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P&O Cruises: Iona is Britain’s largest and most environmentally-friendly cruise ship. Credit: P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises: Iona christened amid spectacular Gary Barlow performance

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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P&O Cruises officially named their newest cruise ship last night. Iona is Britain’s largest and most environmentally friendly cruise ship.

Gary Barlow - Take That legend and Iona's music director - performed a spectacular set at the P&O Cruises ceremony on Sunday.

Godmother Dame Irene Hays, chair of travel agency Hays Travel, officially named the ship Iona at a quayside ceremony by the bow of the cruise ship.

A specially-produced Nebuchadnezzar (equivalent to 20x 750ml bottles) of Alex James’s Britpop cider was smashed against the hull of the ship to bring the vessel good luck.

Although the event had a virtual audience of 25,000 guests, P&O did not hold back with its celebrations.

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The event was hosted by Jo Whiley but the highlight was Gary Barlow's performance of two iconic Take That hits “Greatest Day and “Rule the World” against the backdrop of a spectacular laser show.

There was also a special performance by The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Choir and Mica Paris singing Believe.

The song was composed by Simon Haw MBE and was dedicated to Her Majesty The Queen, head of the Commonwealth, for its 70th anniversary in 2019.

In his speech, P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “It is 427 days since we have been able to do what we do best – welcome our guests onboard and give them unforgettable, joyous holidays where they make memories onboard and see the sights of the world.”

P&O Cruises: Gary Barlow performed a spectacular set at the ceremony on Sunday. Credit: P&O Cruises

Iona is taking UK guests on a season of domestic coastal cruises this summer.

Her maiden voyage will go ahead on August 7, with the ship travelling up to her namesake island of Iona.

So what can holidaymakers expect from the exciting new arrival on the cruise scene?

Iona has 30 bars and restaurants with many new speciality dining options.

P&O Cruises: Iona is taking UK guests on a season of domestic coastal cruises this summer. Credit: P&O Cruises

These include tapas from award-winning Spanish chef José Pizarro paired with wines selected by Olly Smith and a new Chef’s Table menu from Marco Pierre White.

Entertainment venues include the first “SkyDome” - an extraordinary glass structure that will be a relaxed poolside environment by day and then transform at night into a spectacular venue with DJs, stage and aerial acrobatic shows.

What's more, four swimming pools (including an infinity pool and 18 whirlpool spas can be found onboard.

There will also be the first gin still on a cruise ship, created in association with Salcombe Gin, distilling tailor-made spirit on board.

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The gin’s maiden production will take place in Iona’s custom-made still named “Columba” and will be distilled, bottled and labelled on board.

Iona can carry up to 5,200 guests in its 2,614 cabins.

However, under current Government guidelines domestic cruises can only "operate with up to 1,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is lower).

These measures could well relax by the time Iona sets sail in three months.

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