off the regular P&O menu at the table so you only pay for the adult meals – all ways to make it even more affordable. The seven course meal we had was simply delicious with starters including a duo of cured smoked salmon hand-carved at your table and Woodland Spinach and Mushroom Mille-Feuille, all served in the breathtaking setting of the 17th deck, watching the ocean as we dined.
We also ate at Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu Restaurant which was a feast for the senses. Such beautiful Indian food, all perfectly spicy and flavoursome. There are of course some incredible vegetarian dishes including a Chana Pakodi Chaat with black chickpea dumplings and masala houmous, as well as a Lasooni Machhi – a tasty salmon fillet with a tomato and tamarind sauce which Mr G loved.
There’s a Beach House restaurant on board which has delicious American style food which we ate in one night and you can also take the lovely Eric Lanlard’s afternoon tea which is a really imaginative twist on a traditional version and all the better for it. There is also a great Costa Cafe where you can order frozen iced fruity drinks or frothy cappuccinos –
With ice cream from Jude’s (which we have since discovered at Waitrose so are indulging in the memories) available too it’s fair to say that you can eat and eat very well on P&O’s Ventura (and I haven’t even talked about the amazing breakfasts which come with vegetarian bacon and sausages for me, smoothie of the day for the kids and enough to really keep us going on our port stops).
Cruising the Canary Islands on P&O’s Ventura with Kids – The port stops:
One reason for choosing this particular cruise with P&O was the opportunity for us to visit the Canary Islands. We loved the idea of the guaranteed sunshine the islands provided but weren’t sure whether it would be too touristy and taking a cruise to sample the islands seemed like a great way to check them out. I cannot tell you how happy we were to do so, we were presented by a variety of the islands, each so different from the last and every one turned our preconceptions about the Canaries on its head.
First stop was to Madeira where some of the excursions you could take with P&O included taking the cable car up the mountain and tobogganing down, or going canyoning. We have visited fairly recently on a winter trip to Madeira so we decided to wander the old town, seeing all the painted doors and spend time at Reid’s Hotel swimming and having lunch. A massive benefit to taking the excursions with P&O is that they guarantee that you will make it back on board and having been on one cruise where we very nearly did miss it (a broken down train followed by rush hour traffic creating a situation where I thought I might pass out from the stress of it all) it is certainly something to consider.
Next up was La Palma the first of the Canary Islands and one of the smallest. This was absolutely beautiful and we wandered straight from the ship in to the centre of the town which was so picturesque and wonderful to explore.
The real showstopper for La Palma though was its black sand beach. We just couldn’t stop looking at it, eyes wide at the sheer colour of it and the contrast with the sea’s white horses dancing over the top. We spent a long time on this beach, splashing in the sea and playing in the sand.
Tenerife came next and I was ready for the ‘Brits abroad’ look I’d conjured up in my mind. It couldn’t have been further from the reality. We walked through the beautiful streets, a real Spanish vibe about the town of Santa Cruz we were docked in. The African Market was absolutely buzzing and it was wonderful to mingle with the locals here, soaking up the atmosphere. I love the cafe culture of Santa Cruz, people spending the time enjoying the sunshine, drinking coffee and eating pastries. We bought ice creams and then found the fantastic Garcia Sanabria park with its playgrounds and cacti gardens, perfect for exploring.
P&O offer excursions here to Mount Teide National Park or to eat tapas with a Spanish family amongst many others.
Gran Canaria is the only island I have been to and that was years ago. I stayed in a resort and my memories of the island were nothing like the reality we found in the capital city of Las Palmas where we discovered the city’s beach and the children spent the longest time playing in the sand and splashing in the sea. Next time we want to take the P&O excursion of 4X4 Adventures which looked wonderful but was full by the time we came to book which is my top tip to book port stop excursions early if there’s one you like the look of.
Alongside Tenerife I had a very dubious image of Lanzarote in my head which was absolutely not the reality. This beautiful island had me hooked from the moment we docked with its whitewashed low-rise buildings reminiscent of somewhere in Greece. There were harbours dotted about with boats bobbing gently and we stopped to watch the fish swimming in the waters below the bridges as we crossed in to the centre of Arrecife. We bought aloe vera plants here, paddled in the beautifully clear sea and then had the most amazing meal of tapas with delicious peppers, Canarian potatoes and Spanish omelette. It was one of those feel-good moments you want to savour and remember forever. Perfect summer holiday fodder.
Then it was another day at sea when P&O imaginatively put on a village fair on the top deck, all in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. There was hook-a-duck, bowling and guess the weight of the cake and most of all a really fun atmosphere for a great cause. I love that P&O do this.
Then our final stop of Lisbon, one of my favourite cities and just beautiful in the July sunshine. We took the tram to the Belem district for the famous pastel de nata (custard tarts) and soaked up the beautiful atmosphere around the old town and the parks.
For us this itinerary was perfect, allowing us to try places we weren’t sure about and now that we are determined to return to, plenty of time at sea to actually enjoy Ventura but also some wonderful adventures on land. To pull back the curtains each morning and find somewhere new we had been brought to was such a fun experience.
Cruising the Canary Islands on P&O’s Ventura with Kids – Our verdict:
We are massive P&O fans as they know what they’re doing and do it so well. We absolutely loved our time on board Ventura, it’s a beautiful ship jam-packed with activities and fun but so calm that you wouldn’t even know half of it was going on unless you seek it out which for us is the perfect mix.
The itinerary through the Canaries, Madeira and Lisbon was fantastic, showcasing these beautiful islands and cities and really opening our eyes to places we wouldn’t have even thought about travelling to.
As we stood on our balcony, heading home on the last stretch of this two-week adventure, dozens of dolphins leaped alongside us, playfully chasing the churning waters as we passed through. We all stood watching, yelling happily every time another one jumped through the waves. It had been an amazing fortnight of experiences, adventures and precious family time. We didn’t want it to end.
Check out our short film of our time on board Ventura here:
Find out more about P&O Cruises here – http://www.pocruises.com/
We were guests of P&O for the purposes of this review but all opinions are our own.