Ship sail

Cruise Holidays: Inside Europe’s newest and greenest cruise ship

Francesca shillcock

I don’t know about you, but the very thought of going abroad after God knows how long was something I was jumping for joy over – so you can only imagine my excitement when the opportunity arose. presented to go on a trip cruise. It was the perfect way to make up for lost time and tick some amazing places off my list of destinations.

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Certainly I was no stranger to the sea for having taken a cruise in the past, so get on board P&O Iona’s new ship (and regaining my sea feet) felt like a trip down memory lane, but this time with a huge upgrade.


Iona has a stunning interior

Iona is new to the P&O roster, having completed her maiden voyage in late summer this year. She not only has a sparkling interior, but is impressively powered by liquefied natural gas, making her the ‘greenest’ boat in the family and the first of its kind. So how was it, I hear you ask? Well, without further ado, here’s my take on what it’s really like to cruise.


It’s impossible not to feel glamorous on board

What was it like being aboard Iona?

There is just something to do with a surprisingly large and beautiful boat in front of you. Once I understood the enormity of the ship (and took a COVID test), it was time to come in and be blown away by what to expect.

I firmly believe that everyone should experience a cruise in their lifetime. What could be better than being on a luxury boat that takes you to incredible places in the space of just one trip? The layout and design of Iona is stunning. It’s modern, clean, and instantly feels 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 bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, and comfy beds, the cabins were equally impressive. You will even have a balcony if you go for the luxury, which will guarantee you some of the best sunrises and sunsets you have ever seen.

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There is endless choice when it comes to food, drink and entertainment

What were the best places to eat and drink on board the Iona?

The important part. P&O allows full board guests to enjoy food at select restaurants as they wish. You have the choice between a full English breakfast in the morning and take out meals in the restaurants of the “Quays”, which offer convivial meals perfect for families. There are also more traditional restaurants in the package with fantastic menus that cater to everyone and available at no additional cost.

But going on vacation is also luxury, right? Well, Iona has plenty. Although they are not part of the standard package, there are a number of exclusive restaurants that are just 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 elegance and class to your trip

If you love Indian cuisine then Sindhu is for you. The food was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. The menu range is also very generous. As a pescatarian, I naturally worry about what will be available other than meat, but the beautifully tender shrimp and succulent fish dishes were to die for.

Speaking of shellfish, if you’re heading to Epicurean, another swanky place that exudes class and elegance, you must try the lobster. Accompanied by a caviar sauce and a serving of black cod – I’ve never felt so chic, nor full for that matter. A good tip: the bars and drinks are exquisite, but a drinks package is essential for better value for money!


The drink was delicious – well done!

What else does Iona offer?

Along with the 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 the kids there are clubs, several swimming pools, and even a cinema to keep them entertained for hours. For us adults, be sure to head to the Oasis Spa – a beautiful retreat that, frankly, I could have stayed all week.

iona-swimming pool

There is plenty on board for adults and children

A real highlight (being a big music lover) was the 7/10 Club – a dimly lit adults-only bar tucked away in the corner of the boat. A house band, which was selected and conducted by Gary Barlow, nothing less, performs every night and provides the perfect late night atmosphere. Great music and great cocktails, what more could you ask for?


Gary Barlow is the Music Director of Iona’s Best Music Spot, The 7/10 Club

What were the excursions aboard the Iona?

P&O’s Northern Europe tour took us to Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Bruges. The ship was also due to sail to Hamburg, but a last minute schedule change meant Le Havre was the final destination.

In 2022, Iona is heading back to Northern Europe, so if you’re heading to places like Amsterdam and Belgium do yourself a favor – be sure to check out the package below. But that’s not all, the fleet is experienced at traveling all over the world, so whether you’re looking for sunnier climates like the Caribbean, or exploring the Norwegian fjords, P&O has plenty to choose from.

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You are guaranteed fantastic sunsets at sea

How much does a trip to Iona cost?

A visit to Northern Europe on a seven night cruise on Iona starts at £ 509 per person. From October 22, 2022, the price includes children’s clubs, full board meals and on-board entertainment.

On departure and return from Southampton, the stopovers are Zeebrugge (for circuits in Bruges), Rotterdam (night stopover with circuits in Amsterdam) and Hamburg.

For more information or to book, call P&O Cruises on 03453 555 111 or visit