Each cruise we take, we love it more and more, so when we found a bargain which sailed around Spain and Portugal, we couldn’t resist. This was in November 2023 and as you can imagine the weather was getting darker and colder, so we looked forward to a little winter sun. But what really cemented our decision was the fact that the cruise was on the P&O Iona.
Iona is one of the largest vessels in the fleet, as well be being relatively new at the time we sailed. We had been on one other P&O ship around the Baltic Sea which was the Britannia and had an incredible time. This made us eager to try more of their ships and see what they had to offer.
Alike the cruise on Britannia, we set sail from Southampton and used CPS (Cruise Passenger Services) for our parking in the port. We have a full guide on Southampton Cruise Parking, which covers everything you need to know and saves you time to focus on planning shore activities.
Although we loved our last cruise with P&O, we were still nervous as to what we should expect. But they without doubt surpassed our expectations, and we’re hardened fans of this amazing cruise line.
So, this is our guide on the P&O Iona, where we’ll explore everything from the deck plans, food and drinks, to the entertainment. Hopefully once you’ve read this, you will have everything you ever need to know. We would recommend that you bookmark this article if you’re yet to do the cruise, because it maybe a handy guide for when you’re on the ship and not sure of something.
If this is your first ever cruise and you’re wondering what to take with you, then have a look at our ‘What to Pack for a Cruise – List of Cruise Essentials’. Although this doesn’t delve into everything, you’ll need such as socks and underwear, it does provide you with an extensive list of items which will make your cruise that little bit more comfortable.
Arrival at Southampton for Parking and Embarkation
We’ll briefly go through our experience of parking and the bag drop process in Southampton, because you may be sailing on the Iona but not from there. If you’re looking for something a little more in depth, then remember we have a guide on Southampton Cruise Parking (link in the intro), which covers everything you need to know. But because Southampton is such a busy port for P&O, it’s worth us giving you a little information on the process we went through to board the ship.
Southampton docks covers quite a large area, with four cruise terminals, so it’s easy to get yourself a little lost. But the area is well sign posted and you will have been informed by the cruise line which dock you should head towards.
During our cruise we used the terminals parking providers called Cruise and Passenger Services (CPS). We have used them a number of times in Dover’s cruise port and although they’re a little more expensive than other parking providers, they’re incredibly convenient because your car is kept within the terminal area during your cruise.
The whole process is easy, simply display the print off document emailed to you from CPS on your dashboard before you arrive at the dock, and you will be guided to their section of the terminal. Once directed to their processing spot, we simply parked up, gave them our keys and removed our luggage. We would always recommend that you take pictures of your car before you leave, although CPS will do the same. It’s then a short walk to the terminal across the pedestrian crossing where you will hand over your luggage.
Compared to some of the cruise terminals we have seen, the ones in Southampton are much bigger and as you can imagine there are times when it can get very busy.
Unlike Dover, which has one luggage drop off area, there is actually a system in Southampton meaning you will generally get your luggage on the ship much faster. Outside the terminal itself there are four drop off points, where staff will be waiting to take our bags. The first time we went through Southampton it was so busy we simply asked someone where to go. This time because we had a later check in, the whole area was quieter and it was easier to work out.
As you reach the drop off points you will see coloured squares with numbers on them. The numbers indicate the decks, so you need to head to the drop off point which has a coloured box displaying your deck number. The staff member will then take your luggage and you can head towards the terminal entrance.
At the entrance you will be asked to show your boarding pass, so staff can determine which queue you should join. Make sure you arrive at your allotted time only, because you will end up having to wait. We saw a lot of people standing in a queue outside because they had arrived early, but as we got there at our allotted time, we simply walked in.
The terminal is pretty self-explanatory, and you will be directed by various members of staff. Just make sure you have your boarding pass available before you enter the terminal, because you will be asked repeatedly to show it to staff throughout the process.
After going up a set of escalators we joined a queue to check in and once we reached the desks, we were asked for our boarding passes and passports. Check in was quick and painless, but that was mainly due to the fact we had done most of the work when we did the online check in, such as adding our pictures.
Once check in is complete then it’s the usual security process, which is the same as you would do if you were going through airport security. So that would include removing watches, belts, wallets, keys and taking laptops out of your bag and placing them in the tray.
After that you’re done, then you can head up the gangway and your holiday begins.
Security Checks on Iona
Whenever we cruise, we always find it easier after boarding to head straight to our muster station for the security briefing. Then once you’ve finished you can head to lido, grab some food and enjoy your vacation.
The security briefing was incredibly easy on P&O Iona, we simply went to the muster station which was on our boarding pass. Once reaching the designated area which is clearly sign posted, we had our boarding pass scanned and a member of staff explained what we had to do and where we should go in cases of emergency. They do recommend that once you leave your muster station and gain access to your room, that you watch the full safety briefing which is available on the TV in your cabin.
Unlike some of the other cruise lines we’ve travelled with, you can head to your cabin straight away. The room cards can be found in an envelope at the cabin door, and you will use them to get in and out of your room and to charge any drinks or purchases to your cruise account. Cash is not accepted in any of the bars, restaurants, or shops onboard.
P&O is alike many other cruise lines where your luggage is left outside your cabin door. But as we were enjoying ourselves around the ship, our kind steward moved our cases into the cabin for us. You normally have to wait a couple of hours for your cases to arrive, so make sure any items you need are in your hand luggage such as medications and even a change of clothes if you want to use the lido deck and pools.
Iona Deck Plans and Ship Statistics
- Year Built – 2020
- Number of State Rooms – 2,614
- Passenger Capacity – 5,204 (max capacity 6,264)
- Staff/Crew Capacity – 1,762
- Length of Iona from End to End – 1130 Feet (344 Meters)
There are 19 decks including the Sky Deck on the P&O Iona, but guests don’t have access below deck 3 which is where you will find the medical centre. Most of the facilities such as restaurants, bars and theatres can be found on decks 5, 6, 7 and 8. Deck 9 to 15 is where most of the cabins are located, although there are rooms on other decks such as 4, 5, 8 and 17.
The majority of the pools and the Horizon buffet restaurant are on the Lido deck which is 16. On 17 you’ll find the kids area, more sunbathing spots, some cabins, the Epicurean, and the Crow’s Nest bar. There are more pools on 18, the Retreat and a running/walking track. Finally deck 19 which is split into two sections, you have sunbathing areas, the sports court and golf nets.
If you’re looking for swimming pools, you’ll find two on deck 16, then another two on deck 18 (1 indoor, 3 outdoor/Infinity). Unlike many of the other cruise ships we have been on; all the pools are heated. They also have twelve hot tubs in total, four on deck 17, two on deck 18 and six on deck 8. There is another two in the Retreat, but they can only be accessed at an additional cost.
When it comes to facilities Iona has 15 dining venues, 17 bars, 8 entertainment venues, a dedicated kid’s zone, the incredible SkyDome which is a retractable glass-roof cover over the pool deck and the promenade walkway which is on deck 8. The walkway goes all the way around the ship and provides spectacular views. Just be mindful if you’re looking at balcony suites because many of them are on deck 8, meaning that you will have people wandering past your room regularly.
Iona P&O Cabins
We’ll start off by giving you an idea of what cabins are available on the Iona and then we’ll go into the room that we stayed in, which was an inside cabin.
The types of cabins currently available are.
- Standard – Cabin size 140 sq. Ft
- Inside Single – Cabin size 101 sq. Ft
- Large – Cabin size 194 sq. ft
These are the cheaper cabins on the ship, which tends to mean they are smaller than the others. But this doesn’t mean that they won’t accommodate everything you need, including a comfortable place to lay your head.
Sea View Cabin
- Standard – Cabin size 210 – 307 sq. Ft
For the cruisers who like a window view but can’t afford a balcony cabin, then a sea view room is a great option. This will flood natural light into your cabin and provide those calming views of the ocean, or a first glimpse of that day’s port. It offers a similar but more spacious layout to the inside cabin which is ideal if you’re only using your room to rest.
- Standard – Cabin size 107 – 300 sq. Ft
- Deluxe – Cabin size 226 – 362 sq. Ft
- Single – Cabin size 107 sq. Ft
For those who like to spend time in peace and quiet, then a balcony cabin is a great option because you can enjoy spectacular views in the comfort of your own room. Having an outdoor area in the cabin will really enhance your holiday experience, because it adds a space where you can sunbathe or simply relax and read, without the noise from other passengers.
- Conservatory Mini Suite – Cabin size 274 sq. Ft
This is a new type of room which can only be found on the Iona and their newer ship the Arvia. These cabins offer floor to ceiling glass external doors from the main living area onto the balcony, meaning you can relax inside on the comfy couches and take in the incredible views.
- Suite – Cabin size 434 – 530 sq. Ft
This is a cabin which offers pure VIP treatment including butler service, spacious accommodation, a superior bathroom with a full-size whirlpool bath, inclusive room service and breakfast every day in an exclusive restaurant.
During our November 2023 cruise we stayed in an inside cabin and had family members who were in the deluxe balcony suite. As you would expect there was a big difference between the two rooms, with the balcony suite having two single beds, a large couch and more wardrobe space. The balcony itself was on a slight angle because the room was positioned in the domed middle part of the ship. This means it’s potluck as to how wide your balcony will be if you book that type of room. It was nice and bright though with lots of storage space, although some of that was incredibly narrow shelves which made little sense as we can’t imagine what would even fit in there.
We’ll spend more time detailing the inside cabin because this tends to be the option that most people will choose.
As you walk in through the cabin door you will see 3 wardrobes to the left and then a vanity area. The wardrobe isn’t that big, especially because 2 doors lead into one wardrobe which has a rail and hangers, whereas the other is purely shelves and they aren’t deep enough for tops to lay flat. This is also where you will find the safe which is opened and closed using a 4-digit pin. The vanity has a couple of small shelves, a large mirror and a cupboard space underneath with shelves. There are no draws in the room, which we found unusual, and in all honesty, we missed. The vanity area is where you will find the tea and coffee making facilities. P&O is one of the rare cruise lines which has a kettle in the room and we love it.
