Before boarding the Iona cruise ship, I was very excited for various reasons. The main one was that it was my first ever cruise, so I didn’t know what it entailed. I had heard lots of good things about cruising though, particularly this ship, so I already had positive expectations. Another reason was that I would be visiting Norway, a country I had always wanted to travel to and never visited before. Me and my partner were meant to come on the Iona ship in 2020, but due to COVID hitting it had to be cancelled. It was a nice full circle moment though to be able to embark on it in 2022 with his family who also decided to come along. His mum and dad had been on the Iona to the Canary Islands, and they said it was possibly the best ship they had ever been on. The food was excellent, the design of the ship was unbelievable, and they couldn’t fault it. I shared this view for the first few days we were on board and still share some extent of this view to this day. However, from having time to settle in on the ship, I have soon seen some of its flaws and what needs to be improved on for future passengers. I am aware no ship can be perfect and this is my first cruise, but I do hold the view that if a ship is amazing, there will most likely be hardly any flaws to point out. As my partner and family have mentioned, this seems to be the case with a lot of Americanised cruises such as the Royal Caribbean or Princess, as they stated that the service and standards on those ships were completely faultless in comparison with the Iona. In this review, I’ll look at the components of the ship I liked, but what didn’t quite work to reach an impressive score of 8+.
The ship design is so innovative and arguably the best ship design there has ever been. There is so much space on board, so much light, lots of windows, the colour scheme is lovely, the detailed architecture, chairs, furniture, the modern features such as lights across the floor, outside the room, the amazing lights in the atrium and more. The design of the ship is most definitely a strong 9/10. I like how there is a lot of sun loungers on each deck and even on the busiest of days, you still manage to find one somewhere. My only criticism is that even though there are countless loungers, pools and hot tubs on each deck, they always seem to be jam packed on sea days. It is inevitable you will have to share the ship with other people, but if you’re like me and sometimes you want to have a quiet, romantic moment with your partner in the hot tub, it can be hard to find a time of day to do this. I also don’t like how there is not as many loungers indoors. There are quite a lot in the Sky Dome, but even on a rainy sea day like today when I am writing this, it is very difficult to find a lounger. I just wish there were as many loungers indoors as outdoors on each deck. Another thing I found was that if you have a standard cabin room and not a balcony room, it can get unbearably hot at times. We tried to put the air conditioning on maximum cold but found that even with the icicle sign, it didn’t really do anything. A fan in those rooms would be ideal, I also wish that a carrier bag could be provided with the bin in the room and that another plug socket could be provided on the left side of the bed as there was one on the right but not the left, meaning me and my partner couldn’t sit in bed at the same time if we wanted to charge and be on our phones. Overall, the design of the ship is lovely, there is so much space to walk on deck outside and the architecture is faultless. The marble floors are stunning and really make the ship feel like a beautiful 5* hotel.
Another factor what let the ship down massively for me was the customer service and the personality/liveliness. Some of the food quality was incredibly tasty in the Horizon and other restaurants. The first night we had dinner on my birthday in the Pearl Restaurant was excellent, and we found that we were well looked after. However, after that night, everything seemed to go downhill. On formal night, we had to wait over 3 hours for our entire meal to be served which was outrageous. We also had problems with the food, dishes came cold, and one dish even came completely raw. My partner’s sister got shouted at for asking for a glass of water/changes to the menu and then another morning for breakfast, my partner’s mum had to wait one hour just to get a poached egg on her bagel. Everything seemed like too much trouble, even to ask for more water which should be an automatic given to any table. Another morning, it was almost completely on the opposite side of the scale as we were practically rushed to eat our breakfast to the point where we felt sick because the crew couldn’t serve us when the drill sounded, and they needed to be ready. Why would they choose to do a drill during breakfast time? The waiters were that rushed that they dropped glasses on the floor and put my partner’s bacon and sausages on the same plate with pancakes and syrup. I mean come on. We found that they didn’t really follow the customer is always right policy either. If you wanted something changing on the menu, they would not be willing to accommodate that. They were very snappy, rude and impatient a lot of the time which is not what you want when you’re on holiday. When we had our afternoon tea, they had just gone to the Horizon and picked the cakes from there which wasn’t very exclusive/nice, and they served us sea food sandwiches when we specifically asked not to be served sea food on the app. Even after asking three times, they still brought sea food sandwiches out to us. The vegan sandwiches weren’t any better either as it was just spinach on its own. I mean, who eats spinach sandwiches? Maybe I’m being judgemental but it’s not anyone I know. At least put some egg on it! Or they could have made cucumber sandwiches for us at least. Smoked salmon, chicken, turkey. Is it really that hard? But all they had was pepper sandwiches and spinach which had looked like a three-year-old made them. It would’ve been nice to have chirpy, bubbly waiters as well with a bit of personality, but they all looked so miserable and just slapped the food on the table. In addition to the no personality factor, my partner’s mum said that every cruise she went on there was always a cruise director making sure every person on board was happy and entertained, they always had epic sail-away parties, bubbly people spinning cocktails, performing cocktail making or livening up the place on deck, the waiters waving the handkerchiefs, lots of entertainment on board during the day and even someone always playing an instrument in the atrium. But nowadays, the atrium seems to be so quiet and boring. There are not even any singers on or ambience until night-time. And when the singers do sing in the atrium, it’s very echoey, almost to the point where it hurts your ear drums. However, to counteract this criticism, the shows on board in the theatre at night are the best we’ve ever seen. The Sky’s The Limit show and Festival show were all incredible, the graphics, props on stage, outfits and the energy from the performers were electric and left you in a great mood when you left the theatre. The destinations and weather also made up for all the negative factors on the cruise.