Calling it “a very positive signal for the future of cruising,” P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow has welcomed the delivery of the line’s new flagship, the 5,200-passenger Iona. P&O is part of Carnival Corporation, and largely operates out of the UK market.
The handover ceremony was held on October 9 at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.
The 17-deck, 185,000 gross ton Iona is described as the largest cruise ship ever built for the UK market. It sets another milestone as the first British cruise ship to be powered by liquid natural gas.
“She is now officially part of the P&O Cruises fleet and we are focused on readying her to welcome guests during her new maiden season to Northern Europe, Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands from our homeport of Southampton,” Ludlow said during the ceremony.
Iona was due to debut in April with an inaugural Norwegian fjords cruise. Its naming ceremony had been scheduled to take place in July, in conjunction with ‘Ionafest,’ a themed sailing featuring live music.
Due to travel restrictions from the UK, Iona is now preparing for an early-2021 debut. “As our operations are currently paused until early 2021 Iona will not be sailing for the moment, but we look forward to our guests experiencing this game-changing ship,” the line says on its website.
Distinguishing features of Iona include a two-deck SkyDome, an innovative public space covered by the first glass dome roof at sea. By day, SkyDome will be used as a pool environment, while at night it will be transformed to host dining and entertainment, including custom-created aerial entertainment displays.
Iona guests will have a choice of eight diverse specialty restaurants, 13 entertainment venues, four swimming pools — including an aft infinity pool — and 16 hot tubs.
P&O Cruises will offer a cruise industry first aboard Iona through a collaboration with gin distiller Salcombe Distilling Co. to develop and install the first gin distillery at sea. A custom-made copper still will produce a unique gin, distilled, bottled and labelled onboard.
Salcombe will also prepare the recipe at its UK land-based distillery, with the resulting product to be served across all six ships in the P&O fleet. The two companies are also collaborating to develop limited-edition gins taking inspiration from ports visited by P&O ships.
Following last month’s delivery of Enchanted Princess, the Iona marks the final Carnival Corporation ship in its order-book to be handed over.
The 3,660-guest Enchanted Princess is the fifth Royal-class cruise ship for the cruise line, joining Royal Princess, Regal Princess, Majestic Princess and Sky Princess.
Like its sister ship Sky Princess, Enchanted Princess features luxury Sky Suites with inclusive amenities, attentive service and a dedicated Suite Experience Manager. The ship also features Take Five, described as “the only jazz theater at sea, celebrating the iconic sounds, culture and history of jazz.”