On Site: Oprah Winfrey Christens Holland America's Nieuw Statendam

Surrounded by friends, family, adoring fans and a host of maritime executives, media superstar Oprah Winfrey enthusiastically named the newest Holland America Line ship, Nieuw Statendam, at a well-orchestrated event inside the ship's World Stage on Saturday.

Proudly proclaiming, “I’m the godmother” after pushing a button that sent the champagne bottle crashing against the ship’s side – breaking it, Winfrey clearly relished the moment. Confetti sprayed across the front of the theater, while participants clapped and cheered.

Fresh from a three-day Girlfriends Getaway cruise sponsored by O, The Oprah Magazine, Winfrey spoke prior to the christening about how she loved sailing on the ship with consumers and fans who’d come together for self-improvement activities and bonding.

Noting that "I’ve had the most blessed life of anyone I know," Winfrey clearly relished the Girlfriends Getaway experience, which brought together more than 2,000 women (and, yes, a few dozen men). Participants ranged in age from six to 93.

The ceremony itself focused on how it’s simple human nature to want to connect with others across the globe, and how cruising can facilitate that. Orlando Ashford, Holland America's president, emphasized that Nieuw Statendam is his line’s “highest aspiration for connection and understanding in our world.”

He also showed slides of all the previous “Statendams” – the newest is the sixth such named ship. But this isn't your great grandfather's cruise ship, for sure.

The new ship's World Stage facilities and features shined during the ceremony as the audience watched an intriguing video presented on a moving semi-circular wall of video screens. A live orchestra played as well.

Most poignantly, a diverse group of crew members talked about how the ship can deliver the world and connect people, and also their own experiences at sea and what the cruising lifestyle does for them personally. Speakers ranged from Dee Dewi, a dining crew member from Bali, Indonesia, to Diana Mihalache, the ship’s environmental officer, who hails from Romania and to the ship’s Captain Sybe de Boer from the Netherlands.

An extension of that diverse crew? It was the important representation of travel agents who sell the product, a succinct speech ably handled by Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance, CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc. He talked about taking a trip to Alaska, and how selling travel morphed into a strong desire to create close, personal and connected experiences for clients.

Winfrey acknowledged that she had her initial doubts about taking a cruise, but it’s turned out to be “one of the best things I’ve ever done.” She also opened the door to doing another cruise – imploring Orlando Ashford, the line’s president, to tell her when they’d do another one.  

Guests then exited the theater, explored the ship, attended a live concert by the Lincoln Center Stage musicians and a gala dinner in the main dining room. Afterward, guests sang along with the singers and dueling pianos at Billboard Onboard, or headed to the outside deck for the Rolling Stone Rock Room band, which belted out rock standards. 

For a look at all new ship features, check out our opinion story with other slides from a Nieuw Statendam sailing in early December in Europe

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