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Date Published: May 11, 2006
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Freedom's Naming Ceremony Is Both Private -- and Public
Tonight, guests onboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, anchored off the Statue of Liberty, will be privy to the official naming ceremony and gala celebration, which will take place in the ship's Arcadia Theater, before moving outdoors for a late evening fireworks display.

The bummer news is of course that unless you're invited to come onboard you'll miss these festivities. But there's better news. Tomorrow morning, hosts of NBC's "Today" -- Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Al Roker -- will come aboard to officially welcome the ship to New York (this time with the ceremonial Champagne smash), devoting its entire three-hour telecast to Freedom of the Seas. Set your alarm or your TIVO: the show airs from 7 - 10 a.m. Eastern.

The original plan had been to build a "Today" stage outdoors, but tomorrow's rainy forecast has folks scrambling to create an indoor set, most likely on the Promenade. While a "Today" spokeswoman could provide little detail about plans for the show, you can pretty much bet that a sodden downpour will mean no footage of anchors trying out the Flowrider.

Already, "Today" crew members are wandering around the vessel filming vignettes. The show's hosts will not board until tomorrow morning, alas, though sightings of Barry Manilow, a special guest who will sing on the show have been reported.

Another very special guest will also be featured and that's the ship's godmother. As you may remember, Portland, Oregon's Katherine Louise Calder was the winner of the "TODAY Sets Sail" national godmother search. The purpose of the nationwide contest was to choose an extraordinary ordinary person to serve in this prestigious role. Calder was chosen for her efforts, over the past 27 years, to give hundreds of special needs' children a foster care home.

Calder will participate in the live christening ceremony and will release a bottle of Fleur de Champagne on the bow of the ship -- as is traditional.

Stay tuned to a report on this evening's festivities from Cruise Critic's Melissa Baldwin, who's onboard Freedom of the Seas tonight. She'll also be posting an item tomorrow about life behind the scenes at "Today" -- and the second christening ceremony.
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