A cider created by former Blur bass player Alex James will be used in the naming ceremony of P&O Cruises new ship Iona.

The event in Southampton on May 16 will culminate with the smashing of a Nebuchadnezzar of Britpop against the side of the ship’s hull.

The ceremony, with a specially invited virtual audience, will be hosted by Radio 2 broadcaster Jo Whiley.

Britpop, made in Herefordshire, will replace the usual Champagne traditionally used in ship namings.


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Travel industry ambassador Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, will be Iona’s godmother.

Iona will sail on its seven night maiden cruise around the coast of the island of Iona and the Scottish Isles from Southampton on August 7.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “The naming of a ship is a momentous occasion and steeped in seafaring tradition. The bottle smash, which has happened for centuries, is to ward off evil spirits and bless the ship, bringing it good fortune in its travels.

“Cider has often been used throughout history for ship launches, most notably during Prohibition, and for P&O Cruises and Iona, with her many “firsts”, it is very fitting to have English apples, grown from this ancient soil and pressed in this country, for the christening.

“We are also delighted to have Jo Whiley as our host for the event – with her inimitable warmth and style she will certainly embrace the virtual format and ensure all our guests feel an integral part of this special evening.”

James added: “Britain’s apples are part of our treasured heritage and Britpop has turned those apples into a celebratory tipple which is an ideal way to launch this extraordinarily cool ship.

“Britpop is pure golden sunshine in a glass and it could not be more appropriate to mark the naming of a ship which will take you on glorious sunshine escapes.”


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