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Iona maiden voyage review 😁


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I apologise that this review is so long!!!  I couldn’t make up my mind what to leave out!  Feel free to give up if you get bored!!!

 

So finally, the day had arrived!  Getting back on a cruise ship (COVID test permitting, fingers crossed!!) for the first time in over 2 years!!! This was to be our first cruise with P & O, after our first cruise ever with Costa and another 5 with Royal Caribbean.

 

We were originally booked on Iona to sail the Canaries in October 2020, which was obviously cancelled.  We then switched this to March 2021 to the Norwegian Fjords, which was cancelled again and so when the new maiden voyage went on sale I was desperate to book it!  

 

We travelled down to Southampton on the Friday, home LFTs in hand, and stayed overnight in the city centre.

 

On the Saturday morning we stayed as late as we could in the hotel, as we weren’t due to board the ship until 2.15, so checked out around 11.45. 

 

We had booked the Triangle car park at the Ocean terminal which I thought was bargain at £70 odd for the 7 nights.  We like to keep our own keys to our car while we are away, especially when we walked past what was presumably the holding car park for the meet and greet services and saw how closely they were parked to each other!!!

 

Because we were too early for our boarding time, we walked back into Southampton centre and then returned to the car park around 2pm.  It was only about a 5 minute walk to the terminal building from the car park, we dropped our luggage at one of the many drop off points and then walked to the COVID testing point. Outside the terminal building they had bagpipe music and girls on stilts welcoming us!

 

We didn’t queue outside the testing point at all and once inside we showed our vaccination paperwork to a member of staff who directed us to a testing cubicle.  There our mobile phone numbers were checked and we were given a paper wristband and then it was on to be tested!  We were both through within about 2 minutes and then went to wait nervously for our results!  Results came through by text message after about 15 minutes, literally the same time you wait when doing a home test, and fortunately they were both negative! Then it was on to the rest of the check in / boarding process which was super quick.  My results came through at 2.20 and we were on the ship at 2.34.  I think it is the quickest I have ever boarded a ship!!!

 

As soon as we got on we were directed to our Muster Station, which was in the Grand Atrium, and then advised we should go to our cabin and watch the safety video on the TV.  When we got to our cabin, our steward was waiting outside and greeted us both by name.  Our cruise cards were waiting in an envelope outside the door along with a small map of the ship which came in extremely handy throughout the week!!!

 

We had an ocean view cabin which was really lovely.  The window was probably the biggest I’d had on any ship – it was a big square window, rather than a porthole, with a lovely window seat underneath it.  Such a lovely place to sit and read a book when you felt like relaxing! The bathroom was really nice and absolutely spotless being a new ship. Toiletries were provided in bottles in holders on the wall (hand wash by the sink, shampoo and body wash in the shower).  I think certain other cabins (probably suites) get their own small bottles.  Plenty of storage space in the bathroom with two shelves next to the sink and wire racks in the shower.  Lovely big towels provided too.

 

The wardrobe was divided off into 3 sections, one section for shorter hanging items with a shelf above for the safe, the next with shelves and then the next for longer hanging items with the lifejackets on a shelf above. Plenty of hangers were provided although I did take, and use, some of my own too!  There was loads of room for all my shoes at the bottom of the wardrobe!!  Full length mirror on the wardrobe door which was really handy as they can be lacking in some places.

 

I did find it a bit odd that there were no drawers at all in the cabin, however there were several cupboards with shelves so I didn’t struggle with storage space at all.  There were open shelves next to the desk mirror which were really handy for cosmetics etc. The cupboards are all soft close which is nice as you don’t have to worry about them banging shut if you hit rocky seas!

 

In the cabin on our arrival were two complimentary bottles of Alex James’ Britpop cider and also 3 cans of still mineral water (although I still don’t know if these were chargeable)!  We were also left two beautiful drinking glasses with “Iona maiden voyage” printed on them in a lovely gift box to take home. 

 

The TV channel selection was quite poor to be fair, Sky News, BBC News, some BBC HD channel, and then a couple of film channels, but really nothing you would want to watch even if you did want to stop in your cabin and watch TV!  There were some on demand films although I don’t know if they were chargeable or not.  There was also (disappointingly) no navigation map, so we literally had no idea where we were most of the time!  On such a scenic cruise it would have been nice to know what islands etc. we were looking at but the only updates were had were from Captain Dunlop at 12 nooooooon!!!  He was very informative but it would have been nice to have an on screen map you could pull up at any time.

