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Video: Inside P&O Cruises’ recent ship Iona, with Marco Pierre White on board to present cooking lessons

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Travel author Jo Kessel filmed her voyage on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, Iona, which is powered by liquefied natural gas and is the liner’s greenest ship yet. The footage shows how Iona is a foodie’s paradise, with P&O Cruises’ ‘Food Hero’ Marco Pierre White holding cooking demonstrations on certain sailings. Plus, the footage has the within scoop on Iona’s boutique cinema and its swimming pools, including one which transforms right into a stage for an acrobatic show.

Iona is the most recent addition to British cruise liner P&O Cruises’ fleet. It cost £733million ($950million) to construct and may carry a whopping 5,200 passengers. 

It’s glamorous on the surface in addition to in, which is something I hoped to capture on film after I hopped on board in Southampton for a seven-day cruise to the Norwegian fjords.

Jo Kessel sets sail on P&O Cruises’ newest ship, Iona, on a seven-day cruise from Southampton to the Norwegian fjords

Iona (pictured above in Norway during Jo's trip) cost £733million ($950million) to build and can carry a whopping 5,200 passengers

Iona (pictured above in Norway during Jo’s trip) cost £733million ($950million) to construct and may carry a whopping 5,200 passengers

Never before has the North Sea posed so well for the camera, confusing itself for the Caribbean as we set sail. It was the right weather to point out off Iona’s 4 pools, including two infinity jobs and one other within the futuristic ‘Sky Dome’, which at night transforms into something completely different, more of which later.

Once we have reached the fjords the video shows how stunning Iona looks framed by Norway’s mountains. Plus the ship’s plethora of hot tubs – I counted eight on the promenade deck alone – means there’s all the time a likelihood to hop in a whirlpool to absorb the view. And in case you don’t fancy getting wet Iona has loads of other lovely places to relax.

A lot of these are on the Promenade Deck (Deck 8), a quieter alternative to the usually busy top deck where you may also discover a sports court and driving range.

'It was the perfect weather to show off Iona's four pools,' Jo says of the sailing

‘It was the right weather to point out off Iona’s 4 pools,’ Jo says of the sailing

The ship's 'plethora of hot tubs' means that 'there's always a chance to hop in a whirlpool to soak up the view'

The ship’s ‘plethora of hot tubs’ signifies that ‘there’s all the time a likelihood to hop in a whirlpool to absorb the view’

Jo relaxes beside one of Iona's two infinity pools. 'If you don't fancy getting wet Iona has plenty of other lovely places to chill,' she reveals

Jo relaxes beside considered one of Iona’s two infinity pools. ‘When you don’t fancy getting wet Iona has loads of other lovely places to relax,’ she reveals 

Next the footage sweeps across the aft of the Promenade Deck, showcasing the ship’s sleek, curvy lines. Then it moves to the cabins (mine was also on Deck 8) and to a game-changing area called The Quays.

That is an indoor (and outdoor) eating venue that rivals the highest deck’s buffet, offering a choice of small plates in addition to a fish and chips stand and noodle bar. For lunching away from the crowds this may’t be beaten.

Talking of food, P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called ‘Food Heroes’ and several other sailings a 12 months have considered one of them on board, hosting cooking demos for guests and answering Q&A’s within the theatre and so forth. 

For my sailing, it was restauranteur Marco Pierre White, the primary British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars (he gave them up in 1999, though).

When he asked me to help in a seafood risotto demonstration I could not refuse… though I did warn him I’m a terrible cook! Did I damage the risotto? Happily not! Marco kept a beady eye on my stirring.

One of the spaces to 'chill' on board. 'It's glamorous on the outside as well as in,' Jo says of the ship

One in all the spaces to ‘chill’ on board. ‘It’s glamorous on the surface in addition to in,’ Jo says of the ship

Room with a sea view: Pictured above is Jo's cabin, on deck eight of the ship

Room with a sea view: Pictured above is Jo’s cabin, on deck eight of the ship 

The Quays, pictured, is a 'game-changing' eating venue that features a fish and chips stand and a noodle bar

The Quays, pictured, is a ‘game-changing’ eating venue that includes a fish and chips stand and a noodle bar

P&O Cruises Food Heroes also host dinners and at mine (which was within the ship’s speciality Indian restaurant Sindhu) Marco helped me resolve what to order – Lobster Thermidor ‘Sindhu Style’ for starters (baked in its shell with ginger and green chilli) followed by Duck Tikka Malabari Tandoori Style for mains. Each were superb. Thanks, Marco.

