“Are you ready to see the world in widescreen?” These are the words, that P&O Cruises use when describing their newest and most innovative ship “Iona”. And after having spent 14 days on “Iona”, I can honestly say, that she most certainly is designed to invite the outdoors in. What makes her stand out are places like the stunning SkyDome, the three-tier glass Grand Atrium and the brand-new Conservatory mini-suite cabins, where we stayed!
Get ready for spectacular views of the ever-changing horizon, exploring Spain and Portugal and 14 days family fun on “Iona”! (This is a loooong blog post, so you might need to make yourself a cup of tea and a cookie for this one)
First-time cruisers… It’s hard to describe the feeling of excitement when you see a ship of this size (knowing, that you will spend the next 2 weeks on it… Joy, oh joy!)
If you have followed our trip on Instagram, you probably know most of the content in this blog post. I have posted SO many amazing stories/ videos from our trip – and they will stay in my Instagram Highlights for you to enjoy
First time impression of our Conservatory Mini-suite… Jaw-dropping! What a stunning suite! You have to remember, that I am a first time cruiser, so everything for me is new. I didn’t really know what to expect and have nothing to compare with, so I think I was very very lucky staying on beautiful Iona for my “Maiden Voyage” Oh, and did you notice the champagne and chocolate? Superior service!
Bonus-info: The Conservatory Mini-suite is an exciting addition to “Iona’s” accommodation options. The personal, versatile, outdoor/indoor room functions as an extension of the room – a perfect space to either relax or entertain in. This space can be closed off in a morning, so you can enjoy a quiet ‘coffee moment’ while everyone is still asleep, and The Conservatory balcony area can then open fully to provide the connection with the sea. It is the perfect choice for a family, if you ask me
The sofa turned into a bed! Voila! Our Cabin Steward was so lovey and available more or less all of the time. He made sure, that we had a bed guard for Clara as well as a lot of extra hangers! The room is being cleaned every morning and the bed made in the evening as well! You just have to make sure to let the team know, that you are out exploring by putting a magnetic card outside your door, when you leave.
Goodbye, Southampton! See you in 14 days…
It was a stunning experience standing at our balcony waving goodbye to the passengers on another P&O Cruises ship! It was actually a quite emotional moment for me, knowing that I was going to spend 14 days with my family in the most amazing way possible! So many adventures ahead of us
Time to explore…
Did you know that:
“Iona” is the greenest member of the P&O Cruises fleet and the first British cruise ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). I love it!
“Iona” has 18 total decks, a length of 344.5 metres (1,130 ft)
“Iona” has 17 different eateries, including eight restaurants designated as ‘select dining’, and 12 different bars. She also has 16 whirlpools and 4 swimming pools, one of which is housed under SkyDome, an entertainment venue topped by a 105-ton, 340-pane, 970-square-meter glass dome with a retractable stage for shows.The ship’s center also includes a three-deck atrium flanked by triple-deck glass panels projecting outward
Shopper’s paradise on Iona. Clara loved the Chocolate/ Teddybear shop!
There are so many great shops on “Iona“. I particularly loved the beauty shops with great products from brands like The White Company, Jo Malone, GHD and Molton Brown. “Iona” is also the first to have a Mulberry boutique at sea.
Bonus-info: Spanning 980sqm, the retail offer consists of 12 shops and four standalone boutiques. There are tax and duty free products from perfume, fine jewellery and fine watches to own-label fashion.
Tip: We did not find a lot of toys for Clara (or baby necessities) in the shops on “Iona”, so I recommend that you bring your little ones favourite toys, colouring books etc and everything else that is needed for babies, kids (diapers, formula, juice, dummies, wet-wipes etc) There are however plenty of opportunities to go shopping in the stunning ports/ cities. (For us, those were Madeira, The Canary Islands, Cadiz and Lisbon)
Good times in the stunning atrium…
With her new friend – the amazing illusionist Calvin from CJ Illusions. (And now she wants to be a magician)
Its hard to capture the beauty of the atrium, but it really was breathtaking in there. Especially when it was all “dressed up’ for the festive season
Every day we enjoyed live piano performances while having a drink or a coffee
As mentioned earlier there are plenty of dining opportunities on “Iona” and most of them are very child friendly with their own menu card for little ones…
We very much liked The Keel and Cow, where they serve beautifully crafted gastropub food. Here, you can chose between burger, classic fish and chips, pie and mash or how about a prime steak from the dry-aging cabinet. Soo good!
