Iona – A Pre-Christmas Cruise Diary

This was our second attempt at sailing on P&O’s latest addition to their fleet having had her ‘Original Maiden’ cancelled due to the dreaded Covid pandemic.

This particular cruise was chosen mainly for the itinerary, even though we’d visited all the ports of call on a number of previous occasions…

The particular choice was made due to a wish to  visit friends who live in Hamburg. So with just 3 weeks to go we had to ‘grin and bear it’ when we received a notification that following the German government’s decision to close its borders to UK residents Hamburg was replaced by Le Havre:  c’est la vie, we were still going on a cruise…

…and were determined to make the most of it.

For this particular cruise we had booked a GF Grade Balcony Cabin on Deck 15…

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Prior to joining the one thing that struck me the most was the improvements made by P&O on their pre-cruise online service…

….where one could view, plan and book a number of dining and entertainment packages in advance through their ‘My P&O Cruises’ web portal…

There were both entertainment and dining options available to pre- book that were also pre-payable and these of course attracted the relevant loyalty discount: in our case the ‘Caribbean’ tier worth 10%.

Another great advantage of the ‘My P&O Cruises’ portal was the up to date information on health requirements and  joining instructions plus the ability to print off boarding passes and luggage labels.

We arrived at Southampton’s Ocean Terminal no more than 10 minutes prior to our designated joining time of 12.00 midday and handed our luggage to waiting porters. We were promptly directed to the in-house Covid testing centre which was all arranged in a most efficient manner. Once swabbed we proceeded to the check in area to await our ‘negative’ results: which were texted to us  in 19 and 21 minutes. That was the signal to approach final check-in,  and once completed we were soon passing through security.  We were onboard before 12.30 when we were directed to the Opal Restaurant for our Caribbean level joining lunch and wine.

Passengers were required to wear masks whilst moving about the ship and also whilst seated, unless they were eating or drinking.

A nice touch on embarking into the Grand Atrium was the Christmas musical entertainment provided by this really excellent female trio…

Cabins were ready just before 1.30 pm and on arrival at ours we found that  luggage had already been delivered.

Cabin 15253 was a good choice and of course would have been even more advantageous had we been destined for sunnier climes –  with its double sized balcony…

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The ensuite bathroom…

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…and that rather large balcony….

….and viewed from below…

Once settled onboard we were now able to make the utmost use of another P&O digital aid, the ‘My Holiday App’. While not actually an App we saved the webpage to our iPhone screens and used it just like an App. That’s it down in the bottom right hand corner…

It’s basically such an essential bit of kit for collating one’s activity onboard and the wifi from which it picks its information is free whilst onboard Iona. We were able to  view menus, book meals, join virtual queues and check our account. P&O certainly got this right and could teach Virgin cruises a thing or two. More about its use later.

We were, of course,  keen to make the most of our early embarkation and  explore this new ship and get our bearings.

What immediately struck us was the size and decor of Iona. Big as she is her layout was very easily navigated for regular cruisers,  with bright, wide passageways and good directional signage.  The majority of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues are centred on, or adjacent to,  Decks 6, 7 and 8 and Iona’s hub, the Grand Atrium…

….which was, of course, tastefully  decorated for Christmas…

….and may I say, very tastefull they were. 

Easily reached from the central Grand Atrium are a number of P&O favourites: Andersons, Sindhu,  and the quintessential British Pub, Brodies.

Facing onto the Atrium was a new concept in drinking and food,…

 

…while another old favourite, The Glass House, fronted onto the Atrium’s  Deck 7 level.

Leading off the Grand Atrium Deck 7, in an aft direction, and as far back as the Coral Restaurant was the ‘Avenue Shopping’ area –  large arcade style retail area with many outlets to suit most pockets. I was particularly pleased to see something new to P&O, a ‘Gadget Shop’ specialising in high tech products…

Meanwhile, Deck 6 of the Grand Atrium also hosted the Emerald Bar…

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….Vistas Coffee Bar …

…and another new concept, The Gary Barlow inspired 710 Club…

 

More about all these entertainment and dining venues under the ‘Life Onboard Iona’ section later in the blog.

