Christening a cruise ship isn’t as simple as one might think. A tradition held by superstitious shipbuilders, the christening of a cruise ship must happen before its maiden voyage. In fact, these ships must endure many rites of passage before being deemed sea-worthy.
The most important is the boat christening, which is a special celebration that ensures good fortune on the high seas. But other shipbuilding traditions, such as the float out ceremony, are considered just as important in the long run. From cruise ship godmothers to breaking bottles of champagne, read on to learn how a cruise ship is christened.
There’s a Coin Ceremony
The first rite of passage a ship must endure is the coin ceremony, a tradition which is carried out by the boat’s madrina. Considered to be the boat’s godmother during the shipbuilding process, the madrina is often related to a shipbuilder or some other employee of importance.
Once the keel of the boat has been built, the madrina places two newly minted coins in the keel or mast, at which point they are welded into the boat. The coins become part of the vessel and are meant to bring good luck to the ship’s many voyages.
The Ship Must Pass a Float Test
After the cruise ship has been built on the dry dock, it must be tested for water. This occurs during the aptly named “float out ceremony.” At this point, the boat has not yet touched water.
The float out ceremony takes place on the dry dock, as the boat’s engineers, builders and technical workers gather beside the ship’s hull. An old tradition that is meant to usher in good luck, the madrina breaks a bottle of Champagne against the hull. At this point, everyone boards the boat and the dry dock is flooded. If the ship withstands the test, it is floated out to the wet dock, where work will continue.
The Cruise Godmother is Chosen
As part of a time-honored tradition, a civilian is named as godmother to the ship. While the madrina is an integral part of the shipbuilding process, the ship’s official godmother is usually a celebrity or yachting industry VIP.
In fact, it is a long-standing tradition for the royal family to be named cruise ship godmothers, as both Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge participated in this rite of passage. Other famous cruise ship godmothers include Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg and Martha Stewart. The godmother of a ship is seen as a good luck charm who bestows a sense of honor and safety to the ship.
There’s a Big Party (With Lots of Champagne)
It takes many months and even years to build a cruise ship, but once it’s finally finished, it’s time to party. A cruise ship christening celebrates the official launch of the vessel with a gala event, complete with celebrities, shipbuilders, travel industry reps and members of the media all in attendance.
The cruise ship’s godmother is the unofficial gala hostess and participates in a ceremony that blesses and names the ship. In order to bring the boat good luck, the godmother must also break a bottle of Champagne over the boat’s bow. As long as the bottle breaks, the cruise ship is believed to have good fortune and the boat is officially christened.