P&O Cruises Announces Name of New Ship

(4 p.m. BST) -- P&O Cruises has announced the name of its newest ship -- Iona -- which will launch in two years' time.

The 5,200-passenger ship will be the largest ever dedicated to the British market and the first ship run on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

P&O Cruises ran a competition inviting members of the public to name the new ship, which led to 30,000 responses.

On Monday, the line cut the first piece of steel for the ship, which is being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.

P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Paul Ludlow said: "We are an island nation and as Britain’s favourite cruise line it seems very fitting to highlight one of our most notable islands and celebrate the geographic diversity of the UK, especially as we can trace back our roots to the Scottish Isles.

"Iona played a significant part in shaping the history of our nation and we hope that with this very special name our new ship will shape the future of holidays at sea for generations."

Ludlow explained that the sea was a powerful force in the history of the Inner Hebridean island of Iona and is still today a crucial link to trade and a thriving tourism industry, requiring two sea crossings to reach the island.

He added: "Iona is known for its peace and tranquillity, stunning landscape and, most importantly, the view of the ocean from almost every point on the island. This mirrors our primary intention when building the ship, which was to make the sea the star.

"Throughout the design process we were mindful that we were building a ship, not a hotel, and the intrinsic beauty of the sea, the vistas of the coastlines and ports of call should be at the fore and visible as much as possible from all areas of the ship."

P&O Cruises has been slowly revealing details about the new ship. Here is what we know so far:

• As with all the rest of the ships in the fleet, the emphasis will be on food, drink and entertainment.

• It will feature a half-mile "Lanai" deck -- an outdoor, covered promenade that will include alfresco restaurants and bars.

• The focal point of the ship will be the Atrium, which will feature triple-deck glass panels. There will also be a grand staircase, a gallery and overhead walkways.

• A giant dome on top of the ship will be one of four onboard entertainment spaces, featuring aerial performances, projections onto the roof and immersive shows.

• The ship will have 17 eateries, including seven speciality restaurants (current flagship Britannia has just three), 12 bars, 13 entertainment venues, three pop-up entertainment spaces/venues, four swimming pools (three outside and one inside) and 16 whirlpools.

Iona will go on sale in September.

--by Adam Coulter, Managing Editor, UK