What do Queen Elizabeth, Sofia Loren, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the Olsen twins (Mary-Kate and Ashley) and Whoopi Goldberg have in common?

Anyone who responded with "They are all cruise ship godmothers" would be correct.

Wait a minute! Isn't Daniel Inouye a man?

He sure is, and he is slated to be the first-ever "godfather" of a contemporary cruise ship when he christens NCL America's Pride of Hawaii in Los Angeles on May 20, 2006 (Editor's Note: Inouye is following a family tradition in christening NCL ships. His wife, Margaret, who passed away last month, was godmother for NCL America's Pride of Aloha).

Why the break with tradition? According to a statement from NCL president and CEO Colin Veitch, "Senator Inouye is the father of this project and its most steadfast supporter, and the introduction of Pride of Hawaii is its crowning event. So there can be no one more fitting than he to name our newest U.S. flagship."

Traditionally, the role of a ship's "godmother" is to bestow blessings on the ship and "all who sail upon her." The act of breaking a bottle of Champagne across the hull to christen it is fairly modern: in ancient days, human sacrifice was the norm, and in 19th-century France, the ship was "baptized" by a priest.

So how unusual is it to have a godfather rather than a godmother?

"We don't have hard statistics," says Brian Major, spokesman for the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's marketing arm. "It's certainly a first in modern cruise history, at least within the past century."

NCL is known for its cutting-edge innovations. It was the first cruise line to introduce dining at will with its Freestyle Cruising, and the first line to charge gratuities to shipboard accounts, moves that other cruise lines have since adopted. It has, under its NCL America division, built the first U.S.-flagged modern cruise ships -- Pride of America, launched in June 2005, and Pride of Hawaii, to be launched next month -- in over 50 years.

And there's another thing: While Inouye is indeed the first godfather, he's not the first man to be part of the godmothering team. That innovation goes to NCL as well; when the cruise line introduced Norwegian Sky (now, ironically enough, known as Pride of Aloha), it decided to honor its employees, men and women, by making them all godparents.