P&O Cruises christened its new flagship Iona during a naming ceremony with a difference in Southampton on Sunday (16 May)
The 5,200-guest vessel – the largest ever built for the UK market – was named by its godmother, Hays Travel chair Dame Irene Hays, and marked with a performance from the ship’s musical director Gary Barlow.
The festivities were beamed to a "virtual audience" around the UK and across the globe.
P&O president Paul Ludlow said Iona’s arrival "heralds a new beginning and a new hope for the [cruise] industry" after the sector had endured a 427-day suspension due to the Covid pandemic.
Ludlow called Hays "the voice of reason, thoughtfulness and spirit" for the UK travel industry and praised her and late husband John’s work helping young people and rescuing thousands of jobs after Thomas Cook’s collapse in 2019.
Five, four, three, two, one… Hurrah! It’s official! Our beautiful new ship Iona has been named with a traditional bottle smash and a magnificent Nebuchadnezzar of Britpop cider. What better way to round off an amazing day of celebrations! \uD83C\uDF7E\uD83C\uDF89#Ionaishere pic.twitter.com/6GMKvEMDLE— P&O Cruises (@pandocruises) May 16, 2021
During the ceremony, hosted by broadcaster Jo Whiley, Hays was shown a touching video message from the team at Hays Travel showing their pride and offering congratulations on her becoming Iona’s godmother.
Barlow also took to the stage to perform Take That hits Greatest Day and Rule the World - with the traditional christening bottle smashing ritual taking place at the culmination of his set.