Looking for something more simple and less expensive? We enjoyed eating at The Beach House a couple of times on “Iona” The price for a 3 course meal here is around 7.50GBP plus a little extra for the amazing sizzling cook-your-own steak and the hanging kebabs
Head to The Quays for informal dining options to suit every mood…
This multi-venue dining piazza offers an amazing array of eateries and restaurants. We loved that we had access onto the Promenade Deck as well, so outdoor dining is available too. The perfect place for a quick snack, light lunch or informal dinner.
The Epicurian… The ultimate place for a romantic evening out!
Normally, Iona offers childcare services onboard, which is absolutely brilliant, if you want to have a date night with your partner. Due to the current situation, the kids clubs were open (and great!), but we had to take turns staying with Clara, which meant, that there was no opportunity to have a bit of “adult-time”. As much as I loved The Epicurian, I did not enjoy having Clara with us, as it was clear that most of the guests there was having a special night out, and Clara was not really in the mood to be quiet. The staff was amazing, so no problems there… But I won’t bring a little one here again unless I see, that other kids are there too. The food was heavenly and some of the best we had onboard by the way!
Here we are at The Olive Grove…. Oh, what a lovely place – and Clara had some of her favourite dishes. Look at her face… She just found out, that she is going to be Mary in the school’s Nativity Play (so proud! And her mummy is very proud too!)
Delicious Mediterranean food with iconic favourites, from Spanish paella to Moroccan lamb tagine and grazing boards of tasty regional specialities. The perfect family venue!
Breakfast at The Horizon self-service restaurant
Whatever you fancy, whatever the time of day, head for the self-service restaurant Horizon Restaurant. This all-day dining venue offers a lovely variety of food from home and around the world to suit every appetite and dietary need
The last restaurant that I can warmly recommend, is Sindhu. Such a gorgeous place and by far the most beautiful and stylish one of them all. Sindhu’s expert chefs will for sure take you on a delicately spiced odyssey that celebrates the best of contemporary Indian cuisines. A must-visit!
That day Clara made a new friend in the Kids Club… It was love at first sigh,t and I am so happy that they had each-other on the trip, as there weren’t many children on board (again this is due to the currently circumstances)
Welcome to The Reef…
The Reef is P&O Cruises free on-board activity programme for children aged six months to 12 years. Here we are inside “Splashers” for children 2-4 years.The space is bright and fun, and Clara loved the big pirate ship, toys, shopping stores and activities such as craft and dressing-up play. (We are not allowed to have phones inside Splashers, so I took these photos with Clara before any of the other kids arrived)
Speaking of popular places for kids on “Iona”… I can’t count the amount of times, Clara visited family-friendly Gelateria “Ripples”. The gelato here is sooo good, and I had my fair share as well!
There are two places to get ice-cream on Iona – another one is placed by the indoor swimming pool! (Which Clara realised very quickly)
Pizza and french fries by the pool! Life is good!
More pizza… On our own balcony! Yes, “Iona” also offers room-service, which is brilliant if you want to enjoy the sun from you balcony with a snack!
“Hey Mummy, can we go to the pool now? Pleeeeaaaasssse!”
The SkyDome indoor pool and hot tubs are great for days, when its too cold to go swimming outside …
Fortunately we had some days with really great weather – and then it was time to go out and enjoy all of the pools and hot tubs!
This is the dream… Sitting in a hot tub with my little one looking out at the sea!
“Splashers’ Club outdoor splash area for 2-4 year olds! Isn’t it great? Clara loved every minute!
“Catch me, Daddy’ (over and over again! She just loves water!)
With a view to the mountains of Tenerife…
Nope… It doesn’t get much better than this!
Tip: You don’t have to bring any towels to the pool areas. There are plenty and you can always exchange for fresh ones, when needed! Make sure to bring suncream, a sunhat, some anti-slip shoes and changing clothing, so you don’t have to go all the way back to the cabin for more. We forgot drinking bottles from home but bought one in the souvenir shop to always have fresh water with us (there are water stations many places on “Iona“)
The evenings on Iona are quite extraordinary… So much beauty to be found… (This is one of the outdoor infinity pools)
The perfect place for a photo to be framed … These are moments to remember always!
P&O Cruises “Iona” offers jaw-dropping aerial shows, full-scale theatre productions, live music (bands, pop-up buskers and everything in between), party nights, comedy, the latest movies, guest presenters, interactive game shows and experiences, and much, much more
The Sky Dome was Clara’s favourite, and I must say the shows here were spectacular!
