Cruising has returned to the shores of the United Kingdom and done so in spectacular style. May 17 was always hailed as the day cruising would be allowed again from the UK, and P&O Cruises decided to take the opportunity to name their newest vessel Iona in what was a record-breaking naming ceremony on May 16 to kick off the first official UK cruise season since the start of the pandemic.
Iona is Named!
It was a ceremony of extremes where the largest vessel ever to be registered under the UK flag was named in front of a massive virtual audience of 25,000 guests, with many more looking on through social media channels and youtube.
Britain’s largest and most environmentally-friendly cruise ship, P&O Cruises Iona, has been officially named by Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, Britain’s largest independent travel agency, in a quayside ceremony by the bow of the ship.
The event took place during sunset on Sunday in her new homeport of Southampton. She arrived in Southampton earlier in the day and was welcomed by many cruise fans who braved the wet conditions to see the massive vessel coming into port.
The star-filled event was hosted by English radio DJ and television presenter Jo Whiley. At the same time, Iona’s music director, Take That star Gary Barlow, performed two iconic Take That hits, “Greatest Day” and “Rule the World,” a spectacular laser show added a stunning visual backdrop.
A remembrance of the past period without sailing was a subject of discussion during the speeches, one which Paul Ludlow, the P&O Cruises president, referred to as well:
“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.”
About P&O Iona
At 185,000 tons, Iona is the largest vessel to sail under the British flag in history. The 5200 passenger vessel is a sister ship to some of the most anticipated ships in Carnival Corporation’s history, among them Carnival’s Mardi Gras.
Iona offers guests 30 bars and restaurants, including tapas from award-winning Spanish chef José Pizarro and a chef’s table from legendary chef Marco Pierre White.
Entertainment options include the SkyDome, a glass structure that by day houses a poolside environment for relaxing. At the same time, the venue turns into a venue for DJs and stage and acrobatic shows at night.
Being a British ship, the vessel will be making its own gin onboard through a collaboration with Salcombe Gin. The gin’s maiden production will take place in Iona’s custom-made still and distilled, bottled, and labeled on board.
Also Read: P&O Details UK Sailings That Start in June
Guests wishing to cruise onboard the vessel will need to wait a bit longer. Iona’s maiden voyage will take place on August 7 and sail towards her namesake island off the coast of Scotland. Once itineraries to international destinations open up, cruises will sail to Northern Europe, Spain and Portugal, and the Canary Islands.