British cruise line P&O is a step closer to the delivery of its new mega-ship Iona, the largest cruise ship ever built for the UK cruise market, as the ship completed her conveyance from the Meyer Werft shipyard to the sea on Thursday.
The German shipyard urged cruise ship enthusiasts to stay away for the first time ever, reflecting advice from public health authorities about avoiding crowds to stem the transmission of coronavirus.
The spectacle of a giant new cruise ship transiting the narrow waterway in reverse, past cows grazing in meadows, usually draws thousands of onlookers to the riverbanks, bridges and locks.
Meyer Werft encouraged people to “please stay home this time”. Instead, they were invited to keep abreast of Iona’s progress via social media.
Maritime photographer and journalist Andrew McAlpine provided a time-lapse of the ship’s progress on Twitter.
— Andrew McAlpine (@CruiseshipP) March 19, 2020
As per established safety procedures, Iona proceeded in reverse for better maneuverability, with two tugs providing assistance.
“Once again, a team of river pilots from Emden will be responsible for manoeuvring the ship to Emden,” the shipyard said in a statement ahead of the procedure, which started on Wednesday. “The pilots on the river Ems also looked after the Meyer Werft ships during their passage to the North Sea in previous years.”
“The whole team trained the conveyance at the computerised simulator in Wageningen (Netherlands) to be better prepared for the task,” it added.
Iona arrived in Emden on Thursday and will now go through several days of technical and nautical tests on the North Sea.
At more than 183,000-gross tons and carrying 5,200 passengers, Iona is P&O’s first LNG-powered ship, the largest ship in the fleet and the biggest cruise ship ever designed for the British market.
Among the many features aboard Iona will be the Grand Atrium, a new concept for the cruise line with uninterrupted panoramic views of the sea, framed by glazed walls stretching three decks high, and the SkyDome, a new entertainment venue on the top two levels capped by a glass-domed roof.
Iona will also offer 30 different bar and restaurant venues, the widest ever selection of places to eat and drink on a UK ship. Innovative and flexible dining options include a “foodie” market offering cuisine from around the world, a new gastropub concept and a laid-back cocktail lounge.
Iona will also offer Freedom Dining in all of her main restaurants, for the first time on any P&O ship, letting guests eat when they want, where they want. The ship is due for delivery in May this year.
Iona is sailing into an uncertain future as the cruise industry faces its biggest crisis in history amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, which has caused the global cruise industry to shutdown worldwide for the second-half of March, and much of April.
It is the first time in the history of the cruise sector that all major cruise lines have suspended operations simultaneously.