P&O Cruises latest ship, Iona, has been officially named in a ceremony with a record-breaking virtual audience.
Iona, powered by liquefied natural gas, arrived for the first time into her home port of Southampton ahead of the official ceremony.
The vessel was named by Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, the largest independent travel agency in the UK, in a glittering quayside ceremony by the bow of the ship.
The event, held at sunset, was hosted by Jo Whiley and broadcast to a “virtual” audience of 25,000 guests.
The highlight of the show was a rousing set from Iona’s music director Gary Barlow performing two iconic Take That hits “Greatest Day” and “Rule the World” against the backdrop of a spectacular laser show.
A specially produced Nebuchadnezzar (equivalent to 20x 750ml bottles) of Alex James’s Britpop cider smashed against the hull of the ship in spectacular style to bring it good fortune in the future.
In his speech P&O Cruises president, Paul Ludlow, referred to the prolonged pause of the cruise industry and highlighted that: “It is 427 days since we have been 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.”
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.”