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Sunday, 12th September, 2021

After a restless night, the cabin was far too hot and hubby was snoring, we woke up at around 6.30 AM and hubby did his morning ritual of going to the Horizon buffet and fetching a cup of coffee for himself and a green tea for me.

We had breakfast at the Horizon Restaurant where we both had a fried breakfast. We decided to go on a more detailed tour of the ship as we hadn’t really seen much of it the night before.

I have to say that the ship is very well sign posted and so it is fairly easy to navigate around. We took the stairs as much as possible: 1, to try and lose some of the pounds we will gain over the cruise and 2, the lifts are a bit of a faff. The maximum people allowed in a lift is four and there is a sign stating that you have to stand on the markers on the floor and no talking!

We stopped of at Vista for a Costa Coffee where I had an iced latte, which was just a cold coffee (urgh) and hubby had a Caramel Frostini which was very, very sweet. He has the sweetest tooth I know, but even he couldn’t finish it!

After picking up a few things from the cabin, we went up to the Sky Dome, it wasn’t very busy and we managed to get a couple of sunbeds next to the pool.

As I’ve mentioned in another blog (G131N Staycation Cruise) I love people watching and in particular which books people have chosen to read, but sitting at the side of the pool another kind of people watching was discovered: looking at people’s faces as they get into the pool, as it was VERY cold. When hubby got out he said, that it was so cold, everything got smaller!

Time to start reading our books….

As it was before midday I ordered a non-alcohol cocktail and hubby, who doesn’t let something like that get in the way, ordered a beer. The waiter service is a bit slower on Iona, but we never had to wait too long to be served, but we did notice people who accosted the waiters before they have even found somewhere to sit, ensuring they get a drink straight away.

Craig Stuart

Not being a huge gin fan, I decided to order a Pink Gin Spritzer cocktail, which was actually very nice and hubby had a Strawberry Mojito and then Busker, Craig Stuart started his set. A great singer who was also entertaining with his comments and who had amassed a couple of groupies with two women who hung on to his every word!

Then I’m ashamed to say we went back to the cabin for a nap! When I woke up hubby was sat on the balcony reading his book, I’ve never known him to read so much, it must be good!

Earlier hubby had booked us into the Coral Restaurant, when he tried to book it for two there was no availability, but when he put in three people, it came up with availability? So he booked it!

On arrival at the restaurant we went straight through, but when we sat at the table we were questioned as to why there was only two of us. They were a bit taken aback when we said they couldn’t make it and it didn’t go down well with the waiting staff. After a few minutes of talk, we were moved from our table for three to a table of two, seated next to the window, so it worked out well for us!

I had tomato soup followed by sirloin steak and hubby had smoked mackerel pate and then the beef brisket. A special mention goes to the thick cut chips, they were wonderful! We had a glass of Prosecco each and dessert was lemon seed cake for me and cheese and biscuits for hubby together with a port.

We had about half an hour before we were due to go to the Headliner’s Theatre and went to the Club House and saw Tucker, the comedian. We didn’t have very high expectations with Tucker, but he was funny, his jokes about the internet package and the strength of the signal hit the nail on the head. Talking about the internet signal, I couldn’t log onto any of my computer equipment, so I had to resort to the old fashioned way of writing everything in a notebook! And so hence this being uploaded after the cruise.

Writing my diary the old fashioned way.

The act in the Headliner Theatre was Craig Lloyd, a soul singer. We aren’t fans of soul music but he was a great singer. He was also a name dropper, Simon Cowell, Sinitta and Gary Barlow. He was in the first series of the X Factor and made it to judge’s houses and became a vocal coach for The Voice.

A highlight was at the end when Andy, the Assistant Entertainment Manager, had to orchestrate everybody leaving the theatre row by row. his comments made everyone laugh as we exited safely within Covid guidelines! You have to keep your masks on in the theatre and there is no food or drink. This was pre-bookable on the Cruise Personaliser and people were being turned away who hadn’t booked.

We went back to the Sky Dome and watched Pulse’s Rock Show. The sound wasn’t great, I couldn’t make out what they were singing straight away for a few of the songs, but the lighting was fantastic. A Pina Colado for me and a Mojito for hubby while we were watching them.

I had heard a lot of things about the 710 club via Facebook before the cruise, the overwhelming comments were how good it was, but the main complaint was that people would enter at the beginning of the evening and stay there for the entire evening. I did notice in the Horizon newsletter that it requested people to vacate the club after they have watched the session. So we went down to Deck 6 and were pleased to be able to join the queue for the next session.

The 710 Club is an intimate venue with seating for 75 people. We found a good seat and ordered a Baileys (for me) and a Jamesons (for hubby) and settled down. All I can say is the hype is well and truly worth it. To say I was blown away is an understatement, the pianist and singer, Harrison was simply fantastic, his piano playing skills need to be seen to be believed. The guitarist and singer, lends a more soulful voice to a couple of the songs. We will definitely try to get in there again!

Totally enamoured by what we had just heard, we headed to the Crows Nest for our nightly nightcap of a Baileys and a Jamesons.

