The tradition of appointing a ship’s godmother is a fundamental nautical custom during which the selected godmother officiates a ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle on the ship’s bow to bid the vessel and its travelers good fortune.
Ceremonies to launch new ships originated in ancient times when blood rites were performed by pagan priests. In the modern era, human sacrifices were thankfully replaced by royal pomp and ceremony, and fresh blood was replaced by champagne. Currently, the highest ranking royal to be chosen as a ship godmother is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom who has had the honor of christening two grand Cunard ships — the Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and Queen Elizabeth in 2010 – as well as serving as godmother of Britannia from the P&O fleet.
Things have certainly changed with celebrities and accomplished businesswomen (including powerful travel agency CEOs) commonly replacing heads of state as ship godmothers. But in the past decade, star quality has soared again with the savviest large ship cruise lines. Here’s a look at the latest megaships honored to have champagne bottles smashed across their hulls by the five biggest superstars to ever serve as cruise ship godmothers.
KATY PERRY & NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE’S PRIMA
There are bound to be fireworks (as well as volcanic flares) in Iceland this month when multi-platinum hitmaker Katy Perry performs at the christening ceremony of Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Prima, the first ship ever to be christened in the far north capital city of Reykjavik. As godmother, the pop icon and “American Idol” judge will not only have the honor of performing for the grand launch celebration, but she will also sail on Norwegian Prima’s official maiden voyage and perform on board for a lucky audience of 3,000 fellow guests.
“We are so excited to welcome Katy Perry, a one-of-a-kind artist and worldwide sensation, as godmother of Norwegian Prima,” said Harry Sommer, President and CEO of NCL. “We are so incredibly proud that she will be part of the Norwegian Cruise Line family and look forward to launching our beautiful, innovative ship with her.”
NCL’s Prima is the first in a new class of ships designed to elevate every aspect of large ship cruising. It features the most elegant and spacious staterooms of any Norwegian ship, and the most outdoor deck space of any new cruise ship…industrywide. Unique features include the Ocean Boulevard promenade, outdoor lounges, an infinity pool, the fastest slides on the open ocean, and, on the very top, the world’s first three-level racetrack at sea. Also at the top of the ship is The Haven, a private neighborhood of the ship’s most luxurious suites with 24-hour butler service, concierge service and a private sundeck.
SOPHIA LOREN & THE MSC CRUISES SEASCAPE
Silver screen siren Sophia Loren is not just the glamorous godmother of an MSC Cruises ship, she’s the godmother of every MSC cruise ship. If you’re keeping score, that’s 18 ships so far, and the Italian sea goddess is not done yet. This winter, the beloved Oscar winner will reign over the naming ceremony for the new MSC Seascape.
The Seascape will be MSC’s first ship to be christened in New York City, which is becoming MSC’s third US home port. The enormous MSC Seascape will then begin its inaugural season sailing from Miami on itineraries in the Caribbean, including stops at MSC’s private cay. The ship will have six swimming pools, including an infinity-edge pool, and the largest MSC Yacht Club in the line’s fleet.
SIMONE BILES & CELEBRITY CRUISES BEYOND
For its groundbreaking Edge class ships, Celebrity Cruises honors a different type of godmother. Instead of entertainment celebrities, Celebrity selects inspirational women who break barriers, and champion change in their respective fields. A prime example is Nobel Peace Prize honoree Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education, who represents the Celebrity Edge. Yousafzai is the first Nobel Laureate to christen a cruise ship.
In a ship-naming ceremony this November, Celebrity will introduce the godmother for the Celebrity Beyond: Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in world championship history, having won seven Olympic gold medals and 19 world championships. CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo marvels at Biles’ gymnastic abilities and accomplishments but adds, “It’s her courage to speak out and her ability to help others be better in sports and in life that has been the most impressive thing.”
Beyond will be the newest and most luxurious cruise ship in the Celebrity fleet, and it comes with two additional stars in specialty roles. Goop founder and actress Gwyneth Paltrow oversees Celebrity’s wellness offerings as Wellbeing Advisor, and will join guests aboard a “goop at sea” sailing on Celebrity Beyond this fall. And of Beyond’s 30 restaurants, bars, and lounges, the standout will be Chef Daniel Boulud’s first restaurant at sea, Le Voyage.
OPRAH WINFREY & HOLLAND AMERICA LINE’S NIEUW STATENDAM
When Holland America Line‘s Nieuw Statendam set sail on its inaugural voyage, one of the world’s most powerful entrepreneurs, Oprah Winfrey, was onboard as both godmother and host for special events during the sailing. Joined by The Oprah Magazine editor-at-large Gayle King and other editorial staff members, Oprah hosted special presentations on board the ship.
It was Oprah’s second sailing with Holland America Line. In 2018, the media mogul first collaborated with Holland America for a “Girls Getaway Cruise” where she shared inspirational stories of the amazing women she has met over the years, and hosted yoga sessions and wellness masterclasses.
Oprah raved about how she and other passengers bonded with one another on her first HAL voyage. “It was an incredible experience to see people from across the world come together with one mind and celebrate themselves, honor themselves and honor each other,” Winfrey said. “Everybody gathered, made friends, and connected to people they didn’t know because they felt like they had met themselves on some level. I have never seen anything like it.”
JENNIFER LOPEZ & VIRGIN VOYAGES VALIANT LADY
There’s nothing traditional about Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages cruise line, so it should come as no surprise that the all-inclusive, adults-only cruise line’s first godmother wouldn’t be a godmother at all. Instead, Jennifer Lopez broke with tradition by being named Chief Entertainment and Lifestyle Officer. It should be noted that Branson referenced the pop star’s 2022 hit song “Jenny from the Block” by suggesting new lyrics: “Don’t be fooled by the ship that I got, I’m now Jenny, Jenny from the dock.”
The role is far from honorary. Lopez is an investor and is creating well-being programs and JLo Beauty products to shape experience across the Virgin Voyages fleet. “As an investor and advisor, she turns the godmother tradition on its head and makes it powerful and limitless,” said Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. “We couldn’t be more excited for what is ahead.”
Lopez (AKA Mrs. Ben Affleck) sailed with Virgin on the Valiant Lady to introduce guests to her wellness and fitness program. Sea Terrace cabins enhance restorative voyages with ocean-facing balconies, red hammocks, rainfall showers, mood lighting, and no noisy children.
Based in Los Angeles, Vicki Arkoff is Editor at Large for Pursuitist and a founding editor for Holiday Goddess, the online destination for chic women travelers from the editors of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, Conde Nast Traveler, and BBC. Her travel and lifestyle reports can also be been seen in Atlas Obscura, The Awesomer, DaySpa, The Chicago Tribune, CNN Travel, JustLuxe, Lonely Planet, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Toronto Star, WellSpa 360, WestJet Magazine, Where Traveler, Where Guestbook, Yahoo News, and dozens more. She's co-author of the bestselling Holiday Goddess books (HarperCollins and iTunes) including 'The Holiday Goddess Guide to Paris, London, New York, Rome,' a travel Top 10 staple. As editor, Vicki's other books include 'Sinatra' (DK), 'Inside Mad' (Time-Life) and 'Virgin Los Angeles' (Virgin Books). She is one of the Usual Gang of Idiots for MAD Magazine, an entertainment reporter (Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, CREEM), and authorized biographer for pop culture icons from the Beach Boys to Beastie Boys, Paul McCartney to MC Hammer.