Here we are listening to “Adele”
– and “Eric Clapton”
Rise – and amazing aviary-inspired flight of imagination, where fantastic feathers and rainbows flash! So beautiful and warmly recommended!
Triboo was an adrenaline driven spellbinding battle. The guests had to make a choice: whether they were rooting for the Tribe of the Moon or the Tribe of the Sun, with the battle winners decreed by the audience. It was stunning!
The Ocean Studios – a four-screen cinema complex, which offers comfortable seating and a premium cinema experience. With screenings throughout the day, there’s always an option to see an age-appropriate blockbuster or family classic – complete with popcorn, ice cream and snacks, of course
Time to relax and unwind…
Iona’s spa is a haven of transformative wellness with endless opportunities to enjoy some “me-time” Set out in a beautifully designed space that plays out harmoniously across decks 5 and 6, the aesthetic is understated and elegant. I had “the grand tour” and the spa is stunning. Because we had Clara with us all of the time, and we were busy exploring, I didn’t have a treatment at the spa… But I have promised myself that next time, I will, because this is something you do not want to miss out on!
I have only showed you a bit of, what “Iona” has to offer! There is so much to do, and I promise you will never be bored…
To help you keep track with everything that is happening onboard “Iona“, you will be given a new copy of “The Horizon” every evening telling you everything you need to know about the upcoming day from destination, events, dress code, time zone offers and much more
Its time to take a look at the destinations, that we visited on our 14 days onboard “Iona“
Breakfast in our Mini Suite with a view….
Welcome to beautiful Madeira…
I will only share a few photos from each destination, as this blog post will simply be too long, but as mentioned earlier, I have SO many videos and stories from all the places that we went on my Instagram account, so if you check out the 4 “Iona” highlights, there will much more to find about this trip
Most popular choice, if you want to spend a few hours in Funchal… The Farmer’s Market… Looks at the fruits and vegetables! Picture perfect! (And Clara fits right in)
The Mercado dos Lavradores in Funchal, Madeira. This open market is a hive of activity, noise, color and high-energy, where you can buy any of Madeira’s specialties from fresh fish and vegetables to exotic flowers and local crafts. Purchase tropical fruits, vegetables and spices on the upper floor (fish and meat are for sale on the lower floor)
Tip: Make sure to ask for the price before you pay! We wanted to try a banana pineapple fruit and was asked to pay 15GBP pr fruit… So we left again! (A classic tourist trap!)
You simply MUST try Bolo do Caco, when visiting Maderia… It is the most heavenly flatbread also known as the Food of the Gods… I still dream of these! Especially the ones with cheese and garlic
A healthy dose of Vitamin D (and vitamin “Sea”) on Madeira
Santa Cruz Tenerife… We had such a lovely day here!
Bonus-info: Whether you are a sightseer, a mountain hiker, an art lover or a foodie, P&O Cruises offers all kinds of shore experiences if you want to explore more! We went on two shore experiences: One in Lanzarote and one in Lisbon!
Beautiful Garcia Sanabria Park
This park is one of the most emblematic symbols of Santa Cruz. Surrounded by tropical flowers, you will discover sculptures hidden among the trees and feel the warm rays of the sun peeking through the lush vegetation. This is something you really don’t want to just hear about – you must experience it for yourself
Inside the park there is also a great playground for the little ones…
Tired of a full day of exploring… (Much more on my Instagram highlights)
Las Palmas Gran Canaria! This day we basically just went in to do a bit of shopping and then back to “Iona” again. Clara was tired and really wanted to go to the pool. And when you come from a cold London, the idea of laying by the pool was very tempting to us
Bonus-info: You can disembark and embark “Iona” as often as you want within a certain time frame that is given to you on the TV in your cabin or in the “Horizon” magazine
Guess, where we are now… Yes, Lanzarote! I have been here a few times and this place always takes my breath away
We went on the “Timanfaya” shore excursion with P&O Cruises, and it was brilliant. The coaches were parked just outside the ship, and we had a lovely English speaking tour guide with us, who was with us all of the way
Even though the volcanoes of Lanzarote are currently inactive, there is still geothermal activity underground, a proof of the health of the Timanfaya volcanic system. Just ten meters below ground level at Timanfaya National Park the temperature reaches 600ºC
Bonus-info: Timanfaya National Park is a Spanish national park in the southwestern part of the island of Lanzarote. The area is really big (51.07 square kilometres (19.72 sq mi), and the parkland is entirely made up of volcanic soil. It is the only Natural Park in Spain which is entirely geological, also Timanfaya National Park represents a sign of recent and historical volcanism in the Macaronesian Region. The last volcanic eruptions occurred during the 18th century as well as on the 19th century
I wish I could capture everything from this trip, as is simply surreal… like going to the moon! If you ever visit Lanzarote, you simply MUST visit Timanfaya
Daddy / Daughter time… It was so good to see those two having so many special moments together
Tasting a bit of the local wine! It was so good, that I bought a bottle of La Geria Moscatel Dulce home with me (sweet wine from Lanzarote)
Saving the best for last…Even though I love The Canary Islands, I must admit that Cadiz (and Lisbon) really wanted me to come back again for more…
This is Cadiz – an ancient port city in the Andalucia region of southwestern Spain. So authentic and so pretty
Getting hungry at Mercado Central de Abastos. Originally built in 1838 this is Spain’s oldest covered market!
