(10:30 p.m. EDT) -- In a ceremony today in the atrium of Carnival Horizon, godmother Queen Latifah, alongside Capt. Luigi De Angelis celebrated the new vessel, pouring Champagne over a bell to officially christen the ship.
The event, which is a traditional part of launching a new ship, took place in front of gathered media, travel agents and VIPs while the ship was docked at New York's Manhattan Cruise Terminal.
"I've been a Queen for a while now … but I never thought I'd be asked to be a godmother" the Grammy-winning rap artist said in thanking Carnival for the honor.
Brand ambassador John Heald served as emcee for the ceremony, and Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy took the stage, thanking the the crew onboard Carnival Horizon for their dedication and tireless work.
"It's a very exciting day of all of us, all 40,000 employees around the world," Duffy said.
Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald, Chairman Micky Arison, Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott and Carnival board members also attended the ceremony. Choosing a celebrity has become the norm when it comes to cruise ships. And while many godmothers (or godfathers) haven't necessarily cruised themselves, Latifah is a big fan.
The Oscar-nominated star said she loves cruising because of its inclusive nature. "To me, it's the coolest thing in the world. Everything is there," she said.
The christening was followed by a Lip Sync Battle competition in which Donald and Duffy took the stage to warm up the crowd, lip syncing and dancing to "I Gotta Feeling" from the Black Eyed Peas and "Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars. The main event was a battle between Latifah and Elliott. Elliott, complete with a huge blond wig, performed Whitesnake's anthem "Here I Go Again." Latifah, though, was the big winner, nailing the Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" while wearing a sassy yellow raincoat.
The battle capped a day that started at the Kimpton Ink48 Hotel in Manhattan, where Duffy and Heald hosted media, extolling the cruise line's partnership with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Duffy presented a check for $100,000 to Richard Shadyac Jr., CEO and President of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. St. Jude invests in research and treatment for children with cancer.
Also on hand to accept the check was a budding artist, Victoria, 11, who beat a brain tumor with the help of doctors at St. Jude. She spoke about the importance of the partnership and how fundraising efforts can help children like her fight cancer. (She also talked about how much she loved Carnival Horizon's pizza from Pizzeria Del Capitano.) Duffy said Carnival has raised $16 million for St. Jude.
Latifah made an appearance at the news conference, as well, giving an excited Victoria a hug and speaking to the media. When asked about her reaction to being named godmother of Carnival Horizon, Latifah said: "I feel blessed. God made me the Godmother. How about that?"
Later, onboard Horizon, celebrity chef Guy Fieri along with brewmaster Colin Presby cut a ribbon at Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse and Brewhouse, marking the official opening of the joint. Horizon is the only ship to have the standalone barbecue restaurant, which also has its own onboard craft brewery. Presby created a new cinnamony Parched Pig Big Apple Pie beer specifically for the ship's sailings out of New York.
Carnival Horizon is the 26th ship in the fleet, joining nearly identical sister Carnival Vista as the second vessel in the Vista Class. Horizon debuted in April, sailing a short season around the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic on its way to New York for the naming ceremony. It will sail a series of itineraries from Manhattan before homeporting in Miami.
The third ship in the Vista Class, Carnival Panorama, is set to debut in late 2019 and will sail from its West Coast home in Long Beach, California.
--By Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor