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Iona Review

4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating
29 reviews
Iona (Image: P&O Cruises)
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Editor Rating
4.0
Very Good
Sue Bryant
Cruise Critic Contributor

Best for: Families, couples who enjoy plenty of evening entertainment, younger cruisers

Not for: Those seeking a quiet, small-ship experience

Bottom Line: Big ship with impressive choice and quality entertainment geared to British tastes


P&O Cruises' Iona is the biggest ship ever built for the UK market, packed with entertainment venues and more than 30 places to eat and drink. With a capacity of 5,200 passengers, the ship has the feel of a lively but classy floating resort.

Despite its size, Iona has green credentials. It's the first British ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), which means zero sulphur and nitrogen emissions and significantly less carbon than ships running on marine diesel.

The ship is certainly striking. At its heart is the Grand Atrium, with walls of glass on both sides spanning three decks, flooding the space with light and sea views. Polished white marble and gleaming chrome add to the elegant, airy feel, while a curved marble staircase sweeps down into the centre.

The SkyDome is another 'wow' moment at first sight, and a first for P&O Cruises, too. An enormous glass dome covers a double-height space on decks 16 and 17 which serves as a pool, drinking and dining venue by day and a dramatic entertainment space in the evenings. Other intriguing features making their debut include a boutique, four-screen cinema, an intimate nightclub masterminded by Gary Barlow and the first gin distillery at sea.

Iona is a departure in tone for P&O Cruises. It's clearly aimed at a younger demographic than the line's more traditional ships, in the style of the entertainment, food and nightlife. There are nods to tradition in the formal gala nights, the captain’s midday announcement and familiar venues that P&O regulars expect, including Brodie's pub and the Crow's Nest lounge. But in other areas, there's big change; open seating dining, for example, and the requirement to book everything via the MyHoliday app, which was experiencing big teething problems on our cruise.

There's a lot that's well planned about this ship. Instead of one big pool and the overcrowding that can bring, there are two infinity pools on the cascading aft decks, the indoor SkyDome pool and the smallish Beachcomber pool on deck 18, which spreads passengers out efficiently. With so many bars and restaurants, you really could eat and drink somewhere different every day and the concept of lots of smaller venues as opposed to a few huge ones means the ship doesn't feel crowded.

The decor is soothing and tasteful, never veering into the garish. The colour palette throughout is inspired by the British coastline, cabins done out in soothing shades of sand, pale oak, stone and white, with splashes of gold and nautical navy. The collection of 4,600 pieces of contemporary British art adds to the sense of style and good taste.

Not everything works. Some of the new dining venues feel soulless. There's a frustrating adherence to exactly what’s on the bar menus, so you can't, for example, get a martini in the Crow's Nest; you can only order from the fixed menu. Covid protocols have affected service; there's no turndown in the cabins anymore, which feels odd for anybody who enjoys the sense of luxury a cruise brings. The Wi-Fi is also extremely expensive, at £140 for a week of unlimited use, for one device.

Overall, though, Iona is an impressive ship, packed with quality entertainment and likely to be a huge hit with younger cruisers looking for nightlife, good food and affordable entry-level pricing.


Health & Safety

P&O Cruises requires all adults to be double-vaccinated. Children from five upwards who are not vaccinated must take a PCR test within 120 hours prior to embarkation. All guests, including vaccinated adults, must take a lateral flow test before boarding, which is offered free of charge at Southampton as either a drive-through facility, shared with other Carnival Corporation ships (so busy when more than one ship is embarking) or a walk-in space at the terminal itself for those who arrive by train or taxi.

Before Boarding

  • Proof of double vaccination or a negative PCR test for under-18s
  • COVID-19 insurance
  • Pre-boarding test

Onboard

  • Masks in all public spaces
  • Social distancing
  • Capacity limits in all bars and restaurants
  • Pre-booking encouraged via the My Holiday app
  • Sanitizing stations all over the ship
  • Fresh mask in your cabin every night
  • No dancing, except in dance classes
  • No evening turndown in the cabins
  • Safety drill via in-cabin video and then individual check in at muster station
  • Waiters minimise touch, so no longer pull out a chair to seat a passenger in a restaurant
  • Cruise cards must be laid on the table to be scanned; waiters won’t touch them

Off the ship

  • Excursions will comply with local rules when they start again; some countries may allow cruise ship 'bubble' excursions only.

Pros

Cons

Bottom Line


About

Passengers : 5,200
Crew : 1,800
Passenger to Crew : 2.89:1
Launched : Summer 2020
Shore Excursions : 187

Inclusions

Included with your cruise fare:

  • Main dining rooms, the buffet and select other eateries
  • All theatre and SkyDome shows
  • Most daily activities unless noted below
  • Use of the gym, but not most classes
  • Gratuities

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Specialty dining
  • All drinks beyond tap water, tea, coffee and select juices in the buffet
  • Spa treatments
  • Shore excursions
  • Wi-Fi
  • Room service delivery charge of £2.50

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Iona Cruiser Reviews

A very different ship for P & O

There was always dancing on P&O - the Iona has a great big atrium spoilt by a winding chrome looking staircase in the centre.Read More
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03boys

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

Brilliant holiday - everything we had hoped for and more.

First impressions of Iona were very positive. It is new, so looking spick and span should have been a given, but still it was lovely.Read More
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mightywell

10+ Cruises

Age 50s

Iona, Nice ship but the P+O money making machine is out of control. Time for a change to another cruise line.

First of all, we are / we're Loyal P+O cruisers so having last cruised in Jan 2020, we were desperate for a break so we booked the Iona southern short break down to northern Spain, up the coast of FranceRead More
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Raysaway

10+ Cruises

Age 60s

First cruise on a floating giant

Iona is an impressive ship and it passed its first tests with flying colours, a force nine gale in the Channel and a choppy Bay of Biscay.Read More
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Spanishfan

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

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