Ships’ Godmothers anything but a thing of the past!

A new ship is only official once it’s been christened, typically by its Godmother and sometimes a Godfather — where often the Godmother is a royal or a celebrity. It is believed that feminine energy brings luck and protection for future sailings.

As long as there have been ships, there have been blessing ceremonies. Thousands of years ago, ancient Egyptian ships received blessings before going to sea. The Greeks and Romans did it too to keep the sailors safe on their voyages. In Freo, the centuries-old tradition of Blessing of the Fishing Fleet is celebrated every year in October.

Superstition, ritual and religion have become a part of nautical tradition in many cultures. In ancient seafaring days, ceremonies for new ships sometimes included human sacrifice to appease the gods and protect the ship and crew, with the rites being performed by pagan priests.

In France, ship christenings were once accompanied by special rites that resembled marriage and baptismal ceremonies. In Japan, a ceremonial axe is still used to cut the ropes holding a new ship in place.

The tradition of cruise ship godmothers has evolved over time. The cruise ship godmother is the female patron and protector of a vessel. Female royalty was traditionally selected to do the honours and, instead of human blood, the christening liquid of choice became French Champagne. Holy water and red wine were also used.

The late Queen Elizabeth II was possibly the most well-known godmother. During her 60-year reign, she christened Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth in 2010 and Queen Mary 2 in 2004, as well as launching her namesake Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967. We have all heard her words “May God bless her and all who sail in her”. Freo folk, and of course all of us at Fremantle Shipping News, love the arrival and departures of the Cunard Queens. In April we wrote about ‘The comings and goings of the Queens’. The Queen Elizabeth cruise ship is due to visit Freo on 5 November this year.

Princess Kate, Duchess Catherine of Cambridge, carried on the royal tradition and is godmother to Princess Cruises, Royal Princess cruise ship.

In recent years, cruise lines have become more creative using actresses, models, businesswomen, politicians, athletes, astronauts, and even cartoon characters for the chosen role.

So, while the ancient rituals may be fading, the tradition of ship godmothers and champagne smashing duties continues to evolve in exciting ways.

Ceremonies are now known as ‘naming ceremonies’. Virgin Voyages named actor and singer Jennifer Lopez as ‘Chief Entertainment and Lifestyle Officer’ for their Resilient Lady cruise ship. This ship visited Freo at the end of March on an ‘Adults Only’ cruise. She caused quite a stir as did our article ‘Like a Virgin, Fremantle for the very first time’.

Now cities and communities are becoming the Godparents. Earlier this month, thousands gathered on Liverpool’s waterfront for the official naming of Cunard’s new ship Queen Anne. Five Liverpudlian women represented Liverpool as the city was made Godparent of the new ship: Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, Olympic athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, broadcaster Ngunan Adamu, restaurant entrepreneur Natalie Haywood and artistic director Jayne Casey. The famous five pulled the lever which released a 12-litre bottle of champagne to smash on Cunard’s 249th ship – Queen Anne. Liverpool was the birthplace of Cunard with its first transatlantic crossing departing 184 years ago in July 1840 and Liverpool was the company’s headquarters until 1967.

Here in Australia, Seabourne has named the Wunambal Gaambere Traditional Owners as Godparents of the Seabourn Pursuit expedition ship. The Wunambal Gaambera are traditional owners of a region in the Kimberley that includes Ngula Jar Island (Vansittart Bay), Yirinni (Hunter River) and Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau).

Representatives from the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation will welcome the Seabourn Pursuit at Ngula Jar Island on the Uunguu Coast and participate in the dedication ceremony on 29 June.

The naming ceremony will take place during the ship’s 10-day cruise in Australia’s Kimberley region. The Pursuit departed Broome on 22 June and will conclude the voyage in Darwin on 2 July.

Natalya Leahy, president of Seabourn said: “our decision to honour the group is a symbolic gesture of stewardship and responsibility toward the environment and the communities Seabourn visits… we believe no one can give a better blessing to our ship than the communities we visit.”

STORY by Jean Hudson @jeansodyssey. Jean is our Shipping Correspondent and also a regular feature writer and photographer here on the Shipping News. You may like to follow up her informative Places I Love stories, as well as other feature stories and Freo Today photographs, right here.


* If you’d like to COMMENT on this or any of our stories, don’t hesitate to email our Editor.


*** And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to receive your free copy of The Weekly Edition of the Shipping News each Friday!

****AND Shipees, here’s how to ORDER YOUR FSN MERCH. Fabulous Tees with great options now available!