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How to Become a Cruise Ship Godmother – (Exclusive Interview.) Your Questions Answered 

You may have heard about cruise ships being named by a Godmother, and you may be wondering how and why they landed this wonderful job. I was, and in this post, I explain all.  

I recently had the opportunity to interview the Godmother of the river ship TUI Maya, Catherine Hawkins. She told me all about her recent experience as a ship Godmother.

I have also attended the naming ceremony of a cruise ship and I will share information about what it’s like to attend a naming ceremony in this post.

How Did This Tradition of Ships Having Godmothers Come about?

It’s a longstanding Naval tradition for new ships to be sponsored by a civilian, typically a woman.

“Godmother” is an honorary title, and it is hoped she will bring good luck and protection to the vessel.

The duties are simple. Godmothers attend their ship’s ceremonial ship launch and naming ceremony, where they bless and officially name the ship.

Traditionally they would crack a bottle of Champagne on the hull of a new ship for good luck.

Today, due to the sheer size of many ships, it usually means the Godmother pushes a button or pulls a lever that releases a bottle of champagne that swings down and breaks on the bow.

How Do You Become a Cruise Ship Godmother?

Naming a cruise ship godmother is also a great way for a cruise line to raise publicity and excitement for the new ship. Famous actresses, sportswomen, or royalty have been chosen for this reason.

Famous Godmothers include:

  • Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge who is Godmother to the aptly named Royal Princess
  • Actress Sophia Loren who is Godmother to over sixteen MSC cruise ships
  • Priscilla Presley who is the Godmother of the American Queen, the largest American Paddleboat ever built, sailing in the USA. 

The newest Norwegian ship, the Norwegian Prima has singer, Katy Perry as her Godmother.

Do you get paid to be a Cruise Ship or River Ship Godmother?

Godmother is an honorary title and I can find no evidence of Godmothers receiving payment for their job. 

However, I think it is fair to assume that they would receive certain “perks” such as free publicity or cruises.

Godmother is usually a title for life, but duties may be reviewed on an annual basis.  

I attended the naming ceremony of Saga’s Spirit of Adventure in 2021. Her godmother is Commodore Inga J. Kennedy CBE QHNS QARNNS.

Can Men be Godfathers to Cruise or River Ships?

Traditionally ships have Godmothers.  However in more recent times, things have changed, Norwegian Cruise Line, in particular, seems to be bucking the trend as they have a mixture of Godmothers and Godfathers.

Pitbull (a man) christened Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape, as a Miami native, NCL felt that he “epitomizes and contributes to the energy, excitement and local flavour that our ships so proudly embody.” 

They also have Elvis Duran, a well-known American radio personality and author as Godfather of The Norwegian Bliss.

Can a Cruise Ship Have Multiple Godmothers?

Norwegian Cruise Line recruited the New York dance troupe “The Rockettes” to share the ceremonial title of Godmothers for the Norwegian Breakaway. 

Normally eighty people are in the dance troupe – that’s an awful lot of Godmothers!

Do Cruise Ship Godmothers Have to be Real People?

Godmothers don’t have to be real people.  

When P&O was thinking of Godmothers for Pacific Explorer, the clue was in the name – they chose the cartoon character Dora the Explorer.  

Other animated godmothers include Shrek’s Princess Fiona, who is Godmother to Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, and Tinkerbell, who is fairy godmother to Disney Wonder.

It is Possible to be a Godmother Without Being ‘Famous?’

I was lucky enough to speak to a real ship Godmother, Catherine Hawkins, Godmother of the Tui Isla.   She entered a competition to become the Godmother, and I asked her all about her experiences.

Catherine won the chance to be a godmother as part of a competition.

Famous Recent Ship Godparents You May Have Heard of:

  • P&O’s Arvia – Nicole Scherzinger – singer, songwriter, actress, dancer and TV personality
  • Virgin Voyages Resilient Lady – Jennifer Lopez – and singer
  • Norwegian Viva – Luis Fonsi -singer, songwriter, musician and producer
  • Carnival Celebration – Cassidy Gifford – Actress 
  • Celebrity Ascent – Sisters Sandy Yawn and Michelle Dunham – two ceremonial godmothers- Sandy is a ship Captain, an international speaker, and a businesswoman. Michelle is the founder of the Jacksonville School for Autism
  • Emerald Sakara – Kelly Craighead – CEO of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association)

In a break slightly from tradition, Royal Caribbean announced that Lionel Messi will be the “official icon of Icon of the Seas”. This appears to be a role similar to a ship’s Godmother.

An Interview With The Godmother of Tui Isla, Catherine Hawkins

How Did You Get The Wonderful Position as Godmother to the TUI Isla?

“I had to explain in under 400 words what exploring meant to me. I got typing away and my love of travel and passion for exploring just flowed. I also sent a picture from my last adventure which was to Alaska.”

Catherine Hawkins – Cruise Ship Godmother
Catherine Hawkins – Cruise Ship Godmother

The ‘win’ was to become a Godparent then take 2 river cruises to ‘test’ excursions and give recommendations.

How Did You Find Out That You Can Won?

“I received a call from TUI saying they really liked my entry and to arrange a follow up video chat. A few days later I received the call to say I had been chosen as one of the 2 Godparents out of hundreds of applications! As you can imagine I was beside myself with excitement and felt so privileged.”

Catherine Hawkins – Cruise Ship Godmother

Catherine actually ended up Christening two river ships.

The TUI Maya and the TUI Skyla. She was originally meant to christen the first ship but the godmother of the TUI Skyla was unable to attend the ceremony so Catherine ended up going to both.

tui river cruise ship tui skyla in budapest

What Happened at The Naming Ceremony?

“We had a gala dinner followed by the main event on deck. Speeches were followed by the bottle smash which was exciting and nerve wracking. I was just hoping when I hit that button the bottle of champagne would smash. We all cheered when it did, raised our glasses, pyrotechnic fireworks went off, the celebrations lasted all evening.”

Catherine Hawkins – Cruise Ship Godmother

The christening of the TUI Skyla was more of a low-key event but Catherine said that it was still a lovely ceremony. They celebrated the inaugural cruise with the guests and had carol singers, igloos and festive drinks as the event happened in November.

After the ceremony, Catherine stayed onboard for a Mistletoe and Rhone cruise. She will be cruising again on the East Danube and is really looking forward to the itinerary.

Catherine says that she feels so privileged to have been chosen.

I sailed on Tui Skyla from Budapest. Find out what I thought of that trip here:

The Naming of Saga’s Spirit of Adventure

In 2021 I was invited to attend the naming ceremony of Saga’s newest ship the Spirit of Adventure. In true Saga style we were picked up by a private car and taken home at the end of the event.

The event was quite small due to Covid restrictions but the event was live streamed and it was great fun. Saga reported on the event here: Saga News Room.

Before You Go

Find out what is included if you choose to take a Tui River Cruise here:

Are TUI River Cruises All-Inclusive?  Your Guide to What is Included.

Read my review of the Tui Sklya here:

TUI River Cruise Review – Ship, Cabins, Food, Entertainment & More

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.