Within the main area of the room, you will find two single beds which were pushed together and side tables, although they too were very small. Only one side table had a UK plug socket, but both bedside lamps had a USB socket. At the end of the bed area is another unit and above it is the TV which is attached to the wall. Within this unit there are more shelves and a small fridge. Our big tip with the fridge is to try and keep the outer door slightly open, this allows the heat generated by the fridge to escape and the interior to remain cool.
There is plenty of lighting around the room which can be controlled by light switches in various locations. The lights work in the same way as many other ships and hotels, whereby you need to use a card in a slot by the door to turn them on.
The TV is better than other cruise lines because they offer live TV, some streamed options, children’s TV, and a raft of movies including some recently released options. You’ll also find a radio channel and a cruise information section which includes the weather, navigational chart, and ships webcam.
The bathroom is quite small, but what we did like about it was the fact that the shower had a glass screen and not a curtain which clings to you when you’re wet. Within the shower you will see a shampoo and body wash dispenser, then in the sink area you will find liquid soap and tissues. There is plenty of unit space and shelves to hold toiletries and other essentials. We were surprised how powerful the shower was and how hot the temperature got, which is quite unusual for cruise ships, even in the morning when a lot of people will be showering at the same time.
Overall, the room was fine, although we much preferred our inside cabin on the P&O Britannia, because it had more shelf space. The reality is you won’t spend that much time in your cabin anyway, so the size of it doesn’t matter. But the way the Britannia cabin was designed, meant there was a space for our empty cases after we had unpacked. On Iona we had to leave them in the corners of the room and work around them. There were quite a few hangers, but we did ask for a few more and the steward brought us some wire ones.
As with most cruise lines, you will be introduced to your cabin steward on the first day. They will tidy up your room daily if you wish them too, for example making up your bed or bringing fresh towels. Depending on your length of cruise they will even change the bedsheets about a week in. There is a magnetic sign in each room which can be put on the door to indicate whether you want the room cleaning or if you’re resting.
Iona Cabins to Avoid
Choosing a cabin or even a deck on a cruise ship involves personal preferences and considerations. As much as we haven’t stayed in every cabin, from our own experiences, that of our family and conversations with other cruisers, we are able to advise on decks and more specifically Iona cabins to avoid.
We are also able to provide some general tips that we use when selecting our Iona deck and cabin, so hopefully you should be well equipped to make the right choice for you.
Decks to Avoid
To start with, we will quickly cover which Iona decks to avoid, as this should help narrow down your search. Also it’s not necessarily the same decks on every ship.
The most obvious deck to avoid tends to be the deck directly below the Lido deck. Lido is one of the busiest decks on the Iona, as it accesses the buffet, sky dome pool and infinity pool, so there is generally a lot of foot traffic.
Deck 8 stood out to us as one to steer clear from, but not for the reasons you may think. This deck is known as the Promenade and mainly consists of food and entertainment venues. But deck 8 forward isn’t a general access area and has a good number of balcony cabins.
Sadly, despite being balcony rooms, we would definitely avoid these cabins. This is due to the unique layout of the Iona cruise ship, this deck has a walkway which covers the full exterior of the ship. This means that there is next to no privacy for your balcony and room, with people walking past from early morning to late night.
Noisy Cabins to Avoid
Our personal experience comes in to play here, as on our last Iona cruise, both cabins in our party were noisy for different reasons. So we’ll tell you the experiences we and family members had during our stay on Iona.
We stayed in cabin 4459, which is a standard inside cabin on deck 4. Unfortunately we hadn’t noticed the blank staff access area on the deck plan when our room was allocated. This meant during the evening we could hear loud conversations and the sound of someone running up and down a metal staircase. Sadly, for a newish ship, the insulation of the rooms to these areas seem to be lacking, even though we heard very little from the cabins either side of us.
Our Parents splashed out for a deluxe balcony, which is a larger cabin in the mid ship. Sadly their cabin was 15448, which is on deck 15 and was directly under the sky dome. This meant that whenever someone moved a chair, they heard it in their cabin; imagine that every day for two weeks. This was made worse by the fact that every night around 2am the chairs would be moved around (we presume for the floor to be cleaned) and then moved back around 5am.
This meant our family didn’t have the greatest night sleep the entire time they were on the Iona. Surprisingly though, they didn’t experience much by way of noise issues from the late night entertainment. It was actually staff dragging furniture around after midnight and again in the morning that was the main cause of their disruption.
As well as having people looking in, deck 8 cabins are directly above the theatre, so the noise from the late show can be a disruption if you like an early night to be up for those all-important excursions. The same can be said of any cabin that is located on deck 9 aft, as these rooms are above The Club House, which has entertainment in to the early hours of the morning.
Now we appreciate that you may have opted for a saver fare when booking your Iona cruise, which means your room will be allocated for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask to move or pay for an upgrade if you are in one of the Iona cabins to avoid.
Selecting the Right Cabin
Below are our general rules for avoiding noisy cabins or decks on a cruise, so are definitely worth taking in to account for your next cruise on the Iona.
- Avoid cabins near noisy areas: Cabins located near entertainment venues, bars, or high-traffic areas like elevators and stairwells may experience more noise. If you prefer a quieter environment, opt for cabins away from these areas.
- Midship cabins: Cabins located in the middle of the ship, both horizontally and vertically, tend to experience less motion. If you’re concerned about seasickness, a midship cabin is generally a good choice. We also have a handy guide to help prevent seasickness, if you feel it may be an issue.
- Consider your preferences: Some people prefer being closer to certain amenities, like the dining venues or the spa. Others might prefer a more secluded location for privacy and quiet. Consider your priorities when selecting a cabin.
- Balcony considerations: While many people enjoy balcony cabins for the views and fresh air, consider the location of the balcony. Cabins at the front (forward) or back (aft) of the ship may have different views and can be more susceptible to strong winds.
- Check the ship’s layout: Review the ship’s deck plan to understand the location of different cabin categories and amenities. This can help you choose a cabin that aligns with your preferences and priorities.
- Avoid cabins near crew areas: Like you have seen from our experience, cabins near crew access areas or service areas may experience more foot traffic and noise. Check the deck plan to identify these locations and choose a cabin away from them.
It’s essential to research the layout of the P&O Iona cruise ship and read reviews from other cruisers to get a sense of which cabins are preferable. Keep in mind that personal preferences vary, so what works for one person may not be ideal for another.
Horizon – Ship and Entertainment Information Sheet
During your time on the cruise, you’ll need to keep up to date with a lot of information, whether it’s about the entertainment on the ship, the ports, or general requirements. Since Covid 19 we have seen the introduction of more cruise apps, but P&O have retained the paper-based information leaflets. There’s is called Horizon and it is left outside your door the evening before. There is an online version of the Horizon sheet on the My Holiday P&O App, but it’s a little awkward to read.
Horizon provides everything you need to know during your cruise, including the following.
- The Ports – This includes the arrival time and the latest time to be back on board. Also, information on the port including currency exchange, postage, people to contact if you have any emergencies on shore, if you require your passport ashore and details of any shuttle bus services.
- Details on Clock Changes – Due to the fact you’re probably sailing through time zones, you will need to be made aware of any clock changes. This was detailed at the bottom of the Horizon leaflet.
- Dress Code – During our cruise we had a number of formal nights, which tended to be held on sea days. Horizon will have a section which details whether the dress code is black tie or evening casual and what that means.
- Deal of the Day – Throughout your cruise there will be various deals within the shops, whether it’s on jewellery, clothing, or perfume.
- Entertainment – Most of the Horizon leaflet covers the entertainment on the ship. This includes everything you can find in the theatre, bars, spa, photo gallery, gym, shopping atrium and Lido deck. You’ll find that entertainment will be shown in order of time with most activities starting at 7am and ending late. We’ll explore what entertainment is available further on in this guide, but it includes shows, quizzes, and classes.
- Restaurant Opening Times and Other Facilities – You won’t have detailed lists of what is on offer in every restaurant, because this will change each day. Horizon does have an additional pull-out section which has the restaurant opening and closing times. On this you’ll also see the opening times of the bars, shopping, and other onboard services. It’s a handy piece of paper which you can fold and pop into your pocket.
Since our last cruise with P&O, they have added the Horizon information sheet to their My Holiday app. They still provide the paper copy and for us this seems outdated and wasteful. The problem is the online version is a little awkward to read, so we continued to take the paper version with us.
Taking that aside, P&O’s Horizon was incredibly useful during our cruise, and we just got use to carrying it around. They covered everything we needed and so much more, just make sure you throw it in your bag as you leave the room.
The ‘My Holiday’ P&O App
P&O currently have the My Holiday app available to all passengers, and it is here that you will find everything you need to make your cruise more comfortable. We still recommend keeping the paper-based Horizon leaflet with you, because it has everything you need, and the app is a little awkward.
To log into the My Holiday app, you need information such as the cabin number and booking reference. Then head to the P&O site, make sure your data is off, but plane mode and Wi-Fi are on. Don’t worry you won’t be charged anything by the cruise line, this is a free service.
When you’re on the cruise ship and you log into the My Holiday app, you’ll see the following.
- Dining – Within this section you will see what restaurants are available, and there will be sample menus for that day. You can also book and put yourself in the queue for certain dining areas such as the Aqua, Coral, Opal and Pearl restaurants which are included (unfortunately to view these menus you have to go to the actual restaurant). But also, the restaurants where charges apply such as the Epicurean and Sindhu.
- Shore Experiences – Provides you with the opportunity to see what excursions are available and gives you the ability to book. You can filter on the app by elements such as the port, activity level, duration and then sort by price. If you like what you see then simply book and it will be added to your cruise account.
