My wife, Kim, and I had the delightful experience of sailing the Norwegian Fjords on the P&O Iona cruise ship this past September. Our journey was filled with unexpected adventures, moments of relaxation, and exquisite entertainment. So, for those pondering about replicating our trip, buckle up, and let me recount the tale.
The Ship – Iona
From the moment we stepped on board, it was evident that the Iona is not just any ordinary ship—it’s a floating testament to luxury, elegance, and modernity. Its sleek design, meticulous attention to detail, and innovative architecture make it a beacon of contemporary cruise experiences.
Beginning with the cabins, our accommodation was a haven of comfort and space. The interiors were thoughtfully designed, with every amenity ensuring our stay was as cozy as it was luxurious.
But, the ship doesn’t stop at just providing comfortable lodgings. Its plethora of world-class restaurants catered to our every culinary whim. From gourmet meals to casual bites, each dining experience was a gastronomic adventure. The diverse options ensured that whether we were in the mood for a formal dinner or just wanted to grab a quick snack, the Iona had us covered.
The bars and lounges were no less impressive. They were more than just places to grab a drink—they were social hubs, each with its own unique ambiance and charm. We found ourselves enjoying sunset cocktails, engaging in delightful conversations with fellow travellers, and simply soaking in the panoramic views of the sea.
The theatres on board brought entertainment to life. With a range of performances that catered to different tastes, there was never a dull moment. From musicals to plays, each show was a display of talent and passion.
But amidst all the grandeur, a place that held a special spot in our hearts was the 710 club. With its jazz-inspired ambiance, it was the perfect blend of sophistication and relaxation. The live performances were nothing short of mesmerizing, pulling us into a world of rhythm, melody, and nostalgia. Every evening spent there felt like a journey back in time to the golden age of jazz.
In essence, the Iona was not just a mode of transport—it was an integral part of our journey. Every corner of the ship resonated with the promise of discovery, fun, and relaxation. It was a world in itself, waiting to be explored.
Day 1 – Embarkation at Southampton
Our journey began in Southampton. The excitement was palpable as we explored the ship – understanding its layout, visiting the restaurants, bars, theatres, and pools. Our day concluded with a spectacular music show at the 710 theatre and a lavish dinner at the Coral restaurant.
Day 2 – At Sea
There’s something incredibly relaxing about spending a day at sea. From a hearty breakfast at the Horizon buffet to relishing the scenic views from the Sky Lounge, our day was both peaceful and invigorating. The highlight? Dressing up for the celebration event and mingling in the grand atrium.
Day 3 – Stavanger to Alesun
Mother Nature had different plans for us. Originally destined for Stavanger, strong winds led to an unplanned sea day, eventually docking at Alesund in the evening. This unexpected change had its silver lining, as we enjoyed still waters while sleeping and a captivating view of Alesund by night.
Day 4 – Alesund
The day began as if Mother Nature herself had painted the sky. A mesmerising sunrise bathed the horizon in hues of gold, pink, and fiery orange. We found ourselves drawn to deck eight, a vantage point that seemed tailor-made for moments like this. We stood entranced, watching as the first light of day shimmered across the ocean, casting a warm glow that made the world seem fresh and new.
However, the ever-fickle weather had other plans. Dark clouds rolled in, bringing with them a curtain of rain that threatened to put a damper on our plans. But as seasoned travellers, we’ve learned that sometimes the best adventures come when you least expect them—and sometimes, they come in the form of unexpected showers.
Determined not to let the rain dictate our day, we embarked on a trek to the Observatory. Every step of the 417 that led us upward was a testament to our determination, and with each ascending stride, our anticipation grew. And oh, was the climb worth it! From the pinnacle, we were gifted with views of the bay that can only be described as unparalleled. Majestic mountains, dotted with homes, framed the tranquil waters of the bay, creating a tableau of nature and architecture.
Down in Alesund’s heart, the town revealed its own set of wonders. Raindrops danced on cobblestone streets, reflecting the colourful facades of art nouveau buildings. The downpour, rather than being a hindrance, added a certain charm to the town. It made the streets glisten and the air fresh, and turned our exploration into an adventure reminiscent of childhood days spent playing in the rain. We ducked into cozy cafes, discovered hidden alleyways, and laughed as we huddled under shared umbrellas.
In the end, it wasn’t just Alesund’s scenic beauty that we cherished but also the memories of navigating its streets with rain-soaked shoes and hearts full of joy. That day, the rain didn’t dampen our spirits; it only added to our story, reminding us that sometimes, the best moments are the unplanned ones.
