P&O Cruises’ new ship Iona will be officially named next month at a ceremony featuring a performance by the line’s musical brand ambassador Gary Barlow.
The christening and inaugural voyage of the 5,200-passenger vessel, the largest-ever cruise ship built specifically for UK cruisers, was delayed last year due to COVID-19 and the naming will now take place in Southampton on May 16th and be broadcast to a virtual audience.
In keeping with maritime tradition Iona will have a godmother and P&O Cruises has announced this will be Dame Irene Hays, owner of Hays Travel Group. Dame Irene’s husband John, who died last November, founded Hays Travel in 1980 and it is now the UK’s largest independent travel agency group.
Gary Barlow partnered with the line to become the musical director overseeing the Iona’s 710 Club music venue and curate new talent to entertain audiences.
P&O Cruises’ President, Paul Ludlow, said:
“We are absolutely delighted that Dame Irene Hays will be Iona’s godmother, taking centre stage alongside Gary Barlow in a landmark naming ceremony which will be the first steppingstone on the path to the return of the UK cruise industry.
“Since the inception of Hays Travel there is no one who has been more supportive of cruising or more of an ambassador for the travel industry. As such there is no one more appropriate to name Iona in this prestigious event than Dame Irene as we celebrate her achievements.”
Domestic cruises will restart in May and P&O is amongst the raft of lines that will be offering coastal sailings around the UK as well as providing passengers with the first chance to experience Iona. On August 7th the ship will embark on a seven-night inaugural voyage around the Scottish Isles, including the namesake Iona, on a round-trip Southampton cruise. P&O will also be offering sailings on Britannia from June 27th. The cruises are available to UK COVID-19 vaccinated residents.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of P&O Cruises