It's a long-standing maritime tradition for all ship owners -- cargo as well as cruise -- to designate a worthy woman to preside over the official naming ceremony, and serve as a benevolent, if not inspiring, presence throughout its lifetime. Typically, godmothers tend to come from the ranks of royals, heads of state and celebrity contingents. At Royal Caribbean for instance, godmothers have included Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway, Rosalynn Carter, Lauren Bacall, Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg and Kathy Mellor, the National Education Association's 2004 Teacher of the Year. On other cruise lines, the late Princess Diana christened the "late" Royal Princess; Julie Andrews helmed Crystal Serenity; and Katie Couric, host of NBC's "Today," welcomed Carnival Valor.
But this competition, announced last week on "Today," is a little different. In a statement, company chairman and CEO Richard Fain is quoted as saying "recently, we realized that we have the opportunity to bring attention to amazing individuals who are not in the spotlight, but have lessons in courage, dedication and determination that are inspirational to us all."
In other words, Royal Caribbean is hoping that plain folks will chip in with their nominations of plain folks who demonstrate spirit, courage and integrity -- and who've maybe created some buzz. That means celebrities will not be contenders. (We came up with Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Cameron Diaz -- all young whippersnappers who are known for cheerleading various international causes -- before we realized we missed the point.)
While it may be more fun to entertain the celebrity angle it likely will be equally if not more inspiring to hear about folks who've made a difference in peoples' lives on the ground level. These could include a particularly influential teacher, mother, grandmother, friend, sister, pastor ... who knows?
To enter your own nomination, fill out an online application form. It's not too onerous a procedure -- you get just 500 words or less to explain why your nominee would make a perfect godmother for Freedom of the Seas. There are a couple of caveats to keep in mind they apply whether you nominate yourself or someone else):
Don't forget to read the fine print which states that, among other things, the nominee must be a legal U.S. resident; reside in the Continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii (sorry folks in St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and Guam, among other spots); and be 25 years of age or older.
The nominee must also be "of good moral character" with "nothing in their background that would be an embarrassment to NBC News, 'Today' or Royal Caribbean."
Forget about folks who are running for political office or are elected officials.
Finalists will undergo background checks (this is not a good time to discover that your heroine of choice has committed a felony or has been involved in, say, a misdemeanor that involved drugs or alcohol).
As criteria, the judges will weigh submitted essays as follows: 25 percent for courage, 25 for determination, 25 for inspiration and 25 for dedication.
The winner must be available (at no charge) for at least two days of media, a possible weeklong trip to Europe for Freedom of the Seas events prior to May 12, 2006; a May 11 - 15 cruise from New York onboard Freedom of the Seas; and a "Today" appearance in mid-February 2006.
And, finally, beyond the sheer honor of participating, the eventual winner will receive as "thanks" from Royal Caribbean a free cruise, every year, for the rest of their life.
Submissions are due no later than 5 p.m. EST on Friday, December 2, 2005.