- On Board Account Summary – Although you don’t want to spend your holiday worrying about money, it is important to keep an eye on your onboard account. With P&O when we bought a drink, we handed them our room card and they simply gave it back to us and brought the drink. Now we found this a little unusual because on other cruise lines you are expected to sign a receipt to prove you have received the drink. Because of this we did regular checks of our account to make sure that all the information was correct. It would be difficult to remember at the end of the vacation what you had or had not bought, so makes sense to look throughout. On the first screen you are shown the total transaction amount, but there is an additional section which displays a drilled down amount.
- My Diary – This section displays anything you have booked during your trip including excursions, restaurants and entertainment such as theatre shows.
- Loyalty and Cruise Sales – This is a virtual section specifically to discuss your P&O loyalty and explore any future cruise bookings. We would recommend that you actually go to the sales desk which is on deck 7 should you have any questions.
- Medical Assistance – Should you require information on who to call if there is a medical emergency, then this section provides the details. It includes the medical centre which is open every day on deck 3 between 9am and 6pm.
- Spa – For those of you considering using the spa but you’re wondering what is available, then you will find this section useful. It holds the Oasis Spa treatment menu in full, but sadly there are no prices on there so you would need to contact the spa itself for further details. It’s here you can also find the fitness schedule within the gym, including personalised classes or training sessions which you can pay for.
- Entertainment – Now this is where we would expect to see a full list of the daily entertainment, but instead it can be found under the ‘Horizon’ section. Sadly, there’s very little available on here and all you will see is what shows are on the Headliners Theatre, the Limelight Club and the 710 Club, and if there is any availability for those shows.
- Drinks – This was actually quite handy because we didn’t need to ask for a menu at any of the bars, we simply went on the app, and it was there. Basically, this shows you every menu for every bar, including prices.
- Holiday Essentials – As well as essential holiday information including health and safety tips and things to be aware of during your trip. This section provides a ships guide and a map of each deck, including where you can find all the available facilities. Holiday Essentials is also the area that you will find the room service menu which includes breakfast, daytime bites, night-time nibbles, and drinks.
- Internet Packages – We couldn’t see much information in this section, but from looking online there are two packages to choose from. The first is ‘my wi-fi essential’ which is the cheaper of the two and ideal for simple browsing, email, and social media. There’s also ‘my wi-fi ultimate’ which gives you faster connection speeds and is perfect for browsing, email, social media, streaming of music and movies, and video chat. You can choose both as a cruise plan option or opt to pay per day.
- Youth – This is the area for the parents, because it provides a summary of what is available for the younger cruisers.
- Horizon – Although you would expect the entertainment information to be in the ‘Entertainment’ section, it is in fact within Horizon. When you tap on it, you’ll basically see a digital version of your Horizon information sheet.
Entertainment and Activities on P&O Iona
Cruise ship entertainment is always another level, and we found the quality to be especially good on P&O Iona. Not only did you have the amazing shows in the Headliners Theatre, but there were various little performances in other locations around the ship. The entertainment was a small part of what made this a memorable cruise. We’ll explore a little of what was available in each room when we sailed, but obviously this may change.
Theatres on most cruise ships tend to be the hub of entertainment, so it makes sense to start here. The Headliners Theatre is very reminiscent of most modern theatres you will find at home, with plenty of seating and a huge stage at the front. There are entrances on deck 6 and 7 which are quite cool and dramatic, giving you a sense of something special before you’ve even gone inside. The seats are pretty comfy with a normal amount of leg room, not that wonderful for us tall people out there, but we’ve had worse.
The shows on P&O are so popular they book up incredibly quickly, our advice is to prebook before you even board the ship. Because the restaurants on Iona offer virtual booking, this makes it easier to work out the best time to eat so you can ensure you make the show. During our cruise there were three shows each night, and they were 6.45pm, 8.30pm and 10.30pm. This of course may vary throughout the year and depending on the actual show.
There is no drinks service in the theatre, but you can take them in. Most of the shows we went to see were packed, with the Headliners Theatre Company performing a variety of themes. On top of that you had special guest performances which on our cruise included singers, impersonators, and illusionists.
If you haven’t prebooked then there is a standby queue where you’ll be slotted in before the show starts. They’ll have an idea how many seats are left because as you enter the theatre, you’re asked for your cabin number. Our advice would be to head to the show half an hour before it starts, because it will fill up quickly and you want to make sure you get a decent seat.
The Club House
Towards the back of the ship on deck 8 is the Club House, which we must admit was our favourite spot to enjoy the onboard entertainment. There was more space and quite a chilled atmosphere, plus we loved the band who played there most nights. In the Club House you’ll find a large stage, bar and drinks service with plenty of chairs, including comfy sofas. The best part is that you can sit anywhere in the room and chill out whilst listening to the awesome entertainment on offer; with no prebooking required. It can get busy, so if there’s something you really want to watch then make sure you get there early. Some of the seating is hidden from the stage area, but they have TV screens showing what’s happening.
Alike Headliners, the entertainment varied each day, but within the Club House there was something offered throughout the evening (whereas the theatre only had two or three shows). During our cruise we enjoyed entertainment from the onboard band Pulse, and they themed each night, whether it was 70’s hits, rock classics or cheesy tunes. Many of the other performers around the ship would sometimes play in the Club House, so it’s the ideal spot to head every night. The karaoke was also held here, and you could find family friendly or adult only.
If you’re a fan of comedy then this is where you’ll find most of the comedians, but sadly on our cruise there was only really one stand up option. Cruise Lines such as Carnival have specific comedy theatres and tend to have three or four comedians during the cruise. But we’re not complaining because the standard overall was excellent.
The 710 Club
We were told by a friend before we went on the cruise that the 710 Club was a must. When they cruised on the Iona there was a charge for it, but during our trip there wasn’t, and you simply needed to prebook. You can find the 710 Club entrance in the grand atrium on deck 6 and to be honest we had no idea what to expect when we went. The room is generally quite small, but it offers a vintage vibe alike one of those secret underground clubs you see in the movies, with low lighting to add to the atmosphere. The interesting aspect to the 710 Club is that it was designed by Gary Barlow from Take That, exclusively for the Iona. This adult only bar offers its guests incredible live music and signature cocktails which were chosen by Gary himself. Bands performing in the club offer a range of music, with some of the nights during our cruise being themed on ‘Supergroup Sounds’, ‘Essence of the 90’s’ and ‘American Vinyl’.
The idea behind the 710 Club was to provide some escapism for guests, to enjoy incredible performers which is ideal for the music lovers out there. We will prewarn you that during our cruise the club booked up fast, so make sure you check out the app as soon as you board the ship. Alike the theatre, you can put your name down in case someone doesn’t turn up and they can fit you in, but it means hanging around the atrium waiting.
The beautiful SkyDome is quite an iconic feature on the Iona, whether you’re in a port looking at this immense cruise ship or stood inside. It was a new design specifically for the Iona, creating an indoor space with an outdoor feel and we loved it.
Split between deck 16 and 17, the SkyDome is as it sounds, a huge glass dome room which covers the top decks at the centre of the ship. This means that when you’re on deck 16 you can enjoy the sun loungers, swimming pools and hot tubs, as well as food and drink options. But if you’re looking for better views, natural light, and something a little more peaceful then you’ll want to head to deck 17.
We loved the SkyDome through the day as a place to relax and take in the scenery, but wow did it come alive at night. The entertainment there was incredible, with a new show most nights which on our cruise was repeated at 7.30pm, 9pm and 10.30pm. So, if you missed one, or it clashed with something else you wanted to see, then you always have another chance. Alike a lot of the other entertainment onboard, the SkyDome can get busy, so make sure you get there well in advance. Because the shows tend to be done around the pool area, you will find that it can sometimes be closed for practice through the day and of course at nighttime during the show.
The entertainment on offer during our cruise was amazing, with aerial acrobatic dancers, live music and the spectacular IGNITE which is a laser show DJ set; the ideal way to get the party started.
This area is the perfect space for so many things, and because it’s right next to the Horizon buffet you can grab a drink before or after food from the bar.
You can find Brodies Bar towards the front of the ship on deck 7, it’s next to the casino and just before the Headliner’s Theatre. Because the bar is one of the central hubs for entertainment on the ship it can prove to be a popular spot. Themed on the atypical British pub, you’ll find lots of seating around the room including booths and a pool table. Most days they will be showing the latest sporting action on multiple screens around the bar, but Brodies is also the place to go if you’re looking for quizzes, race events and virtual games such as bowling. The quizzes were incredibly popular on the ship, but boy were they hard, so you may need to get some practice in beforehand.
The Limelight Club
In comparison to the other P&O ships we have been on, the Limelight Club (found deck 6) on the Iona was used as a popular spot for entertainment. Alike the other ships, they have special shows held there daily, where you can pay an additional charge for an exclusive three course meal and the opportunity to be entertained by a celebrity performer. During our cruise we could have paid thirty-five pounds for Chesney Hawkes, but we chose not to because the food options for our preferences were limited. The atmosphere is very cabaret style and gives guests an intimate exclusive feeling. If you’re a fan of the specific performer then it’s not a bad price to see a show, but we have been told that if you’re doing it for the food, then the options are similar to what you would find in the main restaurant on the black tie/ formal nights. It’s a quirky extra offered by P&O Iona and we enjoyed seeing the celebrities walking around the ship enjoying themselves.
Throughout the day the Limelight Club is utilised for other forms of entertainment such as fitness classes, line dancing, auctions including jewellery, and talks from special guests and members of the P&O team such as the cruise sales manager.
Emerald Bar (Grand Atrium)
On most cruise ships you’ll find a grand atrium, which is the hub of the ship and a key spot for entertainment. On Iona this is the Emerald Bar, and it can be found on deck 6, alongside a beautiful chrome staircase. During our cruise the atrium bar held a variety of types of entertainment, from pianists, singers, aerial dance performances (where dancers are suspended from ropes) and the silent disco which is one of our favourite activities when we cruise.
