P&O Cruises Iona has finally set sail on its maiden voyage, leaving Southampton on Saturday 7 August. The departure comes almost a year after its original date scheduled for May 2020.

Sailing at just 50 per cent capacity in line with government guidelines, around 2,500 passengers and 1,300 crew, the ship has embarked on a seven-night round-Britain voyage with no port calls. The highlight of the maiden voyage is a planned call off the ship’s namesake Scottish island of Iona, where an evening of celebrations is planned.

All adults on board the first Iona cruise are double vaccinated and reports suggest 85% of passengers are past P&O Cruises guests.

“This really is a momentous day for P&O cruises,” said P&O Cruises’ President Paul Ludlow.

“I’ve been involved with this ship for seven years now and to see her receive her first guests yesterday was a real delight. It’s palpable how excited the crew are to welcome people back.”

Iona is the largest cruise ship ever built for the UK market and has been designed to make the sea the star of the show, her interiors featuring a triple height wall of glass in her Grand Atrium and an already popular SkyDome entertainment centre, the biggest of its kind at sea.