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What Is a Cruise Ship Godmother?

Susan Moynihan
Marissa Wright

Last updated
Nov 13, 2023

Read time
3 min read

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, with Royal Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

It's a longstanding naval tradition for new ships to be sponsored by a civilian -- typically a woman. With this honorific title, the cruise ship godmother is selected to bring good luck and protection to the vessel.

Cruise Ship Godmother Duties

The duties for cruise ship godmothers are simple: attend their ship's ceremonial ship launch and naming ceremony, where they bless and officially name the ship.

In past years, they would crack a bottle of Champagne on the hull of a new ship for good luck. Today, due to sheer size and logistics, that usually means the godmother pushes a button or pulls a lever that triggers a bottle of bubbly to swing down and crash on the bow.

Smashing the prow with a refreshing beverage like Champagne symbolizes a wave of good luck for the cruise ship and its crew. After the Champagne has distributed its good luck upon the ship, guests raise their glasses to toast and celebrate the new cruise ship.

How Do Cruise Lines Choose a Cruise Ship Godmother?

Pitbull performing at Norwegian Cruise Line's CruiseWorld 2018 event (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Historically, choosing a godmother revolved around female royalty. As cruise lines continue to progress, they’ve loosened the reins and welcomed a fresh wave of creativity which means harnessing more star power.

Naming a cruise ship godmother is also a great way to get publicity and build excitement for a new build. Hence the tradition of celebrities, including Kristin Chenoweth as godmother of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, and Princess Cruises was honored to have Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, agree to be godmother for the aptly named Royal Princess.

It's not just a sole woman who acts as godmother these days; Pitbull christened Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Escape and is the cruise ship’s godfather, while The Rockettes troupe shared the ceremonial title for Norwegian Breakaway.

Notable Cruise Ship Godmothers

One of the most notable cruise ship godmothers is Queen Elizabeth II. The famous British noble presided over the ship christening and was chosen as godmother for two Cunard ships: Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and Queen Elizabeth in 2010.

Leading ladies and actresses are popular picks for cruise ship's godmothers. Dame Judi Dench was chosen as godmother for Carnival Legend for Carnival Cruise Line; Dame Helen Mirren welcomed Scenic Eclipse and P&O Cruises’ Ventura; Sophia Loren is the “godmother for the MSC Cruises fleet,” which is at 19 ships and counting; and Julie Andrews is the godmother of Crystal Serenity.

Certain cruise lines have been aiming to break the mold of godmothers. Celebrity Cruises has been selecting women who are breaking barriers, such as seven-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, who's the godmother of Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Beyond, and Malala Yousafzai, who is the godmother of Celebrity Edge.

Other cruise lines, like P&O Cruises, take their godmother nominations' approach quite a bit differently. One prime example of this is Pacific Explorer's godmother, which is none other than Dora the Explorer.

Check out our article on our 13 favorite cruise godmothers.

Publish date January 08, 2020
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