Dame Irene Hays (owner of Hays Travel Group) officially named P&O UK's newest cruise ship Iona in an official ceremony in Southampton UK on Sunday, May 16. Dame Irene Hays smashed a specially produced bottle of Blur legend Alex James’s Britpop cider against the hull of the newbuild to bring her good fortune.
MS Iona’s christening took place during a ceremony broadcasted to a virtual audience. It was hosted by DJ and TV presenter Jo Whiley and included a short performance from the music director of the 710 Club, Gary Barlow.
Dame Irene’s husband John, who died in November 2020, founded Hays Travel back in 1980 and it has grown to become the largest independent travel agency group in the UK.
On April 25, 2018, Meyer Werft's Papenburg Shipyard held the steel-cutting ceremony (hull S-715), which officially started the vessel's construction (Meyer Werft's 50th cruise liner). The construction of the sistership Arvia (2022) commenced on February 22, 2021.
Arvia and Iona are P&O UK's largest vessels ever constructed - with GT tonnage 180,000 tons and max passenger capacity of 6600 (plus 1800 crew). They are also the biggest UK-based passenger ships (permanently homeported in Southampton England) and the UK cruise market's first LNG-powered newbuilds. These liners have Wartsila LNG engines that provide electricity for the propulsion system both in ports and at sea.
The 345-m long Iona has her Maiden voyage scheduled to depart on August 7, 2021, also visiting Isle of Iona Scotland.