Britain’s largest and most eco-friendly cruise has arrived in Southampton

Celebrity Cruises unveil The Retreat Suite range on ship

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Iona is the largest and most environmentally-friendly cruise ship built for the UK market to date. Powered by liquefied natural gas, one of the cleanest fuels in the world, the cruise will be ready to start sailing from August 7.

The new P&O ship has arrived at the Southhampton port this morning, where a ceremony will be held this evening to name the cruise.

The event will be hosted by broadcaster Jo Whiley and it will include a performance by music director Gary Barlow.

The Take That star will play a short set as part of the ceremony, which will be broadcasted to a VIP audience.

Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel – Britain’s largest independent travel agency – will be the one in charge of naming the ship.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Since the inception of Hays Travel there is no-one who has been more supportive of cruising or been more of an ambassador for the travel industry than Dame Irene Hays.

“As such there is no-one more appropriate to take centre stage on May 16 in this prestigious event as we celebrate her achievements and pay tribute to her husband John.”

John Hays, who was also the founder of the company, died suddenly aged 71 in November last year.

During tonight’s ceremony, a specially produced Nebuchadnezzar (equivalent to 20 750ml bottles) of Alex James’s Britpop cider will smash against the hull of the ship in order to bring it good fortune.

The ship will be powered by liquefied natural gas, as opposed to diesel engines, which is what boat her size normally use.

Iona’s inaugural voyage will take place on August 7. The ship will be used for domestic sailings during the summer season.

The cruise maiden voyage will be a seven-night trip around the coast of the island of Iona and the Scottish Isles departing from Southampton.

Iona is the largest cruise ship built specifically for the British market, exceeding 180,000 gross tons.

The P&O’s ship has 17 passenger decks and a capacity for 5,200 holidaymakers.

From this summer, cruises operating in England will only be allowed to carry up to 1,000 passengers – or 50 percent of their capacity if that is lower.

Iona will have 30 exclusive bars and restaurants.

Some of the amazing dining options include a tapas restaurant from award-winning Spanish chef José Pizarro.

The cruise will also have some impressive entertainment venues, amongst them the first “SkyDome”.

SkyDome is a spectacular glass structure which will be a pool by day and a music venue by night.

The club will host DJs, stage performances and aerial acrobatic shows every evening.

For those who love a good drink, the ship will also have the first spirit made on a cruise.

The custom-made gin will be named “Columba” and it will be distilled, bottled and labelled on board.

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 this morning is very visible evidence of this much anticipated future.

“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.”

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