Day 5 – Olden
Olden is a place where nature’s grandeur takes center stage. From the moment the Iona began its graceful navigation through the intricate tapestry of fjords in the early morning, we knew we were in for something special. The serenity of the September darkness, juxtaposed with the silhouettes of towering cliffs and the gentle lapping of the waters against the ship, created an ethereal atmosphere that left us in awe.
As we stepped ashore, the town welcomed us with its quaint charm and picturesque landscapes. Everywhere we looked, nature’s handiwork was evident—from the lush green meadows to the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Our thirst for adventure led us to two of Olden’s most famed attractions: a majestic local glacier and a state-of-the-art skylift.
The journey to the glacier was like stepping into a postcard. The icy expanse, with its shimmering blue hues, stood as a testament to the timeless beauty of nature. It was a humbling experience to stand before such a massive relic of time, and it gave us a deeper appreciation for the wonders our planet holds.
Next, the Loen skylift promised and delivered panoramic views that took our breath away. As we ascended, the vastness of the landscape unfolded before our eyes. From the serene fjords below to the sprawling valleys and mountains beyond, the vista was a symphony of colors, light, and shadow. It felt as if we were floating above a living painting, and the experience was one we’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Back aboard the Iona, our evening was as delightful as our day. The SkyDome, with its state-of-the-art facilities and entertainment options, became our sanctuary. Whether it was watching a movie under the stars, dancing to live music, or simply gazing at the night sky through its expansive glass ceiling, every moment was a celebration of joy and relaxation.
In summary, Olden was a symphony of experiences—each more enchanting than the last. From natural wonders to the luxuries on board the Iona, Day 5 will forever remain etched in our memories as a day of discovery, delight, and sheer wonder.
Day 6 – Haugesund
As our ship neared its docking point, the anticipation among the passengers was palpable. What came next was truly a sight to behold: the mighty vessel executed a flawless 180° turn, showcasing the impressive prowess of its engineering and the skill of its crew. This dramatic maneuver wasn’t just about positioning the ship; it felt like a grand entrance, setting the tone for the adventures that lay ahead. Many of us rushed to the decks, cameras in hand, eager to capture this memorable moment where man’s marvel met the majesty of the sea.
Once anchored, the town beckoned us with its eclectic mix of history and art. One couldn’t help but be intrigued by the unexpected sight of Marilyn Monroe’s sculpture in the town. This life-like representation, capturing the icon seemed to offer a bridge between old-world charm and contemporary artistry. It added a touch of Hollywood glamour to the quaint backdrop of the town.
Venturing further, the coastline unveiled its own treasures. There stood the coastal monuments, silent sentinels of the sea, narrating tales of the town’s maritime history and its relationship with the vast waters that stretched endlessly before it. These structures, with their weathered facades, whispered tales of time gone by, drawing us into their lore.
Our exploration led us to a series of charming white boarding houses, each one seemingly vying for attention with its intricate architectural details. Their pristine exteriors, framed by picket fences and adorned with blooming flowers, painted a picture of serenity and timelessness. They stood as testaments to the town’s commitment to preserving its heritage and offering glimpses into its domestic life.
As the day wore on, Kim and I found a quieter way to engage with the ship’s offerings. Situated on deck 18 was an oversized chess set, intriguing in its design. We decided to have a go. The large pieces, while unique, added an interesting dimension to the classic game. There wasn’t much fanfare, just the two of us making strategic moves while the overcast sky added a touch of solemnity to our match. It was a simple yet memorable activity, a testament to the fact that sometimes, even amidst all the exploration and spectacle, it’s the understated moments that stand out.
Day 7 – At Sea
Our last full day was a blend of relaxation and activity. While Kim took to the jogging track, I attended an intriguing talk on an artish called Mr. Brainwash. Evening was reserved for theatre, where the “Sky is the Limit” show by the Iona’s theatre production team left us spellbound.
Day 8 – Disembarking at Southampton
All good things come to an end, and so did our cruise. After a wholesome breakfast, we bid our farewells to the Iona, carrying memories to last a lifetime.
The P&O Iona cruise to the Norwegian Fjords wasn’t just a holiday – it was an experience of a lifetime. Every day brought with it new adventures, scenic landscapes, and world-class entertainment. To say it was ‘value for money’ would be an understatement. Whether you’re an avid traveller or someone seeking a break from the mundane, this is one journey you shouldn’t miss.