The weather cooperated, a fuse did not.
While sunny skies led to a crystal clear night in Venice for the naming ceremony of Carnival's brand-spanking-new Carnival Freedom on Sunday, a blown fuse in the sound system of the ship's ornate Victoriana showroom delayed the event for nearly an hour.
The ship's British cruise director livened things up, wisecracking to the crowd of European travel agents, press and dignitaries with updates on the situation. And after an Italian translation to the mostly Italian crowd, he jokingly translated for the benefit of Germans in the audience how to say "the sound system is kaput."
After a temporary microphone setup was hastily arranged, Carnival bigwigs entered the theater accompanying the general vicar of Venice, Fincantieri shipyard Chairman Corrado Antonini, and Carnival Freedom Captain Orazio D’Aita. Kathy Ireland, the ship's godmother, came next, and she elegantly towered over the men. Carnival President and CEO Bob Dickinson -- who gave a brief intro in Italian as an homage to our locale (before continuing in English) -- noted that Freedom is the eighth ship built for Carnival by Fincantieri, starting with the construction of Destiny in 1996, which like the Freedom was built in Marghera, just outside Venice. Three more Carnival ships will emerge from the same Italian shipyard, including Carnival Splendor, which debuts in June 2008.
"I think it's safe to say we like the work," Dickinson said.
As to why Ireland had been chosen as this ship's godmother, the Carnival executive noted that her company's slogan --"finding solutions for families, especially for busy moms," -- mirrors Carnival's desire to attract families to its ships. Indeed, in her remarks, she proclaimed Carnival a "magnificent solution for families." Other factors that spurred Carnival Freedom to twin its image to Kathy Ireland's is that the model has been a strong entrepreneurial success; she heads a billion dollar home design and fashion firm that bears her name, and also features a jewelry line, run with help from the legendary Elizabeth Taylor, a pal. As well, she and her husband are raising a family, and Ireland also finds the time to teach Sunday school and work for charity.
In fact, Dickinson announced that a $25,000 donation had been made in her honor to the Alliance for Christian Education.
Ireland later took the stage to hit the lever that would control a magnum of Veuve Cliquot champagne poised to hit the ship's side. But before doing so, she gushed in a little girl voice -- which didn't quite mesh with comments about her titanium-level entreprenurism -- about "the exciting, exciting event," observing that "this ship is incredible," and admitting she couldn't wait until "the twister slide opens tomorrow." Ireland, her husband and three children accepted Carnival's invitation to stay onboard for the ship's nine-night inaugural sailing, which departs today. Interesting tidbit: Elizabeth Taylor too was initially booked to join her pal but later cancelled.
As Ireland christened the ship she declared, "My heart will always cherish this ship and everyone who experiences her will always be in my prayers. God bless everyone who comes in contact with this vessel." The crowd applauded as the champagne bottle smashed on cue. The ceremony was followed by a show production, "A Ticket to Ride," featuring hits by The Beatles.
Later, sitting at a grand table with dignitaries in the center of the ship's Posh restaurant, Ireland seemed gleeful when presented with a custom necklace made by a Rome jeweler, courtesy of Fincantieri, and a sparkling necklace and dangling earrings from the Elizabeth Taylor Collection, purchased for her by Carnival.
Carnival Freedom, the 22nd ship in the Carnival fleet, will spend its first eight months in Europe, including inaugurating Carnival's first visits to Greece and Turkey. The ship will sail a series of 12-night cruises before heading to Miami, where itineraries will focus on the Caribbean. Carnival Freedom will return to Europe in 2008.
--by Fran Golden, Cruise Critic Contributor.