(1:45 p.m. BST) -- P&O Cruises' newest, biggest and greenest ship, Iona, was finally named yesterday in a glittering ceremony in Southampton.
Almost a year after Iona was due to launch, the ship was christened by Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, as Gary Barlow performed to a small and socially distanced audience quayside.
The 5,200-passenger ship is the biggest ship built specifically for the U.K. market and the first to run on liquefied natural gas.
An estimated 25,000 people watched online as BBC DJ Jo Whiley compered the evening and Hays pressed the button to release a specially produced Nebuchadnezzar (the equivalent to 20, 750 millilitre bottles) of Alex James’s Britpop cider, which smashed against the hull of the ship.
"It is 427 days since we have been able to do what we do best -- welcome our guests on board and give them unforgettable, joyous holidays where they make memories on board and see the sights of the world," P&O Cruises' President Paul Ludlow said, referring to the pause in cruising.
"With our invited audience and millions more watching the ceremony on social media, today heralds a new beginning and new hope for the cruise industry. Iona is indeed a very visible symbol of our future."
Iona was due to be delivered last May and set sail on its first cruise in July 2020, followed by a celebration in Norway dubbed Ionafest, with live music from Barlow, who is also the ship's musical director, overseeing the 710 Club onboard.
Last night's event, though spectacular, was inevitably more muted, with just two songs from the Take That frontman -- Greatest Day and Rule the World.
In addition to the 710 Club, Iona has 30 bars and restaurants with a number of new speciality dining options including tapas from award-winning Spanish chef Jose 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 -- a 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.
There will also be the first gin still on a cruise ship, created in association with Salcombe Gin, distilling tailor-made spirits on board. 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 will set sail August 7 on a week-long cruise along the British coastline and include a stop at the island after which it is named.