They also had the Creative Waves area which is a spot where you can pay a nominal fee and involve yourself in a number of activities such as glass painting, stained glass window artwork, pom pom making, clay workshops and card making. There are tables set up and staff available to help out at set times in the day. It’s also a great way to make new friends on your cruise and take something home which you’ve hand crafted.
The best part about the Emerald Bar is the fact that it is in the domed centre of the ship and as such you are surrounded by windows, which means incredible views.
The Crow’s Nest
Sat in the front of the ship on deck 17 this bar has incredible views, hence the name. But when it comes to entertainment you can enjoy the beautiful sounds of the piano. Because this is a more upscale spot on the ship, you would expect the entertainment to reflect it. As such most evenings there tends to be two or three sessions where the onboard pianist will delight guests with an array of songs, whether it’s old classics or modern greats.
There was very little on the Lido Deck during our cruise, mainly because it was November/December and as such it could be a little chilly. We can imagine through the summer this is a little different and we know from our stay on P&O’s Britannia that the Lido was used for music quizzes, pool DJ sets and sail away parties.
Ocean Studios (Cinema)
Most cruise ships we have been on, show movies via big screens on the Lido deck. Although we regularly see people relaxed on the sun loungers wrapped up in blankets, it’s not been something we have particularly enjoyed. Most movies are shown at night when you’re sailing and that means it tends to be cooler on the lido deck, and sometimes windy.
Now P&O have given us movie cruise ship heaven, by actually providing not one, but four indoor cinema screens. The Ocean Studios area on deck 6 has a red carpet walk up and huge billboard posters which tell you the times and screen number for each film, exactly like you would find in a land-based cinema.
Each of the four rooms look pretty much like your average cinema, with the large screen at the front and rows and rows of seats. When we sailed there was two or three movies a day, but they tended to be the same ones on rotation. Times each day will vary, so you need to check the Horizon magazine to find out what movie is showing and when.
During the cruise we went to the cinema a few times and we were shocked by how busy it was. The seats were comfortable and there was plenty of leg room. When you get to the door of the cinema, you’ll see a screen which indicates how many empty seats are available. This saves you opening the door and interrupting the movie if it’s already full.
If you miss one of the movies and you don’t get the chance to see it in the Studio, then you’ll find it available on the TV in your cabin. We were incredibly impressed by what was offered on our cabin TV, but we will admit that it’s kind of fun watching a movie in a cinema on a cruise ship.
Most of the cruise ships we have been on are American chains such as Carnival, where the casino area is huge. On most P&O ships the casinos tend to be much smaller, and when we looked through the Horizon sheet there was very little listed in there for additional entertainment. Found on deck 7, Iona’s casino was a decent size in comparison and seemed to be busy most of the time. It had a number of slot machines, a few casino tables, and an area where you can purchase scratch cards.
If you like to play the slots when you cruise, then keep an eye out on the screen as you gamble because this will tell you how many free drinks you can have within the casino. You receive free drinks based on the points accrued as you play. Within the casino there are supposed to be members of staff around, but we didn’t see any, so ended up heading to Brodies to get our drinks.
The Photo Hub – Pick Up Pictures
You’ll know when you’ve found the Photo Hub on deck 7 because you will come across a number of screens on the wall. This is where you can access any pictures taken during your cruise. On the Photo Hub screens it even provides you with information as to when and where you will find P&O photographers. We prefer this to other cruise lines who have photographers roaming the ship taking photos of people. The ones on P&O aren’t as bothersome and you will rarely be asked if you want your picture taken, if at all.
To check your photos simply tap on the Photo Hub screen and type in your cabin number. Any pictures that have been taken will appear and they can be purchased and printed. They normally take 24 hours to be uploaded, so we recommend waiting until the following day to take a look.
The library is on deck 6 and you will find it labelled Anderson’s Bar and Library. This is because it’s right next to Anderson’s bar, so it’s the perfect space for anyone who fancies a tipple whilst they read something new, in peace and quiet. On Britannia the library was simply a room with shelves full of books, whereas on Iona you have the requisite shelves and books, but it’s in a relaxed seating space.
The only problem we found was there were fewer books on Iona, so if you didn’t go and take a look on day one of your cruise, then like us you would get there to empty shelves. Even a few days in on Britanna, there were still plenty of book options available, so we left the library on Iona a little disappointed.
Borrowing a book is incredibly easy, you simply pick the one you want to read and once you have finished, there is a drop off box where you can return it.
Not exactly an entertainment space, but it still maybe something you are interested in. The Ivory Suite is a room for celebrations, such as weddings and vow renewals. During our cruise there were a few events held there and as we took a peek into the room, we saw beautiful flower displays ready for a wedding.
P&O have a dedicated team of specialists who will explore what it is you’re looking for and aim to make the process stress free. They offer various packages, but our advice is to contact them for more details on pricing.
As you can imagine on a ship the size of Iona, there is quite a bit of shopping available if that’s something you enjoy. We’ll start off with the Harbour Shop which can be found on deck 6, right next to the grand atrium. This is the place where you can grab all of those holiday essentials you may have forgotten to pack, such as a toothbrush or toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and even sun tan lotion. There is a small section of medication if you’re in need, but also a large area of books for sale.
The Promenade Shop on deck 8 is basically the sweetie shop and it is here you can satisfy that sweet tooth with pick n mix, chocolate and snacks such as crisps and biscuits. Similar to the Harbour Shop it’s not very large, but has everything you need. We’ll prewarn you now, satisfying those cravings will come at a cost, because we bought a bag of Maltesers and it cost us five pounds; can you imagine the cost of the pick and mix, yikes!
On deck 7 you’ll find the main area of shopping, so make sure at some point through your cruise you take a look. Just remember that during port days the shops are closed, so you will only have access during sea days or in the evenings as the ship moves from one port to the next.
From our very quick count there are around thirteen shops offering a myriad of items. Here are a few of the shops on offer;
- Watch shop,
- Personal electronics,
- Kallati jewellery,
- Clogau jewellery,
- Roberto Coin jewellery,
- Clothing with brands Barbour, Lacoste, Superdry and Ray-Ban,
- Bags from brands such as Ted Baker and Radley,
- A port shop with Iona branded items such as hats, clothes, sweets, bags and teddy bears,
- Duty free alcohol,
- Duty free perfume and makeup.
There is even a section for items on offer such as bags and jewellery, which is always a favourite of cruisers.
On all the other cruises we have been on, there tends to be an art gallery somewhere on the ship, which is surprisingly popular. Iona is a little different because their art gallery is more of an art corridor. You will find pieces of art for sale on the corridor between the Emerald bar in the atrium and the Limelight Club on deck 6. Near to the Limelight Club there is a little desk area, and it is here you’ll find the employee who can help should you have any questions about the art, or you wish to purchase a piece.
This art gallery isn’t as standout as some of the others we have seen, but it’s still worth walking through and taking a look at what is on offer, although you may be shocked at some of the prices.
You will find shore experiences on deck 7 and this is where you can explore what excursions are available during your cruise. There are tablets dotted around the area which you can use to search by port and the type of activity you’re interested in. We did see members of the shore experiences team helping out fellow cruisers when we passed by, so if you’re unsure of what is available or you have additional questions, then you can pop down to see them.
Remember that there is a section on the My Holiday app which is specifically about excursions and you have the ability to book there, with the cost being added to your cruise account. From our experience we found the prices of excursions on P&O to be reasonable, especially for European city breaks.
Loyalty and Cruise Sales
The few times we wandered around this area which is on deck 7 near the shops, we were astounded by how busy it was. You may be on your cruise and enjoying it so much, that you are thinking about the next one. Well P&O have provided their guests with the ideal opportunity to sit down with someone and explore what itineraries are available. If you see something you like then they can help you book, so that you have something to look forward to once your current cruise is sadly over.
As you enter the cruise sales area there are brochures which detail the itinerary of each P&O ship for the next couple of years. We also saw a sign up which displayed the discounts available if you booked another cruise during your current one. Now we like to be honest, it wasn’t anything amazing and we prefer to use SeaScanner for our bookings.
The majority of the sports activities on Iona can be found on deck 18 and 19, with a couple of things dotted around deck 17. This is ideal for those of you who are sporty, or you’re simply looking to pass the time. There are a few options including a basketball or 5 aside court, archery, golf (more specifically a driving range), a running and walking track, and ping pong. Also, there are traditional deck games such as shuffleboard, deck quoits and a giant chess board.
Although this might not be a priority for your cruise trip, you may be surprised to know that many people visit the gym when they holiday. During our cruise we went to the gym a few times and it was always busy.
The workout facilities on the Iona are impressive, it’s probably one of the largest gyms we have seen on a cruise ship. You’ll find a range of machines from treadmills, cross trainers, rowing machines, weights machines, and an extensive free weights area. All the equipment seemed to be of a high quality, and we enjoyed the views of the ports as we worked out. As with other cruise ship gyms, there were plenty of towels available and hygiene wipes to ensure the equipment was clean for you to use.
If you want to take your exercise a step further, then you could always pay for a personalised fitness session with one of their instructors. They will show you around the gym and help you work out a routine using the equipment available to get the body you have always wanted.
There’s also an unlimited class pass which is purchasable and gives you the opportunity to attend additional specialised exercise classes which are listed in the Horizon magazine. During our cruise there was a body sculpt bootcamp, pathway to yoga, pure form Pilates and tour de cycle.
Located near the Beachcomber sunbathing area (which is at the front of the ship), you will see two doors either side of the Beachcomber bar. By the door there is a key card slot and a sign which describes the Retreat as a designated quiet zone to enable rest and relaxation. We peeked through the slats of the doors, and you can see there are comfier sunbeds, cabanas, and hammocks, basically a VIP experience sunbathing area. The Retreat goes around the front of the ship on deck 18, so as you imagine the views are incredible, especially on port days.
Thankfully we didn’t put our cabin key into the slot, because from our research the Retreat is a chargeable sunbathing section. If you’re the kind of person who prefers extra peace and quiet, then you may wish to pay the additional forty pounds per person for the day. You’ll not only enjoy comfier beds, but they have a few nibble options such as mini pastries and you can order drinks, but they will still be charged to your cabin account. Basically, you’re just paying for a quieter area to sunbathe.
The Oasis Spa
We will admit that we didn’t use the Oasis Spa ourselves, but we spoke to the staff there and have researched what is available. From looking into the salon and spa area, we can see there are plenty of treatments available in what can only be described as a luxurious environment. The Hydrotherapy pool and Thermal Suite can be found on deck 5, and the spa and salon on deck 6.
If you want to treat yourself then you can purchase a two-hour pass to the spa for £39, or a weeklong pass for £129 (prices can change, so check with the spa before you book). This will of course give you access to the facilities in the spa, but not any of the treatments.
The facilities in the Oasis spa include a hydrotherapy pool, heated orthopaedic beds, Hammam salt steam room, Finnish sauna, and relaxation lounge. Within the treatment area they offer an incredible range of spa favourites including facials, massage, acupuncture, nail and hair treatments, and men’s grooming.
Throughout your cruise you will find that there are salon offers within the Horizon information sheet. During our trip there was a Shellac nail special, discount on hands and nail treatments, and men’s grooming, to name a few. Obviously, port days are quieter in the salon area, so if you prefer the peace then stay away during sea days.
The Reef Kids Club
If you’re looking for entertainment for the kids, then The Reef is for you. This kids club can be found on deck 17 and is one of the biggest dedicated areas for children between the ages of two and seventeen years old.
There are five age specific rooms in The Reef Club.
- The Nursery – 6 months to 2 years – This is a play area with soft mats and toys. Although there aren’t specific organised activities, it’s the ideal spot for parents to play with their little ones and meet other cruisers with babies on the ship. The Nursery room opens at 9am until 5pm on sea days and 10am to 5pm during port days. Between 6pm and 2am the room turns into a night nursery for children up to 4 years old. There is space for 15 cots, and it is a complimentary service which is on a first come first served basis. For water play check out the Surfers section.
- Splashers – 2 to 4 years – This bright and spacious room includes a soft play area with a slide, creative play area with Play-Doh and crayons, dressing up area, puppet theatre and a small library. The staff make sure that the kids have a day packed with activities such as face painting, games, and songs. Each day there is a story time at 7.45pm and then a movie between 8pm and 11pm. The children aren’t required to be toilet trained, and staff have nappies available and will change them. But they do encourage parents to bring their own. For water play check out the Surfers section.
- Surfers – 5 to 8 years – As we head to the older kids, you’d expect there to be more activities available and we can confirm that P&O Iona provides. The Surfers room is sectioned off into different activity areas, with PS4’s, art and craft tables, a Lego station, table football and a dress up corner. The Surfers group have a busy daily itinerary which includes, a ship wide hide and seek, learning circus skills such as plate spinning, bowling, a pirate hunt and duel, and to top it all off there are talent shows. Of course, holidays should include some water fun, so all kids from Tumblers through to Surfers have access to an enclosed Splash Zone. This can be found on deck 18 and includes a shallow water play area with spray jets for toddlers.
- Scubas – 9 to 12 years – Because this is classed as the tween age, there tends to be fewer scheduled activities provided. Iona knows that the kids will choose to come and go as they please, but that it’s still a good idea to have a space where they can meet other cruisers their age. Within the room you’ll find computer screens and age appropriate PS4 games, a pool and air hockey table, a DJ booth and dance floor. The activities that are provided include Lego, crafting and the ship’s DJ teaches the kids how to mix music.
- Scene – 13 to 17-year-olds – The Scene room is available from 10am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm and then 6pm to 11pm on both port and sea days. If the teen is on board, then parents must also remain. This area can be described as more of a nightclub than a kid’s room. Alike the Scubas there are fewer organised activities, but you will find some games, talent shows and parties on the schedule. It’s really just a great spot to hang out with your new friends and play computer games or watch movies.
Because The Reef can be found on deck 17 which is the Sun Deck, the rooms offer incredible views. There is even a waiting room for the parents when they come to drop off or pick up their children. As you would imagine there are age specific activities, games, and entertainment.
Kids club hours are 9am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm and 6pm to 11pm during sea days. When you’re at port the hours are generally the same, with exception of the opening time which is 10am. Also, parents must stay on the ship if their kids are in The Reef.
No matter the child’s age you must register and there is a Parents Talk on the first day of the cruise to introduce you to the staff and explain how The Reef works. Parents and guardians can register their child or children up to 14 days before the cruise.
Because of their age, Splashers, Surfers and scubas need to be signed in and out by their parents. Unfortunately, you cannot drop off babies and toddlers, so if you want to take part in the Nursery then you’ll have to stay with your child at all times.
The idea of doing laundry maybe the last thing on your mind when you’re on holiday, but you’d be surprised by how many people use laundrettes on cruise ships. There are plenty of back-to-back cruisers around, which is a term used for people who do two more cruise itineraries consecutively.
You will find 8 self-service laundrettes for passengers on Iona which are located midship on decks 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15. Facilities are free to use and include washing machines, sinks, tumble dryers, irons, and ironing boards. The laundrette we visited was huge and the machines looked modern and clean, so we felt happy to use them. Opening hours are 8am to 10pm but they may be closed in some of the ports, so maybe leave your laundry time to a sea day.
Within the laundrette itself we couldn’t find anywhere to purchase washing powder or fabric softener, so bring your own.
If you’re cruising due to a special occasion, such as a wedding anniversary or birthday, or you simply want to tell someone how much they mean to you, then why not buy them beautiful flowers for their cabin? During your stay on the Iona, you can place an order by filling in their form and putting it in the Florist Drop Box at reception. Their form gives you the opportunity to provide special instructions or a message you want to add on the bouquet. The flowers will then be delivered to the cabin specified on the form. You have a variety of options from a single rose to luxury bouquets or a dozen red roses, to name a few, and they often have a few on display near the 710 Club.
Iona Bars and Drinks
There are plenty of bars available on P&O Iona, with each offering a different atmosphere to accommodate all their guests. To order a drink you grab the attention of a server, tell them what you want and then give them your room card. They will have a tablet which is used to make the drinks order and swipe your card, before handing it back to you. Unlike many other cruise lines we have sailed with, everything is electronic on P&O and as such you will not be given a receipt or asked to sign for your order. Because of this we would always recommend that you regularly check your cruise account to make sure that the right charges have been applied. It can be difficult to remember at the end, so it would make sense to monitor as you go.
This list of the bars on Iona will provide you with a general idea of what is available, and the type of drinks you’ll find in each.
The Crow’s Nest
You will find the Crow’s Nest on deck 17 at the front of the ship, and it’s here you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of the port or ocean. The whole room provides a combination of comfort and class, with a slight art deco theme, and a range of chairs and sofas throughout this spacious room. During the day it’s relatively empty, but it will get busy at nighttime because it is essentially the ships piano bar.
If you spend time there in the day then you can wear shorts and flip flops, but you will be asked to leave and change as it leads up to 6pm. On Gala Evenings you are required to wear more formal clothing which is indicated by a sign near the entrance of the bar. Drinks are similar to the options elsewhere on the ship, with a range of beers, wine, and soft drinks. If you’re a cocktail fan then make sure you check out what is available in the Crow’s Nest, because they have a small selection of vintage style options such as a Ruby Rose Punch or a Plum Sherbet Gimlet.
With a relaxed sports theme, Brodies has the atypical pub look and is a popular spot on the ship to meet up with friends. It’s found on deck 7, so you’ll pass it if you’re heading to the theatre. Brodies is the main spot for activities such as daily quizzes and interactive sports like bowling. Because it is next to the casino, you will find some activities relating to gambling such as jackpot pre-sales. Around the bar there are a number of large TV screens and during the day and night they will show various sporting events, but especially Live Premiership Football. In the corner of Brodies there is a pool table, which was always in use every time we walked past. When it comes to drinks, there is a large range available including British beers and ciders such as Fullers London Pride, Old Speckled Hen, and Black Sheep Ale, then your usual wines, soft drinks, and spirits.
Emerald Bar (The Atrium)
The first thing you see in the ship on embarkation day is the Emerald Bar, which is basically the Atrium on deck 6. It’s at the centre of the ship and is quite a large space of chairs and tables with that grand staircase in the centre. The Emerald Bar is close to the Vista Café bar and as such guests use the seating for both. The bar and atrium are designed with a modern classic style, but the best part is that you are surrounded by glass windows from floor to ceiling, bringing the beauty of the outside in.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the spot if you’re looking for a relaxed evening because there’s a lot of hustle and bustle within that area, but it’s perfect for people watching and enjoying the entertainment held there. Within the Emerald Bar and Atrium, the servers will walk around and wait the tables in the area. The menu is very similar to the other bars, with a good range of beer, wine, cocktails, and spirits.
This is a small bar area just outside of the Sindhu restaurant on deck 8, which is an Indian. The menu isn’t as large as the other bars on board, but there is a good range of wines. Sindhu Bar is ideal if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter to relax, the only problem is you may struggle to get a seat because there aren’t many available.
The Glass House
This is predominantly a restaurant found on deck 7, which has been headed up by the award-winning wine expert Olly Smith. But you can enjoy their impressive wine menu, with samples and wine flights being available to purchase.
Vistas Café Bar
This beautiful café bar is surrounded by glass windows which provide panoramic views, making it the idea spot for something warm and sweet. Vistas Café Bar is in the atrium on deck 6 opposite to the Emerald Bar, so there’s plenty of seating dotted around.
They offer Costa Coffee, hot drinks such as hot chocolate, blended fruit coolers and speciality teas from Teapigs including fruity options. There is a great range of cakes and patisseries, from master pâtissier Eric Lanlard including a vegan option.
Whether you’re relaxing by the pool or sunbathing to top up that tan, you’re never too far from one of the four deck bars on P&O Iona.