 

As we had no port stops, and therefore no access to on shore WiFi, I decided to purchase the WiFi package on board.  I brought the middle package, at a cost of £70 for the week, however I have to say it was absolutely useless!!!  I didn’t manage to get onto the internet once, and on day 3 I visited guest services to have it removed and obtain a refund.  There was no problem with this and I was refunded later that day.  There were occasions I could access my own 4G from the mainland although it was never a very strong signal.

 

I have seen a lot of people complaining about the app, but I have to say I never really had an issue with it.  I had already pre-booked some of the entertainment on board (Manuel Martinez, Joe Pasquale, Tony Hadley and The Festival) when it became available on the cruise personaliser, however I used the app to change a few times and days and cancel and rebook a couple of things and actually found it really handy.  You don’t always know where you are going to be and what you are going to be doing at the time you have booked entertainment for, so I thought it was really handy being able to change your booking.  In the end we didn’t see the comedian or The Festival, but I was really impressed with Joe Pasquale and Tony Hadley and was pleased that we had seen them. 

 

We also used the app to book The Beach House on our first night (which was delicious) and a couple of times to join “virtual queues” for the main restaurants, which I actually thought was a really good idea!  It certainly saves waiting in a huge line right outside the restaurant like we’ve had to before!  You get a notification when your table is ready and then have 15 minutes to get to the restaurant.  If you can see yourself moving up the queue but are not quite ready for dinner, you can just switch and join one that’s a bit longer. 

 

We had decided in advance to buy the drinks package (after much deliberating), however wanted to wait until we had boarded so as to use our OBC against it. Unfortunately when we asked at one of the bars when we first got on we were told that there was no way of purchasing it on board! I think P&O should have made this clearer on the cruise personaliser beforehand, although we still probably wouldn’t have bought it in advance due to not being able to use our OBC against it.  From what I gathered from guest services it may become available to purchase on board in the future but at present they do not have the system to offer it apparently! In the end, we spent slightly less than we would have with the package anyway, so it worked out to our advantage!

 

I have to say I absolutely loved the ship.  It was bright and airy in the atrium with loads of seating and gorgeous floor to ceiling windows.  I would have liked to have seen the ship map on every single lift bank so as soon as you exit the lift you could see which way was forward and which was aft!  It wasn’t always immediately obvious!  There were maps further down the corridor but half the time we started walking the wrong way and had to turn round to get where we were trying to go!

 

The Sky Dome was lovely with loads of seating again, and the Rise show that they put on a couple of evenings was just spectacular!  The baby bird was literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!

 

Our favourite place to go was probably the pub, Brodies, which we didn’t find until the second day! There are plenty of seats and loads of TV screens (even if all that was on was sport!).  There is a pool table at the back, although we did walk through just as all the balls went rolling off to one end of the table, so I’m not sure how good it would be if the sea was rough!  The quizzes mostly took place in Brodies, and there were a lot of them, although the majority were themed which I am not really a fan of! I prefer general knowledge as at least it is a mix of everything!  One group requested a Harry Potter quiz one day and surprise surprise, they won!

 

There was usually a game in Brodies at 10pm, rather than a quiz, and these were quite entertaining! And with better prizes too!

 

We visited the 710 club once, but every other evening there was a sign outside saying it was full!  I wonder if they should maybe make this venue bookable, like they do the Limelight Club, and maybe only let people book it once.  And remember that was only with a half full ship, so I wouldn’t fancy your chances when they are sailing at full capacity! What we did see of it was lovely though and the band that were in there were fabulous.

 

We made use of the Horizon buffet every day for breakfast and whenever we fancied lunch and did eat there a couple of times for dinner.  The breakfast was lovely, with a proper full English breakfast available along with pastries, toast, smoothies, fresh fruit etc.  Lunch again was nice with lovely fresh salads and cold meats and cheese with a selection of bread and rolls.  There was always hot food available for lunch although I always stuck to the cold items.  The selection of main meals in the evening however was very small compared to the Windjammer on Royal Caribbean ships, although I don’t know if this is just a P&O thing or whether COVID had something to do with it!  On the last night we ended up leaving the Horizon without eating as there was literally nothing you could really make a meal out of!  We went to the Boardwalk Grill at the Quay which was absolutely delicious I have to say.  We had also on a previous evening been to Hook, Line and Vinegar for fish and chips which was also lovely.  I really liked the laid back atmosphere of eating here and if I remember rightly there are also tables outside on the Promenade Deck which would be nice to sit at for lunch or on a nice warm evening. 

