Princess Cruises christened its newest ship, the Sky Princess, on December 7. The cruise line chose the theme of Reach for the Sky for the occasion, and honored two women of NASA for their achievements in the U.S. space program: Captain Kay Hire and engineer Poppy Northcutt, who served as the godmothers of the new ship.
Captain Hire began her 30-year NASA career as a mechanical systems engineer, helping to launch more than 40 space missions. Then, as an astronaut, she logged 700 hours in space, flew over 12 million miles, and orbited the earth 475 times. She was the first female assigned to a military combat flight crew while serving in the U.S. Navy, from which she retired with more than 35 years of service. Poppy Northcutt served as the first female mission control engineer when NASA made history with its mission to the moon. When the crew of Apollo 13 became stranded in their service module, it was her team’s calculations that brought them home safely – a feat of heroism that earned the entire mission operations a Presidential Medal of Freedom Team Award.
Sky Princess Captain Heikki Laakkonen also recognized two Sky Princess female officers who embody the Reach for the Sky theme: Kerry Ann Wright, who started working in the cruise industry as a spa technician and went back to school to rise through the ranks to become a Second Officer working on the bridge; and Chief Security Officer Susan Morgan, who is the longest-serving woman in the British Royal Navy.
Captain Hire and Poppy Northcutt recited the traditional cruise ship blessing before pushing a NASA-style “launch” button releasing and smashing a 15-liter bottle of champagne, officially naming Sky Princess.
Additional women of NASA recognized in a tribute video, included:
- The first woman of color to travel to outer space Dr. Mae Jemison.
- The first Hispanic woman in space who later became Director of the Johnson Space Center Dr. Ellen Ochoa.
- The first woman to command the Space Shuttle Eileen Collins.
- The first woman to command the International Space Stations Peggy Whiston.
- The first woman to join a spacewalk Kathryn D. Sullivan.
The ceremony also included entertainment from Princess Cruises Celebrations Ambassador and Love Boat actress Jill Whelan, serving as ceremony co-host with Sky Princess Cruise Director Alexander Yepremian, and a performance of Dream On from America’s Got Talent alum Brian Justin Crum. The finale of the naming ceremony included a performance of This is Me from The Greatest Showman, which is featured in the cruise line’s new production, show Rock Opera.
Sky Princess recently completed its inaugural season in Europe and is now sailing on voyages to the Caribbean through spring 2020. Representing an evolution of the design platform used for its sibling Royal-Class ships - Regal Princess, Royal Princess and Majestic Princess - the 3,660-guest Sky Princess includes a number of new, distinct features.
Introduced on Sky Princess are new luxury Sky Suites with expansive views from what the cruise line describes as the largest balconies at sea. (You can check out our firsthand report here.) In addition, two new entertainment experiences are offered - Phantom Bridge, a game combining digital and physical elements into an immersive escape room, and the Take Five jazz theater.
The debut of Sky Princess marks the first MedallionClass new build. Powered by the OceanMedallion wearable device, MedallionClass vacations deliver personalized service through enhanced guest-crew interactions, while eliminating friction points and enabling interactive entertainment.
The Princess Cruises fleet continues to expand with Enchanted Princess in June 2020, Discovery Princess in November 2021 and two new (LNG) ships in 2023 and 2025.