Finally, something went right on the first try for NCL America's Pride of America. Against the backdrop of Manhattan's midtown skyline, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, the ship's godmother, pulled the lever that smashed the ceremonial bottle of Champagne against Pride's all-American hull.|
The ship's long-awaited christening ceremony, held today on Pride's pool deck under a fabulous blue sky and a surprisingly cool temperature, was as patriotic as one would expect. After all, Pride of America is the first newly built ocean-going cruise ship to sail under the U.S. flag in more than half a century (Pride of Aloha, its U.S.-flagged step-sibling already sailing in Hawaii, was actually renamed and refurbished before entering service there). Speakers such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who's in Ghana presenting New York's Olympic proposal) and New York Senator Hillary Clinton offered best wishes via videotape. Easily the most moving moment was the raising of an American flag that had flown, this morning, above the U.S. Capitol and was then, er, flown to New York for the ship's festivities.
On hand, NCL's President Colin Veitch introduced folks involved in the ceremony: Rear Admiral Thomas H. Gilmore, U.S. Coast Guard; Michael Sacco, president of the Seafarers International Union of North America; Elaine Chao, the U.S. Secretary of Labor; and Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman of Star Cruises, NCL's parent company. Other features included the singing of the national anthem by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and "America the Beautiful" by Elika Santos and Sana Anguay, a Hawaiian duet.
Event attendees, many of whom will stay onboard for an overnight cruise-to-nowhere, were presented with fresh fuchsia-colored orchid leis. Anyone who watched the ceremony on NCL's live webcast -- nice touch! -- and who thought they heard the sound of humming bees should know that maracas, painted with tropical Hawaiian scenes, were also provided to onlookers.
Today's event inevitably must have spurred a big sigh of relief from NCL as Pride of America's young history has been a tumultuous one. The ship, originally conceived by the now-defunct American Classic Voyages, was acquired by NCL as a hull. NCL then barged it across the Atlantic to a German shipyard where the rest was to be constructed. Alas, a severe storm in January 2004 swamped the vessel -- up to three decks -- and sent it 11 meters down to the bottom of the seabed. The resulting reconstruction, and the shipyard's eventual move into bankruptcy, delayed Pride of America even further.
But for NCL this was a day for looking forward rather than back. And, perhaps Ms. Chao's successful performance of the traditional champagne smash signals a new era for Pride of America, one that, to quote the Seafarers International Union's Mike Sacco, indicates that the future of the ship will hold "nothing but smooth sailing."
Tomorrow, Pride of America sets sail with Regis and Kelly -- and Cruise Critic! Stay tuned Monday as we launch our virtual of the six-night inaugural voyage.