Hays Travel chair Dame Irene Hays named P&O Cruises ship Iona at a ceremony in Southampton on Sunday (16 May).
The ship, which will be powered by liquefied natural gas, will depart for its maiden voyage on August 7 to its namesake island, as part of P&O’s summer season of UK coastal cruises.
More than 25,000 people watched the event virtually, as the 5,200-guest ship, described as “Britain’s largest and most environmentally friendly” vessel, was welcomed to the fleet.
A specially produced Nebuchadnezzar (equivalent to 20x 750ml bottles) of Alex James’s Britpop cider was smashed against the hull of the ship.
The ceremony was hosted by radio DJ and TV presenter Jo Whiley and also featured a performance by Iona’s music director, Gary Barlow.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “It is 427 days since we have been able to do what we do best – welcome our guests on board and give them unforgettable, joyous holidays where they make memories on board and see the sights of the world.
“With our invited audience and millions more watching the ceremony on social media, today heralds a new beginning and new hope for the cruise industry. Iona is indeed a very visible symbol of our future.”
Speaking before the ceremony, Ludlow added: “It is a landmark day for both P&O Cruises and for the travel industry as a whole.
“We are on the cusp of a bright new beginning and Iona’s arrival into Southampton… is very visible evidence of this much anticipated future. Our guests are longing to get back to sea and Iona’s summer season of UK coastal cruises, including her maiden voyage on August 7 up to her namesake island of Iona, have seen overwhelming demand.”
Iona has 30 bars and restaurants with many new speciality dining options, including tapas from award-winning Spanish chef José Pizarro paired with wines selected by Olly Smith and a new Chef’s Table menu from Marco Pierre White.
Entertainment venues include the SkyDome, a glass structure that will be a relaxed poolside environment by day and then transform at night into a venue with DJs and aerial acrobatic shows.