New P&O Cruises ship Iona will retain formal nights – and have its own gin distillery


New P&O Cruises ship Iona will retain formal nights, the line’s senior vice president Paul Ludlow said tonight.

At an event to highlight some of the new food and features of the ship – launching in 2020 – Mr Ludlow answered a question about whether the requirement to dress up would be abandoned by answering: ‘No. On a typical seven-night voyage on Iona there will be one gala night.

‘Iona is a big ship, it gives people lots of options, but what’s really important – and why people love P&O Cruises – is by us continuing some of the traditions that we’ve established into our future as well, so the gala night – the formal night – on our ships will continue and it will be an entire ship activity because we know that’s what people really love about the formal night on P&O.’

It has already been announced that freedom dining will be the norm throughout the 5,200-passenger ship, allowing guests to dine when they want, where they want and with whom they want.

Another announcement made tonight was that Iona will not only serve a wide range of gins but have its own onboard distillery.

Iona will all be about a connection with the sea, from the two-storey SkyDome at the centre of the ship to the conservatory cabins with bi-fold windows that open to give an uninterrupted view of the landscape – a great boon for its initial season in Norway.

A film that journalists were told not to video highlighted venues among the 17 restaurants such as the main dining rooms, the Keel and Cow, the Glass House and Boardwalk diner. Bars will include Brodies, the Limelight Club, the Atrium, Aft Lounge, Crow’s Nest and Emerald Bar.

As wine expert Olly Smith introduced different aspects of the ship, guests at the screening were served samples of food and drink.

Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White told the audience: ‘The beauty is the options. The options of cuisine, the option of formality, because some nights you want to dress up and some nights you just want to be casual. The really important thing we have to remember is that these are people’s holidays.’

He added: ‘In the 12 years I’ve been with P&O I’ve been to almost every single corner of the Earth. It’s amazing. All I’ve witnessed and what I’ve seen – what’s extraordinary is how it’s changed and influenced my cooking.’

On the entertainment front, Jonathan Wilkes – the man behind the Astonishing show – said: ‘It really is going to be breath-taking.’

Former Blur bassist Alex James – now a cheesemaker – said the scale of Iona meant it could offer many more choices of music and entertainment.

Speaking to senior executives of P&O Cruises during the evening, I discovered that Iona’s successor, due to launch in 2022, is still being debated and might not be an exact replica.

Whereas Iona is connected to the sea, its sister ship will be following the sun so might not even have the SkyDome which is such a feature of the next ship.

Dave Monk (Shipmonk) has been nominated as favourite blogger in the Wave Awards 2019. To vote, please click here


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