Scattered showers didn't keep the bubbly from flowing in Miami Saturday evening as godmother Rosie O'Donnell officially named and christened Norwegian Cruise Line's newest Jewel-class ship: Norwegian Pearl.
Norwegian Pearl is the 13th ship in the fleet, and while styled similarly to Norwegian Jewel, launched late last year, it has some innovations we can't wait to try out -- such as a four-lane, 10-pin bowling alley located in Bliss Ultra Lounge and Night Club (an industry first), NCL's first rock-climbing wall, and two top-of-the-ship Deluxe Owner's Suites. Of course, the ship will also feature some now-familiar NCL concepts like Courtyard Villas and a plethora of dining options.
The star of the evening was the ship's godmother, Rosie O'Donnell whose credits include "The View." O'Donnell is a particularly special godmother, though, because she has a real connection with NCL -- her travel company R Family Vacations chartered Norwegian Dawn in July of 2004 for its first cruise dedicated to gays and lesbians with children. Her HBO documentary, "All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise," chronicled that voyage, and R Family has since chartered other ships in NCL's fleet for gay and lesbian family sailings.
If showers hampered the logistics of the evening's festivities, they by no means interfered with the enthusiasm of the folks in attendance. The pier-side ceremony was moved inside to the ship's Stardust Theater, which began at approximately 5:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. as planned. Mimosas and Champagne were offered as we took our seats inside the 93,530-ton, 2,384-passenger ship's theater, while Robert Palmer's music video for "Simply Irresistible" flashed across a projector screen -- in tune with NCL's tag line of the same name for the ship (you'll see it on all of their advertising materials). Four female dancers from the ship's show "Sea Legs" swayed to the beat dressed in glittering royal blue mini-dresses while holding black and white guitars.
President and CEO of NCL Corporation Colin Veitch stepped up to address audience murmurs about the christening's late start with an appropriate and upbeat joke: "I apologize about the late start, but as you know with 'Freestyle Cruising,' there's 'no set time' for a christening."
Norwegian Pearl's Cruise Director Matthew Baker emceed, and Miami-based chamber choir Seraphic Fire performed "Silent Night," among many other holiday songs, with the Miami Philharmonic (the stage was not decorated for the holidays, but the atrium and Java Cafe are decked out for Christmas with trees and gift boxes). The Miami sector of the United States Coast Guard was also in tow, and the passengers were invited to sing along to "The Star Spangled Banner."
Fans roared as Emmy-winning talk show host Rosie took the stage to thank the cruise line for allowing her to be a part of something that is very special to her. She also announced one bit of exciting news: The guests who attended a fundraiser onboard Norwegian Pearl on Friday night (December 15) helped to raise a whopping $600,000 for her charity, Rosie's For All Kids Foundation. The money will provide financial support for non-profit programs serving economically disadvantaged and at-risk children and their families. The guests who donated received a gourmet dinner, a Broadway-style show, a comedy show by famed troupe Second City and a sail-away cocktail party.
Reverend Kevin Johnson blessed the ship before Rosie catapulted the Champagne bottle against its hull by pulling a lever -- not once but four times. The last two were for comedic effect only (and the audience was in hysterics); on her initial yank, the person outside apparently wasn't being alerted to release the bottle (the second one did the trick). Breaking a bottle of bubbly on a new vessel is an old maritime tradition; of course, we were not outside to see the smash in person, but the larger-than-life image on the projection screen and streamers that fell from the ceiling were more than enough to make us dance in our seats.
To close the program, Veitch reflected on NCL's 40-year history in honor of the line's 40th anniversary (which is actually this week) -- then surprised the audience with a second, goofier video that perfectly portrays the line's fun, "Freestyle" attitude.
In the video, many NCL employees -- including Veitch and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Passenger Services Andy Stuart -- lip synced and danced their way onboard in their own "Simply Irresistible" spoof ... electric guitars and all. But the scene that got the most laughs was Stuart crowd-surfing after he rocked out to the familiar 80's tune.
Beginning December 22, 2006, Norwegian Pearl will sail two seven-night itineraries to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Its Western and Southern Caribbean program's start date is scheduled for January 5, 2007. The ship repositions to Seattle in the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2008 for seven-night Alaska itineraries, then will swing back to the Western and Southern Caribbean for five- and nine-night sailings.