(6 a.m. EDT) – Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will name Princess Cruises' newest ship, Royal Princess, at a ceremony in Southampton -- 29 years after Princess Diana became Godmother to a ship of the same name.
Princess Cruises announced the Duchess -- Kate Middleton prior to her marriage to Prince William in 2011 -- would name the new 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Royal Princess on Thursday June 13, 2013, at the culmination of a week of inaugural celebrations for the ship.
Kate joins a list of U.K. royals who have presided over cruise ship naming ceremonies. The Queen, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, have all named ships in Southampton, as did Prince William's late mother, Princess Diana, in 1984.
Alan Buckelew, Princess Cruises' president and CEO said: “It is a great honour for Princess Cruises that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has accepted our invitation to become the Godmother to Royal Princess. We are delighted that the Duchess will launch our new ship and can think of no better way to celebrate our company's British heritage and our commitment to the country.”
According to a schedule of events provided by the line, Royal Princess will arrive at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton on Friday June 7 and will sail a maiden voyage June 16. In between, a series of inaugural events will take place, including two preview cruises (June 9 and June 14). The cruises will sail roundtrip from Southampton on a two-night itinerary which calls in St. Peter Port, Guernsey.
Royal Princess, currently undergoing sea trials, is some 20 percent larger than Princess Cruises' next biggest vessels. The ship will offer a few novel features, which include the innovative SeaWalk, a cantilevered, glass-enclosed walkway that extends 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship and 128 feet over the water; cruising's first "television studio"; and a fondue dining option and balconies on all outside cabins.
The ship will debut with 12-night cruises out of Barcelona and Venice that will take place throughout the summer. A sister ship, Regal Princess, will arrive in spring 2014.
Shortly after the ship debuts, the Duchess and Prince William are expecting a child, due in mid-July according to the couple, who spoke to press about the pregnancy at an event in Scotland this week.
--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor