Experiencing the Norwegian fjords over a spectacular seven-day cruise

Cinema, pubs, a running track, and a lot of hustle and bustle, this is the cruise life at its best!

Harper's Bazaar India

If reports of delays, cancellations, or missing luggage make you think twice about booking air travel, or you have a fear of flying, then a cruise ship that sets sail from the UK could be the solution.

As we arrive at Southampton for a seven-night Norwegian fjords cruise with P&O Cruises, our car is valet parked and we are on board, luggage placed neatly outside our room, in just over half an hour. So far, so good.

While holidaymakers who fly might have only just started perusing the terminal’s duty-free at the 30-minute mark, we are free to unpack and roam around Iona, a ship that welcomes 5,200 passengers, has more than 30 different places to eat and drink, and boasts five fabulous swimming pools on board. And what a ship it is. Iona has everything you need to keep you entertained on sea days, including four cinema screening rooms, its own pub (if you’re missing your local), a running track, a Take That musical (Gary Barlow is music director of The 710 Club on Iona and Arvia) and, on our sailing, chef Marco Pierre White (a P&O Cruises Food Hero) entertaining passengers with his life story while giving out useful cookery tips, too. Yes, it’s a bustling, friendly ship with fellow holidaymakers enjoying a glass of something cool in the numerous whirlpools overlooking the sea, but there’s still peace and quiet to be found. The Crow’s Nest, with its comfy chairs, great views, and piano music, is our favourite spot for some time out from the bars and (silent) disco in the atrium.

When you finally hit land, pre-booked excursions, with transport, are laid on, including gently paced walks with a historical bent or more challenging activities. We opt to climb the Langfoss waterfall, an hour or so’s drive from Haugesund, with lunch on a picturesque farm as a reward. It wouldn’t have been possible to do without a coach tour.

However, if you do your research in advance, there are plenty of opportunities to create your own itinerary, too. We book a sauna in one harbour, complete with bracing sea dips, and hire bikes to cycle part way around Lovatnet, a stunning lake near Olden. And when the sun shines, there’s really no place quite like the Norwegian fjords—mountains reflected in the still waters below, a kaleidoscope of turquoise, deep blues and greens.

And the icing on the cinnamon bun? Sitting on the sunny balcony of our room with a bottle of Champagne (it is a holiday, after all) watching the fjords gently slip by as Iona finally heads home. Buses back to airports and passport control queues are a distant memory from another holiday entirely. If this is the life, I think I like it.

This piece originally appeared in the November 2023 print edition of Harper's Bazaar UK