Christening a ship is a momentous occasion, filled with pomp and ceremony, special guests, a blessing of the ship and crew, and buckets of Champagne flowing. Most importantly, there is a true sense of accomplishment, pride and anticipation. Ships are spectacular creations that gleam in the sunshine, their flags fluttering in the breeze, beckoning us to come aboard and sail away. Ships give us an opportunity to cruise the world, to see new and amazing sights, to feed our curiosity and to engage with people of many different cultures. The atmosphere onboard becomes family-like, especially on river and smaller ships. Hearing the sounds of laughter that will fuel years of friendship as glasses are clinked in merry toasts and a ‘family’ comes together over a week or two – or even more – is a wondrous feeling.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to attend the christenings of many kinds and styles of ships – both river and ocean - ranging in size from fewer than 100 guests to the stunning Queen Mary 2, christened in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. That ceremony was full of British pomp and pageantry and done so well! I’ve been to double christenings (two ships at a time) and movie star christenings, attended the glamorous ones, the slightly offbeat ones, the inclusive ones (where all the guests served as Godparents) and even a ceremony for one of the largest ships in the world, with more than 9000 crew and guests aboard – Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. A few years ago, I was given the amazing honor of being invited to christen a ship myself – the river vessel, Avalon Vista of Avalon Waterways. It was an experience I will forever cherish.
The naming ceremony of Windstar Cruises’ new power yacht, the lovely 212-guest, all-suite Star Pride was held on a bright and sunny day in Barcelona in May, to the accompaniment of Spanish sangria, tapas and flamenco music. A little later, I found myself in Germany for a charming ceremony for AmaWaterways ship, the AmaSonata, christened by her Canadian Godmother, Brenda Kyllo. On that special occasion, Bavarian specialties were served along with the ubiquitous champagne!
So far this year, I’ve attended three different christenings and have one more this fall, for Princess Cruises’ new ship the Regal Princess when she arrives in North America. I was onboard the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise ship, the gorgeous SS Catherine, in Lyon in March and have written a short feature about her in this magazine. Her Godmother is the famed actress and French icon, Ms Catherine Deneuve.
Each ceremony I’ve attended was memorable and each had its own joyous personality – rather like the ships themselves. The most marvelous feeling - and one that always brings a few tears to my eyes – comes at the actual launching of the new ship, when the Godmother names her. As that critical bottle (often a magnum or bigger) of Champagne is swung and smashes across the bow, the audience claps and cheers. You see the pride beaming in the faces of the owners, the ship-builders, the Captain and his crew and staff and of course, the Godmother herself. It’s an enchanting moment. To send a ship on her way onto the world’s oceans or great rivers is a remarkable and jubilant occasion, and one worth celebrating!