P&O Iona The Quays Food Court Seating

Best Gluten Free Eats on P&O Iona: A Meal-By-Meal Guide from Breakfast to Late Supper

As a gluten free cruiser, I know that every mealtime can be a mix of excitement and anxiety. Will there by enough safe options? Will I get tired of eating the same thing every day?

Fear not, fellow GF foodies! In this guide, I’ll break down the best spots to find gluten free eats throughout the day, from breakfast, lunch (port and sea days), afternoon tea, snacks, dinner and late supper. And of course, I’ll cover room service, too!

On This Page

Rise and Shine Gluten-Free: Best Breakfast Spots

  • Most GF Friendly Brekkie: Main Dining Room (MDR)
  • Least GF Friendly Brekkie: Room Service. Avoid Keel and Cow unless you want only juice, fruit, yogurt and/or GF porridge – there’s no extra charge for these items.

What’s Your Preferred Breakfast?

The MDR, Horizon Buffet, The Quays & the Keel and Cow are open for breakfast. For the MDR, you can join the virtual queue and wait for a table if you don’t have a reservation. For sea days, I would recommending making a reservation the day before to avoid having to queue. Depending on what you like to eat for breakfast, here’s my recommendation on the best breakfast spot:

  • Cereal: MDR – go to the “diet counter” to get GF cereal or ask a crew member if you can’t find it. It’s a pre-packaged box. Plant based milks are available.
  • Eggs: The Quays have scrambled, fried and hard boiled eggs plus a scrambled eggs with smoked salmon special. It’s less busy than Horizon (buffet).
  • Fruit and Yogurt: The Quays self-service area, it’s quieter with virtually no queues. Of course these items are available in MDR and Horizon Buffet too.
  • Hot Breakfast: MDR or Horizon (Buffet), although MDR will have more choices including Eggs Benedict on a GF bagel which was fabulous!
  • GF Toast: MDR – GF bread is available in the buffet but there’s no dedicated GF toaster at the buffet! If you just want GF toast and nothing else, you can be in and out of the MDR in 10 minutes.
  • Pancakes: The Quays will make GF pancakes – just ask at the first counter (Hook, Line & Vinegar), which turns into the pancake counter during breakfast. It’s not marked on the menu but it’s available! I have no idea why some items are like a secret menu! ๐Ÿ˜…
  • Porridge: MDR – porridge is available in the buffet but it’s not GF porridge. Keel and Cow also has GF porridge but I’m not sure that service is quicker than the MDR.

Gluten Free Breakfast Options at MDR

The MDR breakfast menu is below๐Ÿ‘‡ – this does not change daily. It’s also the same breakfast menu, regardless of which MDR you go to. (There’s usually two open on port days and more on sea days). Even if you’re too busy on port days to have a sit-down breakfast, definitely make a reservation to indulge on sea days, as the MDR serves the best GF breakfast onboard.

P&O Iona Main Dining Room Hot Breakfast Menu
Copyright P&O Cruises
P&O Iona Main Dining Room Continental Breakfast Menu
Copyright P&O Cruises
  • GF Options Not Available in Other Dining Venues:
    • Eggs Benedict on a Gluten Free Bagel – only the MDR serves this. I was so surprised that it came on a GF bagel and not a piece of GF toast! The bagel was well toasted too!
    • Kippers and Smoked Haddock as English breakfast options – these are not available in other venues.
  • GF Hot Breakfast Options: Bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, eggs, kippers, smoked haddock and smoked salmon can be gluten free. Sausages, hash browns and black pudding are not. GF American style pancakes are also available.
  • Not Marked Explicitly on Menu: Gluten Free Toast is available – it’s Schar’s bread as are GF cereal and GF porridge.
Gluten free Eggs Benedict on bagel, served on P&O Iona
Gluten Free Eggs Benedict served in MDR for breakfast
GF Toasted Bread served at main dining room onboard P&O Iona June 2024
GF Toast – the bread is Schar’s
Scrambled eggs with smoked haddock
I order scrambled eggs with smoked salmon but smoked haddock came. I ate it!

Room Service Breakfast: Limited GF Options

P&O Iona room service breakfast menu June 2024
Copyright P&O Cruises

Unfortunately the room service breakfast won’t be that indulgent for GF diners, as there’s limited options besides fruit juices, yogurt and fruit. For a full continental breakfast or a full English, your best bet are the main dining rooms.

