Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed her journey on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, Iona, which is powered by liquefied natural gas and is the greenest ship to date. The footage shows how Iona is a foodie paradise, with P&O Cruises’ “Food Hero” Marco Pierre White giving cooking demonstrations on select sailings. Additionally, the footage includes the inside scoop of Iona’s boutique cinema and its pools, including one that transforms into a stage for an acrobatic show.
Iona is the latest addition to the fleet of British cruise ship P&O Cruises. It cost £733 million ($950 million) to build and can carry as many as 5,200 passengers.
It’s glamorous on the outside as well as on the inside, something I was hoping for capture on film when I boarded in Southampton for a seven-day cruise to the Norwegian fjords.
Jo Kessel sails on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, Iona, for a seven-day cruise from Southampton to the Norwegian fjords
Iona (pictured above in Norway during Jo’s journey) cost £733 million ($950 million) to build and can carry as many as 5,200 passengers
Never before has the North Sea posed so well for the camera, confusing itself for the Caribbean as we set sail. The weather was perfect to show off Iona’s four pools, including two infinity lanes and another in the futuristic ‘Sky Dome’, which transforms into something completely different at night, more on that later.
Once we reach the fjords, the video shows how beautiful Iona looks surrounded by the mountains of Norway. Plus the ship’s plethora of hot tubs—I counted eight on the promenade deck alone—meaning there’s always a chance to jump in a hot tub to enjoy the view. And if you don’t feel like getting wet, Iona has plenty of other great places to relax.
Many of these are located on the Promenade Deck (Deck 8), a quieter alternative to the often crowded upper deck where you will also find a sports field and driving range.
‘It was the perfect weather to show off Iona’s four pools,’ says Jo about sailing
The ship’s ‘abundance of hot tubs’ means that ‘there’s always a chance to jump in a hot tub to enjoy the view’
Jo relaxes next to one of Iona’s two infinity pools. “If you don’t feel like getting wet, Iona has plenty of other lovely places to chill out,” she reveals
Then the images sweep across the aft deck of the Promenade Deck, showing the sleek, curvy lines of the ship. Then it’s off to the cabins (mine was also on deck 8) and to a game-changing area called The Quays.
This is an indoor (and outdoor) eatery that rivals the buffet on the top deck, with a selection of small plates, a fish and chip stall and noodle bar. Can’t beat this for lunch away from the crowds.
Speaking of food, P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called ‘Food Heroes’ and several sailings a year have one on board, organizing cooking demos for guests and answering Q&As in the theater and so on.
Before my sails, it was restauranteur Marco Pierre White, the first British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars (he gave them up in 1999, however).
When he asked me to help with a demonstration of seafood risotto, I couldn’t refuse… even though I warned him I’m a bad cook! Did I ruin the risotto? Luckily not! Marco kept a close eye on my rudders.
One of the areas to ‘chill out’ on board. “It’s glamorous both outside and inside,” Jo says of the ship
Sea View Room: Pictured above is Jo’s cabin, on deck eight of the ship
The Quays, pictured, is a ‘game-changing’ eatery with a fish and chip stall and noodle bar
P&O Cruises Food Heroes also organize dinners and at mine (which was at the ship’s Indian specialty restaurant Sindhu) Marco helped me decide what to order – Lobster Thermidor ‘Sindhu Style’ for starters (baked in the shell with ginger and green chili ) followed by Duck Tikka Malabari Tandoori Style for main courses. Both were superb. Thank you.
Not caught on camera (so take my word for it) was how I mustered up the courage to ask something I read on Wikipedia about Marco that once made Gordon Ramsay cry. Rumor has it that Ramsay – who was trained by Marco at his restaurant Harvey’s – was found in a corner in tears. Who would have thought that possible?
Is it true?
‘Yes it’s true.’
What did you do or say to Gordon to make him cry?
“Nothing, he was just really emotional that day.”
P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called ‘Food Heroes’ and several sailings a year have one on board – Marco Pierre White was recruited for Jo’s sailing
Jo assists Marco in a demonstration of seafood risotto. “I warned him I’m a bad cook,” she says
Marco organizes dinner at the Indian specialty restaurant Sindhu
And that, I’m afraid, was all I got from him on the subject, despite much persistence.
Another Food Heroes of P&O Cruises is the Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjeelde. And while he wasn’t on board for my sails, I was still able to enjoy the once-a-trip six-course taster menu he created for Iona’s specialty restaurant Epicurean.
Despite the £30 pp surcharge, this sells out quickly, so book before you go. Every course was wonderfully light, fragrant and fresh, from the crispy chicken skin starter to the smoked mountain trout with horseradish cream to the Jaeren coastal lamb fillet.
I particularly liked Skjeelde’s puffed rye, which gives the salads a salty crunch.
Jo enjoys the one-off six-course taster menu Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjeelde created for Iona’s Epicurean restaurant
One of Jo’s dishes at Epicurean, which Jo reveals is selling out quickly, ‘despite the £30pp surcharge’
Iona’s Sky Dome pool turns into a stage at night and is used for a breathtaking acrobatic show
Marco Pierre White 2022 sailings on P&O Cruises Iona include a cruise in Spain and Portugal departing on November 26. For more information, visit www.pandocruises.com.
The video’s finale is Iona’s entertainment, from the boutique four-screen cinema to the intimate live music venue, the 710 Club.
Take That’s Gary Barlow is the music director of the club and hopes this venue will nurture new talent and discover the next Adele.
But for now, the entertainment in Iona’s Sky Dome is the most impressive.
What is a swimming pool during the day turns into a stage at night (watch the video to see how it works), as the dome is used for a breathtaking acrobatic show where the stars fly into the sky in the eaves of the glass roof and do a somersault.
It’s an exciting show on an exciting new ship.
For more from Jo visit her YouTube channel, Go with Jo.
Jo declares that Iona, pictured, is ‘an exciting new ship’
Iona can accommodate 5,200 passengers in 2,614 cabins. Pictured is the atrium of the ship
IONA THROUGH THE FIGURES
- Iona cost £730m to build
- It is 42 meters wide and 345 meters long and weighs 185,000 gross tons
- Guests can roam 17 decks, which can accommodate 5,200 passengers in 2,614 cabins
- There are 1,800 international crew members on board
- The live music venue curated by Gary Barlow is called the 710 Club
- The boutique cinema has four screens