(10 a.m. BST) -- P&O Cruises has officially marked the construction of its next new ship, Iona, with a coin-laying ceremony at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.
A bronze coin from Iona Abbey -- in the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull, in Scotland -- along with a slice of precious green Iona marble from the island have been welded to the ship.
P&O Cruises' president, Paul Ludlow, said: “This was an auspicious occasion in Iona’s build. The coin-laying is a long-held ship-building tradition which is to bring good luck to the ship and its crew through from construction to the future at sea."
At 180,000 gross tonnes and carrying 5,200 passengers, Iona will be the biggest vessel built specifically for the UK market when it debuts in May 2020. It will also be the greenest -- powered exclusively by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Ludlow added: "The build of any ship is an incredible achievement but to see one of this size and scope is an extraordinary feat of skilled design and engineering. To view Iona’s SkyDome take shape was literally breath-taking -- no other ship in the world has a glass dome of this quality of construction and scale. The extent of the space on Iona has allowed us to create not only spectacular spaces for shows, entertainment, dining and wellness but also many more intimate spaces for tranquility and relaxation as well as exclusive performances. Iona will be game-changer for holidays."
In May 2019, the line revealed a series of new Food Heroes for Iona -- including Spanish chef Jose Pizarro, Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde and photographer and cook Marte Marie Forsberg -- along with a brand-new dining venue for the line, Taste 360.
Iona will also feature a gin distillery, four-screen cinema plus the adults-only Limelight Club that will play host to a series of Strictly Come Dancing experiences.
The ship will homeport in Southampton for its inaugural summer season sailing to the Norwegian Fjords, before spending its first winter season sailing Spain, Portugal and Canary Islands itineraries.
Iona will be joined by an as-yet-unnamed sister ship in 2022.