(7:01 p.m. EDT/12:01 a.m. 23 October BST) -- Celebrity Cruises has joined forces with British breast cancer charity Walk the Walk to launch the Celebrity SunWalk in Southampton on April 24 -- the same day the cruise line will name its newest ship, the 122,000-ton Celebrity Eclipse.
The SunWalk, a sponsored 10-km power-walk, which is expected to attract thousands of Southampton residents, is a spinoff from the famous Playtex MoonWalk, an annual event in May, at which 15,000 women power-walk a marathon through the streets of London at night in decorated bras to raise money for breast cancer.
The association is part of a growing trend for cruise lines to adopt and support charities. Celebrity's sister brand, Royal Caribbean, has a long-standing connection with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, while MSC Cruises now has Unicef logos on its new ships and collection boxes onboard. Holland America Line, meanwhile, offers sponsored 5-km charity walks on 500 cruises each year.
The first official MoonWalk in 1997 was such a hit that there's now an event in Edinburgh in June, as well as daytime SunWalks in Bristol and Newcastle in July. So far, the charity has raised more than £52 million for breast cancer. In fact, the event is almost a victim of its own success -- the 2010 London MoonWalk sold out within an hour of registration opening. So, not only is this shorter distance a chance to introduce new people to power-walking, but it's also the first time the south coast has had such an event.
Celebrity's involvement all ties in with the fact that Walk the Walk's founder and chief executive, Nina Barough, CBE, was chosen as godmother of Celebrity Equinox, launched in Southampton in July of this year.
Although Celebrity initially kept quiet about its plans to support the charity financially, the walk is expected to raise more than £250,000 and will benefit both parties. "Walk the Walk has an appropriate link with Celebrity," Celebrity's U.K. and Ireland General Manager Jo Rzymowska told Cruise Critic. "It's about celebrating life, being positive and keeping fit, and it targets an audience of women -- and we are very focused on what women want."
In fact, this SunWalk won't just be open to women -- men and children can take part, too, with a choice of a 5-km or a 10-km route. Everybody older than 13, men and Celebrity Cruises' senior management included, is expected to raise at least £100 and walk in a decorated bra. You can enter online at www.walkthewalk.org, for £26 (£18 for children), which includes a bra and decorating tips.
The walk will begin and end in Southampton's Mayflower Park, with Eclipse as a backdrop. "We wondered about having the finishing line on the ship, but the logistics were too complex," said Rzymowska. "But people will feel part of the ship anyway at the finish in Mayflower Park, and there will be all sorts of events linked to the kind of experience they would have on a Celebrity ship."
This won't be the first launch in Southampton that engages the local community; tons of sand were imported to Mayflower Park in April 2008 to create a beach for a weeklong Caribbean-themed extravaganza, celebrating the launch of sister brand Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.
And what happens after the SunWalk? Rzymowska is cautious about committing to the future. "If we attract the right number of walkers and get the right level of support, it is our aim and desire to repeat the event," she said. "We are aiming to have some representation of Walk the Walk onboard, too. We don't want this to be a one-minute wonder."
Of course, the big question is, with the walk and the naming ceremony taking place on the same day, will Nina Barough be asked to be godmother of a second Celebrity ship? Rzymowska isn't telling, but we'll keep you posted.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
Image of Jo Rzymowska and Nina Barough appears courtesy of Celebrity Cruises.