The pop festival at sea the pandemic scuppered – now it’s a Spandau sensation

NOW here’s a cruise curio – not been there, not done that … but got the T-shirt! It’s the pop festival at sea that was sunk by the pandemic.

Ionafest 2020 was the all-star affair lined up for passengers on new P&O supership Iona during her maiden voyage from July 4 to 11 last year.

P&O’s new supership Iona

Announced at a ‘secret’ gig by Gary Barlow – the ship’s musical director – at atmospheric RSO St Lukes in London, it looked a winner on the waves.

Headlined by Barlow, the bill included Clean Bandit, Trevor Nelson, Sara Cox, Chris Ramsey, Jo Whiley, Alex James and more to be announced.

The original bill on the tour T-shirt

But then, of course, the world went to hell in a handcart, and the nautical but nice event was just one of many famous festivals cancelled around the world.

Guests at the secret launch gig had enjoyed an intimate acoustic set by Take That frontman Barlow and left with a goodie bag which included the official show T-shirt.

Such a shame, but with the exciting news that international cruise is back, I’m sure there’ll be time for celebrations full steam ahead.

Iona, of course, enjoyed a spectacular virtual naming ceremony earlier this year with a full band set fronted by Gary Barlow, which you can see here.

Gary Barlow and band at the naming ceremony

In the meantime, undeterred P&O bosses have enlisted more star power for Iona’s delayed maiden voyage, which now sails from Southampton on August 7.

She’ll be on a UK ‘seacation’ cruise, heading up to Iona, the Scottish holy island which gives the ship its name, where there’ll be a firework spectacular.

Iona Abbey, on the island that gives the ship her name

Onboard, entertainment will be headed by Spandau Ballet legend Tony Hadley, famed for chart-topping singles such as True and Gold.

Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley

Comedian Joe Pasquale will be playing several sets, bringing his unique blend of comedy to the Headliners Theatre.

Funnyman Joe Pasquale

Meanwhile, Britain’s Got Talent and Absolutely Fabulous movie sensation La Voix will bring divas such as Cher, Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey to life in the Limelight Club.

La Voix brings the divas to life

Sea shanty-singing fishermen Sea Hear are also on board, adding to the coastal theme.

There’ll be spectacular aerial shows especially devised to make the most of Iona’s two-deck glass SkyDome, and P&O Cruises Food Heroes Marco Pierre White and Olly Smith will be hosting masterclass talks.

Wine guru Olly Smith

They’ve collaborated to create The Chef’s Table, with menus designed by Marco complemented with wine recommendations by Olly,  a new concept specially developed for Iona’s celebration nights. 

Food served will be celebrating the flavours of Scotland with Highland smoked salmon, single malt whisky Cranachan Verrine,  a regional cheese selection and Iona whisky fudge petit fours just some of the food that guests can experience. 

Iona’s maiden voyage will depart Southampton and cruise past Cornwall before anchoring at the ship’s namesake island for the firework display. 

That will be followed by three days of Scottish scenic cruising encompassing the Isle of Colonsay, Lochbuie, Duart Castle, Tobermoay, Bac Mòr, Fingal’s Cave, Sound of Jura, Claggain Bay, Mull of Kintyre and Sanda Island. 

After an inaugural season of UK coastal cruises Iona will offer holidays to Spain and the Canary Islands from September 25, 2021.

For more information or to book call P&O Cruises on 03453 555 111, visit or contact a travel agent. Staterooms are still available on the maiden cruise but be warned that bookings close four days before sailing.

Categories:Cruises, Film & TV, UK BreaksTags: , , , , , , , , ,

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