(11:20 a.m. EDT) -- After baking in the sun on a sweltering day in Venice, Holland America's new Nieuw Amsterdam got cooled off with a splash of bubbly. The 86,000-ton, 2,106-passenger ship was christened today by Her Royal Highness Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, who pulled a lever onboard to release a Champagne bottle against the hull of the vessel -- a maritime tradition thought to bring ships good luck. It broke on the first try.

The smash was the culmination of a ceremony in the ship's glittery, art deco Showroom at Sea theater, which paid homage to Holland America's rich history sailing to and from the Dutch-settled city of Nieuw Amsterdam -- better known today as New York (and the inspiration for much of the decor onboard) -- as well as its Dutch roots. This is actually the 11th HAL vessel to be christened by a member of the Dutch Royal family. Most recently, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands dedicated Nieuw Amsterdam's sister ship, Eurodam, in 2008.

Another fact: Nieuw Amsterdam is the fourth ship to bear the name. A video presentation chronicled the history of its predecessors, ships that served to shuttle immigrants to the New World and transport troops to Europe in times of war. Particularly moving was a black and white still of a young crewmember who, now long retired, was in the audience wiping his eyes with a tissue.

The crowd was entertained by a fantastic booming quartet called Cantare, which will perform regularly on the Nieuw Amsterdam; they sang "The Impossible Dream."

Another "wow" moment: at the start of the dedication ceremony, each captain from all of Holland America's 15 ships were elevated onto the stage by a hidden moving platform; earlier today, they arrived one by one to the ship in a flotilla of water taxis. So, if you happen to sail by another ship, from Amsterdam to Zuiderdam, wave hello to the co-captain (all HAL ships have 'em) filling in on the bridge!

After a blessing by Italian priests Father Sergio and Father Marco, Holland America President and CEO Stein Kruse spoke to the crowd of travel agents and journalists hailing from the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and beyond, making sure to wish "all of the Americans in the room a happy birthday!" Nieuw Amsterdam's captain Edward van Zaane also took to the podium, saluting his officers and crew.

Other VIP's in attendance included the chairman of Fincantieri, the shipyard that built Nieuw Amsterdam, Corrado Antonini; CEO of Carnival Corp. sister brand Princess Cruises, Alan Buckelew; and Nancy Brinker, the head of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, part of a long-standing partnership with Holland America via its On Deck for the Cure fundraising program, which recently hit the $2 million dollar mark in terms of contributions to breast cancer research.

We also ran into Carnival Cruise Lines' star cruise director and blogger, John Heald, who revealed in a recent post that he'd be stopping by to wish the Nieuw Amsterdam well. (Funny anecdote: he actually spelled it Nieu -- but, in his defense, it's a tough one, if our recent poll on hard-to-spell ship names is any indication!)

Nieuw Amsterdam is the second of three cruise ships being christened this weekend; Norwegian Cruise Line's largest-in-fleet Norwegian Epic had its day in the sun in New York on Friday, and American Cruise Lines will name its Independence later today in a ceremony, also on the U.S. East Coast, in Maine.

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor

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