- Panorama Bar – Deck 18
- Beachcomber Bar – Deck 18
- Sunset Bar – Deck 8
- Infinity Bar – Deck 16
Each bar offers an incredible range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, especially those tasty cocktails to put you in the holiday mood. The Beachcomber Bar is an adult only section, so it tends to be a little quieter than some of the others. What we love about the deck bars on the Iona is that they have been placed in the best locations for guests to enjoy spectacular views. You will find servers wandering around taking drinks orders, so if you don’t want to move from your sun lounger then you don’t have to.
Although these may be considered deck bars, we felt the SkyDome deserved a section of its own. The dome area actually covers two decks, so you’ll find the Crystal Bar and Laguna Bar on deck 16 and the Sky Bar on deck 17. Alike the many other bars there is a range of cocktails, beers, wines, spirits, and soft drinks. They also have some tasty mocktails, which is ideal if you fancy something fruity without the headache the following morning.
The Club House
As the prime spot for entertainment, you’d expect there to be plenty of drinks available. In reality it’s pretty much the same as the other bars on the ship, with a great combination of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails. Again, alike the other bars there are servers available so you don’t need to leave your chair, you can simply sit back and enjoy.
The Keel and Cow
Most of Keel and Cow is a restaurant, but there is an area around deck 8 where you can relax and take in the views from the vast panels of windows which surround you. Most people who sat there had the ideal combination of being able to hear the entertainment on deck 6, without having to be surrounded by it. The drinks menu tended to be the same with wines, beers, cocktails, and spirits available.
The 710 Club
As we mentioned in the entertainment section, the 710 Club on deck 6 offers a vintage vibe with low lighting and incredible live music from a group guided by Gary Barlow from Take That. But it’s the drinks which makes the 710 a standout spot on the ship, with stylish cocktails chosen by Gary himself. On their extensive menu you’ll find the usual cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan and Passion Fruit Martini, but it’s the speciality options which you’ll be intrigued by which include the Classico Negroni and Smoked Cherry Negroni. If cocktails aren’t your thing, then you can always grab the usual beers, wines, spirits, and soft drinks.
Anderson’s Bar and Library
This room on deck 6 is split into two sections, the bar itself and then what they would class as a library area. Anderson’s Bar is one of the smaller drinking spots we have seen on the ship, but it’s quite cosy and intimate. On the opposite side of the bar is where you will find the library which is simply a wall of boxed shelves. There is a large seating space in front of this which is the ideal place for relaxing with a drink in peace. We found it was a great spot for reading or playing cards, with most guests simply enjoying the views from the huge windows.
Within the library there is an onboard gin distillery named Columba, which makes Marabelle Gin. Columba is said to be the person who found the Abbey on the island of Iona in Scotland during the sixth century, which is where Marabelle Gin’s maiden distillation took place.
Each day a P&O gin specialist will distil a controlled amount, and the way you can tell if it was made on board is by the gold seal on the bottle. Iona has the first ever cruise ship distillery and they achieved this by partnering with the award winning Salcombe Distilling Company. You can enjoy a glass of Marabelle Gin onboard, or their other exclusive called Golden Tide which is a rum.
During our time on the ship, we spotted gin tastings and masterclasses held in the library area. Then if you become a gin fan, you could purchase a bottle of Marabelle gin to take home with you.
As you can imagine there are other drinks available within the bar area, such as beers and wine, but take a moment to check out the spirits range and the cocktails, which have been specially designed by mixologists to bring a unique twist and flavour.
The Limelight Club
If you’re paying extra for show-stopping entertainment, then you’ll need the drinks to match. Within the Limelight Club there is an array of wine and fizz available to add to the celebration. But if that’s not your thing, then they have you covered with lots of other options such as beer, cider, spirits, and soft drinks.
Restaurants on P&O Iona
Food is quite an important aspect on any cruise ship because all your meals will be made on there. So, you need to make sure you’re catered for and that it is high quality. P&O know the importance of this, so they offer a wide range of dining spaces and restaurants throughout the ship. Some of these are included in your cruise and others have an additional charge, but we’ll go through each to give you an idea of what they offer.
We thought we’d start with the buffet restaurant on deck 16, because for most guests this is where you’ll spend most of your time eating. Horizon works the same as most buffet restaurants in that you grab your plate and cutlery and then wander around and help yourself to whatever food you’d like. There are a number of food stations, but they appear to repeat the same options. We’re not complaining when we say that because when it comes to choice, they offer a great variety, and it changes every day. We had members of our party who were vegan and suffered from food intolerances and even they were catered for. If you are vegan, vegetarian, gluten free or you suffer from allergies or intolerances, then you’ll be in heaven on P&O Iona. Unlike many of the other cruise lines who have a label of what the food is and logos which give you a basic premise of the possible ingredients. In Horizon you will find that every dish has a name label and the main intolerances on the front. But what makes P&O even better is they put the list of ingredients on the back, so you can determine for yourself whether to eat it or not. Fingers crossed the other cruise lines adopt this policy soon, because it made life so much easier. As well as this they also have a section for allergen products such as plant-based milks, vegan cheese and butter or gluten free bread and dressings.
Horizon is essentially the place to eat if you want to be a little less formal when you dine. Plus, it gives you phenomenal sea views to make your meal even more relaxing. Breakfast includes the usual cooked items such as eggs, bacon, and beans, plus continental with cereals, pastries, and fruits. There is a good range of fruit juice and even smoothie drinks in the morning too.
At lunch time there tends to be one type of soup and then the main buffet section which changed every day. We saw many options from full roasts, pasta, curry and stir fry. There is a salad bar which offers the basic lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, but in all honesty it’s not the best we have seen. Some days they have specialist meal days such as best of British or Asian. If you have a sweet tooth then you’re in luck, because Horizon offers several desserts including warm options. If you’re vegan and thinking they won’t have anything for you, then you may be shocked to find out that on most days there was one dessert option available.
The evening meal selection was generally the same as lunch time.
Now because we like to be honest, we’re going to give you the good and the bad, but obviously this is our personal experience. The good was the range offered, especially for those of us who struggle with intolerances. Even though we generally ate similar meals, at least we had an option available for us and the ingredients list for each was a gamechanger. The negatives which everyone in our group agreed, was that in general the food was lukewarm and quite salty.
Main Dining Restaurants
Because Iona is quite a large cruise ship, there are four main dining restaurants named Coral, Opal, Aqua and Pearl. They can be found on either deck 6 or 7, and are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and Black Tie five course meals. The best thing about the dining on Iona is that it is freedom dining, which means there are no set mealtimes. This was one of the biggest problems we had during our cruise on P&O Britannia, we were given a mealtime which was the same as the shows in the theatre. At least on Iona you can dine around the activities and entertainment, which is one of the top reasons we enjoy cruising.
It is recommended that you use the My Holiday app where you will join a virtual queue. The app will then inform you when to come to your chosen dining room to eat, and you will be shown to a table. Unlike other cruise lines, you don’t have to go to the same dining room every night or sit at the same table.
Each of the four dining rooms will serve the same menu, which is displayed outside throughout the day. The menu changes every day and there are different options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Examples of Starters are.
- Smoked Chicken Breast,
- Pumpkin Soup,
- Mushroom Pate,
- Crispy Fried Pork Cheeks,
- Celeriac, Butternut Squash and Carrot Terrine.
Examples of Mains are.
- Atlantic Haddock Fillet,
- Pan-Fried Breast of Chicken,
- Potato Gnocchi and Charred Broccoli,
- Chickpea Cake and Poached Egg,
- Asian Stir-Fry Vegetables.
Examples of Desserts are.
- Coconut and Lemongrass Panna Cotta,
- Sticky Toffee Cake,
- Tonka Bean Mousse,
- Glazed Almond Rice Pudding,
- Cheese Plate.
We must admit, when we saw this eating spot, we thought it was a brilliant idea. The Quays is made up of three separate restaurants and is a little like a food court, where you can go up to the opening, order and then take away your food on a tray. This option is included in your cruise and is ideal for those times when you simply want to grab and go.
The Quays includes.
- Hook, Line and Vinegar – You can pick up posh fish and chips, with side sauces such as mushy peas, curry, and gravy.
- The Boardwalk Diner – Offers American BBQ hot dogs, burgers, and Southern soul food.
- Fusion – Has a variety of Asian-inspired street food.
Around the corner from The Quays there is a salad and dessert section similar to the Horizon Buffet, that also has tea and coffee machines.
We’ve read since we got home that the Boardwalk Diner has a secret veggie burger which can be made vegan.
The Beach House
Within the Horizon Buffet restaurant on deck 16, you will see an area sectioned off and it is here you will find The Beach House. It is a pop-up dining venue with a separate reservations desk, and you can book it on your My Holiday app. Because of where The Beach House is positioned, there isn’t really a dress code and as such you can go in your casual clothes such as shorts. Of course, this doesn’t include beach wear such as swimming outfits.
The Beach House is a speciality dining option and as such you have to pay an additional supplement. It is inspired by Latin America and Caribbean cuisines including plenty of comfort foods and hearty dishes. From looking online, the current cost is £7.50 per person which isn’t too extreme and as such it’s a great option for families who fancy something a little different.
Within that additional charge you will receive a three-course meal. You will notice that on the menu depending on the item you choose, there may be an additional charge on top of the £7.50. This tends to be foods such as steaks and expensive fish like lobster.
The Beach House is one of the more affordable speciality dining options and as such it can be busy, so we would advise that you prebook.
Examples of Starters are.
- Crab Tostadas,
- Mexican Poke Bowl,
- Sweet Potato and Mozzarella Crispy Skins,
- Island Spiced Chicken Wings.
Examples of Mains are.
- Honey and Garlic-Glazed Chicken,
- Mexican Fajita Sizzlers,
- Caribbean Seafood Basket,
- Chilli Sin Carne.
Examples of Desserts are.
- Deep-Filled Apple Pie,
- Rum-Glazed Roasted Baby Pineapple,
- Golden Dulce De Leche Tart.
