Very Good on Iona
Martin Axon | January 25, 2022 | P&O Cruises | Iona
We were a little apprehensive about Iona being so big, we didn’t need to be.
Back cruising after two years it was great to be back on board.
Parked with Parking4Cruises which is much handier & quicker both in & out than CPS, and the P&O Covid checks were much easier at the cruise terminal rather than going to another “test place”.
Sailed through the tests, really well organised and got our negative results within 15 minutes and then on-board. nb never needed our other test certificates apps etc at all on the cruise, don’t know if P&O handle all this for Government and visiting countries Governments.
Lovely reception lunch (we are fortunate to be Caribbean and in a suite).
Cabins ready very early by 1.30pm for everyone.
Nice suite at the very front, little bit smaller than others but still great. Loads of storage, a lot of it hidden behind flush fitting doors with push opening rather than handles. Huge long balcony.
The ship looks great and at only 6 months old was in pristine condition.
It is big! But it works. Lots of help/clues to where you are eg. blue carpets at prow, grey mid-ships, red at stern (might be the other way round but hey ho!). Plenty of lifts working well.
The ship was only half capacity, at most but with a c75% crew on-board. So restaurants lounges bars etc were at most not half full, but with plenty of atmosphere. We think the ship will cope when operating at full capacity, there is so much space, inc on deck – not much used in January!
All MDR are Freedom and that seems to help avoid queues and congestion at what used to be fixed dining times. Four MDR, two big and two smaller.
We went for Opal and were reunited with Waiters from previous cruises that we knew and they looked after us splendidly for all the cruise. The Maitre D gave us the same table every night and we never had to book after the first night they took care of it all.
The on-board app worked well.
A slight reduction on the menu but still lots of choice: 7 soup/starters, 8 mains every day. Also maybe at Breakfast with loss of daily specials? but they could still whistle up eggs benedict when asked. Portions were generous, well cooked & presented, hot & hot plates, waiters always asked if we wanted more, we didn’t! Rumours of no more fillet or lobster were ill founded, I had both one night, and the triple fillet roast was exceptional! Epicurean beware it is excellent but main courses are huge! Wine Waiters have gone, we have had some great characters over the years, but the MDR Waiters and Bar staff handle the wine and the table orders well with their computerised gizmos. Waiters in MDR and Epicurean knew our preferences after just one meal eg extra butter, mustard, chips! tea blends, chocs/mints/nuts etc only had to ask once and then it was always there without asking.
Other dining venues inc. fast food & Horizon Buffet were excellent and will help keep pressure off MDRs when at full capacity.
Covid precautions were well operated, with staff quickly and politely reminding people to pop masks on. We had to isolate for last two days due to a positive contact on-shore. Changed cabin and whilst not a suite was fine, again with lots of storage space. Whilst we were cabined up service was excellent and we could order any food we wanted, not just room service menu. Paper plates/wooden cutlery but understandable. Good tip: Customs don’t check Covid passengers off the ship so stock up on Gordons/Johnnie Walker/Bensons! Apparently we will get future cruise credit whilst isolating which is good as this wasn’t P&Os fault
The ships app works well and if you needed help it was readily available and forthcoming.
On-board entertainment was varied: loved the shows in the main theatre (excellent seating no heads to peer over/around) although they are new/modern, maybe have some older/traditional items when normal times resume? The “Busker” in the Atrium was superb. The surprise former ELO lead singer Neil Lockwood was amazing in the Theatre, created a fantastic atmosphere in a third empty venue, in non covid times we would all have been up on feet dancing. The acrobatic shows, very clever but not our cup of tea. Pity no speakers, but again hopefully will be post Covid, ditto dancing.
More shops but not sure if there is actually more choice, and prices no longer seem cheaper than in UK or at ports of call. Gibraltar still wins on price, and choice.
Cruise excursions were cheaper than in the past.
Captain and Officers were visible and around the ship, but having to take Covid precautions obviously.
Cabin Stewards/Butler excellent.
Promenade deck back (as compared to Britannia) and the mini conservatory suites opening onto the promenade deck are actually raised above the deck so only a few have visibility for passers by.
Dare I say it there were not the usual number of passenger muppets, massive electric wheelchair users blocking space and demanding preferable treatment, and only witnessed one serial complainer (who was wrong on their point).
Iona and P&O are reaching out to a younger and wider audience which is understandable. We loved it and will be back on Iona and other lovely P&O ships.
My only gripes: £16 for 10 tonic waters, its more than the gin! and restricted cocktails available in the bars we tried, no French 75s or Gin Collins. This also made the all inclusive drinks package less attractive. Lovely Library but much reduced selection of books, don’t think it was Covid related as there was only a relatively small bookcase.
For what we paid, booking very early, P&O remains tremendous value for money (on a daily rate) and I would rate it as a 4 star hotel. I’m also pretty sure that if you treat the staff well they look after you.
We have cruised with other lines and they were good, but P&O floats our boat, and the newer ships are better value and better equipped, I can remember Canberra’s courtyard cabins with communal bathrooms and loos, and on the former Troop Ship Nevassa even more basic facilities. Cunard’s at the time luxury Ocean Countess looks very dated now, steel drawers/cupboards, portholes.
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