From left, Dame Irene Hays and singer Gary Barlow will both have a key role to play at Iona's naming ceremony
Dame Irene Hays, DBE, DL, owner and chair of Hays Travel Group, has been chosen as godmother for P&O Cruises’ new ship Iona, which will be named in ceremony in Southampton on 16 May 2021.
Hays founded Hays Travel along with her late husband John in Sunderland, UK in 1980 and the company has since become the UK’s largest independent travel agency group. She was made a Dame in the 2021 New Year’s Honours list for her services to training, education, young people and charity. In her role as Iona’s godmother, Hays will be responsible for christening and blessing the ship in accordance with maritime tradition.
Iona’s naming ceremony will also feature an exclusive performance from producer, musician, songwriter and Take That band member Gary Barlow, which will be broadcast virtually to a VIP audience.
Barlow is also the musical director of The 710 Club onboard Iona and has helped P&O Cruises to curate a range of live music performances that are tailored to the tastes of British guests. In addition, he has chosen performers and helped to develop other aspects of the music bar.
“We are absolutely delighted that Dame Irene Hays will be Iona’s godmother, taking centre stage alongside Gary Barlow in a landmark naming ceremony which will be the first stepping stone on the path to the return of the UK cruise industry,” said Paul Ludlow, president of P&O Cruises. “Since the inception of Hays Travel there is no one who has been more supportive of cruising or more of an ambassador for the travel industry. As such there is no one more appropriate to name Iona in this prestigious event than Dame Irene as we celebrate her achievements.”
Iona, which is Britain’s most environmentally friendly and largest cruise ship, will embark on a seven-night maiden voyage around the coast of the island of Iona and the Scottish Isles on 7 August. The sailing is only open to fully vaccinated UK residents.
“With domestic cruising opening up from 17 May and with our series of UK coastal cruises proving very popular this summer, recovery is certainly on the horizon and Iona’s arrival into the UK and naming ceremony will be the ray of hope the cruise sector has needed for such a long time,” said Ludlow. “We also feel honoured that we are able to support the Hays Travel Charitable Foundation which encourages young people to be the very best they can be across education, sport and the arts. Being able to play a small part in securing the future of the next generation is indeed a privilege.”
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