(8:50 p.m. EST) -- Today’s naming ceremony for Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas was celebrated with incredible fanfare at the new ship’s home base of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, before sailing a two-night introductory cruise to show off its amenities to media, travel agents and industry leaders.
This wasn’t your typical naming ceremony; it had a heartwarming message, made even more special given this week is the company’s 46th anniversary. In the process of choosing a godmother, Royal Caribbean launched a contest in South Florida looking for an educator who inspires students to “dream big, think differently, and challenge the status quo.”
More than 1,000 submissions were received, and with help from area educators, company employees, educators and the public, the list was narrowed down to three. The winner, Brittany Affolter, works with Teach for America, spends her time at Title 1 schools for low-income and at-risk students, and trains teachers at 14 high-need schools in Miami-Dade County on how to encourage students to reach their maximum potential. She also takes area students on field trips to expose them to various cultural opportunities in the region.
Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain said the ship’s godmother is someone who “pours her all into transforming the lives of children.”
Before christening the ship, Fain remarked about how the company further improved the Harmony of the Seas as the third in the line of Oasis class ships.
“The DNA may be the same, but we took the best ideas from recent ships, including Quantum Class, and used them here,” he said. These best features include the robotic bartenders, VOOM, dubbed the “fasted Internet at sea”.
Among the improvements, Fain shared that this is the most energy-efficient ship in its fleet; it is 20 percent more efficient than Allure and Oasis of the Seas. In addition, like 16 other ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, there is zero waste going to landfills meaning that everything is either reused, recycled or responsibly incinerated.
“We pride ourselves on pushing the limits when designing ships while remaining ethically responsible to the community and environment,” said Fain.
Pushing the limit seemed to be a theme for the christening, too. The ceremony began with a performance from the ship’s AquaTheater dancers emerging from a pool and splashing the crowd.
The largest ship in the world could not just use a typical bottle of champagne. Royal Caribbean worked with Veuve Cliquot to create an original, oversized bottle larger than anything commercially available.
Then an aerialist descended from above to bring Affolter the electronic button that would release the gigantic bottle of champagne down the zip-line to crack above Central Park in the al fresco atrium. It went off without a hitch and confetti rained down on the party. The surprises continued with Grammy Award-winning singer Jon Secada performing his popular hits to the crowd.
The 5,497-passenger Harmony of the Seas joins sister ship Allure of the Seas, which will share the same homeport while sailing seven-night itineraries to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Its maiden revenue sailing takes place November 12.
-- By Ramsey Qubein, Cruise Critic contributor