If it seems that I’ve been blogging a lot about cruise ships lately – especially for someone whose first (travel) love is roadtripping – I am. This is the season when ships that have spent the summer in Europe return to South Florida and when new ships that were built in Europe’s shipyards arrive in Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
Which explains why I’ve attended two ship-naming ceremonies in the last eight days: Celebrity Reflection last weekend and Carnival Breeze on Saturday. Those two, along with Oceania’s Riviera – which had its ship-naming in Europe – are the new ships of 2012, all of which have arrived in Miami in the last few weeks.
Ship-naming ceremonies have several traditions associated with them, including the selection of a godmother and the breaking of a bottle of champagne on the hull of the ship. Other traditions, such as the sacrifice of sheep or even humans, thankfully have been discontinued. The original purpose of the ceremony was to introduce the new ship to the god of the sea – Neptune, Poseidon, whoever. The ancient Greeks drank wine to honor the gods and poured water on the new vessel as a symbol of blessing, but those two rituals eventually merged into one, and the liquid of choice in recent times has been champagne.
It’s considered bad luck if the godmother smashes the bottle against the hull and it doesn’t break -- Judi Dench swung a bottle of champagne against the Carnival Legend three times before it broke – so now, the bottles often are scored with a glasscutter first. It’s probably also considered bad luck if guests are cut by flying shards of glass, so the ceremony isn’t necessarily held near the hull. Both the Carnival and Celebrity ceremonies were held in the respective ship’s theater. The godmothers stood on the stage and cut or pulled a ribbon, and by some remote mechanism, the bottle was swung against the hull and smashed, which we saw on a huge video screen. Seems like a waste of good champagne to me, but who am I to say no to Poseidon?
Tracy Wilson Mourning is the godmother of the Carnival Breeze, and the ceremony was both touching as she talked about the Honey Shine mentoring program for young girls, a program she founded, and funny, as master of ceremonies John Heald pranced like a hefty supermodel on the catwalk and threatened to sing Barry Manilow songs. (Carnival’s frequent cruisers all know Heald – he is senior cruise director for Carnival and writes a funny, slightly risqué and usually helpful blog here.)
Watch next Sunday’s Travel section, when I’ll tell you about the new ships.
My photos of the ceremony, by the way, were pretty awful, so I pestered Andy Newman, who has photographed many of Carnival's ships, on Sunday morning for these. Top, Carnival Breeze's godmother, Tracy Mourning, and Capt. Vincenzo Alcaras with a stand-in bottle of champagne (the real one was swung against the hull). Below,Tracy with husband Alonzo (yeah, I know who he is but this is HER show) and the captain on the bridge.