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By PAUL MOTTER
Carol Marlow, President of Cunard Line Requests the Pleasure of the Company of Paul Motter at the Naming Ceremony of Queen Victoria by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall in the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
That is how my invitation reads, you can see it in the picture above. I have a great job, but I never expected it would lead to me being in the "presence of" The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, and her royal husband, Prince Charles.
I fly out Saturday Night and I will be online to keep my CruiseMates informed about the ceremony as events occur.
And what events there will be! The ship will sail from the Fincantieri shipyard near Venice to Southampton, scheduled to arrive on Friday, December 7th. My British Air flight arrives at Heathrow Sunday afternoon. I will be driven, along with other members of the press, from London to the Queen Victoria docked in Southampton. The rest of Sunday I will spend on the ship, touring the public rooms and taking hundreds of pictures to share with our readers.
Monday morning we have breakfast onboard, and will have morning coffee with a live jazz band from 10:00 to 11:00. 12:30 is luncheon and at 2:30 we all leave the ship to find our seats alongside the bow of the ship where we will witness the main event, the Queen Victoria Naming Ceremony. That officially takes place on Monday, December 10, at 3:30 Greenwich Mean Time. So, for New Yorkers that will be about 7:30 a.m.
What is a naming ceremony? It is the practice of breaking a bottle of spirits, these days it is always champagne, against the bow of the ship and pronouncing the words, "I name this ship __. May God bless all who sail up-on her." In previous centuries and other countries it was often referred to as a "christening ceremony" (during to the domination of the Catholic church in Europe) but in England that is not the tradition. Beginning in the 19th century the Brits started including an Anglican element to the ceremony, often singing psalm 107 with its special meaning to mariners:
"They that go down to the sea in ships;
That do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep."
The original idea is as old as sailing itself, however, and is actually derived from ancient traditions that seafarers have followed for millenniae. The Greeks, Phoenicians and Egyptians all called upon their Gods in elaborate ceremonies to protect their ships. The Ottomans offered prayers to Allah while the Norse were said to engage in human sacrifice.
In Britain, it is a longstanding tradition to ask members of the Royal Family to christen ships, especially for Cunard Line. Queen Elizabeth II performed the honors for the Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 (1969) and the Queen Mary 2, christened in 2004. The person christening a ship in modern times is almost always female, but prior to 1875 they were usually men of Royal derivation, and usually had served in the naval forces. Today's presiders are often referred to as the "godmother" of the ship, although the British prefer not to use that tradition.
The truth is that having Camilla name this ship has become a rather controversial topic in Britain since she is not a blood-relation to the future heirs to the throne, but most of those arguments have been waged in tabloid newspapers. Personally, I am just thrilled to be even remotely involved in anything having to do with this event.
To read all about the history of Cunard Line, and to see pictures and video of the new Queen Victoria, go to our ship preview: Queen Victoria.
Naturally, the ship has "shaped up" considerably since those pictures were taken just a few months ago. My trip to the shipyard to see Queen Victoria was my first taste of Cunard, and I have to say that I was duly impressed. The line is so rich in tradition and respect for the history of ocean travel that one cannot help but get mermerized by everything surrounding this great company and everything they have ever done. There are not many companies that can say they shaped world history, but Cunard is truly one that can.
Queen Victoria is not designed so much as an ocean liner as her predecessors are, but she is a Cunarder all the way in her interior design and in offering the same "White Star Service" that all Cunard ships offer. The ship will be a hit with Cunard fanciers, I have no doubts.