Immediate release: Monday August 9, 2021 - Editorial free to use image

‘A new era in travel’ as P&O Cruises Iona makes maiden voyage to namesake island

Britain’s largest and most environmentally-friendly cruise ship, P&O Cruises Iona, has embarked on its maiden voyage visiting its Scottish namesake island with a fireworks display tonight as the highlight of celebrations.

P&O Cruises President Paul Ludlow said: 

“Iona’s maiden voyage is the start of a new era in travel as Britain’s most environmentally-friendly cruise ship, the first in the country powered by liquefied natural gas, sets sail.

“For this special maiden voyage we wanted to bring guests to the island of Iona which has influenced many aspects of the ship – the sense of space in the SkyDome through to our gin still named “Columba”, the heather in our Marabelle gin distilled on board, and, of course, its name.”

Iona’s first-ever cruise is currently sailing around the UK coast for seven nights, having departed the home port of Southampton on August 7, 2021.

The ship is at anchor adjacent to the island of Iona ahead of commencing scenic cruising around the Isle of Colonsay, Lochbuie, Duart Castle, Tobermory, Bac Mòr, Fingal’s Cave, Sound of Jura, Claggain Bay, Mull of Kintyre and Sanda Island.

Iona features the first gin still on a cruise ship, created in association with Salcombe Gin, distilling tailor made spirit on board. The gin’s maiden production will take place in Iona’s custom-made still and will be distilled, bottled and labelled on board.

Gary Barlow is music director of Iona’s 710 Club. This atmospheric late-night music venue will offer an opportunity for up-and-coming musicians to get their break.

Spectacular aerial shows have also been especially devised for Iona, the brainchild of Canadian entertainment company Creativiva. The ship’s stunning design, featuring a two-deck glass SkyDome, has been the inspiration for one of the shows, Rise, created to re

Editorial Team

Paul Ludlow President, P&O Cruises

"We’re entering an exciting new era for P&O Cruises. With the launch of Iona and her sister ship, we’re putting choice at the heart of everything guests do."

Paul Ludlow, President of P&O Cruises

Q1. 2020 will be a big year for P&O Cruises. What do you think guests will be most excited to experience in the coming year?


One of the most exciting events has got to be the launch of Iona. We’re in countdown mode now, getting her all spruce and ready for her maiden voyage in May. It marks a new chapter for us. She’ll take levels of onboard entertainment to extraordinary new levels. I visited the shipyard many times last year and she really is something special. I can’t wait to see her sail into Southampton and see the reaction on guests faces when they get on board.

Q2. Can you give us any details about Iona’s naming ceremony in July? Any special surprises?


We’re doing things a bit differently for the launch of Iona. Guests will enjoy a special maiden voyage in May when Iona sets sail to the Norwegian Fjords for the first time. Then, in July, we’re combining the naming ceremony and bottle smash with a fantastic day and night of music with our first ever music festival at sea, Ionafest. This promises to be a blast. We’ve confirmed some great acts, such as Clean Bandit, Jo Whiley, Sara Cox and Trevor Nelson, and we’ll be announcing our headline act in the near future. Watch this space.

Q3. In her first season, Iona will visit the Norwegian Fjords. If you could do just one thing on one of these cruises, what would it be?


That’s a tough one. The landscapes and scenery are stunning, so I’d love to get to the heart of the natural world. It’s a toss-up between exploring the coastline on a RIB ride or mountain biking down one of the mountains, taking in the vistas up high then speeding down the hairpin bends to reach the lush valley below. Can I do both?

Q4. Iona will spend her first winter season in Northern Europe and the Canary Islands. What are the top three destinations you’re most excited about on these cruises and why? 


I’d love to explore the architecture of Rotterdam. It’s an amazing city with so many cool buildings, a forward-thinking culture and really friendly locals. The beer and food culture are pretty amazing, too. I’d like to get to know Hamburg better. It’s a stunning city with so much to see during by day and at night. There’s a rich culture to explore, from following in the footsteps of the Beatles in the Reeperbahn area to the city’s outstanding new Elbphilharmonie complex overlooking the river. In the Canary Islands, I’d like to explore Gran Canaria. The interior is beautiful with rugged mountains, wildlife and nature and charming villages – all in the warm sunshine, of course.

Q5. Iona is all about entertainment. Which performers are you most looking forward to seeing on board? 


I can’t wait to see SkyDome come to life in the evenings. We’re working on some incredible shows and breathtaking entertainment experiences. SkyDome’s a first for P&O Cruises so I can’t wait to see the vision become a reality under the night sky. I’m also excited about the idea of buskers and pop-up entertainment around the ship. Iona will really come alive with music and creativity. 

Q6. P&O Cruises will be launching another new ship in 2022. What can guests expect to learn about that in the coming year?


Iona’s sister ship is indeed coming soon. In terms of her size and the things to see and do on board, she’ll be as impressive as Iona. However, we’re planning some exclusive entertainment and activities on her top deck that will break new ground for the fleet. We’ll be announcing her name in March and will bring updates on her build. We’ll keep you posted in the months ahead.

Q7. Arcadia will shortly be heading off on her 2020 World Cruise. If you were on board, which destinations would you be looking forward to most and why?


Arcadia’s World Cruise is packed with destinations I’d love to explore. Nothing beats the buzz and excitement of arriving in an iconic world city so Sydney, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Shanghai would be high on my list. A World Cruise also gives you access to the world’s top natural wonders. I’ve always wanted to see Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands, so that’s one for me, too. 

Q8. What was your proudest moment of 2019?


I’m incredibly proud of all the hard work and passion that has gone in to making 2019 such an exciting year for the company. From the teams in the German shipyard to everyone here in Southampton, the effort has been incredible. Walking into the shipyard to see Iona with her Union flag livery painted on the bow was a moving moment. It was the sign of great things to come.

Q9. What do you hope the new year – and the new decade – will bring for P&O Cruises?


We’re entering an exciting new era for P&O Cruises. With the launch of Iona and her sister ship, we’re putting choice at the heart of everything guests do. They’ll be able to cherry-pick from an incredible range of experiences to create their own type of holiday, on board and on shore.