UK's largest cruise ship set to join the P&O fleet with Southampton ceremony

The UK's largest and greenest cruise ship is set to be officially named at a ceremony in Southampton next month, the ship's operator has announced.

P&O Cruises says the Iona will be welcomed into their fleet on in a closed event on 16 May.

The operator said that Take That star Gary Barlow will perform at the ceremony, while Dame Irene Hays, the owner and chair of Hays Travel, will be the ship's 'godmother'.

Iona is one of two ships built for P&O by German shipbuilders Meyer Werft.

  • What gives MS Iona her green credentials?

The Iona is the UK's first ship to be powered by liquified natural gas (LNG).

Cruise ships like Iona are normally powered by large diesel engines, which can generate large amounts of pollution and particulates which affect air quality.

The "eco-friendly" LNG power system on Iona "prevents the emission of sulphur dioxide and soot particles", according to the ship's manufacturer, Meyer Werft.

  • P&O Cruises President Paul Ludlow

The private ceremony on 16 May will mark the start of Iona's career as a P&O ship.

It also comes the day before the next stage in the government's lockdown roadmap, 17 May, in which the cruise industry hopes it will be given the green light to resume domestic voyages.

The cruise industry has been shut down since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and it estimates around 52,000 jobs have been lost across the sector and its suppliers since coronavirus first took hold.

Paul Ludlow, President of P&O Cruises, said that single ship docking in Southampton brings in around £2 million for local economy.

"The economic contribution that the cruise sector makes to the UK and in particular to Southampton is vast," he said.

"For Iona to be visiting into Southampton and for this to be the start of domestic cruising in the UK, I think it's a signal to the entire city to celebrate the resumption of cruise."