Ship Preview: P&O’s Iona

New dining venues, a huge atrium and a new Pleasure Dome entertainment concept will debut aboard P&O’s new cruise ship Iona, the cruise line has announced.

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Iona is currently being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg and will be launched in May 2020. Holidays on Iona will go on sale in September 2018, but in the meantime, P&O have been letting us all in on some of the details of this exciting new cruise ship.

For a start, she’s the largest cruise ship ever built by P&O, and at 183,900-gross tons she’s also the largest cruise ships ever built specifically for the British cruise market.

In a nutshell, Iona will have a three-deck-high atrium with a grand staircase, 17 restaurants, including 8 specialty restaurants, and 12 bars, an entertainment venue called The Skydome, featuring a retractable stage for shows, as well as a half-mile-long lanai deck with a covered promenade, with outdoor restaurants.

She will be similar to the Norwegian Breakaway Plus class cruise ships then, but will also feature 16 whirlpools and 4 swimming pools, one of which will be inside The Skydome entertainment centre.

P&O’s Iona will also be quintessentially British, from her keel to the top of her funnel, because British cruising is what P&O has always used to set itself apart.

Entertainment aboard Iona

Entertainment options aboard Iona start in the SkyDome, a contemporary entertainment venue on decks 16 and 17 that promises to be one of Iona’s star attractions, with an impressive roof and a pool with retractable stage.


This is the Beach Club aboard AIDAprima, but Iona’s SkyDome will be something similar.

SkyDome is P&O’s take on AIDA Cruises’ Beach Club concept that debuted aboard AIDAprima, which is homeporting in Dubai this coming cruise season. By day it is the place for relaxation and informal dining, but at night it comes alive with aerial performances, immersive shows and deck parties.

Award-winning British engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan, the team behind glass masterpieces such as London’s Embassy Gardens Sky Pool and Bulgari’s flagship New York boutique, designed the glazed dome roof.

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The Coffee Shop aboard Iona will be one of more than 30 bars and eateries aboard the ship.

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“The SkyDome will be a magical venue with views of the ocean by day and starry skies at night,” says P&O Cruises senior vice president, Paul Ludlow.  “It will be an exciting home to aerial performers who will make the most of the amazing space as well as guest DJs and current performers setting the tone for memorable evenings of music and dancing under the sparkling glass dome.”

The nearby 710 Club has been designed to appeal to music and cocktail lovers. With the décor and atmosphere of a Covent Garden nightspot, the 710 Club will be a stylish cocktail bar with live and acoustic music. From classic and modern jazz to swing and Rat Pack covers, P&O promises that guests will enjoy expertly made cocktails whilst relaxing to the sound of top quality performers and special guest stars.

For film buffs there will be Ocean Studios, which is another first for P&O Cruises.  The boutique cinema has comfortable seating in a premium-style setting, with four screen that will run throughout the day. Movies screened will be a mixture of classics and recent blockbusters, with the latest surround sound technology.

Dining aboard Iona

Iona will feature a number of new-at-sea dining concepts for P&O Cruises, including a new steakhouse, a ‘foodie’ market, as well as 30 other places to eat and drink.

The Keel and Cow will serve perfectly cooked steaks chosen from a glass fronted dry aging fridge and British gastropub dishes.

The clean lines of the design will offer views through the three storey high glass walls of the Grand Atrium and will also be open for quick and convenient breakfasts for guests looking to be first off the ship on a port day.

The Quays piazza will be home to a wide range of self-service and “takeaway” venues in a new ‘foodie’ market, with a lively atmosphere for sociable dining. The Quays will likely be a buzzing destination offering cuisines from all around the world, from Asian street food to American diner classics.

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GlassHouse, a popular dining venue in the P&O fleet, will be aboard Iona as well.

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The 30 bars and eateries on board will join P&O Cruises’ current favourites already guaranteed a home on board Iona. Regular guests will find The Glass House with small plates, charcuterie and cheese as well as around 40 wines by the glass chosen by wine expert Olly Smith; the British-Med specialities in Epicurean; contemporary fine dining Indian in Sindhu and the best of British in Brodie’s among a long list of restaurants, self-service choices, cafes and bars.

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Keel & Cow will be P&O Cruises’ first ever ‘gastro pub’.

Iona will also debut a new Freedom Dining concept for P&O, with guests able to dine whenever they like in all of its main restaurants. The move is designed to give more flexibility to each and every guest and is a likely test run ahead of wider implementation aboard the Britannia-class ships in the fleet.

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The cocktail bar for pre- or post-dinner drinks will sit within the Grand Atrium.

“Iona will bring new innovations and choice for our guests, but will also celebrate the best of P&O Cruises dining and drinking traditions,” says Ludlow. “From intimate meals for two, to gatherings of friends and family, each day of a holiday on Iona will deliver an exciting journey of discovery through our widest ever selection of restaurants.”

Iona’s Grand Atrium needs a special mention

We mentioned the Grand Atrium earlier, but it really needs its own section, because this social hub in the middle of the ship looks set to transform the way P&O designs its lobbies going forward.

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Spanning three decks, each level of the Grand Atrium offers a different destination for guests but with the same views and natural light thanks to extensive glazed windows either side.

It’s a new development for P&O Cruises, created by architecture and interior design practice Jestico + Whiles, the creators of W Hotel (London), Aqua Shard (restaurant in the Shard) and The Yas Hotel right here in Abu Dhabi.  A show-stopping staircase will take guests through the open area, designed to complement and reflect the outdoor views.

“The sea becomes the hero of the triple-height space; the sinuous curves are shaped around it, framing and complementing the views to outside. The staircase is a sculptural centrepiece with its sweeping arrival on each deck,” says project architect Cecilia Vodret.

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The Grand Atrium is a key entertainment space on board Iona and the sea will provide an ever changing backdrop to a wide variety of experiences.

From morning coffee as the sun rises, to evening drinks as it sets, the Grand Atrium will be buzzing with light and life, says P&O.

As the day moves into night there will be a seamless transition with modern lighting techniques gradually creating a warm and intimate atmosphere.

“We’ve set out to make sure the sea is the star on Iona, and the design of the Grand Atrium tells you so much about how special she is going to be,” says Ludlow.

“Balancing intimate spaces with larger social areas, guests will be wowed by the three storey high glass walls and the ever changing view they reveal. From the moment they step onto the staircase, I know guests will be swept away by the beautiful design,” he adds.

The Grand Atrium will be home to The Glass House on Deck 7 and P&O Cruises’ first ever ‘gastro pub’ Keel and Cow on Deck 8, with views over the Grand Atrium and the ocean. Deck 6 of The Grand Atrium brings a choice of places to relax and watch the world go by.

At the Vistas Cafe Bar there is a selection of treats from P&O Cruises Food Hero and master pâtissier Eric Lanlard.  The nearby Emerald Bar will offer a stylish living-room feel, with premium cocktails and the buzz of a Covent Garden venue.

Whichever venue guests are relaxing it, they’ll have a view of the sea and impromptu aerial and circus performances in the three storey high space.

The massive new ship will accommodate 5,200 guests and is due for delivery in 2020. Details of her maiden cruise season have not yet been revealed, but P&O Cruises are likely to make further announcements in the coming weeks as her inaugural season goes on sale in September, 2018.

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