Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed her voyage on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, Iona, which is powered by liquefied natural gas and is the liner’s greenest ship yet. The footage shows how Iona is a foodie’s paradise, with P&O Cruises’ ‘Food Hero’ Marco Pierre White holding cooking demonstrations on certain sailings. Plus, the footage has the inside scoop on Iona’s boutique cinema and its swimming pools, including one that transforms into a stage for an acrobatic show.
Iona is the latest addition to British cruise liner P&O Cruises’ fleet. It cost £733million ($950million) to build and can carry a whopping 5,200 passengers.
It’s glamorous on the outside as well as in, which is something I hoped to capture on film when I hopped on board in Southampton for a seven-day cruise to the Norwegian fjords.
Jo Kessel sets sail on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, Iona, on a seven-day cruise from Southampton to the Norwegian fjords
Iona (pictured above in Norway during Jo’s trip) cost £733million ($950million) to build and can carry a whopping 5,200 passengers
Never before has the North Sea posed so well for the camera, confusing itself for the Caribbean as we set sail. It was the perfect weather to show off Iona’s four pools, including two infinity jobs and another in the futuristic ‘Sky Dome’, which at night transforms into something completely different, more of which later.
Once we’ve reached the fjords the video shows how stunning Iona looks framed by Norway’s mountains. Plus the ship’s plethora of hot tubs – I counted eight on the promenade deck alone – means there’s always a chance to hop in a whirlpool to soak up the view. And if you don’t fancy getting wet Iona has plenty of other lovely places to chill.
Many of these are on the Promenade Deck (Deck 8), a quieter alternative to the often busy top deck where you’ll also find a sports court and driving range.
‘It was the perfect weather to show off Iona’s four pools,’ Jo says of the sailing
The ship’s ‘plethora of hot tubs’ means that ‘there’s always a chance to hop in a whirlpool to soak up the view’
Jo relaxes beside one of Iona’s two infinity pools. ‘If you don’t fancy getting wet Iona has plenty of other lovely places to chill,’ she reveals
Next the footage sweeps around the aft of the Promenade Deck, showcasing the ship’s sleek, curvy lines. Then it moves to the cabins (mine was also on Deck 8) and to a game-changing area called The Quays.
This is an indoor (and outdoor) eating venue that rivals the top deck’s buffet, offering a selection of small plates as well as a fish and chips stand and noodle bar. For lunching away from the crowds this can’t be beaten.
Talking of food, P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called ‘Food Heroes’ and several sailings a year have one of them on board, hosting cooking demos for guests and answering Q&A’s in the theatre and so forth.
For my sailing, it was restauranteur Marco Pierre White, the first British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars (he gave them up in 1999, though).
When he asked me to assist in a seafood risotto demonstration I couldn’t refuse… though I did warn him I’m a terrible cook! Did I ruin the risotto? Happily not! Marco kept a beady eye on my stirring.
One of the spaces to ‘chill’ on board. ‘It’s glamorous on the outside as well as in,’ Jo says of the ship
Room with a sea view: Pictured above is Jo’s cabin, on deck eight of the ship
The Quays, pictured, is a ‘game-changing’ eating venue that features a fish and chips stand and a noodle bar
P&O Cruises Food Heroes also host dinners and at mine (which was in the ship’s speciality Indian restaurant Sindhu) Marco helped me decide what to order – Lobster Thermidor ‘Sindhu Style’ for starters (baked in its shell with ginger and green chilli) followed by Duck Tikka Malabari Tandoori Style for mains. Both were superb. Thank you, Marco.
Not caught on camera (so you’ll have to take my word for it) was how I plucked up the courage to ask something I’d read on Wikipedia about Marco once making Gordon Ramsay cry. Rumour has it that Ramsay – who was trained by Marco at his restaurant Harvey’s – was found cowering in a corner in tears. Who’d 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 very emotional that day.’
P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called ‘Food Heroes’ and several sailings a year have one of them on board – Marco Pierre White was recruited for Jo’s sailing
Jo assists Marco in a seafood risotto demonstration. ‘I did warn him I’m a terrible cook,’ she says
Marco hosting a dinner in the ship’s speciality Indian restaurant, Sindhu
And that, I’m afraid, was all I got out of him on the subject, despite much persistence.
Another of P&O Cruises’ Food Heroes is Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde. And while he wasn’t on board for my sailing, I was still able to enjoy the once-a-voyage six-course taster menu he’s created for Iona’s speciality Epicurean restaurant.
Despite the £30pp surcharge, this sells out fast, so book before you sail. Every course was deliciously light, fragrant and fresh, from the crispy chicken skin starter to the smoked mountain trout with horseradish cream to the fillet of Jaeren coastal lamb.
I was a particular fan of Skjelde’s puffed rye, which adds a salty crunch to the salads.
Jo enjoys the once-a-voyage six-course taster menu that Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde has created for Iona’s Epicurean restaurant
One of Jo’s dishes at Epicurean, which Jo reveals sells out fast, ‘despite the £30pp surcharge’
Iona’s Sky Dome swimming pool turns into a stage by night and is used for a jaw-dropping acrobatic show
Marco Pierre White 2022 sailings on P&O Cruises Iona include a Spain and Portugal cruise departing November 26. For more information, visit www.pandocruises.com.
The finale of the video is Iona’s entertainment, from its four-screen boutique cinema to its intimate live music venue called the 710 Club.
Take That’s Gary Barlow is the club’s Musical Director and hopes this venue will nurture new talent and discover the next Adele.
But for now, it’s in Iona’s Sky Dome that entertainment’s the most impressive.
What’s a swimming pool by day turns into a stage by night (watch the video to see the mechanics of it) as the dome is used for a jaw-dropping acrobatic show that sees its stars soaring and somersaulting in the eaves of its glass roof.
It’s an exciting show on what is 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 its 2,614 cabins. Pictured is the ship’s atrium
IONA BY THE NUMBERS
- Iona cost £730million to build
- It measures 138ft (42m) wide and 1,131ft (345m) long – and weighs 185,000 gross tonnes
- Guests can roam 17 decks, which 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
- Its boutique cinema has four screens