(4 p.m. EDT) -- Silversea's newest and biggest ship, 596-passenger Silver Muse, was christened today at Monaco's Port Hercule in the presence of royalty. Prince Albert II of Monaco was the guest of honor at a glamorous ceremony attended by local dignitaries and passengers who had booked the luxury vessel's maiden voyage.
A sunny spring day faded into a sunset obscured by dark clouds, strong winds and heavy rain. Huddled under blankets and umbrellas, the audience made it through the first part of the ceremony, a beautiful recital by the Sinfonietta Orchestra of Rome, accompanying renowned virtuoso violinist, 31-year-old, British-born Charlie Siem.
Eventually, though, the whole party, orchestra included, was driven inside by the weather to the warmth of the ship's theater, the Venetian Lounge, for a cozier and champagne-fueled continuation of the ceremony. The evening included speeches by Silversea's chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio; the Archbishop of Monaco; and Prince Albert II himself, who made an impassioned plea to Silversea to help protect the world's oceans, a cause he famously supports.
Silversea is a family-owned, Italian company and is clearly proud of this. "It's always been our dream to build impressive and elegant vessels," said Manfredi Lefebvre. "It was never my vision to build an opulent ship for the sake of opulence. Silver Muse is symbolic of what we wanted: elegant, and moreover, Italian in style."
Keeping it in the family, Manfredi's 17-year-old daughter, Costanza Lefebvre, was given the honor of naming the ship. "I must be the youngest godmother out there," she said, with some emotion. In the time-honored fashion, once the naming party had regrouped on the dock under mercifully clear skies -- and Dad had donated his jacket to the shivering teenager -- she smashed the bottle across the bow in style.
Although Silver Muse was handed over to Silversea from Italy's Fincantieri shipyard in early April and has already sailed a few test cruises, the christening ceremony felt like it was ushering in a new era for the luxury line. For Silversea regulars, there are changes, not least the absence of a main dining room; instead, there are eight restaurants, each with an individual dress code, a departure from the tradition of small, luxury cruise ships.
But as Manfredi noted, "The future only belongs to those who prepare for it today and believe that the best is yet to come."
--By Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic contributor