After the Grand Atrium the next of Iona’s spectacular innovations is The SkyDome…

The SkyDome sits on two decks, 16 and 17, and is a multi purpose venue, with food and drink available, as well as a swimming pool, sun loungers and whirlpools, double entertainment stages and a moveable platform to cover the pool during some showtime performances.

The Deck 17 level has circular banquette seating in addition to the standard tables and chairs on the outer side…

…while on Deck 16 is another new dining innovation, Taste 360° …

Outside deck areas were never going to feature with any importance on this particular itinerary and certainly not in Northern European waters in December. For the record however I will include a selection of photographs if only to show the more than ample spaces available on Iona. Here we go then,

 

 

 

Before moving onto ‘Life Onboard’ it is worth mentioning two other facilities. Firstly of course, as with all P&O ships, there is a complimentary laundrette on each deck. This was the  laundrette we had on Deck 15…

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The other facility that we noticed, and which we thought a really good innovation, the provision throughout the ship of water fountains…

 

And so to how we found LIFE ONBOARD…

Without any doubt, my wife and I agree that both dining and entertainment exceeded our expectations. We arrived onboard knowing we only had a week and with a determination to sample as much as was on offer in that space of time.

Being rather traditionalist, and set in our ways, we always head immediately for the Crow’s Nest…

…for our sail-away down the Solent…

…where we tend to remain till we have passed Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, and our own home at Lee on the Solent. That usually involves some serious drinking and this cruise was no exception.

Next up for us was a visit to The Clubhouse…

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…where we had our first experience of the excellent resident Party Band, Pulse…

…. very good they were too. We’d be seeing a lot more of them over the next week.

While at the Clubhouse we were able to join the virtual queue for our chosen dining venue for the evening, The Keel and Cow…

It’s worth pointing out at this point that Iona is 100% Freedom Dining and once one has mastered the ‘App’ then dining onboard is one’s oyster. As shown above, there were 4 guests ahead in the queue but within a couple of minutes my iPhone pinged with the message that ‘our table was ready’…

There are additional item charges at this dining venue which were of no great issue to us. The menu was most comprehensive…

Wine and food ordered, the carnivore DNA in us was about to be more than satisfied. First up a starter of Sticky Duck Drumstick with Bao Buns…

…followed by an 8oz fillet steak for my wife and an 18oz T-Bone for my good self…

That was indeed one grand T-Bone…

Exceedingly well fed and with no room for a dessert we returned to the Clubhouse for a nightcap.  Wow, this was one popular venue and we were eventually lucky to find a seat.

The following day, Sunday 12 December,  we arrived early at Zeebrugge. A glance outside indicated it was raining and, as we had visited many time before, we were in no rush to get ashore. We took our first leisurely breakfast in the Coral Restaurant and very relaxed it was too..

Zeebrugge is the port from where the most popular visits are Bruges and/or Ghent. The wet weather continued through mid morning and, as previously stated, we have visited many times we agreed to remain onboard and continue our programme of discovery.

Here are two links that have featured previously in my blog for similar visits.For Bruges…

One way to do Bruges

 

And for Ghent…

One Way to do Zeebrugge – Ghent Edition

We enjoyed a thoroughly relaxing day enjoying a few beers in Brodies…

…before an excellent light  lunch at Taste 360°

 

During our morning walkabout we’d spotted that they did a ‘Special Dish of the Day’ and todays just happened to appeal to us, ‘Salmon and Mussel Stew with Rye Bread…

A perfect light lunch…

Our evening entertainment commenced earlier than usual as we headed for the SkyDome in order to secure good seats for the Party Band Pulse’s show, A Thing Called Rock…

*Service from the Sky Bar was excellent as was the show…

As the performance neared completion it was once again back onto the App to see what dining options appealed – at that stage we had no speciality restaurants booked. Once more, for illustration purposes to help future cruisers…

We Chose The Coral…

…and before one could say “Jack Robinson’, we were pinged…

What a great system. Now let’s test the Coral Restaurant…

Interesting menu from which something fishy catches my eye…

You guessed, The Miso Glazed Tuna, but first some wine to compliment it…

Now that presentation pleasantly surprised me….

…and not just the sheer size of that Tuna Loin Steak, it really was cooked to order…

The whole meal was exceptional and we were well pleased with our second evening’s dining onboard Iona.

We rounded off the day back in the Clubhouse with the resident DJ ‘s ‘After-Hours’ Party.

The following day, Monday 13 December, saw us into Rotterdam for an overnight stop. Once again, a port we had visited on two previous occasions but, this time I was on a mission. Since our previous visits I had discovered that Rotterdam is also the home of the former Holland America Line’s cruise flagship, SS Rotterdam…

Our pre-cruise research indicated that the SS Rotterdam was around a 20 to 30 minute walk from Rotterdam’s cruise ship berth. It turned out that our second visit target of the day, the former Holland America Line office building, was a stone’s throw from our berth…

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…though today the building has undergone a conversion into the Hotel New York…

Well within our allocated timing we duly arrived at the SS Rotterdam which apart from serving as a museum piece is also a working hotel. Affectionately known as the The Grande Dame of the Seas she presents an interesting visit to any keen historically minded cruise fan…

Prior to boarding our Covid vaccination status was checked…

…and we were soon exploring the masterpiece that was launched in September 1958…

The Reception Area

The Upper Promenade Deck

Down to D Deck and the First Class Passengers’ Indoor Swimming Pool…

Up Forward with a View Over The Bow

 

The First Class passengers’ Ambassador Room and Bar

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My thanks go to maritime historian  Reuben Goossens for his excellent coverage of the SS Rotterdam including some classic deck plans….

http://ssmaritime.com/Rotterdam-V-P6.htm

Our mission complete we returned to Iona’s berth before crossing the Erasmus Bridge to carry out a recce for the following days anticipated visit to the Niece Werk district of Rotterdam.

The onset of sunset served for a quick dash to capture one or two night shots of both the ship and the Erasmus Bridge…

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…not forgetting one of the bridge snapped from our balcony…

We kicked off our evening onboard with a visit to the early evening aerial show in the SkyDome. Entitled ‘Rise’, it was billed as an amazing aviary inspired flight of imagination and we deemed ourselves lucky to find a seat in the packed house…

We weren’t disappointed and once the show was over we used the App to reserve a table at the Olive Grove…

A Mediterranean style speciality restaurant where not all dishes attract a supplementary charge…

…and where  better  to share a bottle of Chianti…

 

Cheers…

We started with separate salads…

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followed by the Chianti & Oregano Lasagne for my wife…

 

…and the Greek Lamb Gyros for myself…

We rounded the meal off with the Handcrafted Turkish Baklava…

and the Sicilian Lemon Tart with Turkish Rosewater Ice Cream…

The printout of my ‘Onboard Account’ informs me we repaired to The Clubhouse for a couple of nightcaps.

 

The following day, Tuesday 14 December, and we were still at our Rotterdam berth. After another excellent breakfast in the Coral Restaurant we headed off and crossed the Erasmus Bridge …

…in the direction of the Rotterdam Maritime Museum…

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…an interesting museum with a working shipwright’s Shop…

…and any number of interesting historical pieces on open display…

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Mind your head…

Leaving the Museum we wandered along the nearby maze of small docking wharfs that are now mainly  mooring berths for numerous historical shipping…

Approximately 15 minutes walk from the Museum we found Rotterdam’s famous  Markthal (Market Hall)…

In the square outside the Markthal is an interesting statue of little significance to British visitors…

It is in fact the rather  exuberant Toonder monument…

…which honours the famous Dutch comic strip artist Marten Toonder. It depicts several of his strip characters, notably Markies de Cantecleer, Mayor Dickerdack, Professor Sickbock and the painter Terpen Tijn.

The Markthal itself is a residential and office building with a colourful market hall underneath…

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Without any doubt the majority of food stalls within the Markthal were selling Dutch Cheeses…

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On our return walk we could not help noticing the number of statues that adorn the Rotterdam scene. This one, adjacent the Maritime Museum ….

