Hays Travel chair, Dame Irene Hays, will name P&O Cruises new ship Iona in Southampton next month, and has also been named the ship’s godmother.
Hays will name Iona at a ceremony on 16 May, which will also feature a short performance by Gary Barlow – music director of the ship’s 710 Club.
Paul Ludlow, P&O Cruises president, said: "We are absolutely delighted Dame Irene Hays will be Iona’s godmother in a landmark naming ceremony which will be the first stepping stone on the path to the return of the UK cruise industry."
Ludlow said since Hays Travel was founded by Dame Irene’s late husband John in 1980, there had been no greater ambassador for cruise and the wider travel industry than her.
"As such, there is no one more appropriate to take centre stage on 16 May as we celebrate her achievements and pay tribute to her husband John," said Ludlow.
He continued: "The travel industry as a whole has been paused for over a year and has been devastated by the events of the last 13 months. We are so immensely grateful for the support we have received from travel agents across the UK, all of whom have faced commercial challenges none of us could have imagined.
"With domestic cruising opening up from 17 May and our series of UK coastal cruises proving very popular for this summer, recovery is certainly on the horizon and Iona’s arrival into the UK and naming ceremony will be the ray of hope the cruise sector has needed for such a long time."
P&O will also support the Hays Travel Foundation, which encourages achievement among young people in education, sport and the arts. "Being able to play a small part in securing the future of the next generation is indeed a privilege," added Ludlow.