New P&O Cruises ship Iona has been officially christened in a Southampton ceremony attended by a ‘record-breaking virtual audience’.
Iona, designed to carry 5,200 guests and powered by liquified natural gas, arrived into Southampton on 16 May ahead of her official naming ceremony later that day. The event at sunset was hosted by DJ Jo Whiley and broadcast to a virtual audience of 25,000 guests.
Iona’s musical director, Gary Barlow, provided the highlight of the show with a rousing performance of Take That’s ‘Greatest Day’ and ‘Rule the World’ against the backdrop of a spectacular laser show.
A specially-produced Nebuchadnezzar of Alex James’s Britpop cider smashed against the hull of the new P&O Cruises ship in keeping with tradition to bring good fortune to all who sail upon it.
Speaking at the event, P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “It is 427 days since we have been able to do what we do best – welcome our guests onboard and give them unforgettable, joyous holidays where they make memories onboard and see the sights of the world.”
He continued: “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.”
Iona features 30 bars and restaurants with many new specialty dining options including tapas from award-winning Spanish chef José Pizarro paired with wines selected by Olly Smith and a new Chef’s Table menu from Marco Pierre White.
Entertainment venues include the first “SkyDome” – a relaxed poolside environment by day, transforming at night into a spectacular venue with DJs, stage and aerial acrobatics.
Iona will also feature the first gin still on a cruise ship, created in association with Salcombe Gin, distilling tailor-made blends onboard. The gin’s maiden production will take place in the Iona’s custom-made still ‘Columba’.
Iona’s season of UK staycation cruises will see her sail the British Isles this summer, including a maiden voyage to her namesake island of Iona on 7 August 2021.