…is entitled The Destroyed City.  A bronze memorial sculpture it commemorates the German bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940…

…which destroyed the medieval centre of the city.

Another quirky statue diagonally opposite the Museum is entitled Cascade…

…and is the work of the dutch sculptor, Joep van Lieshout.

Our evening onboard had been decided the day of embarkation. We had booked to dine at Sindhu…

The ocean going venue for contemporary Indian dishes, Sindhu is a firm favourite on several of P&O’s ships and one we would never willingly miss…

Indeed, since our last Sindhu visit there had been a rewrite of the menu…

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To start we both chose the Kerala-Style Spiced Crab Meat Tian…

…supplemented with an interesting addition, the ‘Sev Puri’…

…puffed flatbread bites filled with chickpeas, potato, red onion, yogurt and tamarind chutney – they were an excellent addition.

For our ‘Mains’ Course my wife chose the Duck Tikka Malabari…

 

…while I opted for the Monkfish Plichattu…

…which was accompanied by Tandoori Tiger Prawns.

Desserts were a must: for my wife the Kesar Pista Parfait…

 

…while I settled for the Chocolate Rasmalai…

All in all an excellent dining experience and well worth the additional  charge – inclusive of the wine and post our 10% Caribbean discount – of £70.00 exactly.

We had noted from the Horizon Daily programme that the Limelight Club opened its doors following the evening show for ‘Late Night Limelight’. No booking is required and the Limelight Band …

…play an exciting array of live music…

 

 

Day 5, Wednesday 15 December, was our first sea day and and designated ‘Celebration’ Night. We had a decidedly lazy start and were more than pleased to note that the Coral Restaurant breakfast times had been extended from 9.00 am to 10.00 am.

This morning all onboard were obliged to take the Covid Test that would be of double benefit. It would clear us for tomorrow’s French visit and remain valid for our return to the UK on Saturday. The procedure was really well organised with well promulgated slots. The complimentary testing was held in a revamped Andersons…

…and our ‘negative’ certificates were delivered to cabins later that evening.

Owing to our later than usual breakfast we decided on a late lunch and, it being a no pressure sea day we opted to try out The Glass House. Usual procedure, join the App queue and bingo, in no time at all…

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Being such a good lady, my wife chose the Mini and Mighty option…

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…while yours truly needed something that the Shiraz would compliment and that was no hard decision whatsoever, the Big and Bold Beef selection…

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an excellent choice particularly as oxtail…

…is one of my favourites.

We kicked off our ‘Formal Night’ with photo shoot in the Grand Atrium…

…before heading to the evening’s first show in the SkyDome featuring The Voxens…

 

…singing in their ‘unique’ diva style. A good occasion to also utilise our complimentary drinks vouchers from P&O as a thank you for our loyalty (we’d already gratefully downed the half bottle of Champagne left in the cabin) …

We unfortunately had to depart before the end of the show as we had made a booking for the 8.30 pm dinner at The Chef’s Table…

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Certainly an interesting menu for the Celebration Night dinner.

An easy wine choice as we’d decided on the turbot for main course, a cheeky Italian Piedmont Gavi…

The meal started with an Amuse Bouche, a shot of Gazpacho laced with P&O Cruises very own distilled Marabelle Gin…

…soon followed by Bayonne Ham and Parmesan Mousse for my wife…

…and a Tian of Atlantic Prawns in a smokey Pimento Mayonnaise…

 

…for myself. We had both chosen the same mains, the fillet of turbot with the Viennoise crust…

…and absolutely excellent it was.

Dessert choice was the Tonka Bean Chocolate Teardrop…

Without any doubt it can be said the food quality at the Chef’s Table was exemplary and the night was yet young.

Meal over we headed down to Deck 8 where once again we were in luck to get a seat at The Clubhouse…

…for a ‘Thank you for the 70s’ session  with ‘Party Band Pulse’.

