She’s finally here. Iona, the 5,200-passenger ship from P&O Cruises, is officially sailing, following its departure from Southampton on its seven-night maiden voyage.
The Excel-class vessel – the largest built to serve the UK market – has been described as “Britain’s most environmentally friendly cruise ship”. It is powered by liquefied natural gas and features many top-class attractions, including an on-board craft gin distillery, spectacular aerial shows and an infinity pool with breathtaking views.
The ship has been designed to let the outdoors in and create an atmosphere of space, light and tranquillity. With more than 30 venues to eat and drink – some featuring celebrity chefs – four swimming pools, star-studded entertainment and an array of cabin categories, Iona will not disappoint.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Iona’s maiden voyage is the start of a new era in travel as Britain’s most environmentally friendly cruise ship, the first in the country powered by liquefied natural gas, sets sail.
“For this special maiden voyage we wanted to bring guests to the island of Iona which has influenced many aspects of the ship – the sense of space in the SkyDome through to our gin still named Columba, the heather in our Marabelle gin distilled on board and, of course, the name of the ship.”
Here’s a snapshot of what guests can expect to find once they step on board.
Dining on Iona
Iona features 30 bars and restaurants, new menus by Marco Pierre White, destination-inspired dishes and what is claimed to be the “best burger at sea”. It is also home to restaurants created exclusively for the ship including The Keel and Cow gastropub, and The Glass House, serving a tapas menu designed by Spanish chef José Pizarro. The Chef’s Table is also new and developed for Iona’s gala celebration nights.
A range of cabin options are available including suites, conservatory mini-suites and balcony and inside cabins, including single occupancy cabins. New for P&O Cruises are the conservatory mini suites. Designed by Richmond International, here the outdoors is brought indoors with a conservatory-style room between the sleeping area and balcony.
The Iona distillery
Iona is home to the world’s first gin distillery at sea, in partnership with Salcombe Distilling Co. Located within Anderson’s Bar and the Library, guests can expect expertly crafted Marabelle Gin cocktails. The gin is produced in the ship’s gin still ‘Columba’, named after the sixth century founder of the abbey on the island of Iona.
Entertainment on the ship
Superstar Gary Barlow is the music director of The 710 Club, in what the line says is “a pioneering new partnership set to fuse music with amazing travel experiences”. This atmospheric late-night music venue will offer an opportunity for up-and-coming musicians to get their break. Elsewhere, a new show, Festival, created and produced by Jonathan Wilkes and renowned creative director Paul Domaine, makes its debut on Iona.
Fun in the SkyDome
The two-deck SkyDome features a glass roof and a pool with a retractable stage, spanning decks 16 and 17, offering views of destinations as well as a unique space for guests. Guests will be able to relax poolside by day and then enjoy a change of pace at night as SkyDome showcases aerialist displays, live performances and party nights under the stars.