I don't know about you, but the very idea of getting abroad after goodness knows how long was something I was jumping for joy about – so you can only imagine my enthusiasm when the opportunity arose to go on a cruise. It was the perfect way to make up for lost time and tick off some incredible places on my 'go-to' list.
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Admittedly, I was no stranger to the seas having enjoyed a cruise in the past, so going aboard P&O's new ship Iona (and finding my sea legs again) felt like a trip down memory lane, only this time with a huge upgrade.
Iona boasts a stunning interior
Iona is new to the P&O roster, having completed her maiden voyage in the late summer this year. She not only boasts a sparkling interior, but is, impressively, powered by liquefied natural gas making her the 'greenest' boat of the family and the first of its kind. So what was it like, I hear you ask? Well, without further ado, here's my take on what it's really like to go cruising.
It's impossible not to feel glamorous when on board
What was it like being onboard Iona?
There's just something about witnessing an astonishingly grand and beautiful boat in front of you. Once I'd got my head around the sheer enormity of the vessel (and done a COVID test) – it was time to head in and be dazzled by what was in store.
I firmly believe that everybody should experience a cruise in their lifetime. What could be better than being on a luxury boat that takes you to a number of incredible places in the space of one trip? The layout and design of Iona is stunning. It's modern, clean and feels instantly safe thanks to the COVID protocol. Not to mention the impeccable staff and an abundance of places to drink, eat, watch, explore and more. The choices were almost overwhelming!
With excellent en suite facilities, a flat screen TV and a comfy bed, the cabins were equally as impressive. You'll even get a balcony if you go deluxe, which will guarantee you some of the best sunrises and sunsets you've ever seen.
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There's endless choice when it comes to food, drink and entertainment
What were the best places to eat and drink on board Iona?
The important bit. P&O allows guests on a full board package to enjoy food at selected restaurants to their hearts content. There's choice of a full English breakfast in the morning, and takeaway style diners down at eateries at the "Quays", which offer sociable dining and perfect for families. There are also more traditional restaurants within the package with fantastic menus that cater to all and available at no extra cost.
But going on holiday is also about luxury, right? Well Iona has plenty of that. Although they're not part of the standard package, there are a number of exclusive restaurants that are nothing short of brilliant. And Iona is also the first boat to have a gin distillery on board – need we say more?
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Dining at the Epicurean will add eleglance and class to your trip
If you love Indian cuisine, then Sindhu is the place for you. The food was absolutely delicious and presented beautifully. The menu range is also very generous. As a pescatarian, I naturally worry about what will be available other than meat, but the gorgeously tender prawns and succulent fish dishes were to die for.
Speaking of shellfish, if you head to Epicurean, another fancy spot which oozes class and elegance, you must try the lobster. Complete with caviar sauce and a portion of black cod – I've never felt so posh, or full for that matter. Top tip: the bars and drinks are exquisite, but a drinks package is a must for best value for money!
The drink were delicious - cheers!
What else does Iona offer?
Apart from stunning interiors and delicious food and drink – you'll be looking for things to do when you're not exploring the great outdoors on your excursions. For kids, there's clubs, a number of pools and even a cinema to keep them entertained for hours. For us grown-ups, make sure you head to the Oasis spa – a gorgeous retreat that, frankly, I could have stayed in all week.
There's plenty on board for adults and children
A real highlight (being a big music lover) was the 7/10 Club – a dimly lit bar exclusive to adults hidden away in the corner of the boat. A house band, who have been selected and directed by Gary Barlow no less, perform every night and provide the perfect late-night atmosphere. Great music and nice cocktails, what more could you ask for?
Gary Barlow is the musical director of Iona's best music spot, the 7/10 Club
What were the excursions on board Iona?
P&O's Northern Europe tour took us to Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Bruges. The ship was also due to head to Hamburg, but a last minute change in schedule meant Le Havre was the final destination.
In 2022, Iona is heading back to Northern Europe so if heading to places like Amsterdam and Belgium tickle your fancy – make sure you check out the below package. But that's not all, the fleet is experienced in traveling all over the globe, so if you're looking for sunnier climates like the Caribbean, or exploring the Norwegian Fjords, P&O has choice in abundance.
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You're guaranteed some fantastic sunsets when at sea
How much is a trip on Iona?
A Northern Europe tour on a seven night cruise on Iona is from £509 per person. Departing October 22, 2022 the price includes kids' clubs, full board meals and entertainment on board.
Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call are Zeebrugge (for tours to Bruges), Rotterdam (overnight call with tours to Amsterdam) and Hamburg.
For more information or to book call P&O Cruises on 03453 555 111 or visit pocruises.co.uk