Not caught on camera (so you will have to take my word for it) was how I plucked up the courage to ask something I’d read on Wikipedia about Marco once making Gordon Ramsay cry. Rumour has it that Ramsay – who was trained by Marco at his restaurant Harvey’s – was found cowering in a corner in tears. Who’d have thought that possible?

Is it true?

‘Yes, it’s true.’

What did you do or say to Gordon to make him cry?

‘Nothing, he was just very emotional that day.’

P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called 'Food Heroes' and several sailings a year have one of them on board - Marco Pierre White was recruited for Jo's sailing

P&O Cruises has a handful of ambassadors called ‘Food Heroes’ and several other sailings a 12 months have considered one of them on board – Marco Pierre White was recruited for Jo’s sailing 

Jo assists Marco in a seafood risotto demonstration. 'I did warn him I'm a terrible cook,' she says

Jo assists Marco in a seafood risotto demonstration. ‘I did warn him I’m a terrible cook,’ she says

Marco hosting a dinner in the ship's speciality Indian restaurant, Sindhu

Marco hosting a dinner within the ship’s speciality Indian restaurant, Sindhu

And that, I’m afraid, was all I got out of him on the topic, despite much persistence.

One other of P&O Cruises’ Food Heroes is Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde. And while he wasn’t on board for my sailing, I used to be still in a position to benefit from the once-a-voyage six-course taster menu he’s created for Iona’s speciality Epicurean restaurant. 

Despite the £30pp surcharge, this sells out fast, so book before you sail. Every course was deliciously light, fragrant and fresh, from the crispy chicken skin starter to the smoked mountain trout with horseradish cream to the fillet of Jaeren coastal lamb. 

I used to be a specific fan of Skjelde’s puffed rye, which adds a salty crunch to the salads.

Jo enjoys the once-a-voyage six-course taster menu that Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde has created for Iona's Epicurean restaurant

Jo enjoys the once-a-voyage six-course taster menu that Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde has created for Iona’s Epicurean restaurant

One of Jo's dishes at Epicurean, which Jo reveals sells out fast, 'despite the £30pp surcharge'

One in all Jo’s dishes at Epicurean, which Jo reveals sells out fast, ‘despite the £30pp surcharge’

Iona's Sky Dome swimming pool turns into a stage by night and is used for a jaw-dropping acrobatic show

Iona’s Sky Dome swimming pool turns right into a stage by night and is used for a jaw-dropping acrobatic show

TRAVEL FACTS

Marco Pierre White 2022 sailings on P&O Cruises Iona include a Spain and Portugal cruise departing November 26. For more information, visit www.pandocruises.com

The finale of the video is Iona’s entertainment, from its four-screen boutique cinema to its intimate live music venue called the 710 Club. 

Take That is Gary Barlow is the club’s Musical Director and hopes this venue will nurture recent talent and discover the following Adele. 

But for now, it’s in Iona’s Sky Dome that entertainment’s essentially the most impressive. 

What’s a swimming pool by day turns right into a stage by night (watch the video to see the mechanics of it) because the dome is used for a jaw-dropping acrobatic show that sees its stars soaring and somersaulting within the eaves of its glass roof.

It’s an exciting show on what’s an exciting recent ship.

For more from Jo visit her YouTube channel, Go together with Jo 

Jo declares that Iona, pictured, is 'an exciting new ship'

Jo declares that Iona, pictured, is ‘an exciting recent ship’ 

Iona can accommodate 5,200 passengers in its 2,614 cabins. Pictured is the ship's atrium

Iona can accommodate 5,200 passengers in its 2,614 cabins. Pictured is the ship’s atrium

IONA BY THE NUMBERS

  • Iona cost £730million to construct
  • It measures 138ft (42m) wide and 1,131ft (345m) long – and weighs 185,000 gross tonnes
  • Guests can roam 17 decks, which accommodate 5,200 passengers in 2,614 cabins
  • There are 1,800 international crew members on board
  • The live music venue curated by Gary Barlow is known as the 710 Club
  • Its boutique cinema has 4 screens
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