On the Scene
Christening a cruise ship comes with a precise tradition.
All ships have a godmother who officially “names” the ship, preceded with a blessing that usually goes like this: “I name this ship [Royal Princess], may God bless her and all of those who sail upon her.”
The godmother then cuts the ribbon that lets loose the suspended bottle of champagne that is meant to drop and (hopefully) break against the bow of the ship.
It is considered good luck when the bottle breaks and bad luck when it does not, but today when Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, took the ceremonial scissors and cut the ribbon holding the suspended magnum of champagne it swung swiftly and smashed brilliantly against the hull of brand new Royal Princess.
There is an historic circle of tradition to this event. Kate is married to William, the son of Charles the Prince of Wales and his Princess Diana who died in 1997. It also happens that Diana also served as the godmother for a previous Princess ship which was also officially named “Royal Princess” in 1984.
I asked some of the Princess team what it meant to them to have these glorious ladies of the most recognized royal family in the world christening their ships.
Jan Swartz, executive vice president-sales and marketing for Princess said, “Lady Catherine is one of the most beautiful, busiest and most popular women in the world today, so the fact that she agreed to be our ship’s godmother, especially when she is so close to a very important delivery of her own, makes us feel incredibly proud and honored. Plus, the fact that she is married to William, an heir to the throne, and the son of Lady Diana who was also a Princess godmother, brings this occasion full circle for us. We feel it shows the true esteem of the British people for the Royal Family and the traditions of ocean liners and passenger ships.”
Alan Buckalew, the president of Princess said, “To have Kate naming our ship is the perfect ending to the three years of effort we put into building our best ship yet. It’s the highest honor; the Royal Family is very sensitive about affiliating their name and Kate is certainly one of the most admired women in the world.”
Paul Ludlow, Princess Cruises U.K. director said, “The privilege of having Catherine as our ship’s godmother is especially meaningful to our crewmembers and officers, many of whom are British subjects.”
Kate is also following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher, who “named” another Princess ship, the Regal Princess, in 1991. The new Regal Princess, sister ship to the brand new Royal Princess named today, will appear in just about one year, although there is not yet any indication of who the godmother will be.
Other royals who have also named ships in the recent past include Queen Elizabeth who “named” her namesake vessel, the Cunard Queen Elizabeth, in 2008 and the Queen Mary 2 in 2004. Lady Camilla, the Duchess of York and the current wife of Prince Charles, named the Cunard Queen Victoria in 2007.
The event comes as Carnival Cruise Line struggles to recover from a string of incidents at sea which have tarnished its reputation, including an onboard fire in which a disabled cruise ship was adrift at sea in the Gulf of Mexico for five days. Carnival is the biggest cruise fleet in the world and owns Princess Cruise Line and Cunard Line.
- Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide.
A glowing Kate Middleton on Thursday made what was billed as her final solo appearance before giving birth when she christened a gigantic new cruise ship named the Royal Princess.
The Duchess of Cambridge, as she has been formally known since her marriage two years ago to Prince William, used a 4 gallon (15 liter) bottle of Moet and Chandon Champagne to do the job — it was so heavy she couldn't swing it herself, but she cut a ribbon that launched the bottle toward the hull, where it smashed as crowds cheered.
"I name this ship Royal Princess, may God bless her and all who sail in her," said the duchess, whose baby bump was clearly outlined against her black and white print coat.
She seemed the picture of good health as she chatted with others on the VIP podium.
The duchess's bottle-smashing performance was the highlight of a gala ceremony that included a formal blessing and a prayer from the Bishop of Winchester and a performance by pop star Natasha Bedingfield.
The Duchess of Cambridge has been officially designated the godmother of the new ship, a symbolic title dating back to an earlier nautical era.
She and William are expecting their first child in mid-July. The baby will become third in line for the throne behind William and his father, Prince Charles.
William's mother, the late Princess Diana, performed a similar cruise ship christening on the same spot nearly three decades ago.
The ceremony in Southampton on Thursday included a brief tour of the ship for the duchess.
It is expected to be her final solo engagement before the birth, although she is likely to join other senior royals at the upcoming Trooping the Color ceremony.
The duchess's visit highlighted the importance of the new 3,600-passenger Royal Princess, which is scheduled to begin cruising the Mediterranean this summer.