Just like a newborn infant, cruise ships have quite a way to go until they are set out into the big wide world (or open waters). Technology has come a long way, and with that, the building of ships has changed over time. The romance of traditional shipbuilding might have been lost, but you have to admit that the engineering behind today’s shipbuilding is impressive – a 4D jigsaw puzzle of epic proportions.
Despite technological progress, many ancient seafaring traditions still live on today. We still christen a ship with a bottle of nectar, most commonly champagne (except in the days of prohibition, when apple cider was used).
In ancient Norse tradition, the Vikings went a little overboard, calling upon the gods to bless the ship while dousing it with sacrificial blood. This was in an effort to ward off danger on the seamen’s voyages. Of all the traditions, the practice of a ship having its very own godmother (or godfather in more recent years) lives on.
It was once customary for the invitation to be extended to female royalty, but as times have changed cruise lines have seen actors, singers, sports stars, activists and politicians step into the role.
Many will be part of their ship’s inaugural cruise, while others are only there for the pomp and ceremony, wielding a bottle of bubbly. There are those godparents who have an ongoing role on their ship and find innovative ways to remain an active guardian.
What kind of person cracks the nod to christen a ship? Read on for some interesting and often unusual choices.
Kim Cattrall, the American actress most famous for her role in Sex and the City as sassy Samantha Jones, christened Norwegian Dawn in Manhattan back in 2002. The Norwegian Cruise Line’s mega-ship was the first NCL vessel to carry hull art. In true Samantha style, Kim remarked that the Dawn “would be the biggest ship in New York – and don’t let anyone tell you that size doesn’t matter.”
Malala is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate to date. Her efforts to afford women and children the right to free and safe education have been instrumental in a global movement for change. Malala opted to forego the champagne and christened Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge with sparkling water instead, marking a two-year partnership between her charity, the Malala Fund, and the cruise line. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, explained that their team was looking for someone who epitomised heroism and transformation and Malala Yousafzai was the obvious choice.
Much to the delight of her readers, Oprah and her long-time bestie, Gayle King, set sail with 2,666 Oprah magazine readers. This was in celebration of her becoming godmother to Holland America Line’s ship, Nieuw Statendam, in February. Oprah also worked with Holland America to provide lifestyle programmes across 16 of their vessels, including morning meditation and intention setting.
On the 8th of November 2019, the MS Roald Amundsen was the first ship to be named in Antarctica. The traditional champagne bottle smash was replaced by a chunk of ice, to honour the legacy of polar hero Roald Amundsen.Strand, who is Hurtigruten’s VP of Expeditions, said: “I am honoured to be named godmother to the most innovative ship to hit the waters in decades. The green technology and innovative solutions serve as an inspiration for exploring our oceans more sustainably.”
Here’s a surprising one. Yes, “Mr Worldwide” himself, Armando Christian Perez was named the godfather of Norwegian Escape in 2015 by Norwegian Cruise Line. Quite a few people raised an eyebrow at the thought, but it turns out Pitbull was a great choice. Two “Pitbull After Dark Parties” have been hosted by the godfather at sea, one on the Norwegian Pearl in 2017 and one on the Norwegian Jade in 2018. His songs feature in some of NCL’s advertising. Pitbull has also entertained guests at a CruiseWorld event. The video clip for his song “Freedom” reinforces Norwegian’s reputation for “non-traditional cruising that focuses on freedom and flexibility for guests”.
Queen Elizabeth II
The queen has a few ship christenings under her belt. Most famously, Queen Elizabeth 2 (or more affectionately QE2) and two others. Yes, the QE2 is now a floating hotel in Dubai, but the other two are still sailing on the high seas. The queen has christened two Cunard ships in the past (Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and Queen Elizabeth in 2010) and is also godmother to P&O’s Britannia.
Speaking of royalty, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton served as ship godmother to Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess in 2013. The popular royal smashed a bottle of Nebuchadnezzar Moet et Chandon champagne (said to have cost roughly £1,250) against the 141,000-ton vessel’s hull. Adding the famous words, “I name this ship Royal Princess. May God bless her and all who sail in her.”
Dame Judi Dench
Champagne bottles are made to last and are quite robust – something Dame Judi Dench discovered when she christened Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Legend. They say “third time’s a charm” and true to form, after three attempts the bottle finally smashed, soaking her in the process. This lead to “Dame Judi Drench” headlines in the press, alongside photos of her covered in the fizzy beverage.
Sophia Loren is the mother of all godmothers, having christened 14 ships in the MSC fleet alone. The movie-star godmother welcomed the latest addition to her family, the MSC Bellissima, earlier this year. Loren also became the godmother of Princess Cruises’ original Crown Princess back in 1990, before becoming MSC’s godmother of choice, starting with MSC Lirica in 2003.
Dame Helen Mirren
The British Oscar-winning actress became godmother to P&O Cruises’ Ventura in 2008 and has just become godmother for a second time. The world’s first discovery yacht, Scenic Eclipse, was christened by Dame Helen in New York in September. Dame Helen’s “style, beauty and spirit of adventure” are the perfect fit for Scenic Eclipse, says founder and chairman of Scenic, Glen Moroney.
Just two years after Stewart was sentenced on felony charges and had to serve a five-month prison sentence, this choice in 2006 proved a little controversial. But, the lifestyle expert did not hesitate to do the honours for Princess Cruises Crown Princess that year. Today she works closely with MSC Cruises, creating exclusive onboard and onshore culinary experiences.
Mississippi Steamboats need godmothers too, and the biggest and most luxurious one has Priscilla Presley. The impressive American Queen is all old-school showboat on the outside and modern comforts on the inside. And when it stops in Memphis, guests can be assured of an invitation to the godmother’s house, Graceland.
Honorary godmother and Grammy award-winning artist, Kelly Clarkson, officially christened Norwegian Encore (the fleet’s newest and most innovative ship), on 21 November 2019, before performing “Miss Independent,” “Stronger,” “Since U Been Gone,” and other chart-topping hits.
Katherine Louise Calder
Royal Caribbean International chose to buck tradition. It looked beyond celebrities and launched an extensive search in 2006 for an extraordinary “everyday” person to serve as godmother to Freedom of the Seas. Katherine Louise Calder of Portland, Oregon, won the title and was chosen out of 6,000 nominees. A genuinely deserving honour as for over 27 years Calder has fostered more than 400 children with special needs. She is also an adoption advocate in the Portland area. “We are humbled and excited in equal measure to be able to bring recognition to someone who has selflessly given so much to so many,” said Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbean International’s president at the time.
In an exciting turn of events, Jennifer Hudson is back on cruise ships, but this time not as a performer. Hudson became godmother to Disney Dream in 2011 at a star-studded ceremony in Port Canaveral. In 2003 she wowed passengers with her powerful performances of “The Circle of Life” as a singer on Disney Wonder. This served as a stepping stone to American Idol, where she finished 7th in 2004. Not to mention an Academy Award for her role as Effy in Dreamgirls in 2006 and finally winning a Grammy for her debut album in 200