Cruise Ship Godmothers and Christenings: Everything you Need to Know

(A.K.A: Katy Perry has Just been Named the Godmother of a 142,500 Ton Baby and I’m Jealous!)

Katy Perry as Cruise Ship Godmother her role in its christening
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line just announced that Katy Perry will be the godmother to their latest ship, the Norwegian Prima, launching later this year. But what does that even mean?
 Where does the cruise ship godmother tradition come from and what does it entail?

Why do cruise ships even have godmothers?

For thousands of years, different ceremonies have marked the launching of a new ship. According to a number of believable but unreliable internet sources, in the past, dating as far back as the ancient Greeks, Romans and Babylonians, a religious figure would christen a new ship with sacrificial blood or holy water. In modern times though (and, as an ex cruise ship crew member, this I can vouch for) notable female figures are called upon and champagne is usually used. 

While it's mostly just a publicity thing, even today some seafarers are deeply superstitious. The Titanic was never christened and this is sometimes cited as the reason for its demise. The Costa Concordia (which ran aground on a Friday the 13th in 2012) was christened but the bottle never broke and this is also considered bad luck. 

While many other ship traditions have been created or maintained to bring about good fortune (such as the Coin Ceremony where shipbuilders lay a coin under the keel of the ship before they start construction), these days christenings are by far the most public of these traditions.

What does being a ship’s godmother entail?

The godmother is usually required to be at the ship’s ceremonial launch. (The float out, where the ship first enters the water is a different event with a different luck-bringing ceremony, obviously.) After the name has been declared, the ship has been blessed and a bottle of champagne has been smashed on its hull, the godmother’s job is over. She rarely even cruises on the maiden voyage (Audrey Hepburn and Oprah are exceptions). 

I believe they are allowed to cruise on their godship for free but I somehow doubt that they ever do. They are also given a plaque somewhere on the ship that they are unlikely to ever step foot on again! (Do I sound bitter? I might be.)

FYI: Being a ship’s godmother is just an honorary title. If the ship is orphaned, the godmother does not get custody. Obviously.  Sorry to disappoint you, Katy.

NCL Prima
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line

Does the godmother get to come up with the name of the ship?

No. While my grandmother was named in accordance with her godfather’s wishes (shame, poor Cecil), if godmothers came up with their godship’s names, let’s be honest, ‘Prima’ would probably not be the name of Katy Perry’s godship. If she named her own kid Daisy Dove Bloom, I’m quite curious as to what she would name a ship (and I really hope a journalist with more credentials than me, asks her). 

Who gets to be a godmother to a ship?

Some cruise ship companies have awarded the honour to board members or relatives but celebrities and monarchy make for more publicity. So they tend to choose a woman whose image is in line with the ship and the cruise line. 

Some notable cruise ship godmothers include:

The long list of celebrities who have held the title of godmother to a cruise ship includes; Dame Julie Andrews (for the Crystal Serenity), Dame Judy Dench (for the Carnival Legend), Mariah Carey (for the Disney Fantasy), Helen Mirren (for the Scenic Eclipse), Whoopi Goldberg (for the Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas) and Kristin Chenoweth (for Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas).

Princess Cruises stuck with the royalty theme when they named Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, as godmother for the Royal Princess.  This was definitely a less controversial choice than when they named Martha Stewart the godmother of the Crown Princess shortly after her prison stint. Other non-royal godparents include six members of the Love Boat cast, who were collectively given the godparent title for the cruise line’s Regal Princess, in honour of the fact that the 1970s hit show was filmed on one of Princess’s earlier vessels, the Pacific Princess.

They couldn’t ask Queen Elizabeth II as she is obviously the godmother of the QE II (now a floating hotel) as well as two other Cunard ships and P&O’s Britannia.  ...And she’s a queen, not a princess. 

Oprah Winfrey is one of the few godmothers who actually cruised on their godships. She was obviously joined by her BFF Gayle after christening Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam. 

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Cruise - I mean ‘Love’; Eat Pray Love, a travel memoir that incidentally has nothing to do with cruising (not like my hopefully soon-to-be-published travel memoir - hint, hint - watch this space!), was named Avalon Envision's godmother.

