Crown Princess Christened in New York

June 14, 2006
A horn blaring relentlessly this morning in Red Hook, Brooklyn, was not the music of angry truckers floating over from midtown Manhattan or the New Jersey Turnpike. The blast actually came from the bridge of Princess' brand-new Crown Princess, to celebrate the ship's christening ceremony and official naming by godmother Martha Stewart.

Former "Love Boat" captain Gavin MacLeod emceed the event high atop Crown Princess (and even with gray skies, we have to admit it's hard to beat a backdrop that consists of the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty). MacLeod was celebrating not only the launch of Crown Princess, but a personal milestone as well -- 2006 marks his 20th year as Princess' spokesman, and over that period of time he's delivered close to 20 ships.

Domestic diva Martha Stewart also spoke fondly of past cruises -- she has done four Atlantic crossings on Holland America's Rotterdam and Maasdam, Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, and former French Line flagship SS France (which later sailed for NCL as the SS Norway). "I think we were down in steerage," she joked of one voyage during the days of the class system. "I won a contest for best hat design ... made out of hangers and soap bars I stole out of the bathroom!"

Stewart then took her formal "Martha" tone of voice ("I take this very seriously") before pulling the lever that released confetti and the traditional bottle of bubbly. In a departure from customary procedure (breaking the bottle against the hull of the ship) it instead smashed -- on the first try -- right there on the railing, raining Champagne down on the Lido.

Princess Cruises' Chairman Peter Radcliffe and New York Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff also addressed the guests lining the decks surrounding Neptune Reef pool, including stewards, managers, wait staff and junior officers; VIP's and media; shipbuilder Fincantieri's Carlo De Marco; and Scripps Spelling Bee National Champion Katharine Close, who came onboard yesterday to launch Princess' "Bee at Sea" spelling competition program.

"American Idol" runner up Katharine McPhee sang the national anthem as well as her signature song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (her rendition of the tune advanced her to the final round of the reality show). Reverend Dr. Jean Smith, the executive director of the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, presented a Bible to Crown Princess' Captain Andrew Proctor as is tradition, and blessed the ship with wishes that "smooth seas may precede her and fair winds follow her."

Crown Princess departs today on its first Caribbean cruise with stops in Grand Turk, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Port Canaveral. The ship will spend its inaugural season sailing nine-day alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages with one-day stops in Bermuda, the brevity of which is a first for Princess.

Photo appears courtesy of Melissa Baldwin.