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P&O Cruises reveals Iona’s Godmother and Gary Barlow to Perform

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P&O cruises today revealed that Dame Irene Hays, DBE, DL, owner and chair of Hays Travel Group, will be godmother to the ship, Britain’s largest and most environmentally friendly, in the landmark ceremony in Southampton on May 16, 2021.

Along with this exciting announcement, P&O cruises also announced that Gary Barlow will perform at the naming ceremony which will be a little different to previous naming ceremonies of other ships in the current fleet.

P&O Cruises new ship Iona will be officially named in a contemporary ceremony featuring a special one-off performance from Gary Barlow broadcast to a virtual audience.

Gary Barlow will perform a short set as part of the event, which will be broadcast to a VIP audience, in his role as music director. His involvement includes overseeing the ship’s 710 Club music venue and curating new talent to perform on board.

Dame Irene Hays joins an illustrious group of the fleet’s Godmothers including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Britannia), Dame Darcey Bussell (Azura) and Dame Helen Mirren (Ventura), Dame Kelly Holmes DBE (Arcadia) and HRH The Princess Royal (Aurora).

P&O Cruises Godmothers
P&O Cruises Godmothers (from left to right) Dame Irene Hays (Iona) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Britannia), Dame Darcey Bussell (Azura) and Dame Helen Mirren (Ventura)

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said “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.

Dame Irene’s husband John, who died last November, founded Hays Travel in 1980 and it has grown to become the UK’s largest independent travel agency group. Together they were instrumental in the expansion of the Sunderland-based company and particularly in the acquisition of Bath Travel in 2013 and Thomas Cook’s retail travel agencies in 2019.

Irene Hays was awarded a CBE in 2008 and she was made a Dame in the 2021 New Year’s Honours for her services to training, education and young people, which she said was recognition of the commitment John and the training team at Hays had made to developing young people. Prior to the Thomas Cook acquisition, over 40% of Hays Travel managers had started out as apprentices.

She has also been a powerful advocate of Hays Travel community and charitable activities – where Hays Travel colleagues contribute to their local communities. Hays Travel now funds a community partnership in every branch across the country and five years ago John and Irene created the Hays Travel Charitable Foundation which has so far donated over £1.5 million to support young people to be the best they can be in education, sport, the arts and their health.

Gary Barlow 710 Club
Gary Barlow will perform a short set as part of the event, which will be broadcast to a VIP audience, in his role as music director.

Dame Irene Hays has also been a powerful advocate of Hays Travel community and charitable activities – where Hays Travel colleagues contribute to their local communities. Hays Travel now funds a community partnership in every branch across the country and five years ago John and Irene created the Hays Travel Charitable Foundation which has so far donated over £1.5 million to support young people to be the best they can be in education, sport, the arts and their health.

She holds an honorary Doctorate from the University of Sunderland and Lifetime Achievement Award for supporting the growth of businesses in the North East of England.

Paul Ludlow continued “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.

“The travel industry as a whole has been paused for over a year and has been devastated by the events of the last 13 months. We are so immensely grateful for the support we have received from travel agents across the UK, all of whom have faced commercial challenges none of us could have imagined.

P&O Cruises IONA
(c) P&O Cruises: Iona

Paul Ludlow continued “With domestic cruising opening up from May 17 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.

“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.”

Iona is Britain’s most environmentally-friendly and largest cruise ship and will sail her seven night maiden voyage around the coast of the island of Iona and the Scottish Isles from Southampton on Saturday August 7, 2021.

Morning information can be found at www.pocruises.com, via telephone 03453 555 111 or through your favourite travel agent.

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