(Updated: 10:15 a.m. BST) -- P&O Cruises has revealed that Ionafest, the eagerly-anticipated July 2020 celebration of new ship Iona, will be rescheduled at a later date as the line extends its pause in operations for a third time, through July 31, 2020.
The line revealed earlier this month that the May 2020 launch of Iona -- the largest ship ever built for the UK market -- will be delayed as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. P&O Cruises' President, Paul Ludlow, made the announcement as work slows down on the 5,200-passenger vessel at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany, where the final stages of the ship's build is taking place.
The news comes as the line extended its entire fleet suspension for a third time, following an initial 30-day pause in operations that was announced on March 16.
Ludlow said in a statement: "We are so sorry not to be able to give our guests amazing holidays at the moment, but we will do so as soon as global guidelines will allow. Unfortunately these dates also include the much anticipated Ionafest and we are looking to re-schedule that as soon as possible.
"In the meantime, pending more clarity on the longer term impact of Covid-19 and timing on the world’s return to normality, we are considering the evolving advice as well as potential restrictions in ports of call as we look at how and when we phase our ships back into service."
Iona’s maiden voyage was due to depart Southampton on May 14 on a nine-night Norwegian fjords cruise. It is not yet clear when the ship will make its debut.
All guests with a holiday booked up to and including July 31 will receive a future cruise credit of 125 percent, which will automatically be applied to passenger accounts for use on a holiday departing before the end of March 2022.