 

The main restaurants were nice, although I think we only ate there for 2 nights, one of which was the Celebration Night.  One thing we did find a bit odd was the fact that they list Peroni as a draught beer on the restaurant menu, however it isn’t actually available there, despite it being available at the bars.  My partner had to leave the restaurant to purchase a pint of Peroni from Anderson’s bar next door.  There is no point putting it on the menu if they don’t serve it surely! Also on Celebration night when we arrived at one of the main restaurants we were told we couldn’t take our drinks in with us?  What on earth is the logic for this?  Especially when they didn’t even serve the drink my partner wanted in there anyway! I did have to question the logic of some of the rules they seemed to come up with!

 

Overall, I thought the COVID protocols in place were really good – there are handwashing stations at the entrance to each restaurant along with hand sanitizer literally on every corner!!  One way arrows were in place and only 4 people were allowed in a lift at any one time.  A lot of seats in the restaurants, bars and theatre were marked as “resting” so you knew not to use them and nowhere ever felt too crowded even with the restrictions on seating.  I don’t really understand the rule about wearing masks throughout any theatre shows, when you could be sitting in a pub or restaurant just as close but with no mask on.

 

I think we were spoilt on a ship only half full and with no kids as there was always plenty of space and nowhere ever seemed crowded (apart from the 710 of course!).  Not sure how I’ll cope when I go back to a ship at full capacity!!!! 

 

The outside areas were great – loads and loads of sunbeds and nice little places to sunbathe – there always seemed to be a bar nearby to grab a drink and toilets were never far away either!  I liked the fact that there were tables available to use with the sunbeds, rather than having to leave everything on the floor.  The music out on deck was a bit hit or miss, some chart stuff but then other times some sort of Spanish type music which was odd considering we were nowhere near Spain!  The sports courts weren’t something we used but looked good for kids and teenagers and we saw the kids splash area which looked like it would keep little ones entertained.

 

There was always a supply of towels to take for the sunbeds and when you have finished with them you could just put them in the “dirty towels” bin!

 

Back inside there was a good selection of shops, if a little pricey, but I did manage to treat myself to some Tiffany perfume and a few little souvenirs to bring home!

 

The day before we disembarked we were left a leaflet in our cabin explaining what time we had to be off the ship (we always carry our own luggage off so no need to worry about packing up and leaving it outside the cabin) which was between 6.40 and 6.50 😱😱 This was earlier than we have ever disembarked before, but presumably it’s so they can deep clean the ship for the next guests which is understandable.  Nevertheless we were off the ship and back at the car by 7, drove straight out of the car park and were home in Leicester by 10!

 

Having been on the maiden voyage of Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas, I was surprised that there weren’t really any gifts or surprises left for us in our cabin.  On the Spectrum we would come back to a little gift almost every night, but nothing was given on Iona apart from the gift of the glasses (which are lovely) and the odd shortbread biscuit (also lovely!).  I wonder if this is normal for P & O or maybe some cost saving being introduced somewhere!  I did also miss having the turndown service at night, although I wonder if all ships are phasing this out now, and we had no towel animals either 🥺 I can’t fault the job of the steward though, he always left our cabin looking spotless 😀

 

Overall I loved this cruise.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous apart from for one day when it was very dull. Having said that, even though the sea looked rough outside I never felt the ship rock at all.  The scenery was just lovely and it was so nice just cruising so slowly round the Isle of Mull and Iona etc.

 

I would definitely consider P & O again (but only the bigger ships, Britannia, Iona or Arvia), although whether they can sway me from being Loyal to Royal remains to be seen 😉

 

I’d be happy to answer any questions if anyone has any 😀

 

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Great review of your cruise! We are booked on Iona in September. 
 

Nice to hear positives from someone who has sailed on lines other than P&O! We are big RCI/Celebrity fans, but also like the product P&O deliver.

 

Ive always found the food to be lacking on P&O- especially in the buffet, so I don’t think it’s a Covid thing. Good to hear the other restaurants are serving good food! 

