Back for good! Gary Barlow to perform on new P&O Cruises ship Iona ‘several times’ next year, says line president Paul Ludlow

Star on board: Gary Barlow (Picture: P&O Cruises)

Take That star Gary Barlow will perform ‘several times’ on new P&O Cruises ship Iona next year, the line’s president Paul Ludlow told a press conference on the maiden voyage.

The singer is music director for the ship’s 710 Club and was due to be a major part of its inaugural season in 2020 before Covid scuppered the plans.

Ludlow was asked if P&O Cruises intended to stage another ‘IonaFest’ – a week-long event featuring such stars as Clean Bandit, Jo Whiley, Sara Cox and Blur’s Alex James – that was originally scheduled to be part of the maiden voyage last year.

He said: ‘Never say never. That was going to be really exciting. Yes, maybe. We have a lot on our plate right now so we’ll have to work through the priorities but it attracted a real buzz and interest so I think we’ll do something like that again.’

I asked if he had Barlow signed up to come on any cruises. He replied: ‘Gary actually is so enthusiastic, he’s been a really good partner and, like a lot of the guys that work with us, has shown a real level of support and interest throughout the lockdown period. Gary’s itching to get back on board and he will – he’s going to spend days on board the ship.’

He added: ‘The thing about Gary is that he is loved. We just have to manage him carefully because our guests get very excited. But he’s definitely going to come on board.’

Pressed for dates, Ludlow replied the news would probably be announced in the next couple of months but they would be in 2022.

He added: ‘Gary will be on for a couple of days on several cruises. He won’t be on for the duration of the cruise. He’ll probably get on at one port of call and off at another.’

Spandau Ballet star Tony Hadley is staging a show on Iona on Thursday. The maiden voyage left Southampton on Saturday and moored off its namesake Scottish island last night for a fireworks celebration.

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