Christmas Markets cruise onboard P&O Iona

Xmas market








We were due to sail on Iona’s maiden voyage back in 2020 but this was cancelled due to COVID, our deposits were transferred to this sailing so we’ve waited a long time for it!
Iona is stunning. Light, bright, modern and comfortable. With over 5000 passengers you’d expect it to be crowded but we didn’t feel this. Yes there were lots of people as the theatre emptied or going ashore at busy times but I wouldn’t say there were any issues. There are several main restaurants as well as The Quays- a popular spot which served fresh fish and chips, Asian and Burgers/chicken, the buffet restaurant and more! A wide range of bars and entertainment venues including the skydome,click here for more details
There is an entertainment programme throughout the day with everything from fitness classes to pub quizzes and bingo was popular! There were several pools including the covered one in the skydome and an infinity pool at the back of the ship. The heated jacuzzi pools looked popular too!
Children were kept entertained with kids clubs/activities for various age groups including a teen one up to 17 years of age. I saw lots of multi generation family/friends groups onboard enjoying time together.
We booked an inside cabin, it was compact but had everything we needed including a fridge, kettle with tea/coffee and a safe. The bed was very comfy! shower gel and soap provided but no hair conditioner or moisturiser so take your own. The cabin steward brought us a filled ice bucket daily, you can buy water or drink the tap water, alternatively take your own bottle and fill up in one of the water stations throughout the ship.

I’ve sailed with P&O lots of times before and I did notice some changes this time. The cabin steward cleans your cabin once a day now with no turndown service. You need to book entertainment and restaurants on an app quite straightforward, book in advance or you may miss out on something you want to do. Most shows are on 2/3 times a day so we did get to see everything we wanted to. The Limelight and 710 venues (additional cost) were very popular and did get booked up, as did the other specialty restaurants. We managed to eat in Sindhu which was fabulous and well worth the extra money (approx £25 for 3 courses) as was lunch at the Keel and Cow (can highly recommend the onion rings!). There was no sequence/ballroom dancing which we found disappointing as we had packed our dancing shoes, I believe some of the other P&O ships still offer this but don’t know for sure.
There is a ‘celebration’ night once a week (formally known as the gala night) It was lovely to see everyone dressed up and having photos taken. If you don’t want to do this you can use the buffet restaurant instead.

We didn’t buy a drinks package, we found prices similar to they have been previously with a G+T or a pint around a fiver. Soft drinks were quite pricey though at around £2.50 for a bottle of coke/sprite. Tea and coffee is included with meals, there’s a decent wine list with prices not too bad, we paid around £24 for a nice red.

We went to Hamburg, Rotterdam and Zeebrugge on our trip. We haven’t been to Hamburg before so decided to book an excursion through P&O to the xmas market and a city tour. The market was lovely, very traditional with a mix of food/drink and shopping. Hamburg was much bigger than I expected with attractive lakes, red light/party zones( thanks to the city’s naval heritage), shopping and history.
We had two days in Rotterdam, we’ve been before so decided to do our own thing. The ship docks very close to a metro station in Rotterdam, this gave us good links to Amsterdam and The Hague. Amsterdam Xmas market was very disappointing and not worth the visit (there was ice skating though), however we did an evening canal cruise to look at the light festival which was lovely. We also had fab pankcakes at a pancake house!! We spoke to people who had been on the bus and the journey took over 2 hours, the train is cheaper and only 40 minutes.
A new adventure took us to The Hague (Dan Hague) an easy 40 mins metro ride 4 euro each way. We had a walk around the city and went to the fab Royal Christmas Fair, lots of stalls for shopping and eating/drinking- well worth a visit.
In Zeebrugge we took a taxi to Bruges, you can also get there by train(from Blakenburg, the ship shuttle bus will take you to the station) or bus on an excursion. As there were 4 of us the taxi works out much better- around half an hour and 50 euro each way. I’ve been to Bruges many times, one of my favourite places. The pilgrimage to the chip shop (Fritteraie 1900) on the main square (chips and mayo like you’ve never had before!) was the first stop. We also went to our favourite hot chocolate house then a brasserie for a cherry beer. The markets were smaller than previous years and no ice skating, still lovely though.

The best hot chocolate in the world?

Who would I recommend this cruise to? The answer is simple- everyone! There is literally something for everyone both on the ship and ashore. Foodies, culture vultures, families, couples, people with mobility issues (there were lots of wheelchairs and scooters onboard)shoppers and anyone else! Some guests didn’t get off and took time out to sit and read, relax, swim and spa whilst others like us enjoyed adventures in every port.


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