Until last year, Eighties pop icon Tony Hadley had cruised just once in his life, back in 1973 on board the troop ship SS Nevasa.
“It was amazing,” laughs Tony, 59. “I was 13 and on a school trip. We sailed around the Mediterranean and we were in Naples two weeks after they declared it cholera free. I also remember Istanbul, where they had dancing bears in the street.”
A little matter of 46 years later, Tony will be back at sea, headlining Floating Festivals’ Throwback tour – a music cruise featuring a hit-packed bill of Eighties acts including Sister Sledge and UB40.
Tony thinks floating festivals like these are the future of performing. “I read about contemporary artists like Belle & Sebastian playing cruise ships, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is the way forward’,” he says. “So when I was offered the chance to perform at sea, I couldn’t wait to get on board.”
Tony made his ocean-going debut last year when he played alongside Kim Wilde and Go West to 3,000 enthusiastic Eighties music fans, spending his week graciously doing selfies, watching the other bands and generally ‘getting involved’.
“For the first day it took me half an hour to walk 50 metres,” he jokes, “but then people got used to me being on board and everyone was saying, ‘Hey, you all right Tony?’ I met some lovely people and it was a real laugh.”
Rocking the boat once more this October, Tony Hadley will be singing songs from his latest album, Talking to the Moon, as well as throwing in some classic hits, too.
“I’ll be singing some of my favourite Spandau Ballet songs like True, Gold and Through the Barricades – songs that people want to hear because they bring back so many memories,” he says.
“When I sing True I can see people cuddling up because they played it for their first dance when they got married. That’s the sort of impact you have when you sing those songs.”
Sadly, Tony won’t be wearing Spandau Ballet’s distinctive ’80s costume of ruffles and jodhpurs – though fans are encouraged to sport their best New Romantic finery on board.
Frill-free and accompanied by his wife Alison and youngest daughters Zara, 12, and Genevieve, 7, Tony says he’ll be travelling with some smart suits and his “essential hair gunk”. After all, he insists, “You can’t entertain an audience looking like you’ve just got out of bed.”
So where next for the Islington boy who’s known for his love of Arsenal, hairspray and real ale? Despite his recent conversion to cruising, Tony says he also enjoys adventure holidays on land.
Over the past couple of years he has trekked in Costa Rica and across the Venezuelan Savanna, and there’s a trip to Uganda in the pipeline for 2020. But a little relaxation may also be on Tony’s agenda.
“As my wife keeps reminding me, we’ve never actually had a honeymoon,” he admits. “She says she’d like to go to the Maldives. To be honest, just sitting around all day long is not my idea of fun, but I’ll do it for her.”
“When I sing True, I can see people cuddling up because they played it for their first dance when they got married.”
Get on Board
3-night ‘Throwback’ cruise with Tony Hadley aboard Explorer of the Seas, round trip from Southampton via Le Havre, departing 11 October 2019, from £499, floatingfestivals.co.uk