SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND--The golden age of cruising has a new player to carry on its tradition. Before a crowd of 2,000 in Southampton, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, christened the Cunard ocean liner Queen Victoria, with her husband, Prince Charles, beside her. The new ocean liner is charged with upholding the tradition of one of cruising's most fabled lines. The ceremony didn't entirely go as planned, though the snafu was not an uncommon one. The champagne bottle used to christen the ship did not break when it was struck on the bow of the ship. Luckily, a backup bottle finished the job.
Everything leading up to and following the bottle ritual went off without a hitch. Carol Marlow, president of Cunard, opened the ceremony, welcoming the Duchess, the Prince and, of course, her line's new 2,014-passenger ship. "This is a revival of sorts," she said, "a renaissance of the great Cunard name." There was a 37-year hiatus before the last Cunard ship, Queen Mary 2, entered service in 2004. A second liner bearing the Queen Elizabeth name will debut in 2010, joining sister ship Queen Victoria. "The Cunard lion roars again," Marlow said.
A one-man play, performed by Sir Derek Jacobi--whom Americans would recognize as the title character in public television's "I, Claudius" and more recently as one of the senators in "Gladiator"--detailed the history of Cunard. The London Philharmonic provided background music. The makeshift theater was rigged so the curtain, when raised, revealed the bow of Queen Victoria through a transparent screen. Undoubtedly, the ship was the true star of the show and was lit in varying colors and design schemes throughout the festivities.
When it was time for the ship to be christened, Camilla and Charles took to the stage, accompanied by Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Cunard parent Carnival Corp., and Queen Victoria captain Paul Wright. Camilla blessed the ship and all who sailed aboard her, then pressed a button to release the ceremonial bottle. It swept toward the bow, crashed into it, but didn't break; a second emergency bottle (the understudy) was quickly released. Fireworks and confetti signaled that the naming was complete.
Opera singers Alfie Boe, Jon Christos and Gardar Thor Cortes belted out "Rule Britannia," as members of the audience waved British flags. The ceremony was truly a British event, evoking the heritage of the country along with its strong and proud tradition in cruising. (DE)