The Clubhouse wasn’t to be our last entertainment venue this evening though. Around the stroke of midnight we legged it down the short distance to 6 Deck ready for the ‘doors open’  12.15 am show at the Gary Barlow  inspired, exclusively for adults,  Vintage Vibe 710 Club…

Once again our luck was in and we managed front row seats…

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Alongside the talented resident band the club showcases a new guest performer every month…

…giving new talent the chance to shine, while the resident band will weave their own spell with numbers inspired by Gary’s life, loves and musical style, creating atmospheric sets crafted for the true music lover.

That’s the guest of the month on the piano, Shane Peckover.

As with our Chef’s table dinner earlier in the evening, this performance in the 710 Club can only be described as ‘outstanding’ and we loved every minute.

 

Day 6, Thursday 15 December, saw us arrive at the French port of Le Havre – the designated alternative to the original itinerary visit to Hamburg.

As stated at the beginning of this blog, we have visited Le havre on numerous occasions and the actual port holds little interest for us, particularly during the winter months.

I had noted from my P&O account pages prior to departure that they were offering a number of options for excursions from Le Havre…

 

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Having only recently visited Normandy and Rouen while on a Viking River Cruise along the Seine River in 2018…

Viking Kadlin from Paris to the Heart of Normandy

…the possibility of visiting Honfleur crossed my mind. It must have been well before 2005 since we last crossed the Channel by car and stayed at this delightful place. I certainly could not find any digital photographs of the place.

If we were going to visit Honfleur the one thing  we would like was to spend maybe a little more time there than was being allowed by the P&O excursion timings.  Research on the internet revealed that there was a regular  bus service between Le Havre and Honfleur and that the bus departure point was adjacent the Le Havre Railway Station. We would give it a go…

After a leisurely breakfast in the Coral restaurant we set off to make the 20 minute walk to the Gare Routière where we purchased two return tickets  for €15.70 ( £13.32 ) for the 28 minute bus ride to Honfleur. The journey was interesting and took us over the Pont du Normandie…

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We discovered that the best bus was the No. 39…

…seen above at the Honfleur bus station (Gare Routière). This was a pleasant 10 minute walk to the most scenic part of Honfleur, the Central Harbour Basin…

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Honfleur is certainly an attractive destination and we spotted many suitable restaurants for our anticipated lunch as we walked around the harbour…

…and the maze of back streets…

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…finally settling on one that caught our eye earlier on and was well positioned should we need to make a post lunch dash for the bus…

With the Muscadet Sur Lie well chilled…

yours truly kicked off with half a dozen oysters…

…before we both settled into a couple of buckets of Moules Frites…

Needless to say we had an excellent lunch and two merry folk safely caught the bus back to Le Havre.

Our evening onboard had been long planned. We had booked a night at the Limelight Club well before we joined the ship – confirmation of the reservation was stored on the ‘App’…

We’ve done The Limelight Club before but not of course on Iona. So it was a great surprise to see that Iona’s venue was considerably larger than the  previous one on Britannia …

…plus, the menu looked decidedly improved…

Wine service was good…

…and we were soon tucking into our starter of Mojito Cured Salmon…

…followed by, for both of us, the Pine Nut Tapenade Crusted Rack of Lamb…

Perfectly cooked to order…

Dessert was good too and we never felt rushed…

The Limelight Club entertainer for this cruise was a guy called Matt Cardle…

…whom I must confess hadn’t registered on any scale of famous musician in my rather philistine musical talent brain. But my wife was well aware of this chap and I was promptly reminded that he was the seventh winner of The X Factor.

To be fair though, by the end of his performance I did appreciate his singing and song writing talents.

And once again I’m more than happy to congratulate P&O on another excellent ocean going concept.

Talking of which, we didn’t hang around long after Matt’s show: we were on a mission to get back into

the 710 club where a different show was scheduled from the previous night…

And boy was this popular…

…the queue stretched almost around the Atrium.

…however, there was plenty of room for those attending. This evenings set was entitled ‘On the Rocks’ and once again proved an outstanding performance…

… with an eclectic mix of great music and  banter…

…that drew a well deserved standing ovation. 

