Gary Barlow performs at naming of P&O’s new ship Iona

Gary Barlow

Celebration: Gary Barlow performs in front of Iona at tonight’s naming ceremony in Southampton

She’s as beautiful as the Scottish island she is named after! P&O’s new ship Iona was tonight christened in her home port of Southampton – with a special performance from Take That’s Gary Barlow.

Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, named the 5,200-guest ship as a huge specially-produced bottle of Alex James’ Britpop cider was smashed against the hull – the celebrations streamed to a virtual audience.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “It’s 427 days since we were able to do what we do best, welcome our guests on board and give them unforgettable, joyous holidays where they make memories on board and see the sights of the world.
“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 has 30 bars and restaurants with many new speciality 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” – an extraordinary glass structure which will be a relaxed poolside environment by day and then transform at night into a spectacular venue with DJs, stage and aerial acrobatic shows.

There will also be the first gin still on a cruise ship, created in association with Salcombe Gin, distilling tailor made spirit on board. The gin’s maiden production will take place in Iona’s custom-made still named “Columba” and will be distilled, bottled and labelled on board.

Gary Barlow

She’s named: Dame Irene Hays with Iona’s Captain Wesley Dunlop and P&O Cruises President Paul Ludlow

Iona sails her seven-night maiden voyage around the coast of the island of Iona and the Scottish Isles on August 7. The ship has 17 passenger decks and is the most environmentally friendly vessel, fuelled by liquefied natural gas, at sea.

The naming ceremony, hosted by presenter Jo Whiley, saw Gary Barlow – who is music director of Iona’s entertainment venue – perform in front of the ship.