P&O takes delivery of its BIGGEST ever cruise-liner

The brand new ghost ship: P&O takes delivery of its BIGGEST ever cruise-liner that weights 185,000 tons and cost hundreds of millions… but it won’t welcome passengers until at least 2021

  • Iona has a maximum capacity for 5,200 holidaymakers before social distancing measures taken into account 
  • The ship arrived at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany on Friday, but was initially due for launch in May 
  • Cruise-liner will set sail on its maiden season in Northern Europe, Portugal and the Canary Islands in 2021

P&O Cruises has taken delivery of the biggest ever leisure ship built for the UK market – but it won’t welcome passengers until at least 2021.

The Iona weighs 185,000 tonnes, is 1131ft long and has 17 passenger decks – with a maximum capacity for 5,200 holidaymakers before social distancing measures are taken into account.

The ship, which arrived at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany on Friday, was originally due for launch in May but this was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cruise ships were home to the some of the earliest clusters of Covid-19, when the virus infected hundreds of passengers onboard the Diamond Princess in Japan and the Grand Princess in the US.

Public Health England has advised against cruise ship travel since July 9 due to the pandemic, aside from trips in ferries or privately-rented boats.

The Iona (pictured) weighs 185,000 tonnes, is 1131ft long and has 17 passenger decks – with a maximum capacity for 5,200 holidaymakers before social distancing measures are taken into account 

Hundreds of cancelled holidays have resulted in an eerie ‘ghost fleet’ of ships which are anchored in the English Channel – and have transformed the view of the British coastline from Plymouth to Portsmouth.

The cruise-liners, which would typically have spent the summer in the Mediterranean and Caribbean islands, have even become an unlikely tourist attraction, with fascinated onlookers paying to see the empty vessels close up.

P&O told the BBC its ships remain at sea because its home port of Southampton does not have room for all of them to dock. In August, there were around 100 crew on board each vessel, which was likely to include those in the engine room alongside cleaners, electricians, chefs and medics.

The Iona will not set sail on its maiden season in Northern Europe and Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands until at least 2021, as P&O Cruises has suspended its operations until early next year because of travel restrictions.

The ship is the first British liner powered by liquefied natural gas, and has a much larger capacity than P&O’s now second-biggest vessel, the Britannia, which can accommodate 5,000 passengers and staff.    

Speaking at a handover ceremony at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: ‘Iona’s delivery is a very positive signal for the future of cruising.

The ship, which arrived at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany on Friday (pictured), was originally due for launch in May but this was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic

The Iona will not set sail on its maiden season in Northern Europe and Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands until at least 2021, as P&O Cruises has suspended its operations until early next year because of travel restrictions

‘She is now officially part of the P&O Cruises fleet and we are focused on readying her to welcome guests during her new maiden season to northern Europe, Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands from our home port of Southampton.

‘Already eagerly anticipated by our guests, crew and the communities we visit, events this year have increased the sense of anticipation even more.

‘Whilst our operations are currently paused until early 2021 Iona will not be sailing for the moment. But we look forward to our guests experiencing this game-changing ship as we will continue to offer unparalleled holidays at sea whilst also upholding the latest approved travel protocols.’

The Iona is described by P&O as its ‘greenest, largest and most innovative ship yet,’ with a ‘luminous glass-roofed SkyDome, on-board gin distillery and whole world of dining and entertainment on board.’ 

The Iona is described by P&O as its ‘greenest, largest and most innovative ship yet,’ with a ‘luminous glass-roofed SkyDome, on-board gin distillery and whole world of dining and entertainment on board’

In September, P&O extended the suspension of sailings until early next year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK’s largest cruise line said the decision was taken due to ‘evolving restrictions on travel’. The firm had previously cancelled sailings until November 12.

All Caribbean cruises will be cancelled until the end of January 2021, while all cruises to and from Southampton will be cancelled until February. 

Arcadia and Aurora have already been cancelled through to the end of their spring world cruises.

Customers with affected bookings will automatically receive credit for a future sailing worth 125 per cent of the cost of their original trip. They can also request a cash refund.

Carnival UK, the firm behind P&0, had previously announced 450 job cuts amid the pandemic.

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