Once upon a time when a ship was first launched, ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans would call upon their gods to bless the ship with sacrificial blood and wine and to keep the seamen safe during their voyages.
But that was then and this is now. Fast forward to the 21st century and it’s become customary for a celebrity, typically a woman, to christen a new cruise ship at a launch ceremony.
Here, in no particular order, are a few of our favourite cruise ship godmothers (and one godfather) so far.
Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge (Royal Princess, Princess Cruises)
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, may be in the zeitgeist in the aftermath of the arrival of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor last week. However it’s the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who has served as a ship godmother – namely to the £470m, 3,600 passenger Royal Princess in 2013.
The royal favourite famously smashed a bottle of £1,250 Nebuchadnezzar of Moet et Chandon champagne against the hull of the 141,000 ton vessel, with the time-honoured words: “I name this ship Royal Princess. May God bless her and all who sail in her”.
Kim Cattrall (Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Cruise Line)
American actress Kim Cattrall, most famous for her role as sexy Samantha in the Sex and the City fanchise, christened Norwegian Dawn – a mega-ship in Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet known for its “freestyle vibe” – in Manhattan back in 2002.
Cattrall proved that ship christenings need not be stuffy affairs when she quipped that Norwegian Dawn “would be the biggest ship in New York – and don’t let anyone tell you that size doesn’t matter”. Samantha Jones would approve.
Sophia Loren (MSC Cruises’ fleet)
La Loren became a godmother again earlier this year – to her 14th cruise ship, the £1bn MSC Bellissima. The legendary Italian actress, whose real life rags to riches tale surely warrants its own film, told Telegraph Cruise: “I’m a godmother [to MSC Cruises’ fleet] because I’m a great friend of the Aponte family [who own MSC Cruises] and they keep me involved. I always like to be very close when there’s a big event in a family that I really respect. It’s very normal, I think. It brings me luck and also the family luck”.
Katherine Louise Calder (Freedom of the Sea, Royal Caribbean International)
In a refreshing turn of events, Royal Caribbean International looked beyond celebrities and launched an extensive search in 2006 for an extraordinary “everyday” person to serve as godmother to Freedom of the Sea.
Step forward Katherine Louise Calder of Portland, Oregon, who was chosen out of 6,000 nominees by popular vote on NBC’s The Today Show. For over 27 years, Calder was a foster mother to some 400 children with special needs, as well as 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.
Dame Judi Dench (Carnival Legend, Carnival Cruise Line)
British national treasure, Dame Judi Dench, was invited to christen Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Legend in 2002. The acting titan gave quite the performance: it famously took the Skyfall star three attempts to smash a bottle of bubbly against the ship. When the bottle finally smashed, the unstoppable thespian found herself soaked in the fizzy stuff prompting the tabloids to rename her “Dame Judi Drench”.
The Oscar winner took the soaking in good spirits and said: “I have always taken my responsibility as godmother extremely seriously and I hope that if at any time this great ship feels it needs my help it will feel free to call on me and I will go rushing to its side.”
Jennifer Hudson (Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line)
Jennifer Hudson has come full circle. The Oscar and Grammy winner started her career in 2003 as a singer on Disney Wonder where she impressed passengers with her powerful performances of “The Circle of Life”. J-Hud’s stint on Disney Wonder served as a stepping stone that led to American Idol (she finished seventh in 2004), an Academy Award for her role as Effy in Dreamgirls (2006) and a Grammy for her debut album (2009).
The actress and singer became godmother to Disney Dream in 2011 at a glittering ceremony in Port Canaveral. Dreams really do come true…
Malala Yousafzai (Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Cruises)
There was only ever one contender for the role of godmother to Celebrity Edge (2018), the world’s first US$1 billion cruise ship. All hail Malala Yousafzai, the 21-year-old Nobel laureate who was shot by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, explains: “When we were thinking about this ship and we were thinking about the fact that it’s really transformative and heroic we then decided that we needed to think about a godmother who is equally transformative and equally heroic and when the team was thinking about who could that be, the first name that came to everyone’s lips was Malala Yousafzai”.
As well as naming Yousafzai as Edge’s godmother, Celebrity announced a two-year partnership to support and promote the Malala Fund which works to create a world where all girls can learn and lead.
Pitbull (Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Cruise Line)
A cruise ship godfather? Why not. That’s obviously what Norwegian Cruise Lines thought when they picked Pitbull – real name Armando Christian Pérez – as godfather of Norwegian Escape in 2015. The Miami rapper has proved to be a canny choice: in addition to his godfather duties for Norwegian Escape, “Mr Worldwide” has hosted two “Pitbull After Dark Parties” at sea on the Norwegian Pearl (2017) and Norwegian Jade (2018) and his songs feature in Norwegian’s adverts.
Norwegian said that the selection of Pitbull reinforces Norwegian’s reputation for “non-traditional cruising that focuses on freedom and flexibility for guests”.
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