Countless maritime traditions and ceremonies welcome new ships to the seas. While some test seaworthiness and how structurally sound a vessel is, others are purely ceremonial -- and that includes the cruise ship keel laying ceremony.
Laying the keel of a ship is a mix of necessity and ceremony in the shipping industry. But what is the keel of the ship exactly? What is the keel laying ceremony, and why is laying of a cruise ship's keel celebrated in the first place? Find out everything you need to know about this unique ceremony below.
The keel of a ship (or the ship keel) is the center structural piece or spine of the bottom of the vessel that has the hull attached to it.
The "laying" of the keel is the official first step in the construction of the ship and is celebrated with a ceremony attended by officials from both the cruise line and the shipbuilding company.
In the era of wooden shipbuilding, the celebration surrounded the actual placement of the wooden backbone of the ship's bottom structure in the construction dock.
Laying the keel of a ship or boat was traditionally a time for celebration because it both formally marks the beginning of construction for a new vessel and brings luck to the ship during its lengthy build. The luck is also supposed to extend to the captain and crew during its years of service.
Today's modern cruise ships are a composite of modules built in construction yards, not in a dock. The keel laying ceremony is held when the first module or set of modules are placed in the dock in which the ship will take shape, specifically as the modules are joined together. From there is where the completed ship will eventually be floated out.
For good luck, a pair of coins are sometimes placed under the keel of a boat or welded in place on the hull in a coin ceremony, which may take place in conjunction with the keel laying ceremony.
Laying the keel of a boat is an easy-to-celebrate ceremony that allows cruise lines to celebrate the beginning of a new build. We hypothesize keel laying ceremonies will continue for the foreseeable future due to its long standing tradition in the shipping industry.