Beyond the Salad Bar: Best Gluten-Free Lunch Options

These dining venues were open for lunch – MDR, Horizon Buffet, The Quays, The Olive Grove and Taste360 – these venues are open on both port days and sea days. Here’s how I rank them:

  • Best GF Port Day Lunch: The Olive Grove – there’s loads of gluten free options, so there’s no need to pre-order. See my photos in my GF options in included dining venues here. I prefer the GF pizza at the Olive Grove to that of Taste360’s.
  • Fastest GF Port Day Lunch: The Quays, with gluten free fish and chips, salad and a gluten free dessert
  • Light GF Port Day Lunch: MDR serves mostly soups, salads and sandwiches, at least for GF options.
Allergens marked desserts in self service area of the Quays onboard P&O Iona June 2024
Allergens are marked in self-service area of the Quays – I was impressed with 3 GF options!

If you’re heading ashore for a shore excursion, here are my top tips for a GF lunch while touring:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs & Bread from Breakfast: Head to Horizon (Buffet) and take hard boiled eggs (if you eat them) and GF bread or GF bread rolls as a makeshift lunch.
  • Pre-Packaged Foods from Special Diets Counter: Horizon (Buffet) has a special diets counter with pre-packaged cereal bars, chocolate brownies, bread rolls, crackers etc. There was even a GF pecan tart on my cruise, which tasted lovely.
    • Take a snack with you on shore excursion: You can also grab it the day before your excursion – I usually go around afternoon tea time, when I have returned from shore excursions. I then check my schedule for the following day and ask for food that I need, so I’m not so rushed in the morning. The counter also has whole fruit, like apples and oranges. (The rest of the buffet only serves cut-up fruit).
  • Inform P&O Shore Excursions Team if you bought a shore excursion with an included lunch. It’s generally the shore excursions team who informs the local operator of your dietary requirements. However, I never chance it. So I always bring a snack with me ashore.

Scones, Cakes & More: Gluten Free Delights at Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British tradition, and P&O Iona doesn’t disappoint with its gluten-free offerings. There are two options onboard:

1. Horizon Restaurant (Included)

Included afternoon tea gluten free cakes and cupcakes served in Horizon buffet onboard P&O Iona June 2024
Included afternoon team at Horizon Buffet – Berry Roulade & Cupcakes are GF

The Horizon Restaurant, the buffet on Deck 16, offers daily afternoon tea from 3pm to 5pm, on both port days and sea days. Gluten free cruisers can enjoy:

  • Cakes: Individually pre-portioned gluten free cakes, sometimes there are cupcakes too!
  • Scones: Gluten-free scones are hidden from view and you’ll need to ask a crew member for these. (There’s no sign saying that they have GF scones but don’t be shy. They exist onboard!) These are brought onboard pre-made and sealed ๐Ÿ‘‡, so they come with minimal contamination risk. (Note the scones are not dairy free.) The scone tasted like the kind you buy from supermarkets. The crew will warm it up for you if you prefer, without unwrapping it. Jam and clotted cream are self-service – if you don’t feel comfortable with cross contamination risk, ask the crew for help.
Gluten free scones served in Horizon buffet restaurant onboard P&O Iona June 2024
GF scones are packaged – just ask a crew member for them.
  • Extra Treats: The special diets counter continue to be open and has branded gluten free chocolate brownies, crackers and other snacks, offering additional choices for afternoon tea beyond cakes and scones.
Special diets counter at Horizon Buffet restaurant P&O Iona

While there are many different types of sandwiches on offer, I didn’t see any GF sandwiches. If you’d like, you can make your own. The diet counter has Genius and Schar branded sliced breads (and bread rolls too) and there’s usually ham and cheese available from self-service counters. Plant-based non-dairy cheese and spread are at the diet counter too!

2. The Epicurean (Surcharge)

For a truly indulgent afternoon tea experience, head to the Epicurean on a sea day! If you’re pre-booked prior to coming onboard, you still need to flag your reservation as requiring gluten free on embarkation day. This allows the chefs ample time to prepare your bespoke gluten free cakes, sandwiches and scones.

