It’s not just humans who have godparents. Traditionally, godparents take a keen interest in a child’s upbringing, and in many cases in times long gone, played a part in naming the child. The tradition of godparents also exists in the maritime industry, although obviously in not quite the same way.
Godparents of cruise ships reveal the name of the vessel. Ship naming goes back into history, with evidence leading even to the third century BC, of Babylon – in modern day Iraq – celebrating the launch of a ship. Many of the main western civilisations, including the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians, had a tradition of calling on their gods for protection of ships before they set sail.
But it was the Vikings who had a major role to play in modern-day ship naming by godparents. This ancient Scandinavian civilisation would have a sacrifice and mark the launch of their fearsome ships with blood. Later, the Medieval Ages changed tradition to be a little less gruesome, and offered wine instead. It was believed that the godparents would ensure the safety of the ship and its passengers.
Earlier, religious men or officials led the naming ceremony, but now it is mostly women who christen ships. Cruise ships typically have a grand ceremony for the christening with the godmother, godfather – or in some cases, godparents – appointed to officially reveal the name by smashing a glass bottle on the hull of the ship. The ship is decorated with flags and lots of ribbon, and a band strikes up with song as the bottle hits the ship. These days, it’s often a bottle of expensive champagne.
It is usually celebrities or famous people who are called on to christen cruises and become their godparents. The Queen of England was called to be godmother of P & O Cruises Britannia and her granddaughter-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge christened Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess. In both cases, a Nebuchadnezzar, a 15l bottle of champagne, was broken against the hull in celebration.
Actress Dame Helen Mirren is godmother to P & O Cruises’ Ventura cruise line. Sometimes, more than one person is named godparent of the cruise. American dance company The Rockettes christened the Norwegian Breakaway. While most godparents don’t have much to do with the cruise line after the ceremony, The Rockettes featured on a few sailings.
Royal Caribbean cruise line Anthem Of The Seas wanted to do things a little differently and had a contest to select the godmother of the ship. Disney and Royal Caribbean took things a bit further and went fairytale, appointing Tinkerbell from Peter Pan and Princess Fiona from the Shrek series to be godmothers to their cruises Disney Wonder and Allure Of The Seas.