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Naming godmothers

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The maritime industry is full of traditions, and chief among them is the cruise-ship naming ceremony. It’s considered bad luck if the bottle of "christening fluid" – typically champagne – doesn’t break on the new ship’s bow on the first try (and it’s considered unheard of for a ship to start revenue service without being officially named).

The naming, is conducted with a fair bit of pomp and circumstance in the industry. Some ceremonies are perfunctory, with the bottle smashing on the side of the ship practically before the audience has time to draw a breath. But most of the time there’s fireworks (metaphorically speaking, but sometimes there are actual fireworks). The bar is constantly rising. One of Jonze’s favorites was the naming of Holland America Line’s Oosterdam, where the bottle slid from the mast of the Rotterdam on a wire, right down to the bow of the Oosterdam (a clean break). Another was the naming of the Carnival Splendor, where a British Royal Navy diver scaled the side of the ship with a bottle of bubbly in a pouch.

Royal Caribbean International’s use of a nonperson in the role – that would be Fiona, the princess-turned-ogre in the "Shrek" franchise – is just the latest in a list of unusual and headline-grabbing godmothers.

Some are the wives of boardmembers or relatives of the owners. Many are actresses, models or "personalities." Several are royalty: Cunard Line is the gold standard in this category – who else could convince the Queen of England to name all three of its queens? – but HAL counts several of the Netherlands royal family as ship sponsors.

A few are repeaters. Witness MSC Cruises, which uses Italian actress and icon Sophia Loren to do the honors for each of its new ships.

And, rarely, some godmothers are men. Sen. Daniel Inouye was named the "godfather" of the Pride of Hawaii in 2005. Apparently, both Inouye and Norwegian Cruise Line thought it unlucky for a man to actually do the christening, so Inouye gave the blessing as six female crewmembers pulled the lever to release the champagne bottle. (NCL wasn’t the first cruise line to select a godfather for a ship; there’s at least one other: Composer Vangelis Papathanasiou, who was the godfather to the Olympia Explorer at now-defunct Royal Olympic Cruises.)

Was Fiona the first fictional character to name a cruise vessel? Nope: Tinkerbell christened the Disney Wonder.

Do you have a favorite godmother or chistening ceremony story?


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