CHART star Gary Barlow is to perform live at the naming of P&O Cruises’ new supership Iona next month.
The Take That frontman will play an exclusive set streamed to a virtual audience at the ceremony on May 16.
Covid restrictions have prevented a full-scale quayside celebration so the event will be broadcast to an invitation-only VIP audience.
The cruise line announced today, too, that Dame Irene Hays, owner and chair of Hays Travel Group, will be godmother to the ship.
In his role as Iona’s music director, Barlow’s involvement has included overseeing the ship’s 710 Club music venue and curating new talent to perform on board.
Iona should have launched with a live show by the singer last year, followed by the Ionafest pop festival at sea but the plans were scuppered, like so much else, by the pandemic.
Dame Irene’s husband John, who died last November, founded Hays Travel in 1980 and it has grown to become the UK’s largest independent travel agency group.
Together they were instrumental in the expansion of the Sunderland company and particularly in the acquisition of Bath Travel in 2013 and Thomas Cook’s retail travel agencies in 2019.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “We are absolutely delighted that Dame Irene Hays will be Iona’s godmother, taking centre stage alongside Gary Barlow in a landmark naming ceremony which will be the first stepping stone on the path to the return of the UK cruise industry.
“Since the inception of Hays Travel there is no-one who has been more supportive of cruising or more of an ambassador for the travel industry.
“As such there is no one more appropriate to name Iona in this prestigious event than Dame Irene as we celebrate her achievements.
“With domestic cruising opening up from May 17, and with our series of UK coastal cruises proving very popular this summer, recovery is certainly on the horizon.
“Iona’s arrival into the UK and naming ceremony will be the ray of hope the cruise sector has needed for such a long time.”
P&O Cruises is also supporting the Hays Travel Charitable Foundation which encourages young people to be the very best they can be across education, sport and the arts.
Iona is Britain’s most environmentally-friendly and largest cruise ship and will sail her seven-night maiden voyage around the coast of the island of Iona and the Scottish Isles from Southampton on Saturday August 7, 2021.
To book go to www.pocruises.com or telephone 03453 555 111 or call a trusted travel agent.