Cruise Lines have often awarded the title to women who have made a profound contribution to the world, for example, Carnival Cruise Line named Tamara Jernigan, an American astrophysicist and former NASA astronaut, the godmother of the Carnival Pride. Royal Caribbean named Bahamian paratriathlete Erin Brown as the godmother for the Odyssey of the Seas. And Celebrity Cruises named Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai as the godmother for the Celebrity Edge.  

Norwegian Cruise Line once named one of their guests the godmother of a ship. Cindy Cardella won an online video contest to be named the godmother of the Norwegian Gem, while Disney Cruise Line gave the title to a crew member. WHAT?! (There’s hope for me yet!) She just had to win an oscar and almost win idols but that’s all it took for former cruise ship singer Jennifer Hudson to become the godmother of the Disney Dream. 

Other Disney godmothers include frikkin Tinkerbell of the Disney Wonder! She isn’t even real! I didn’t say that. (Everyone, clap!) But it’s not fair! Sticking with more fictional characters, Dora the Explorer is a godmother of P&O's Pacific Explorer, while Princess Fiona from Shrek is the godmother of, no, not a Princess ship but rather Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (putting the ‘royal’ in ‘Royal Caribbean’). 

Norwegian Cruise Line has often done things unconventionally. They gave the entire Rockettes troupe the ceremonial title of the godmother/s of their New York-based Norwegian Breakaway.  Then they really shook things up by choosing a godfather instead of a godmother when they gave the title to Pitbull for the Miami-based Norwegian Escape. (They also used vodka instead of champagne for the christening.) He was followed by two more godfathers, Chinese pop star Wang Leehom of the originally China-based Norwegian Joy, and Elvis Duran for the Norwegian Bliss.

But by far the godmother I am most jealous of is Sophia Loren who clearly doesn’t believe in sharing. That woman is godmother to the whole MSC fleet. That’s, like, over 20 ships! Give someone else a chance, I just want one! 

Also getting to be the godmother of an entire fleet is JLo, except when it comes to Virgin Voyages, Richard Branson never does anything by the book! The innovative new cruise line has ditched the term ‘godmother’ and has instead given Jennifer Lopez the title of Chief Entertainment and Lifestyle Officer. As implied by the title, her role entails a lot more than just blessing the ship and smashing a bottle of champagne on the bow (which, incidentally, hasn’t seemed to have happened as yet).  Plans for the launch of Virgin’s first ship, The Scarlet Lady, originally scheduled for 1 April 2020, were delayed and considerably altered due to the COVID pandemic.  However, even the launch of the cruise line’s second ship, The Valiant Lady, which just completed its ‘mermaiden voyage’ in March didn’t seem to have a christening ceremony either.  Dum-dum dummm!

What can we expect from Katy Perry at the christening of the Norwegian Prima?

Katy will perform at the ship’s christening ceremony which will be held in Reykjavík, Iceland on 27 August this year.

NCL Prima - rear view
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line

Pitbull wrote a song and created an entire music video to promote his godship but this doesn’t seem to be an official godparent prerequisite. Still, I would love to see what fun Katy Perry could have with the rather space age-looking Norwegian Prima.

The Prima boasts a 360-degree wide boulevard that wraps around the ship with outdoor lounges, terraces, Oceanwalk glass bridges and swimming pools. There’s also a sculpture garden featuring six pieces of abstract art and an infinity pool on deck 17 that creates the impression that you could just swim off the top of the ship. I can only imagine what Katy Perry could do with that! 

NCL Prima - infinity pool
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
No pink flamingos in this pool ...yet!

Questions that remain unanswered:

  • Will Katy Perry sing a cover of Jaja Ding Dong? 
  • Will she perform a duet with Björk? 
  • Will she finally hit the speorg note?
  • And what will Norwegian Cruise Line do to win favour with the elves?
Either way, it sounds incredible! This Katy Cat might just have to reapply…but just for one more contract and then I’m done!

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