A Night With Gary Barlow & P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises Iona Gary Barlow

Walking through the streets of a London suburb on a particularly grey day in January you’d be forgiven for thinking that nothing interesting or exciting was going to happen until the days started getting longer, but if you’re a fan of a certain Boy-Band-Legend and love cruise ships then this dull day was about to get a lot more interesting.
In November I received a mysterious email from the P&O Press Team asking me to come to London for an event that they couldn’t tell me anything about, and when you get something like that you just have to go and see what it’s all about, don’t you?

By this point, you’ve probably already seen the news because it’s been just about everywhere from P&O promoting their new frontman to news websites throwing around clickbait headlines touting that a music legend is going to become a cruise ship singer. Instead of spouting the same news I thought it might be interesting for you to take a look behind the scenes inside the press event and experience meeting P&O’s new ambassador with me.

P&O Cruises Iona Gary Barlow

When we walked in we were handed a particularly on-brand drink and ushered into a dark room and asked to take a seat, ready for Paul Ludlow (president of P&O Cruises UK) to introduce some special guests. 

First of all he welcomed Fearne Cotton to the stage and spoke to her about all of the incredible features we can expect on board P&O’s newest ship. Iona will be the biggest ship ever built for the UK market and is set to have one of the most unique naming ceremonies the UK cruise industry has seen. Instead of the typical event on dry land or onboard the ship while she’s in port, P&O have announced IonaFest to celebrate her launch. IonaFest will be a floating festival on board a week-long Fjords cruise, with the naming ceremony being on the first day of the cruise. A huge variety of big names will play across her 7 venues with Iona’s Sky Dome serving as the main “Sky” stage and Headliners Theatre as the second main stage. 

P&O Cruises Iona Gary Barlow

It’s at this point that Fearne Cotton turned her attention to the big announcement by dropping a couple of hints about who it could be before revealing all and welcoming Gary Barlow to the stage as the new ambassador. As well as being a brand ambassador Gary Barlow will be putting his musical talents to good use as musical director of the 710 club aboard Iona - talking about this he said “I want The 710 Club to be a celebration of great music and great talent. As its musical director, I want to give a unique experience for people who love music as much as I do” so it sounds like guests on board the newest member of the fleet will be in for treat. As well as taking on the role of musical director, Barlow will be singing at the naming ceremony to kick off IonaFest, then will join guests later in the year for two special cruises - the first being 29th August 2020 to visit the Norwegian Fjords, followed by a cruise on 31st October exploring cities in Spain and Portugal.

Luckily for us we didn’t have to wait until May to experience what it might be like to be in the 710 Club, as we were treated to a private performance with only around 100 of us in the room. There’s a few times in my career as a travel blogger that I’ve had to step back for a minute to wonder how on Earth sharing my thoughts on the internet allowed me to experience such amazing events, and watching Gary Barlow perform an acoustic set while making a few subtle (and friendly) jabs at “us journalists” was definitely one of those moments. 

P&O Cruises Iona Gary Barlow

After watching the most incredible performance we were treated to a dinner of two halves, with a range of dishes themed around the two cruises that Gary Barlow will perform during, followed by a DJ set by former Blur member Alex James.

I must admit that before the event I wasn’t Take That’s biggest fan, but I was still excited to see him perform. There was something special about hearing Gary Barlow singing alone with a stripped back performance from a live band that totally changes the sound and the emotion that comes from the songs - after over 30 years in the industry you wouldn’t fault them if they couldn’t quite sing as well as they used to but somehow he had gotten better with age (I’m pretty sure most Take That fans would agree, but I promise you I’m talking about the music).

P&O Cruises Iona Gary Barlow

IonaFest promises something for everyone with Clean Bandit and Gary Barlow singing, famous faces like Alex James from Blur, Trevor Nelson, Jo Whiley and Sara Cox DJing and a boat-load (or should I say ship-load) of Strictly Come Dancing stars to keep you entertained, so even if you’re not the biggest Take That fan, it’s still not something you want to miss.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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