Skip to content

Arts & Culture

Hays Travel’s Dame Irene to name P&O Cruises’ new Iona ship

A North East travel agency owner has been named a new cruise ship’s godmother in a move tourism officials say will “provide the first stepping stone on the return of the industry” in the UK.

Hays Travel’s Dame Irene Hays will officially name P&O Cruises’ Iona vessel during a ceremony next month.

Bosses say Iona – powered by liquefied natural gas – is Britain’s largest and most environmentally-friendly cruise ship.

They say they are delighted Dame Irene, who ran Sunderland-headquartered Hays Travel alongside late husband John for decades, will oversee Iona’s official naming, given “there is no one who has been more supportive of cruising or more of an ambassador for the travel industry, which has been paused for a year”.

Paul Ludlow, P&O Cruises president, said “We are absolutely delighted Dame Irene will be Iona’s godmother.

“The naming ceremony will be the first stepping stone on the path to the return of the UK cruise industry.

“There is no one more appropriate to take centre stage than Dame Irene as we celebrate her achievements and pay tribute to her husband John.

“Recovery is certainly on the horizon and Iona’s arrival into the UK will be the ray of hope the cruise sector has needed for such a long time.

“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.”

The Iona naming ceremony is due to take place in Southampton on May 16, with singer Gary Barlow lined up to deliver a one-off performance to a virtual audience.