‘I took a cruise to Norway and ran a 5k while sailing on the North Sea’

In recent months, some of our favourite celebs have proved that cruises are the trendy way to holiday. From Andy Whyment's Caribbean cruise to Love Islander Millie Court’s European adventure, it turns out that stars can’t get enough of exploring the sights while sailing at sea.

And who can blame them? The idea that cruise holidays are reserved for fusty retired couples and super-rich bores, doing nothing but gorging on food from dawn to dusk is old hat. Today's adventures on the ocean waves offer amazing entertainment, self-improvement classes and even the chance to keep fit.

OK! explored the Norwegian Fjords via a seven-night cruise on Iona to find out what the fuss is all about. And here’s what we discovered…

Living in luxury

The sumptuous onboard the Iona harks back to the kind of luxuries enjoyed by the first-class passengers aboard the original Ship of Dreams, aka The Titanic. Attention to detail is key and guests are treated to a pristine and pampered existence. We set sail on a seven-night cruise to Norway, stopping off in the cities of Stavanger and Haugesund, the port town of Alesund and the village, Olden.

Each of the destinations showcase Norway’s striking landscape, but what makes this cruise so special is the ease with which passengers are transported into the heart of this welcoming, wholesome country. Leaving the ship for a day’s sightseeing is a slick, hassle-free experience and then we are free to have a leisurely stroll around these beautiful locations.

Life on board

There is such a packed and varied programme of events on Iona that it’s impossible to sample everything in seven days – but we had a good crack at it. The ship’s daily newspaper, Horizon, contains details of each day’s activities, so you can plan out your schedule over breakfast.

For those of us missing out on Parkrun (although we did manage to do the Southampton one on the first Saturday morning before we had to check-in), there's a jogging track at the top of the ship. It takes 22 laps to do a 5k run, but it’s an invigorating experience to run laps while sailing on a ship in the North Sea.

There’s also Ocean Studios cinema (we blubbed our way through A Man Called Otto), art talks in the Limelight Club (where you can discover fascinating facts about artists from Lowry to Banksy) and even a 940-seat theatre, Headliners, which hosted an entertaining cookery demonstration by Marco Pierre White and performances of Greatest Days: The Official Take That Musical, both of which are highly recommended.

Or, if you are lucky enough to have a room with a balcony, you may just want to spend time catching the sun there or taking deep breaths of the restorative Nordic air while reading a novel.

What to do

Once you arrive in Norway, the onshore activities available – that you can book through P&O – are fabulous and tailored to suit a variety of guests. We were feeling adventurous and firstly we took on the challenge of climbing the Alesund via ferrata with Explore Alesund.

This climbing adventure requires quite a good level of fitness but no previous climbing experience (it’s far more challenging than simply hiking up some hills in the Lake District). Our guide, Eline, immediately put us at ease and boosted our confidence as an inexperienced climber. She talked us through how to use the safety harness, climbing rope and place our feet in the footholds throughout the climb – you do need to be able to climb fairly athletically and haul yourself upwards by using the rope.

We kept our focus firmly on the rock face, but once you get to the wooden bench secured into the rock face two thirds of the way up, you can savour the delights of the majestic view. Those with a fear of heights should give this activity a swerve, but otherwise it’s a tremendous challenge and the sense of achievement once you get to the top is unrivalled.

Kayaking on the Nordfjord at Olden is also an exhilarating experience – and rather more relaxing than the climb. It’s a bit of a rigmarole to get kitted out in the uniform, but once settled in the kayak, tootling around on the fjords is simply magical. It was interesting to see Iona from the water. From our little kayak, the ship seemed even more gigantic than usual.

Stavanger is a very picturesque city full of charming shopping streets and flower-filled parks. It’s the ideal location to enjoy a wander – and there are plenty of enticing restaurants around the harbour if you fancy a bite to eat on dry land.

Haugesund is more of a functional-looking city and there is a great pedestrianised shopping street where you can pick up souvenirs. And if you take a 10-minute walk inland, football fans will discover the glossy stadium of FK Haugesund, which plays in the top tier of the Norwegian football league.

Where to eat

The choice of eateries on Iona is phenomenal. From the luxury Norwegian tasting menu at Epicurean – created by Norwegian celebrity chef Kjartan Skjelde – to the cheerful, canteen-style Horizon restaurant, there is a venue to suit your mood (and your wallet).

Many of the restaurants are part of the all-inclusive deal – The Quays is one such food hall-style restaurant, where diners can share a table but select their meals from different kiosks. One guest can sample fish and chips at Hook Line and Vinegar, while others can feast on the delicious burgers and fries from Boardwalk Diner.

But if you’re pushing the boat out, Marco Pierre White was seen regularly hanging out in gastro pub The Keel And Cow, trying a variety of their delicious steaks. So if it’s good enough for Marco… And it’s recommended that you round off a special night at glitzy lounge bar, the Crow’s Nest, which has fantastic views out to sea as the sun sets.

How to book

The Norwegian Fjords seven-night cruise on Iona departs from Southampton. Prices start from £649 per person for an inside cabin. For information and to book, see pocruises.com