If you are looking for something a little different from the main dining room or buffet, then you may want to try The Beach House. The portion sizes are decent, and the food is a little fancier than the main restaurant. This is ideal for those of you looking for quality food, without having to dress up to the nines.
The SkyDome Dining
The SkyDome is such an idyllic spot to relax and take in the sunshine and beautiful views. So, if you start to get hungry, but you don’t want to leave or change out of your swimming gear, then Iona has the ideal solution. Within the dome there is a takeaway food spot called Taste 360, and if you’re looking for something a little cooler then you can head to Sundaes for their tasty gelatos.
- Taste 360 – This was an incredibly popular dining spot during the day, where you can enjoy tasty hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and French fries. The food comes in a cute basket as if you were in a diner, so it’s easy enough to carry back to your sun lounger and enjoy. Pizza is served by the slice, but you can request a whole one. As well as the everyday grab and go options, Taste 360 adds a little something extra, because they offer a special of the day which connects to the destinations you’re visiting. During our cruise around Spain and Portugal we were offered Pallela.
- Sundaes – Offers a variety of ice cream and gelato, as well as sundaes and hot drinks.
If you’re enjoying the sunshine but feeling a little peckish, then why not head to the Grab-and-Go Bar which is located by the Infinity Pool on deck 16. This self-service area offers snacks such as sandwiches, fresh salads, yoghurts and chopped fruit.
Vistas Café Bar
Opposite to the Emerald Bar is the Vistas Café Bar which is a chilled area for those of you who fancy a coffee, tea, or something sweet. Master Pâtissier, Eric Lanlard brings his expertise to the Vistas Café Bar and Iona’s afternoon tea experience.
Found on deck 6 we saw an array of Bakewell slices, chocolate fudge cake, cheesecake, and carrot cake on display. The seating nearby the café is ideal if you’re looking for somewhere quiet to read or relax and take in the views.
Close to the atrium on deck 8 you will find luxury gelato served at Ripples. This cute spot has an ice cream parlour vibe and is the ideal way to satisfy that sugar craving. There is a large range of flavours including a vegan option, and you can buy one, two or three scoops in a waffle cone. If you’re looking for something bigger then what about a Banoffee or Oreo sundae, or a Knickerbocker Glory.
Ripples even offers a twist on the traditional afternoon tea, with their Gelato Afternoon Tea. If all this makes you a little chilled then you can warm yourself up with a range of hot drinks, very similar to what’s on offer at Vistas Café Bar.
The Keel and Cow
The best way to describe the Keel and Cow which is located on deck 8, is a kind of gastropub where you can be a little more relaxed as you dine. As with many of the speciality dining options there is an additional charge, but this will depend on what you order. We spent about £6.50 each but you’ll obviously pay more for steaks and larger meals.
If you’re sick of the same morning views, then you could always head to Keel and Cow for breakfast. There isn’t loads on offer but they do have breakfast buns, pastry baskets and a full English Artisan breakfast pan.
It’s the evening which gives this spot a more romantic vibe, with impressive views out into the ocean through the atrium’s giant windows. Most people love the Keel and Cow because it’s the ideal spot for meat lovers.
Whether it’s ‘the Prime Minister’ which is a burger made with prime British beef, blue cheese and dry-cured bacon, or a fillet from their steak board. Every meal is made to order and as such you can wait a little longer than you normally would in the main restaurants.
Examples of Starters are.
- Sticky Duck Drumsticks,
- Potted Chicken and Bacon Rillette,
- Hot Smoked Chalk Stream Trout.
Examples of Mains are.
- Blackened Corn-fed Spatchcock Chicken,
- Vegetable (Vegan) Kofta Balti Pie,
- Cumbrian Sausage and Yorkie Skillet,
- Haddock Fish Finger Ciabatta Sandwich.
Examples from the Steak Board are.
Examples of Desserts are.
- Orchard Fruit Crumble,
- Baked New York Cheesecake,
- Beef Suet Sticky Toffee Pudding.
The Olive Grove
Not far from the Club House on deck 8, you will find the Olive Grove which is a Mediterranean restaurant. The interesting element about this eating spot is that even though it is a speciality restaurant, the majority of the items on the menu are inclusive. You will spot the odd price on certain items, but even they aren’t too bad, especially if you’re looking for somewhere with that Italian relaxed vibe.
You’ll find grazing plates, pasta, salads, pizza, some regional specialities, and of course sweet treats. Again, this is a great spot if you’re looking for a more chilled location to eat, but you’re tired of the hustle and bustle of the buffet restaurant.
Found near the Crow’s Nest on deck 17 is the fine dining experience known as The Epicurean. The word Epicurean means ‘devoted to sensual pleasures’ such as food and drink, and it’s is the perfect way to explain this restaurant. Now we’ll begin by saying that this is a supplementary dining option which is currently £28 per person, but with that you are given a unique food experience in an elegant surrounding.
This restaurant is ideal if you’re celebrating a special event, or you simply want a romantic evening with your loved one. There is an ambience in the room that exudes class, from the beautiful décor and the serene music to the stunning ocean views.
The menu is inspired by classic British dishes, but they are given a modern twist by expert chefs, and it is completed with expertly chosen fine wines and flawless service. During sea days you can also book Eric Lanlard’s afternoon tea, which was quite popular during our cruise.
Examples of Starters are.
- Alaskan Snow Crab, Langoustine and Salmon Caviar Cocktail,
- Chicken and Morel Mushroom Mousseline with Pistachio Crumble,
- Pea and Chervil Custard, Parchment Bread, and a Cucumber Mojito.
Examples of Mains are.
- Black Cod and Canadian Cold Water Lobster Tail,
- Torchon of Wild Atlantic Halibut Grenobloise,
- with Avruga Caviar Gratin.
Examples of Desserts are.
- Crêpes Suzette,
- Lemon Meringue Tart,
- Vanilla Pod Ice Cream.
The Glass House
This restaurant can be found on deck 7 and has spectacular views due to the glass windows either side. The Glass House is ideal if you’re looking for a light bite, with a lunchtime tipple to match. Alongside the beautiful food is a selection of wines chosen by wine guru Olly Smith and there are over 32 to try during your vacation.
There are supplemental charges for this restaurant, which are between £5.25 and £7.50, depending on your menu choices.
Examples of the Small Plates are.
- Korean Sticky Chicken Lollipops,
- Chinese Spiced Crispy Lamb,
- Prawn Potstickers,
- Soy Marinated Quorn and Papaya Salad.
They also have trio plates where you’ll be served three dishes for a specific food item, for example beef, chicken, pork, seafood and even vegan. If you have a sweet tooth then take a look at the three-piece sweets, where you can enjoy three taster desserts themed from the Very Berry, British Retro or Global Fusion categories.
Found on deck 8 is the Indian inspired Sindhu restaurant and bar, which is the ideal spot if you’re looking for a relaxing atmosphere and something a little different. As you can imagine this is a supplementary restaurant with a current price being between £15 and £25. The menu for Sindhu was designed by Michelin star chef Atul Kochhlar who drew inspiration from his native India. This means your taste buds will be delighted by an array of rich spices, delicate flavours, and wonderful aromas, all in sumptuous surroundings.
Examples of Starters are.
- Hariyali Jhinga,
- Ginger and Mint Tiger Prawns, Pineapple Chutney,
- Karara Kekda.
Examples of Mains are.
- Kalyera Mappas,
- Chicken Khow Suey,
- Lobster, Seafood Biriyani, Spiced Coconut and Mango Sauce.
Examples of Desserts are.
- Chocolate Textures,
- Kesar Pista Parfait,
- Chocolate Truffle Mousse, White Chocolate and Mint Sorbet, Mint Chocolate Soil.
The Limelight Club
The Limelight Club on deck 6 is reminiscent of the traditional supper club, which combines quality dining along with a show. But what makes it more exciting is that many of the performers are household names in the United Kingdom. During our cruise we had Chesney Hawkes, and yes throughout the day you will see them wandering around the ship which adds some fun to your cruise.
As you can imagine this is a supplemented restaurant and you can pay between £25 and £35 per person. This may seem expensive, but in reality, how much would you pay to simply see those acts perform, never mind the addition of the high-quality food.
The restaurant has quite an intimate, classy setting, with a stage at the centre of the room. There are shows every night, exclusively for adults and depending on the act they can book up fast. As well as the show, the price includes a three-course menu which is served during the performance.
Examples of Starters are.
- Mojito Cured Salmon,
- Crisp Honey-Glazed Berkshire Black Ham Hock.
Examples of Mains are.
- Pan-Roasted Fillet of Onley Grounds Beef,
- Pine Nut Tapenade-Crusted Lamb Rack,
- Butternut Squash, Mushroom and Cashew Nut Spring Roll.
Examples of Desserts are.
- Dark and White Chocolate Mascarpone Bomba,
- Strudel of Pistachio Kataifi Pastry with Pine and Fir Tree Syrup.
The Chef’s Table
If you want to have the opportunity to try gourmet food, but without the price tag then The Chef’s Table is the perfect option. Check your My Holiday app when you’re on board, because on certain black-tie nights you can enjoy food created by Marco Pierre White and Eric Lanlard, alongside wine recommended by the expert Olly Smith. This is included in your cruise, so as you can imagine it books up fast.
If you’re not booked into The Chef’s Table, then just be aware of when it is on because it is held in a section of the Horizon and as such there are certain entrances into the buffet restaurant which are cordoned off.
As you can imagine, the dress code for this restaurant is glamour, so put on those glad rags. You will be served an exclusive menu which gives you the feeling of a celebrity, without the extortionate price tag.
Room Service on P&O Iona
Cruises can be hard work and tiring, especially if you have back-to-back ports. So, you may get back to your cabin and simply want to rest, rather than having to get ready to head to a restaurant. This is where room service comes in handy because you can relax in your room and wait for your food to be delivered to your door. There are additional charges added to the order, but it’s not too extreme. Also, you can always nip up to the buffet and bring food back to your room. Food categories include baguettes, light bites, large plates, wraps and healthy options. There are even desserts and sweet treats available if you fancy a little something naughty. Room service is available around the clock, but after 11pm the menu is smaller.