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Thank you for posting such a comprehensive review, which is much appreciated. I’m pleased to hear that you had an enjoyable cruise. We were booked on the original original Iona Maiden!

 

Hopefully lots of others will follow your lead and post detailed reviews on Iona. I am particularly keen to hear from those who use the MDR more regularly than you did for breakfast, lunch and dinner ( not necessarily all on the same day!) as we never use the buffet. Also feedback on the Select Dining restaurants that we usually use a lot. 
 

Also, not that we are planning to cruise for a while yet, I shall also be interested to know how wheelchair or scooter users are finding the wait for the lifts, given the 4 person limit. 

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4 minutes ago, Selbourne said:

Thank you for posting such a comprehensive review, which is much appreciated. I’m pleased to hear that you had an enjoyable cruise. We were booked on the original original Iona Maiden!

 

Hopefully lots of others will follow your lead and post detailed reviews on Iona. I am particularly keen to hear from those who use the MDR more regularly than you did for breakfast, lunch and dinner ( not necessarily all on the same day!) as we never use the buffet. Also feedback on the Select Dining restaurants that we usually use a lot. 
 

Also, not that we are planning to cruise for a while yet, I shall also be interested to know how wheelchair or scooter users are finding the wait for the lifts, given the 4 person limit. 

With regards to wheelchair or scooter users and the lifts, whenever I saw someone waiting for a lift in a wheelchair or scooter they were always let on first - people seemed generally very polite and well behaved! Of course the cruise was only half full and there were no stops - I know sometimes there is a bit of a stampede to either get off or get back on the ship on a port day - so not sure how it would pan out then - but on our cruise I definitely didn’t see any problems with the lifts ☺️

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5 minutes ago, shopaholic6 said:

With regards to wheelchair or scooter users and the lifts, whenever I saw someone waiting for a lift in a wheelchair or scooter they were always let on first - people seemed generally very polite and well behaved! Of course the cruise was only half full and there were no stops - I know sometimes there is a bit of a stampede to either get off or get back on the ship on a port day - so not sure how it would pan out then - but on our cruise I definitely didn’t see any problems with the lifts ☺️


Thanks. That’s useful to know. As you say, everything is slightly artificial at present with the ship only being half full and I shall be keen to read the reviews when the ship is sailing with over 5,000 passengers. We try to time our lift use so that we don’t hit peak times, for example on port days we have a leisurely late breakfast in the MDR and then go ashore when the rush has ended, but that’s not always possible, for example after a show or (worst of all) disembarkation morning!

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Thank you for such a comprehensive and interesting review, I really enjoyed it. We are booked on Iona in November so the information is really helpful. This will be our first time on P & O so we're looking forward to experiencing a new line.

Do you happen to know how much the Retreat and Thermal Spa passes are please?

Someone has posted the prices on a Britannia thread but I'm not sure if they will be the same on Iona. 

The poster said the Retreat was £25 per person per day or £80 for 4 days and the Spa £25 for a 2 hr slot, with a limit of 10 people. 

 

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Thanks so much for your review.

We are on Iona in 3 weeks and I’m a little confused for the dining. Do we need to book all lunch and dinner reservations or can we just turn up for the MDR and just book the speciality restaurants? 
many thanks in advance 

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28 minutes ago, P&O SUE said:

I enjoyed your review thank you for taking the time to write it!

P&O have stopped doing towel animals for a few years now I’m afraid.

Not sure I've ever had a towel animal on P&O - fortunately...😀

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8 hours ago, Golfwidow100 said:

Thank you for such a comprehensive and interesting review, I really enjoyed it. We are booked on Iona in November so the information is really helpful. This will be our first time on P & O so we're looking forward to experiencing a new line.

Do you happen to know how much the Retreat and Thermal Spa passes are please?

Someone has posted the prices on a Britannia thread but I'm not sure if they will be the same on Iona. 

The poster said the Retreat was £25 per person per day or £80 for 4 days and the Spa £25 for a 2 hr slot, with a limit of 10 people. 

 

Glad you enjoyed the review, even though I went on a bit 😂

 

Really sorry but I didn’t see anything about the Retreat or Themal Spa so I can’t help you with that I’m afraid! Hopefully someone who disembarks tomorrow maybe able to help you 😀

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7 hours ago, TravelMadBrits said:

Thanks so much for your review.

