P&O Cruises new ship, Iona, is set to be the perfect ship for British families, with sailings from Southampton to a variety of European destinations and lots of on-board fun for kids of all ages.
If you’ve booked a cruise, or are considering booking a cruise on-board Iona, read on for all the information about Iona’s kids’ clubs, family dining options and family-friendly destinations.
When will Iona’s maiden voyage be?
P&O Cruises’ new flagship, Iona, was originally set to launch in May 2020. The revised date for the maiden voyages has not been announced, but Iona is ready and waiting to go once P&O Cruises can safely resume sailing.
The Reef kids’ club
Just like the other family-friendly cruise ships in the P&O Cruises fleet, Iona will offer a programme of entertainment and activities that will appeal to all youngsters of all ages – from toddlers to teens. Included in the cruise fare are kids’ clubs which are split into different age groups and offer a safe and fun environment in the care of qualified Reef rangers.
Splashers – Age 2-4
Two-, three- and four-year-olds will love the bright and colourful Splashers club which features slides, toys, books and activities such as arts and crafts and dressing up. My little boy, Adam, will be three when we sail on Iona, so I’ll be able to give more information on what he thinks about Splashers after our cruise. I’m sure he’ll love that boat with the slide though!
Surfers – Age 5-8
Five- to eight-year-olds can attend Surfers, a really cool club featuring a soft play area. Kids will be able to play computer games, watch films and enjoy puppet shows. There are themed days such as Pirate Day and they’ll be able to take part in treasure hunts around the ship. My daughter, Leonie, will be six when we set sail and she loves pirates and treasure, so this will be right up her street.
When we sailed on Britannia recently, there weren’t a lot of children on board as our cruise was in term time. The Splashers and Surfers groups were mixed together in the Surfers club and my children really enjoyed playing with the older ones and trying computer games for the first time. When we cruise on Iona, as my children will be six and three, they’re set to be in different groups, so I’m hoping that the groups will be merged again so that they can play together. But, if they’re not, then it will be great for them to make new friends and gain more independence.
Scubas – Age 9-12
The Scubas club for nine- to twelve-year-olds looks really cool. It’ll be relaxed and welcoming, with computer games, air hockey and pool tables.
There’s be organised activities available, or kids can just chat and play games with their friends.
Scene – Age 13-17
Teenagers will have their own space, a hang-out called Scene, which is located on deck 6, far away from the kids’ clubs. I really like this idea, as I know that many teens wouldn’t go anywhere near a ‘kids’ club’, but this is more of a chilled-out space where they can hang out with others, as well as testing their skills with the latest gaming technology. There will be some planned activities in the school holidays too, such as talent shows and sports coaching.
Iona’s family facilities
As well as the Reef kids’ club, Iona will host a myriad of other places where families can have fun together. So even if your child chooses not to attend the organised activities of the kids’ club, there’ll still be loads for them to do.
The Splash Zone
The Splash Zone is a really cool water-play area which is used by the kids’ club at some times, and at other times parents can bring their children. I know that my two will go mad for this – it looks like the perfect place to cool off on a hot day.
The Nursery looks like a really great area for babies and toddlers. On other P&O Cruises ships, under-twos can only attend the kids’ club with their parents. I’m not yet sure whether this is the case on Iona too, or whether parents may be able to leave their tots in the care of Reef rangers during the day, but I’ll update you when I have more information.
The Night Nursery
Iona will also feature the Night Nursery, which is one of the most-loved features of P&O Cruises’ family-friendly ships by parents of under-fives. Here, parents can leave their children between 6pm and 2am to sleep in a quiet area under the watchful eye of qualified staff. They are given a pager so that they can be alerted should their children wake.
We absolutely loved the Night Nursery on our last cruise. Walking away from our sleeping children with a glass of wine in hand, heading out to the theatre or casino was such an invigorating feeling when you’re used to a babysitter being a rare and special treat! Best of all, the Night Nursery, like all the other children’s facilities, is completely free of charge.
Iona will feature a four-screen cinema complex. Wow! Now, I’ve been to the cinema on a ship before, but a choice of four screens is blowing my mind a little. There’ll be screenings throughout the day so families can always choose an age-appropriate film, complete with popcorn, ice cream and snacks. This will be the perfect way to spend a rainy day at sea – because they do sometimes happen when sailing from the UK!
The Club House
The Club House is an indoor/outdoor space at the aft (that means rear, for cruise newbies) end of the Promenade Deck. Here, families can get together to play games and enjoy fun entertainment such as games shows.
Swimming pools and hot tubs
Iona has four swimming pools (excluding the spa):
- Beachcomber pool – An outdoor pool at the front of Deck 18
- Panorama pool – An outdoor pool at the aft of Deck 18 with plenty of seating in the sun and shade
- Skydome pool – Located mid-ship on Deck 16, this large indoor pool has a domed glass roof. This pool transforms into a stage in the evening.
