The delayed delivery of P&O Cruises giant new 5,200-passenger ship Iona is now planned for “before the autumn”.

And Iona’s as yet unnamed sister ship will be delivered in December 2022. Itineraries for the second ship will go on sale next spring.

The announcement follows discussions with German shipyard Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg during a pause in all ocean cruise operations due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Iona was originally due to be delivered to the Southampton-based company in May.

The largest ship built for the UK market at 185,000 tonnes with 17 passenger decks, will be the first British cruise vessel to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

P&O Cruises has since sold older ship Oceana.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Whilst our operations as currently paused, we are delighted that we have more clarity on the arrival of these two new ships.

“The final outfitting of Iona is almost complete and is looking stunning and we will take delivery of her before the autumn. We also now know that her sister ship will join the fleet at the end of 2022.

“Both ships are eagerly anticipated by our guests and we are seeing strong demand for the future. The space on these two ships will allow for extraordinary experiences; visual entertainment displays; new dining concepts and many new areas for relaxation and indulgence.”