 

Day 7, Friday 17 December, and a programmed sea day. Another  leisurely breakfast in the Coral Restaurant…

…followed by a stop at the Gadget Shop for a programmed talk on ‘Tech Watches’ …

Really good to see they were stocking ‘Apple’ brands : if only that had extended to Apple laptops my day would have been made.

It was also the day to collect our duty free drinks purchases…

These proved most worthwhile when considering the offer price for 4 Litres of Gordon’s Gin for £45.00 when one’s 10% loyalty discount has then to be deducted as well.

It was also the morning to visit the Gingerbread Village which the chefs had established on deck 6 of the Atrium…

As it was a Friday, and a sea day, we decided on a ‘Fish n Chip’ lunch and made our second visit to the casual dining area known as ‘The Quays’…

 

… a multi-venue dining piazza offering an  array of eateries…

…and today’s choice…

There’s no shortage of seating adjacent to the various serving counters…

 

…and with access onto the Promenade Deck, outdoor dining is available too, weather permitting of course.

Our fish and chips were impressive, with perfect batter and just the right size portions…

The Quays does have an adequate centralised buffet dessert station, however today we thought we’d push the boat out and try Ripples..

…the onboard Galateria…

Jolly good it was too.

Around lunchtime the Captain did make an announcement regarding weather and the following days entry back into Southampton. He had made the decision to return to Southampton later that evening which was no skin off anyone’s nose and of course welcome to all passengers who had UK roaming for their internet access.

To kick-off our final evening’s entertainment we headed first for…

Andersons is a rather sophisticated and iconic P&O drinking hostelry that has been taken to a new contemporary level on board Iona…

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It also now appears to be the home of the ship’s Gin Distillery, hence we could not resist the temptation and experience the ‘fresh aromas of a sea breeze’ with their onboard produced  Marabelle Gin….

Suitably imbibed we made a dash for the SkyDome which was the venue for the second of the aerial shows, Triboo…

…a fantasy clash of daring do between two make believe  tribes performed over the pool stage and on high wires.

For dinner this evening we had booked a table at the fine dining speciality restaurant, The Epicurian…

Classic British ingredients and given a modern twist by expert chefs…

 

The Alaskan Snow Crab

The Seared King Scallops

…and the Main Course choices…

To compliment our evening of seafood we chose a crisp Pinot Grigio…

 

The Touchon of Wild Atlantic Halibut Grenoblaise.

 

( A truly magnificent offering)

And For Dessert…

The Belgian Chocolate Jaffa Cake

 

The Lemon Meringue Tart

We found The Epicurian menu exciting and the food quality was outstanding. However, the overall service fell somewhat below the advertised  ‘flawless service’  which was a ‘trifle’ disappointing.

We had earlier in the day booked into the late night performance of the Headliners show, Digital…

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Story wise not quite our ‘cup of tea’ though that’s not to take away anything from the technical wizardry and visual impact of the ever changing backdrops…

This was the sixth performance of this particular show over two nights and there was certainly a strong audience presence for the final stage offering of the cruise.

Our evening entertainment now complete we headed back to our cabin to finish  packing and it was well after midnight that we placed our luggage in the corridor for collection…

…safe in the knowledge that the ship’s clocks were going back at 2.00 am,  bestowing on us an additional hour in bed.

Saturday 18 December and we were to say farewell to the guys at the Coral Restaurant as we took our final breakfast onboard…

 

We had booked a time slot for our personal disembarkation and as we arrived at the designated muster point we were directed immediately to the gangway – all very efficient and well organised.

I had negotiated with our taxi driver to make a detour between the cruise terminal and home in order that we could drop our Day 2 PCR tests in the test companies ‘Drop Box’ at the Rownhams Services on the M27. 

 

Mission accomplished, we had had an all round excellent cruise and were so pleased we had made the effort and taken every Covid generated obstacle encountered in our stride.

 

Summary.

Thanks to the Covid pandemic it took some time for us to experience this latest edition to the P&O fleet, but my wife and I agreed that it was worth the wait. Iona is certainly somewhat different to the other P&O ships we have experienced (all of them in fact) however, there was still a familiar feel to her which was appreciated.

