Earlier this month I attended the naming ceremony for Princess Cruises’ newest ship, the Sky Princess. The theme of the ceremonies was “Reach for the Sky” and honored pioneering women in the U.S. Space Program.
The event was held in the main theater of the ship and we all watched the huge screen as a 15-liter bottle of champagne was broken across the hull amidst cheers and confetti.
As a new year, 2020, is about to begin I reflected back to the many christenings I have participated in over the years.
In the early days of cruising, the ship’s godmother was usually either a member of royalty (queens and princesses) or a film celebrity (Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland) and the entire event took place outdoors, usually with onlookers on the dock or open deck and the officials on the bow of the ship. It would be the godmother’s privilege to name the ship and release the bottle of bubbly. (There are no hard and fast rules. Sometimes there is a godfather: Musician Pitbull released a bottle of vodka to christen the Norwegian Escape in 2016.)
The essence of the ceremony remains the same – break bottle, name ship – but it has also evolved.
For the naming of the Disney Dream in January of 2011, we were all sitting in bleachers on the dock and watched Jennifer Hudson do the honors, attended by Mickey Mouse.
She sang and talked about beginning her career as a singer on the Disney Wonder. The extravaganza was made complete by the appearance of an entire cast of Disney characters (imported from the Disney parks in nearby Orlando). Fortunately, the weather was good.
For a number of years, TV personalities named the ships. In 2008, we watched Trista and Ryan Sutter, stars of “The Bachelorette,” as they broke the bottle. It was a gala affair on deck with everyone wearing black tie … with lots of pops of red.
Over the years, the cast of “The Love Boat” has participated in the naming of several Princess ships. Jill Whelan, “Vicki” on “The Love Boat,” named the Caribbean Princess in 2004 and was also present when the entire cast named the Dawn Princess in 1997 and the Regal Princess in 2014.
In recent years, the godmothers have been more serious picks. Last year, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai…only 21 years old… named the Celebrity Edge. And this month’s honoring of the women of the space program by Princess also takes the role of godmother to a new level.
The Sky Princess naming was impressive because so many women from NASA were honored.
Here are the details:
Captain Kay Hire and engineer Poppy Northcutt served as the godmothers of Sky Princess.
Capt. Hire began her 30-year NASA career as a mechanical systems engineer, helping to launch more than 40 space missions. Then, as an astronaut, she logged 700 hours in space, flew over 12 million miles, and orbited the earth 475 times. She was the first female assigned to a military combat flight crew while serving in the U.S. Navy.
Poppy Northcutt served as the first female mission control engineer when NASA made history with its mission to the moon. When the crew of Apollo 13 became stranded in their service module, it was her team’s calculations that brought them home safely – a feat of heroism that earned the entire mission operations a Presidential Medal of Freedom Team Award.
Sky Princess Captain Heikki Laakkonen also recognized two Sky Princess female officers — Kerry Ann Wright, who started working in the cruise industry as a spa technician and went back to school to rise through the ranks to become a Second Officer working on the bridge; and Chief Security Officer Susan Morgan, who is the longest serving woman in the British Royal Navy.
Additional women of NASA in a tribute video, included:
- The first woman of color to travel to outer space, Dr. Mae Jemison.
- The first Hispanic woman in space who later became director of the Johnson Space Center, Dr. Ellen Ochoa.
- The first woman to command the Space Shuttle, Eileen Collins.
- The first woman to command the International Space Stations, Peggy Whiston.
- The first woman to join a spacewalk, Kathryn D. Sullivan.
With so many new ships coming online in the next few years it will interesting to see which other people will be so honored. It is always a thrill to watch a new ship be christened.
Cover photo: Sky Princess christening — Women in NASA program honored by Princess Cruises