It's hard to imagine what the Queen of England, Whoopi Goldberg, a foster mom, Martha Stewart and Tinkerbell have in common -- until you realize that they are all godmothers of cruise ships. Her Royal Highness, a felon and a fairy. Who would have guessed?
The rituals surrounding the launch of a new ship date back to ancient times, when sacrificial human blood was used to bless a ship, and the rites were performed by pagan priests. In modern times, female royalty was selected to do the honors, and the christening liquid of choice became Champagne. In today's age of 24-hour news, instant celebrity and paparazzi, actresses, models, businesswomen, philanthropists, astronauts, politicians, athletes and newswomen have been chosen for the role.
Beyond bottle smashing duties, the requisite photo ops and attending the launch festivities, godmothers don't really take much of a role with their godships. You're not likely to cruise on Holland America's Zaandam with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen anytime soon, nor will you see Michelle Kwan starring in Oasis of the Seas' next ice skating show. The high-profile picks seem to be more of a publicity stunt, for both the celebs and the cruise line, than anything else.
And yet we still love guessing who each line will pick for its newest ship, debating whether the ship's leading lady fits its personality, and watching the star-studded send-off for each new vessel. In that spirit, Cruise Critic's editorial staff has each volunteered his or her personal favorite godmother...and a few we could do without.
Queen Elizabeth II
Possibly the most well-known godmother to possibly the most well-known cruise line is Britain's own Queen Elizabeth II. During her 60-year reign, the Queen has presided over the christening of two ships for Cunard -- Queen Elizabeth in 2010 and Queen Mary 2 in 2004 -- as well as launching her namesake, Queen Elizabeth 2, in 1967. Her Royal Highness exudes grace and glamour and all of her ships have followed her example.
--Jamey Bergman, Cruise Critic contributor
When you can't get the Queen, you get the woman who played her. In 2008, P&O tapped Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren to serve as godmother of Ventura. Mirren, star of "Gosford Park," TV's "Prime Suspect" and "The Queen," added more than elegance to the christening. Her drawing power turned something that's often staid and staged into a star-studded soiree, featuring appearances by Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) and Mr. Bond (Roger Moore), among other Brit icons. And we'll wager there's been no better execution of the lines "I name this ship [fill in the blank]. May God bless her and all who sail on her." Best supporting godmother goes to the Royal Marine Commandos, who scaled the hull and smashed the bottle.
--Dan Askin, Cruise Critic contributor
The godmothers I like best have some relationship with the cruise line that chooses them, and to that end my pick is Reba McEntire, the country music superstar who welcomed Norwegian Cruise Lines' Norwegian Epic into the world in 2010. She was a great fit for a ship like Epic that just oozes entertainment, and its joyful ambience onboard matches her public -- and private -- persona. What sealed the deal for me is that McEntire had, and has been, one of Norwegian’s biggest fans, having cruised on the line on her own vacations. If that doesn't make her a superb symbol of a cruise ship, I don’t know what does.
--Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
I love a ship's godmother who makes a naming ceremony sparkle with real Hollywood glamour. I am (confession time here) a HUGE fan of "The Sound of Music," so I was absolutely thrilled when Academy Award-winning actress Julie Andrews was announced as godmother of Crystal Serenity in 2003. Everything about the naming in Southampton was perfect -- the ship was gorgeous, the ceremony was brief and elegant, Dame Julie looked stunning in pink, and when the band struck up a few chords of "My Favourite Things," everybody cheered.
--Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic contributor
Sharon Smith, Nina Barough, Emma Pontin and Michelle Morgan
Celebrity Cruises gets my thumbs-up for using its Solstice Class godmother picks to make a difference. You may not have heard of Professor Sharon Smith, ocean scientist (Solstice, 2008); Nina Barough, founder of the "Walk the Walk" charity (Equinox, 2009); Emma Pontin, yachtswoman (Eclipse, 2010); or Michelle Morgan, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network (Silhouette, 2011), but they're all ordinary woman who have triumphed over breast cancer -- and are now Celebrity godmothers. In addition to honoring these brave ladies, Celebrity has used its new ship debuts as opportunities to raise money for breast cancer research and screenings. Forget the glitz and glamour -- that's my kind of christening!
--Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
Lots of folks are familiar with Sophia Loren's sizeable acting resume and performances that have won her more than 50 international awards. But, undoubtedly, one of her most notable roles is off-screen as godmother. It's impressive to serve in that capacity for just one ship, but Loren has played godmum to eight MSC Cruises ships (every new-build since MSC Lirica). MSC Divina, which will debut in 2012, will be her ninth godchild. According to a line spokesman, MSC considers Loren to be the godmother of its entire fleet. She gets our vote because no other woman in history has been chosen for this maternal honor so many times.
--Ashley Kosciolek, Editor
When Norwegian Dawn launched in 2002, it sailed roundtrip from New York, making Kim Cattrall (formerly of HBO's "Sex and the City") a fitting choice for godmother. Though the ship no longer sails out of the Big Apple, its "freestyle" vibe is still a perfect match -- Samantha Jones, Cattrall's character on the hit show, was known for her sass, party-loving ways and carefree attitude. When I was onboard the ship, most passengers partied it up until the wee hours. I’m sure Cattrall -- and Jones -- would approve.
--Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Cruise Critic contributor
Katherine Louise Calder
Foster mothers are like godmothers on steroids -- all the heavy lifting of mothering without the honorific. That's why I love that Katherine Louise Calder was chosen as godmother of Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas when it was launched in 2006. The Oregon mom had fostered more than 400 special-needs children during 27 years -- four of whom are now her grandchildren after being adopted by her daughters -- when she was selected. How refreshing that a devoted foster mom was chosen instead of a celebrity. Calder is unlikely to find much freedom on land given her enormous responsibilities. She deserves the usual godmother perk -- an annual free cruise.
--Jodi Thompson, Cruise Critic contributor
How's this for a success story? Girl works on Disney Wonder. Girl makes a name for herself on (but doesn't win!) "American Idol." Girl garners Grammy, Oscar, worldwide acclaim. Girl gets to be godmother of Disney ship. A dream come true, right? And that's just what happened to Jennifer Hudson in January 2011 when she christened Disney Dream, the first new-build from Disney Cruise Line in more than a decade. It's not easy outshining a slew of dancing icons (Mickey, Donald, etc.), fireworks and one of the more beautiful ships on the seven seas, but J-Hud did it with aplomb.
--John Deiner, Cruise Critic contributor
She'll always be Mrs. Elvis Presley to most, but you have to give Priscilla Presley -- the godmother of the Great American Steamboat Company's American Queen paddle-wheeler, which will sail out out of Memphis beginning April 2012 -- a tremendous amount of credit. Besides growing Elvis Presley Enterprises into a marketing juggernaut, she's been a purposeful ambassador for the Dream Foundation, which helps grant the wishes of adults with terminal illnesses. Then there's her longtime stint on "Dallas" and her spin in the three "Naked Gun" movies. (We're chuckling just thinking about them.) Yes, her Jungle Room days are long behind her, but like the Mississippi itself, she just keeps on rollin' along.
--John Deiner, Cruise Critic contributor
Two We Could Do Without: Tinkerbell and Princess Fiona
Don't get us wrong -- we love animated movies and their quirky, whimsical stars. But how a cruise line that takes itself seriously can choose an animated character to christen its ship is beyond us. Yet it's been done twice: Disney Cruise Line chose Tinkerbell as godmother to Disney Wonder and Royal Caribbean chose Shrek's Princess Fiona to christen Allure of the Seas. We know that Disney loves to talk magic and wishes and that fairies are no stranger to the godmother role. And we understand that Royal Caribbean really likes to hype is partnership with Dreamworks that has resulted in some pretty cool onboard programming. But, please, pick REAL PEOPLE to christen your next ships. Just sayin'.
--Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor