Anthem of the Seas Christening
By Tom Stieghorst
The Harmony of the Seas christening was as grand as the ship itself, an impressive feat of logistics and technology that took place within the confines of the 226,000-ton behemoth, rather than dockside.
It involved Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd chairman Richard Fain and godmother Brittany Affolter at the aft of the ship in the Aqua Theater, an oversized bottle of champagne rigged to the ship’s zipline in the middle of the ship, and somewhere deep down in the innards, a robotic bartender as a relay of Affolter’s signal to release the champagne.
Oh, and bagpipers.
I’ve come to understand that bagpipers are a Royal Caribbean christening signature. In this case, it was the Dunedin Pipe Band from Dunedin, Fl., doing the honors as part of the warm up entertainment before the christening.
They seemed as out of place as ever on a ship, but also provided a kind of familiarity and continuity that I’m sure is part of the intended effect. If memory serves, bagpipers were part of the first Royal Caribbean christening I witnessed, the 1990 naming of the Nordic Empress at the Port of Miami.
That event was notable chiefly for the grit of the godmother, Miami Sound Machine singer Gloria Estefan, who was still in a back brace recovering from a bus accident while on tour three months earlier.
Royal Caribbean has learned a few things about christenings since then. The dockside Miami Empress event was sweltering in June. With the Harmony, although Royal took delivery in May it sailed the ship in Europe for the summer and then christened it on a picture-perfect evening in November.
Also, when Estefan swung the 77-pound bottle of California sparkling wine into the side of the Empress, it bounced rather than smashed. No second attempt was necessary for the Harmony’s French champagne, which exploded on cue.
Twenty-six years after it was christened, the Nordic Empress is sailing alongside Harmony of the Seas from South Florida, now offering 4- and 5-day cruises under the name Empress of the Seas, instead of the 3-and 4-day cruises it started with.
And although inflation has made nearly everything more expensive since 1990, a four-day cruise on the Empress of the Seas in January can be had for as little as $219, plus $100 in taxes, fees and port charges.
In 1990, a four-day cruise on the Nordic Empress started at $615, minus a $100 per person deduction for passengers who didn’t need airfare to and from Miami. Port charges ranged from $29 to $32.