- Infinity pool – A glass-sided pool at the aft of Deck 16 which offers spectacular views.
Iona has 24 hot tubs:
- 6 hot tubs surrounding the Beachcomber pool on Deck 18
- 2 hot tubs in the sunbathing area on Deck 18 mid-ship
- 2 hot tubs in The Retreat adults-only area on Deck 18
- 4 hot tubs on the Sun Deck on Deck 17
- 2 indoor hot tubs by the Skydome Pool on Deck 16
- 6 infinity hot tubs on the Promenade Deck on Deck 8
- 2 large hot tubs by the Sunset Bar at the aft of Deck 8
As well as shows aimed at adults in the evenings, P&O Cruises have promised that the theatre on board Iona will also offer daytime and early-evening performances which are ideal for children. Brilliant news!
Iona has two standout spaces – the Grand Atrium and the SkyDome. In these exciting entertainment hubs, families can enjoy surprising spectacles such as aerial performers and circus acts.
Family-friendly dining options
P&O Cruises have announced that Iona will offer ‘unprecedented levels of quality and flexibility’ when it comes to food with over 30 restaurants and bars to choose from.
Most of the dining venues on the ship are great for all ages, but there are some which will be particularly great for kids…
The Quays is a new dining piazza, offering an array of dining venues with a fun street-food vibe and the feel of a beachfront promenade. Diners can eat indoors or outside on the Promenade Deck. It’s the perfect place to grab a snack, enjoy a light lunch or a relaxed evening meal.
The Boardwalk Diner
This American-style soul food diner serves up chargrilled burgers, hot dogs, southern-fried chicken and much more.
Enjoy Asian dishes all day long in a relaxed, casual environment. This is one venue that take-away lovers will really enjoy.
Hook Line and Vinegar
I just love the name of this fish and chip restaurant. Wherever you are in the world, cruisers can enjoy traditional British fish, chips and mushy peas, as well as calamari, fish burgers, scampi and crab cakes.
The Olive Grove
Enjoy the flavours of the Mediterranean at this family-friendly restaurant which offers sharing platters and the option to eat in the conservatory.
The Horizon buffet restaurant
This self-service buffet restaurant is open around the clock and offers food from around the globe, accompanied by panoramic ocean views.
The main dining restaurants
There are four main restaurants on board Iona and all offer Freedom Dining – which means that you can arrive at a time to suit you. You can request a table just for your family, or choose to dine with others should you prefer.
I love the Freedom dining concept, and the option to share tables. Whilst I wouldn’t like to share the same table with the same people at the same time every night of my cruise, I do enjoy chatting with new people over dinner. Freedom dining gives the option to meet new people each night, or enjoy a romantic evening for two should the mood take you, which I think is just perfect.
Snacks and sweet treats
In addition to all the restaurants mentioned, guests can also enjoy Italian-style gelato from Ripples ice-cream bar which is located poolside on the Lido Deck.
Vistas Cafe Bar serves fancy cakes and pastries alongside premium teas and coffees, whilst Taste 360 is the place to go for freshly-baked pizzas, burgers and fish and chips.
Read more: P&O Iona restaurants and bars
As well as ensuring that children are well catered for on board, P&O Cruises have also crafted a range of shore excursions which are perfectly planned to ensure that families have an amazing holiday when they leave the ship too.
Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands
Iona will offer 14-night cruises to Spain and Portugal, as well as seven-night cruises to Germany, Holland and Belgium.
As well as winter sun, families sailing to Spain, Portugal and the Canaries will be able to enjoy child-friendy excursions such as:
- Riding a cable car and toboggan in Madeira
- Enjoy a tree-top high-ropes course in Cadiz
- Making a splash in the Aqualand Maspalomas Water Park in Gran Canaria
- Touring the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona
- Learning how to make traditional Portuguese custard tarts in Lisbon
The Norwegian Fjords
Iona will sail from Southampton to the Norwegian Fjords each week between April and September. On cruises to the Fjords, families will be able to enjoy an exciting range of excursions such as:
- Visiting the Atlantic Sea-Park aquarium in Alesund
- Meeting the animals at the Øvre-Eide Farm in Bergen
- Spending the day building sandcastles at Sola Beach in Stavanger
- Riding in an open-top buggy to see the Briksdal Glacier in Olden
- Kayaking past waterfalls in Geirangerfjord
Are you ready to set sail on Iona?
I am so excited to sail on Iona! This new ship is expected to be very different from others in the P&O Cruises fleet, and indeed different from any other cruise ship which exists today. I promise to bring you lots more information about the ship once I’ve been on board, so be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.
Have you booked a cruise on Iona? Let me know what you’re most excited about in the comments below.