We are on Iona in 3 weeks and I’m a little confused for the dining. Do we need to book all lunch and dinner reservations or can we just turn up for the MDR and just book the speciality restaurants? 
many thanks in advance 

You definitely need to book the speciality restaurants however for dinner in the MDR you can either join the virtual queue for one of the restaurants (Pearl, Aqua, Coral and Opal) or just turn up and I think they give you a pager and then beep you when your table is ready! Lunch I can’t help with I’m afraid as we only ate lunch in the buffet! 😋

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13 minutes ago, shopaholic6 said:

Glad you enjoyed the review, even though I went on a bit 😂

 

Really sorry but I didn’t see anything about the Retreat or Themal Spa so I can’t help you with that I’m afraid! Hopefully someone who disembarks tomorrow maybe able to help you 😀

It was a great and substantive review shopaholic. You certainly didn't go on - I could have carried on reading! Many thanks. Jane.x 

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6 hours ago, Britboys said:

Not sure I've ever had a towel animal on P&O - fortunately...😀

They did Andrew, but only once that we personally know of. It was on Adonia in 2015. Our cabin steward would make one every evening and hide it. We would play hunt the animal on a night before bed. The funniest was sat in the shower with my shampoo, sponge and a shower cap on. One evening during a particularly bad storm he put the drinking glasses on the sofa and surrounded them with a family of towel rabbits.🐇🐇

Avril

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8 hours ago, P&O SUE said:

I enjoyed your review thank you for taking the time to write it!

P&O have stopped doing towel animals for a few years now I’m afraid.

Thanks for letting me know about the towel animals ha ha!!! 😆

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1 hour ago, Harryjacobs said:

Thanks for the review.

Was there a chance to get breakfast on disembarkation day?

Yes there was an option for breakfast, if I remember rightly I think the buffet was open from 6am and the MDR from 6.30 😀

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42 minutes ago, Adawn47 said:

They did Andrew, but only once that we personally know of. It was on Adonia in 2015. Our cabin steward would make one every evening and hide it. We would play hunt the animal on a night before bed. The funniest was sat in the shower with my shampoo, sponge and a shower cap on. One evening during a particularly bad storm he put the drinking glasses on the sofa and surrounded them with a family of towel rabbits.🐇🐇

Avril

I love this!! 🥰

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1 hour ago, Beckett said:

It was a great and substantive review shopaholic. You certainly didn't go on - I could have carried on reading! Many thanks. Jane.x 

Thank you Jane!!  I'm glad you enjoyed it!!  It helps me relive the holiday and imagine I'm still there lol!!! 😁

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18 minutes ago, shopaholic6 said:

Yes there was an option for breakfast, if I remember rightly I think the buffet was open from 6am and the MDR from 6.30 😀

Can you remember the range of disembarkation times? I need to arrange a collection time for my taxi home and as it is over a 2 hour trip I don't want to be left hanging around at the terminal for hours. Basically I want the latest time possible to help the drivers start time.

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Thank you for a great review. We are onboard on Saturday week. I was interested in your comments re parking. We are using Triangle Car Park and I understood you had to queue in your car for the test before parking. You parked, walked across and had your test near the ship. Is that the way to go next week, rather than wait in a line of cars ?

,

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1 minute ago, swimming with spaniels said:

Great review thanks!  How do we book the restaurants before we board please? (will be sailing in two weeks) The planner is letting me book the Spa, beauty salon and drink packages - but no food or entertainment so far

thank you!

You can't book the restaurants before you board, only available on the app after boarding.  You can book the main theatre artists and when we were on the maiden voyage you could book the guest speakers,

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4 hours ago, davecttr said:

Can you remember the range of disembarkation times? I need to arrange a collection time for my taxi home and as it is over a 2 hour trip I don't want to be left hanging around at the terminal for hours. Basically I want the latest time possible to help the drivers start time.

Well our disembarkation time was given as 6.40 to 6.50 - but I did notice it stated we definitely had to be out of our cabin for 8am - I don't know if this was the same for everyone although I assume it probably was.  If you are carrying your luggage off yourself I think you could leave at any time, provided it's not later than they want everyone off!  No one even checked our time, we just scanned our cards and walked off.  Allow 10 minutes for the walk down the tunnel thing and to get completely out of the terminal 😀 

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