Gary Barlow performs live quayside at naming ceremony of P&O Cruises' new ship Iona

Gary Barlow performed under the stars against a thrilling laser backdrop to steal the show as P&O Cruises’ luxury new flagship, Iona, was officially named on Sunday night.

Britain’s largest and most environmentally-friendly cruise ship,  Iona, arrives into her home port of Southampton ahead of her naming ceremony
Britain’s largest and most environmentally-friendly cruise ship, Iona, arrives into her home port of Southampton ahead of her naming ceremony

In a star-studded ceremony broadcast live from her home port of Southampton to a ‘virtual’ audience, the majestic vessel was christened in style by her godmother Dame Irene Hays, of Hays Travel, who smashed a specially produced bottle of Blur legend Alex James’s Britpop cider against the ship’s hull to bring her future good fortune.

P&O Cruises’ president, Paul Ludlow, said: “It is a landmark day for both P&O Cruises and for the travel industry as a whole. We are on the cusp of a bright new beginning and Iona’s arrival into Southampton is very visible evidence of this much-anticipated future.

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"Our guests are longing to get back to sea and Iona’s summer season of UK coastal cruises, including her maiden voyage on August 7, up to her namesake island of Iona, have seen overwhelming demand.”

Gary Barlow, Iona's music director

As thousands eagerly watched the live link from home due to Covid restrictions, DJ and TV presenter Jo Whiley hosted the glittering ceremony, before Barlow, music director of The 710 Club onboard, entertained with a feel-good quayside set.

With more than 30 places to eat and drink and glamorous guest accommodation including stylish conservatory suites, 185,000 tonne Iona is Britain’s largest and most environmentally friendly cruise ship, powered by liquified natural gas.

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One of the ship’s main attractions, spanning two decks with a glass roof and pool with a retractable stage, is unique all-weather entertainment venue SkyDome, where guests can relax poolside by day before succumbing to evening pizazz including aerial acrobatic displays, live shows and upbeat DJs.

Boasting the world’s first gin distillery at sea, created in association with Salcombe Gin, Iona will see tailor-made spirit distilled, bottled and labelled on board, with maiden production taking place in the ship’s custom-made gin still, Columba.

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Revolutionary SkyDome offers unparalleled views of destinations as well as being a versatile all-weather venue for guests

A whooping 345 metres long with a capacity for 5,200 guests and 1200 crew, Iona will be a sight to behold on her maiden voyage on August 7 to her Scottish namesake island.

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To book your cruise on Iona or any of P&O Cruises’ fleet, visit or call 03453 555 111.

Iona factfile:

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- Tonnage: 185,000 GT

The breathtaking atrium on P&O Cruises new ship, Iona
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- Length: 345m

- Breadth moulded: 42m

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- Total engine power: 61.7 MW

- Propulsion power: 37MW

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- The ship’s speed: 17kn

- Guest capacity: 5,200

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- Crew: 1,800

- Guest cabins: 2,614

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- Iona is the largest ship ever to fly the UK flag

- Built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany

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- The largest ship built to serve the UK market, with a 5,200-guest capacity

- More than 30 places to eat and drink

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- Four swimming pools including an infinity pool and 18 whirlpool spas (six infinity whirlpool spas and 12 whirlpool spas)

- The first gin distillery at sea in partnership with Salcombe Gin

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- Gary Barlow is music director of The 710 Club

- Powered by liquefied natural gas - no sulphur/nitrogen emissions & a 20% reduction in carbon

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- 26 suites

- 95 conservatory mini-suites

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- 1,486 balcony cabins

- 174 sea view cabins

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- 811 inside cabins

- 22 single occupancy cabins