We’d be the first to admit that a week is not long enough to get a true feel – she has so much to offer – and there were a number of venues that we could not fit in, including the 4-Screen onboard Cinema…

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…the Spa and the Gym…

 

And of course there wasn’t the weather to appreciate the Retreat.

It was good to see the introduction of a ‘Busker’ style  entertainer in the onboard pub…

…and the re-siting of the  shops to a dedicated arcade, leaving the Grand Atrium to its natural socialising and dining space, was a great improvement.

The two biggest pluses were the variety and quality of the food and entertainment.

We of course were well aware that passenger numbers were also greatly reduced. With a normal capacity of 5,200 passengers and 1,800 crew, we were witnessing a somewhat reduced capacity…

Would we sail on Iona again? That is an open question that requires an open answer. It would be doubtful as we genuinely would prefer the more adult suited ships in the P&O fleet where the dress codes are more or less guaranteed to a standard to which we are more accustomed. Having said that, never say never. At the right time of year and the right itinerary we could be tempted.

Finally, a really big thank you to P&O for making things happen. It has not been an easy time but, thanks to you and in the words of that great P&O entertainer of years gone by, Gerard Kenny, we made it through the rain. 

 

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Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

8 responses to “Iona – A Pre-Christmas Cruise Diary

  1. Excellent review as usual. Very enjoyable and informative reading.
    You always come across as being very fair in your assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of the different cruise lines.

  2. Once again a fabulous ‘virtual’ experience, thank you Richard. By the way I am full from all the dining experiences and have not eaten breakfast yet !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Hello Richard.

    First of all Happy New Year to you and Barbara,

    It was really good to see you both cruising again and looking so well and happy. I think it is the first time I have ever seen you off the ship without shorts.

    We haven’t been on a cruise since March 2020. All were cancelled and now that we are able to cruise again it will not be possible to travel on the big ships again as my husband’s Alzheimer’s means. He would find it too difficult to cope. We should have been off to the Caribbean today for 35 days, a cruise booked three years ago with P&O but I felt it would be inappropriate so had to cancel. Hopefully he will still be able to cope with river cruises as the ships are smaller.

    It was lovely to see all your photographs which bring back so many happy memories of past travels. So please keep showing us all your brilliant photos as they make me feel very happy. Thank you for sharing your holidays.

    Kind Regards

    Brenda and Tony Woodings

    >

  4. Hi Sir Richard, Enjoyed reading your latest blog. Ship looked very nice. Lovely photos.
    I sent you a message the other day, not sure you saw it. Telling you Mark Stone had died. You may well have been aware of this, but I had not realised. Sad to have read of his passing.
    Happy New Year to you and Lady B. X
    Maggiemou.

    Sent from my iPad

  5. My lord Richard, no way can we keep up with your full days and evenings
    I would have put on 15 lbs at least during your 7 days cruise onboard
    As usual impressive write up
    I fully approve and glad to see the ship provided a free PCR test
    The Americans need to get their act in gear on that score
    Blessings you and Barbara
    Rob & Liz

  6. Such an enjoyable read accompanied by great camera shots. Definitely brought ‘wish I was there’ feelings.
    The both of you had some amazing wardrobe for the cruise.
    Thanks for time well spent and look forward to your next.
    P.S. The both of you can certainly run circles around people half your ages!!!

  7. Your P&O Iona blog was a first as never spotted such before!! As an annual cruiser surprised to have missed you until now! Creating the blog has been greatly appreciated with such fantastic detail prior to our Spanish Portugal cruise G206 on 5th March. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for your detailed blog – we have just returned from the same Northern European cruise on Iona. (Although the windy conditions meant Le Harve was off the menu!) You describe the many delights the ship has to offer that we also enjoyed and some that we will try the next time we are on board.
    We have booked to go next year and hopefully will get to Hamburg- and a trip to Bergen-Belsen. Coincidentally, we are in 15235 which is how I stumbled across your excellent blog.
    Thank you.

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