TAKE That star Gary Barlow made it the greatest day as P&O’s new supership Iona was officially named in Southampton tonight.
Playing live for a virtual audience of VIPs, he belted out his band’s iconic Greatest Day and Rule The World as Iona was christened.
It was the star’s first live gig since lockdown and came more than a year after he played a similar set to launch the Iona celebrations. The pandemic put paid to a planned 2020 Ionafest cruise featuring Barlow, who is the ship’s musical director.
But tonight everything went to plan. The star played as Iona’s Godmother Dame Irene Hays, founder of Britain’s largest independent travel agency Hays Travel, pressed the big red button to trigger the traditional bottle smash.
Traditional only to a point, that is. Instead of Champagne, Iona was named with a Nebuchadnezzar bottle of Blur star Alex James’ Britpop Cider, to bring her good fortune in her travels.
It was the equivalent of twenty 750ml bottles of Britpop, ensuring a bubbly celebration.
Iona’s Captain Wesley Duncan and P&O President Paul Ludlow joined Dame Irene for the bottle smash.
Earlier, the audience had been treated to an emotional and uplifting performance of Believe by Mica Paris, backed by the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Choir, recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios.
There were messages of congratulation, too, from food heroes Marco Pierre White, Eric Lanlard, Olly Smith, Jose Pizarro and Kjartan Skjelde. Radio 2 star and DJ Jo Whiley hosted the show.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow referred to the prolonged pause of the cruise industry, saying: “It is 427 days since we have been able to do what we do best – welcome our guests on board and give them unforgettable, joyous holidays where they make memories on board and see the sights of the world.”
“With our invited audience and millions more watching the ceremony on social media, today heralds a new beginning and new hope for the cruise industry. Iona is indeed a very visible symbol of our future.”
Iona sets sail on her seven-night maiden UK coastal cruise on August 7, sailing from Southampton en route to the Scottish island that gives the ship her name. See pocruises.com/iona.