2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the world of cruise. As well as seeing the launch of Virgin Voyages’ first-ever cruise ship Scarlet Lady, this year also sees the industry welcome P&O Cruises’ new ship, Iona.
Weighing in at just shy of 185,000 GT and with a guest capacity of 5,200, Iona will be the largest ship ever built exclusively for the UK market.
With her arrival in Southampton just around the corner, we have put together everything you need to know about P&O Cruises new mega-ship, from impressive features to dining venues, destinations and entertainment.
What’s the overall feel?
Bringing together some of the world’s leading architects and designers, Iona promises to be every bit as glamorous and sophisticated as her predecessor, Britannia. The impressive Grand Atrium will once again be the beating heart of the ship with a sleek and modern design that spans three decks. Designed to make the sea the star of the show, floor-to-ceiling glass walls have been installed to maximise the spectacular views, while flooding the atrium with natural light. The atrium has been cleverly designed to balance intimate spaces with larger social areas, creating an elegant style that resonates throughout the entire ship.
What will the cabins be like?
Cabins on board will be stylish, contemporary and comfortable with all the added touches for which P&O Cruises are famous. Iona offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxurious suites to more budget-friendly inside cabins. Sea view cabins will be making a welcome return for those who prefer a window to a balcony. There will also be a selection of single occupancy cabins for solo travellers. Most notably, Iona will be the first ship in P&O Cruises’ fleet to introduce conservatory mini-suites. Designed to bring the outside in, the addition of a conservatory-style area provides an extension to the cabin, offering additional space for relaxing and socialising.
Will there be a promenade deck?
Yes, indeed. Cruisers will be pleased to learn that P&O Cruises has included a full, wrap-around promenade deck aboard its new ship for guests to soak up the fresh sea air and stunning views. Not only will you be able to walk the deck until your heart’s content, the promenade deck will also be home to an alfresco dining area, an aft Sunset Bar, and no less than six infinity whirlpools.
Is it true Gary Barlow will be on board?
It certainly is. The multi-award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and musician was recently announced as P&O Cruises new brand ambassador. As well as kickstarting “Ionafest” with a special performance at the ship’s naming ceremony in July, Gary’s debut role will be as musical director of Iona’s 710 Club. While he sadly won’t be a full-time resident aboard, he will be joining guests on two voyages in 2020, the first departing Southampton on 29 August for the Norwegian fjords and the second on 31 October to Spain and Portugal.
What’s The 710 Club?
Under the musical direction of Brit music legend Gary Barlow, The 710 Club will be Iona’s intimate and stylish music bar. Set to become one of the most exciting live music venues at sea, The 710 Club will offer an opportunity for up-and-coming musicians to get their break, while showcasing an eclectic range of performances in this atmospheric, late-night venue.
What’s Ionafest all about?
The week-long festival celebrating the ship’s launch kicks off in Southampton with a dazzling naming ceremony, before taking to the high seas with a seven-night Norwegian fjords cruise departing 4 July. P&O’s ‘floating festival at sea’ will feature performances from some of the UK’s biggest household names, including The Script, Pixie Lott, Diversity and Tim Vine, along with an array of other exciting events in store.
Which other celebrities will be on board?
In addition to those already mentioned, Ionafest will also host Grammy award-winners Clean Bandit, DJ and four-time MOBO winner Trevor Nelson, MBE, radio presenters Jo Whiley and Sara Cox, as well as Blur’s Alex James.
Can’t make Ionafest? Fear not. Along with a variety of other household stars dropping in across Iona’s inaugural season, the Strictly Come Dancing cast is set to strut its way into The Limelight Club, offering an intimate evening of dinner, dance, and Q&As. Plus, Local Food Heroes including celebrated Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde and master of Spanish Tapas José Pizarro will also be stepping aboard to bring a local flavour to Iona.
What’s the SkyDome?
Another brand-new feature for P&O Cruises, an impressive glass dome will sit proudly atop Iona, providing a unique entertainment venue that can be enjoyed whether rain or shine. Located on decks 16 and 17, the SkyDome will offer the perfect place to relax by the pool or enjoy a bite to eat. At night, the pool transforms with the help of a retractable stage, providing the perfect platform for immersive shows, aerial performances, deck parties and more.
What will the food be like?
The food is undoubtedly going to impress with a choice of 30 different venues for guests to enjoy, many of which are open from early until late. Along with the return of signature favourites including The Glass House, Sindhu and Epicurean, several new venues are also launching on Iona. Noteworthy additions include the debut of The Quays, a ‘foodie’ market offering a wide range of takeaway style foods from around the world, and The Keel and Cow, a gastropub located in the Grand Atrium, offering perfectly cooked steaks and an array of expertly crafted British dishes.
Is it true there’s going to be a gin distillery?
The rumours are indeed true. Collaborating with award-winning gin distiller, Salcombe Gin, P&O Cruises is launching the first distillery at sea on Iona, producing exclusive gins that will be distilled, bottled and labelled on board.
Can my kids come aboard?
Yes of course. Iona marks P&O’s fifth family-friendly ship in its fleet. With dedicated children’s clubs on board, as well as adult-only spaces including The Retreat and The 710 Club, P&O Cruises has made sure the ship is suited to the whole family.
Where will she be sailing to?
Iona will sail from Southampton all year round. During her inaugural season, she will sail exclusively to the Norwegian fjords. During her first winter season, she will predominantly sail south to Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands for some winter sun.
Visit pocruises.com for more information and bookings.