If you’re after breakfast, then fill in the card and hang it on your door before you go to bed and the next morning the crew member will knock with your order. For other meals simply call room service and place your order and they will bring it to you.
Special Dietary Requirements
During our first full day on the ship, we received a call from one of the special dietary team explaining what we needed to do if we wanted to book in the restaurant. Basically, if you have any allergies or intolerances and you want to book into any of the restaurants onboard, then you will need to prebook your meal 24 hours before, by going to the restaurant and picking what you want to eat. This will give the chef plenty of time to make the adjustments to the dishes before you arrive. Most vegetarian options in the main restaurants can be made vegan relatively easy. We were informed that P&O offer a full menu of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and low sugar dishes.
Within the Horizon restaurant there are knowledgeable stewards wearing a yellow ‘can I help you?’ apron who will be happy to help and explain the ingredients. But most of the buffet options will be labelled as to whether they are gluten free, veggie or vegan, and then on the back there should be a full list of ingredients. One member of our party is vegan and soy free, so you can imagine how limiting this can be when they travel, but they still managed to find options most days, even if it was just salads.
The Peninsular Club
The Peninsular Club is P&O’s loyalty scheme, and it is based on the time you spend on P&O cruise lines. For every night you earn 10 loyalty points, and they will be applied at the end of your holiday. By spending 15 nights or more on board any P&O cruise ships, you will earn 150 points and as such will automatically become a Pacific tier member of the club.
There are six tiers, with each bringing more rewards, and you move through them simply by cruising with P&O. Benefits include onboard discounts, a champagne voucher, priority arrival time allocation and a welcome on-board reception.
Our Iona Top Tips
- During our cruise there was shuttle transport available at most ports, it really depended on how close the main town was to the port entry. If there is a shuttle bus offered by P&O then just be aware that you will be charged to use it. You will find information about the shuttle bus and the price in the Horizon magazine, but we generally paid four pounds each way. For most ports you will be required to show your boarding card before you get on the bus, and it will then be scanned so that the charge can be added to your cruise account. There is the odd exception, where you may be required to pay in local currency, so make sure you have some handy. Not all cruise lines offer shuttle buses, but it’s great for passengers who have issues with mobility.
- Some cruise lines have the swimming towels in your cabin, but on P&O Iona you will find them by the pools.
- During our research before the cruise, we were informed that you can bring alcohol when you board the ship on the first day. The amount allowed is a litre bottle per person or unlimited alcohol-free drinks. We brought in our hand luggage a litre bottle of spirits each. When we were onboard, we noticed that you could purchase a bottle of spirits for your room and the price was incredibly reasonable. As we visited the various ports, we bought local beers and wine, which we then brought back with us onto the ship. Obviously, they need to be scanned by security, but we didn’t have any problems. This maybe a European allowance, because we have been told that many cruise lines do not allow it in American or Caribbean ports.
- Iona offers a free newspaper called Britain Today, which you can pick up from Vistas Café bar on deck 6. It’s not a full newspaper, just a drilled down version they have created and printed off. Inside you will find world news, sports, celebrity gossip and entertainment. Nearby there will also be an additional sheet which has a crossword and Sudoku puzzle on it. The answers to both can be found on the following days sheet.
- Our biggest advice would be to spend time the night before going through the Horizon magazine, more specifically the ‘shipboard information’ at the back. This will provide information pertinent to the ship itself, but more importantly to the port you’re visiting. You can find out whether you need to take your passport with you, if there is a shuttle bus service, whether there are any strikes or local issues you need to be aware of and information on crew drills and the dining code.
- We always recommend to any new cruisers that they take a re-usable water bottle with them. It’s ideal for both the ship and when you’re in port, because bottles of water can be pricey. You’ll find that on the Iona there’s a scheme to reduce their environmental impact and as such there are water filling stations all over the ship.
- The smoking area on the Iona can be found on deck 18 which is the same as the Beachcomber. You will find an area with seats, but we’ve been informed there is very little cover.
- Reception can be found on deck 7 and has staff available for the majority of the day. If you need assistance but it isn’t an emergency, then stay away from reception on the first and last day of your cruise as these tend to be the busiest times.
- This is a personal one for us, but it may be relevant if you’re the same as we are. The pillows on the Iona are quite thick and as such we spent the trip sleeping with our neck at a weird angle which was uncomfortable. If you’re fussy about your pillows, then we recommend you bring your own.
Our experience of disembarking the Iona was a really positive one, in fact it was probably the easiest we have ever had. Of course, not everyone’s experience will be the same, we chose to take our bags off with us (which not everyone can do) and we left the ship at 7am and jumped straight into our car (again not everyone can do if they’re waiting on some form of public transport).
Ultimately how you disembark Iona will depend on what you choose to do with your luggage the day before.
On your final full day on the ship, you will be required to cash out any casino chips and slot winnings before the casino closes. We did receive a phone call when we cruised on the Britannia, to remind us we had credit left, but that isn’t a given and is your responsibility.
Normally the morning you are leaving you will find a paper copy of your final cruise account bill left at your cabin door. For most people the balance will be removed from the credit card or debit card you applied to your account. If you’re paying by cash, then you will need to settle your account by 8pm the evening before disembarkation.
On the day you leave, your cabin needs to be vacated by 8am. To leave the ship you must show your cruise card which you will have used throughout the trip to enter your room and pay for drinks. You have two options when it comes to luggage and that is having it taken away the day/night before or taking it with you as you leave.
- Taking your luggage with you – If you are able to, then this option is the easiest for getting off the ship and it’s the one we chose.On our cruise we had the option of disembarking Iona between 6.30am and 8.15am. You can leave your room at any point during that time period and head to the gangway which is situated on deck 6 midship. Your card will be scanned so they have a record that you left, and you simply walk off into the terminal and head to your transportation home.
- Luggage removed the night before – You can choose to leave your luggage outside your room the day/night before and pick it up in the terminal where trolleys will be available. This is especially handy if you have any disabilities or physical struggles. Bags need to be outside your cabin before 9pm the night before, but remember to keep any medication, valuables, and fragile items in your hand luggage. We’d also recommend that you leave out a fresh set of clothes, because we have heard of a story where a man packed everything away and didn’t have any clothes for the next day. Your luggage will be offloaded once the ship has docked and grouped in the terminal by deck order. Within the disembarkation letter posted to your cabin you will find an allocated venue and time. This luggage option means you must wait until that time, or your luggage probably will not be in the terminal. For example, we were told to wait on deck 8 in the Club House until 8.45am.
Don’t worry too much about disembarkation day because our experience with P&O in comparison to other cruise lines has been a positive one. Especially when you consider that there are over five thousand passengers who are leaving the ship; we found the process to be seamless.
Would We Recommend P&O Iona?
Our aim at Make a Bucket List is to encourage you to strive for more adventure in your lives, but we always want to be completely transparent with you. Remember that this is purely our opinion based on our experiences, and someone else could have a very different view of the Iona. We have been on a number of ships, but at the time of sailing on the Iona (November 2023), we had only cruised with three different cruise lines. Iona is the second P&O ship we have sailed on, the first being Britannia which we thoroughly enjoyed.
If you would like to read more about the P&O Britannia, then check out our guide on the facilities and entertainment available.
We went with family members and as such there was a mixture of ages. Some of us stayed in balcony rooms, whilst others had inside cabins, so we got to see both options.
The Iona itself is a sight to behold, because not only is it huge, its beautifully designed with the impressive SkyDome at the centre, the curved atrium of glass and the Promenade walkways. When you first board the ship you’ll find yourself on the grand atrium level, deck 6. This is where the stunning chrome staircase winds down, and because we sailed in late November, we had the delight of seeing it decorated for Christmas.
You’ll soon find your bearings, because everything you need tends to be on decks 6 to 8, or 16 and above. The ship seemed to shrink as our knowledge of it improved, and we imagine you’ll find the same thing.
Now that’s all great, but as we said about the Iona cabins to avoid, our not so good mainly revolved around our cabins. As we chatted with other passengers, we found many of them also had problems with their rooms. It ultimately depends on whether those issues would bother you or not? Would it stop us from sailing on the Iona again, not at all, we’d just be cautious about the deck we stayed on.
When it came to entertainment there was plenty on offer, although we would like to have seen more shows by the Headliners Theatre Company. They seemed to have more solo singers in the theatre, and it could get a tad boring, especially when all around the ship you got the same thing. What we did enjoy on Iona was the acrobatic performances which you would find in the SkyDome and the grand atrium. Overall, it wasn’t the best entertainment we’ve seen on a cruise ship, but we did have to bear in mind that it was close to Christmas and as such the winter season may have had an impact.
The food throughout was very hit and miss, and again not the best we have eaten. It was incredibly salty, and we heard a lot of complaints through the cruise. Whether this was due to the winter season and staff shortages we have no idea. But there were options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten free passengers, including plant-based milks and butter. The dining rooms can cater for allergies and intolerances, but you must give them 24 hours’ notice which can be a pain.
Again, please bear in mind this is our experience and we’re sure if you search other bloggers, you may find differing views. But we just want to be honest with you, and none of these points would stop us from booking another cruise on the Iona. It is the perfect ship for sunny places because there are so many sun decks, with hot tubs and infinity pools scattered all around. We adored the SkyDome because it was a wonderful spot to relax and take in the ocean views.
Overall, cruising has become increasingly popular over the last few years for all ages. Not only can you enjoy exquisite food, drink, and incredible entertainment, but you have the chance to see lots of wonderful new places in one trip. We view cruising as a taster menu for countries or cities because some locations we know we’ll go back to another time and stay for a little longer. So, if you’ve never been on a cruise then why not consider this impressive ship as your first one.
Should you decide to book, or you have already booked, then we wish you a wonderful time on the P&O Iona and please tag us into your Instagram pictures, we love to see your adventures.