Gluten Free Nibbles: Between-Meal Snacks to Keep You Going

There are three venues on the Iona where you can easily obtain gluten free snacks outside of main meal times:

1. Special Diets Counter at Horizon Restaurant (Buffet)

As per photo above, there’s a wide selection of pre-packaged branded snacks. You can get these, whenever the buffet is open. Horizon is typically open from 6:30am to 9:30pm – the daily Horizon newsletter will give you specific opening times.

2. Taste360

Gluten Free Pepperoni Pizza at Taste360 P&O Iona

Taste360 is the fast food counter serving hot dogs, burgers and pizzas at the SkyDome on Deck 16. There’s a choice of GF Pepperoni pizza or GF Margherita pizza – both are made fresh on request, so expect to wait about 10 minutes for yours. The GF pizzas are cooked in a separate oven and are cut with different equipment. Taste360 typically opens from 12 noon to 8:30pm – the daily newsletter will give you specific opening hours for the day.

3. The Quays

GF fish and chips is always a snack option too, or you can just request for GF chips. There’s GF cakes and fruit there too. The Quays typically open from noon to 9:30pm.

Dinner is Served: Find the Best Gluten Free Dinner Spots!

I’ve covered quite a lot about dinner already, so please refer to my other posts:

Midnight Munchies: Gluten Free Late Night Bites

Gluten free chocolate mousse slice served on Iona June 2024
GF Chocolate Mousse Slice

The MDRs are typically open until 10:30pm. So after the MDRs close, where do you go?

After the Horizon finishes serving dinner, it starts to serve late night snacks till, usually about 1am. Again, refer to your daily Horizon newsletter for specific opening times. So you can still grab snacks from the special diets counter if you need to after watching the evening entertainment.

Gluten-Free Delivered: Room Service Delights

Room Service Menu Page 1 for P&O Iona June 2024
Copyright P&O Cruises
P&O Iona Room Service Menu Page 2, June 2024
Copyright P&O Cruises

Gluten Free Options in the Room Service Menu is not bad for day time but late night nibbles are limited, with a distinct lack of any GF sandwiches – note, each item is individual priced plus a delivery charge of ยฃ2.50:

  • Daytime Menu up till 11pm :
    • Steak Sandwich with fried onions, mayo and French fries
    • Soup of the Day, served with GF bread
    • Oak smoked salmon with capers, red onions and GF crackers
    • Chicken liver pate with GF crackers
    • Chicken Tikka Masala with rice
    • Three-Egg Omelette with cheese, ham, tomato or mushroom
    • Prawn and Tuna Niรงoise salad with green beans, tomato, red onions, black olives, boiled egg & French dressing
  • Late Night Nibbles, from 11pm to 7am
    • Chicken liver pate with GF crackers
    • Greek salad
    • Chicken Tikka Masala with rice
    • Summer berry trifle

Featured Image at The Quays, Deck 8

I hope that this meal-by-meal guide is a good summary of the gluten free food options available onboard the P&O Iona and you can use this with confidence to find something that you’d like no matter the time of day. I wrote a series of blog posts about gluten free dining and you can read the others here.

If you know someone gluten free who’s considering a cruise on the P&O Iona, please share these blog posts with them. There’s definitely a shortage of information out here and I’m really pleased to have received reader emails to say how helpful these blog posts have been. Have a most wonderful cruise!

4 thoughts on “Best Gluten Free Eats on P&O Iona: A Meal-By-Meal Guide from Breakfast to Late Supper”

  1. Thank you so much for all the effort you’ve put into these posts, it’s been genuinely invaluable for my wife and I!

  2. Hi Zana,

    This is AMAZING! These posts have been so, so helpful for me planning my first cruise. Getting the perspective of someone who has been recently is invaluable and I appreciate it so much, as will others I’m sure. As a GF person, it can be so difficult to be excited about things, as there’s no much anxiety over food, but now I feel much more excited than worried.


    1. Hi Hannah, thanks so much for dropping me a line! I REALLY appreciate getting encouraging feedback from fellow GF cruisers. I lost so much enthusiasm for travelling after having to go GF for medical reasons a few years ago, so I can certainly attest to the anxiety I feel when I’m abroad, out of my comfort zone and not sure whether what I eat will make me sick. Knowing that I can go on a cruise which can cater to my GF requirements has taken much of the anxiety out of travelling abroad!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top