– and when are hungry, we mean it! So we found this lovely tapas place at Plaza de San Juan de Dios where we indulged ourselves in the most amazing fish, cheese and meat sharing platters. Life is good in Cadiz! And there is so much more to explore, if you have the time
Lisbon….Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital city! I have heard so many amazing things about Lisbon, so I was so excited to finally see it! Oh, how I fell in love! Such a spectacular city
In Lisbon they were all ready for Christmas, and we found a lovely Christmas market (Rossio Christmas Market) And ended up buying a very special Portuguese home with us to enjoy New Years Eve
Rossio Square or Praça do Rossio, officially called Praça de D. Pedro IV, is Lisbon’s nerve centre. The square is situated in the city’s Baixa neighbourhood. (I warmly recommend visiting this area if you are a first-timer here and don’t have a lot of hours to spend in Lisbon)
Must-try (and available almost everywhere) Salt cod fritters also known as Pasteis de bacalhau – a typical Portuguese dish made of potato puree, onion, parsley and steamed codfish amassed together in a ball and linked with eggs and milk, and then deep-fried. Frenchie was in love
Lisbon has six tram routes, three funiculars, and one vertical liftIntroduced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, trams, funiculars and lift help make Lisbon’s hills a little more manageable. Many people assume that Lisbon’s trams and funiculars are just a ride that the tourists go on. While they have definitely become major attractions (I love them), locals still use them today, sometimes being their main transport in the city
We also went on a bus and boat shore excursion arranged by P&O, as we had 2 days in Lisbon. It was a beautiful boat trip where the most spectacular sight was The 25 de Abril Bridge (a suspension bridge connecting the city of Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the left (south) bank of the Tagus River) and Santuário de Cristo Rei – a Catholic monument and shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Lisbon situated in Almada
I just had to take a photo of this sight… A pretty, traditional Portuguese fishing boat in front of our “Iona.” Old and new in sweet harmony…
You can’t leave Lisbon with at least a few pastel de nata in your bag! We enjoyed ours on our balcony whilst enjoying the sun going down
I can’t find enough words to thank P&O Cruises for this once in a lifetime opportunity. We were invited as guests, and this trip has been the most amazing in a very, very long time. It was greatly needed after a few tough years and gave me strength to “look at the bright side of life” again.
As mentioned we were first-time cruisers, so feel free to write any questions, if there is something that I haven’t mentioned. I had a lot of people following me and writing to me on Instagram, and I hope that I helped them prepare for their upcoming trips on “Iona”. Hopefully one day, we can go on another cruise… I have always wanted to go the Caribbean Sea, so that is on my wish list!
Oh my where to start! Loved all your photos and descriptions what an amazing cruise! All the excitement of the facilities onboard then all the adventures of hopping off and venturing through the most beautiful cities on route. I can’t wait to go one day!
I have never been on a cruise like this, so this first timers guide is fab and very informative. After reading this, I actually do feel like I must try it out. I mean Iona looks beautiful and luxurious and love the destinations you visit along the way. B x
What an amazing holiday. I have been thinking about a cruise like this and I found your post so informative
Looks like a fantastic trip Louise and has certainly changed my mind about going on a cruise 🚢
Oh Louise, what an amazing trip! I enjoyed following along on IG. Your photos are fabulous! I really loved darling Clara’s cruise fashions, just divine x
Thank you so much Susanne. We had the best time x