Posted October 10th, 2016
A Guide To Cruise Ship Godmothers
Before a cruise ship welcomes its first guests on board, it has to go through a number of formalities. After sea trials and other forms of testing, the last of these is usually the christening, carried out by the Godmother of the ship. But how did this custom first come about and what does being a ship’s Godmother usually entail? Well, hopefully our guide will tell you all you need to know.
A History Of Godmothering
As a practice that stems from superstition and fear of unpredictable waters, the act of blessing a ship before it sets sail can be traced back to ancient empires such as the Romans and Babylonians. In those times, vessels were dedicated to specific deities in order to appease them and ask for safe passage across the sea. Good luck rituals like this are seen all around the world in the modern era too. Whilst we might not sacrifice sheep like the Ottomans used to, the Japanese use axes during their launching ceremonies to scare off evil and the Indians conduct a Puja ceremony during which they ask the Gods to bless the ship.
In the western world, it was predominantly men who were used for christening a vessel because women on a ship were seen as bad luck. However, as attitudes changed during the 19th century, women went from being carved into the bow to aid with navigation to becoming the Godmother figures that we know today.
The Job Role
After going from being a symbol of bad luck to being a figure of guidance for a new ship, women are now almost exclusively used for christenings. As well as providing some great PR for the cruise line and its new vessel, the job role includes the ritual of smashing a bottle of Champagne against the hull. However, how much involvement the Godmother has with the ship after that point seems to vary. Some choose to sail on board in the future whilst others are simply too famous or busy to grace the ship with their presence again. The Godmother is always said to leave a piece of her personally with the ship, though.
There is a long list of household names that have been Godmothers for various ships over the years - none more famous than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Not content with launching Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth in 1967, Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2010, Her Royal Highness also christened P&O Cruises’ Britannia in 2015. Other well-known women chosen in the past include Helen Mirren, Gloria Hunniford and Julie Andrews.
A Godmother doesn’t always have to be a celebrity, though. In 2015, Royal Caribbean ran a competition for travel agents where the winner was chosen as the Godmother for Anthem of the Seas. Finally, Disney Cruise Lines proved that the female chosen doesn’t even have to be real when they announced Tinkerbell as the Godmother for Disney Wonder in 1999.
A Bad Omen
In the same way that breaking a bottle of champagne against the ship’s hull will bring it good luck, it is said that the opposite is true if the bottle doesn’t break first time. There are various stories of vessels experiencing bad luck when this happens including video footage of the bottle bouncing off the Costa Concordia without smashing. However, reports that this also happened at the launch of the Titanic are actually false as White Star Line vessels were not christened in this way at the time. Nevertheless, modern cruise lines use tactics such as weakening the glass and shaking the Champagne to ensure it breaks at the first attempt.
If you are looking to book your next cruise holiday, whether on board a recently christened ship or not, contact us today and we’ll help you find your ideal itinerary.