Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed her voyage on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, the Iona, which runs on liquefied natural gas and is the liner’s greenest ship to date. Footage shows how Iona is a foodie’s paradise, with P&O Cruises’ ‘Food Hero’ Marco Pierre White holding cooking demonstrations on select cruises. The footage also includes inside information on Iona’s boutique cinema and swimming pools, including one that transforms into a stage for an acrobatic show.
The Iona is the newest addition to the fleet of British cruise ship P&O Cruises. It cost 733 million pounds ($950 million) to build and can carry a whopping 5,200 passengers.
It’s glamorous both on the outside and on the inside, which is what I was hoping to film when I boarded in Southampton for a seven-day cruise to the Norwegian Fjords.
Jo Kessel sets sail on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, the Iona, on a seven-day cruise from Southampton to the Norwegian Fjords
The Iona (pictured above in Norway during Jo’s voyage) cost £733 million ($950 million) to build and can carry a whopping 5,200 passengers
Never before has the North Sea posed so well for the camera and confused itself with the Caribbean on a sailing trip. It was the perfect weather to show off Iona’s four pools, including two infinity jobs and another in the futuristic “Sky Dome” that transforms into something completely different at night, more on that later.
Once we reach the fjords, the video shows how stunning Iona looks framed by Norway’s mountains. Plus the abundance of hot tubs on the ship — I counted eight on the Promenade Deck alone — means there’s always an option to jump in a hot tub to soak up the view. And if you don’t feel like getting wet, Iona has many other nice places to relax.
Many of these are located on the Promenade Deck (deck 8), a quieter alternative to the often busy 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,” Jo says of the sailing
The ship’s “plenty of hot tubs” means that “there’s always an opportunity to jump into 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 many other nice places to relax,” she reveals
Next, the footage sweeps across the stern of the Promenade Deck, revealing the ship’s sleek, curvy lines. Then it’s off to the cabins (mine was also on deck 8) and a groundbreaking area called The Quays.
This is an indoor/outdoor dining spot that rivals the buffet on the upper deck, and offers a selection of small dishes, as well as a fish and chip stand and a noodle bar. For a lunch away from the crowds, you can’t beat this.
Speaking of food, P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called “Food Heroes” and several cruises a year have one of them on board who hosts cooking demonstrations for guests and answers questions and answers in the theater and so on.
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 help with a seafood risotto demonstration, I couldn’t refuse…despite warning him I’m a terrible cook! Did I ruin the risotto? Luckily not! Marco kept an eye on my stirring.
One of the places to “chill out” on board. “It’s glamorous both on the outside and on the 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 ‘groundbreaking’ restaurant with a fish and chip stand and pasta bar
P&O Cruises Food Heroes also hosts dinners and for me (which was located in 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 mains. Both were excellent. Thank you Marco
Off camera (believe me there), I plucked up the courage to ask something I’d read on Wikipedia about Marco making Gordon Ramsay cry. Rumor has it that Ramsay, who was trained by Marco at his restaurant Harvey’s, was found crying in a corner. Who would have thought that possible?
Is it true?
‘Yes, it is 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 dubbed “Food Heroes” and several cruises a year have one of them on board – Marco Pierre White was recruited to sail Jo
Jo assists Marco with a seafood risotto demonstration. “I warned him I was a terrible cook,” she says
Marco hosts dinner at Sindhu, the ship’s Indian specialty restaurant
And that’s, I’m afraid, all I got out of him on the subject, despite much persistence.
Another Food Heroes from P&O Cruises is Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde. And while he wasn’t on board for my cruise, I was able to enjoy the unique six-course tasting menu he created for Iona’s specialty restaurant, Epicurean.
Despite the £30 per person surcharge, this sells out quickly so book before you go. Every course was deliciously light, fragrant and fresh, from the crispy chicken skin appetizer to the smoked mountain trout with horseradish cream and the Jaeren coast lamb fillet.
I was a particular fan of Skjelde’s puffed rye, which adds a salty crunch to the salads.
Jo enjoys the unique 6-course tasting menu created by Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde for Iona’s Epicurean Restaurant
One of Jo’s dishes at Epicurean, which Jo reveals sells out quickly, “despite the £30-per-head extra charge”.
Iona’s Sky Dome pool turns into a stage at night and is used for a breathtaking acrobatic show
Marco Pierre White’s 2022 cruises on P&O Cruises Iona include a cruise to Spain and Portugal departing on November 26th. Visit www.pandocruises.com for more information.
The finale of the video is Iona’s entertainment, from his four-screen boutique cinema to his 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 right now, entertainment is most impressive in Iona’s Sky Dome.
What’s a swimming pool by day becomes a stage at night (watch the video to see the mechanics of this) when the dome is used for a breathtaking acrobatic show, with stars soaring in the eaves of the glass roof and somersaults hit.
It’s an exciting show on an exciting new ship.
You can find more information from Jo on her YouTube channel. go with jo.
Jo explains that the Iona pictured is “an exciting new ship”.
Iona can accommodate 5,200 passengers in her 2,614 cabins. Pictured is the atrium of the ship
IONA IN NUMBERS
- Iona cost £730 million to build
- It is 42 m wide and 345 m long and weighs 185,000 gross tons
- Guests can roam 17 decks that 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