Again, past midnight and we went back to the cabin after a thoroughly enjoyable day!

Saturday, 11th September, 2021

The morning of the cruise passed quicker than I thought it would – after packing and grabbing a quick lunch in the Royal Victoria Country Park, where we could see Iona docked, it was time to book our Uber.

The Uber arrived promptly at 3.12 PM and as the Southampton Boat Show was happening, plus Southampton FC were playing West Ham, we thought the traffic might be bad, the Uber driver even said, “I’m not sure why I picked up this fare, I wanted to avoid Southampton today,” but her worries were unfounded as we breezed into Southampton, taking only about 15 minutes.

On arrival at Ocean Terminal, we immediately saw where to leave our suitcases and we were directed towards the COVID testing area. We must have queued for about 10 minutes and after having our COVID certificates checked and boarding pass looked at, we were having our tests done. The test itself was very easy, just up the nostrils, the lady administering mine said I was very relaxed!

Onto filling in another Health Questionnaire and then sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our results. Typically, hubby’s came in first and then I had a nervous wait for about three minutes waiting for my result. It seemed to take forever and it wasn’t helped by hubby saying to me, “If your result is positive then I’ll go on board and wave to you as we pass our village. You can go back to work on Monday.! But thankfully, it came through and we were on our way to the booking in desk which took about five minutes and then it was onto security. Pre-COVID security was always the most nerve-wracking, but now it was a breeze.

And then it was the moment we had been waiting over 18 months for…. we were on a cruise ship!

After being scanned in at our muster station which was The Glass House, we made our way to our cabin on the 14th deck and a standard balcony.

These were the flowers from our Ultimate Celebration Package that we purchased before we boarded. We decided to buy this package as it was our 36th Wedding Anniversary on the Tuesday of the cruise.

Overall, we were impressed with the cabin, on our arrival there were flowers, chocolates, a bottle of champagne, slippers and a dressing gown each waiting for us. There should have been a couple of commemorative champagne glasses but these weren’t there, but after a chat with the room steward that was remedied. The cabin could sleep four people via sofa bed and a Pullman bed, but I think it would have been a bit of a squeeze especially if it was four adults. The storage was a bit limited, but it was fine for hubby and me.

My next task and I say task as that is what it felt like, was the dreaded My Holiday app. At first I loaded it onto my iPad, but it was very slow and as soon as I loaded it onto my iPhone it sped up considerably. I managed to book Sonia in the Limelight Club for Friday night, mainly because we were watching shows on the rest of the evenings and Coral Restaurant for Celebration Night and Aqua Restaurant for Wednesday night.

So it was time to explore the ship, but first stop was the Laguna Bar to activate the Ultimate Drinking Package, what I mean by activate is put a sticker on our cruise card!

A quick look outside and we ended up at the Sunset Bar where we had our first cocktail, a Pina Colada. From there, we decided to visit Brodies, the English-styled pub, it was very quiet, but I suppose people were having their dinner by now. A Cider for me and a Guiness (or two) for hubby, although at first he was disappointed they didn’t have it on draught, but he said that the canned Guiness was very good.

We headed back to the cabin to get ready for our evening meal (we hadn’t booked anything yet) and as we sat on the balcony overlooking Southampton Docks we met our cabin neighbour, Paul. After a little chat we decided that we would like to eat at the Cow and Keel tonight, so we joined the virtual queue of six people and by the time we had gone down the six or so flights of steps to reach the Cow and Keel, our My Holiday app told us that the table was ready. You had to pay a supplement for these meals.

On reading reviews on Facebook about this restaurant, I had sung the praises of it to my hubby, he is a chef and so enjoys good food and boy were we not disappointed!

Hubby had a salmon starter, which he said was the best he’d had in a long while and he was totally gobsmacked with the Prime Minister Burger. I had the duck lollipops (pictured) which was totally delicious and pork belly for my mains, again delicious. This was all washed down with a couple of glasses of Beefsteak Malbec each. I’m not a huge fish fan, so you’ll find out that hubby will choose fish more often than not when we’re away.

We didn’t have any room for dessert, which is unheard of for hubby as he loves his desserts, so we agreed to come back another time and try them, all for the sake of research of course!

A walk around the Promenade Deck where we saw the infamous conservatory cabins. They didn’t look too bad to us, but it was at night and the deck wasn’t busy. We ended up at the Sunset Bar and decided to go into the Club House where the band, Pulse, were about to play a session of pop songs.

They played some great songs, but it felt strange not being able to dance but there was plenty of arm waving and chair dancing. The set only lasted about 35 minutes, which didn’t seem very long and I enjoyed a Pina Colada and hubby had a beer.

From there it was up to the Crows Nest, which did take a bit of finding, but we managed it eventually. There was a piano player and I had my usual night cap of a Baileys and hubby had a Jamesons. One thing I don’t understand with the Unlimited Drinks Package is that you cannot order a double Baileys, which would still be under the £6.95 cap, I mean, it would save the waiter’s an extra trip to the bar!

A walk back to the cabin at around 12:15 AM, a very good start to our cruise!