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Princess Cruises celebrates the Royal Princess

Posted: June 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Royal Princess Naming Ceromony June 13, 2013. Steve Dunlop/courtesy photo.

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LONDON (AP) — A glowing Kate Middleton on Thursday christened a gigantic new cruise ship named the Royal Princess.

Palace officials said it is planned as her final solo public appearance before she is expected to give birth in mid-July.

Royal Princess is Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises’ newest 3,600-passenger cruise ship.

The Duchess of Cambridge, as she has been formally known since her marriage two years ago to Prince William, used a 4-gallon (15-liter), $1,500 bottle of Moet and Chandon Champagne to do the job — it was so heavy she couldn't swing it herself, but she cut a ribbon that launched the bottle toward the hull, where it smashed as crowds cheered.

"I name this ship Royal Princess, may God bless her and all who sail in her," said the duchess, whose baby bump was clearly outlined against her black and white print coat.

Considered one of the most important elements of the naming tradition is the godmother selected to christen a ship - a symbolic patron or sponsor of the ship its entire life, said Princess Cruises in a press release Thursday.

The cruise line company said it has a history of well-known godmothers for past ships, including the late Princess Diana, Princess of Wales and William's mother, performed a similar cruise ship christening on the same spot nearly three decades ago in 1984.

Others who have served as godmother were Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Margaret Thatcher and Olivia de Havilland.

The Duchess of Cambridge seemed the picture of good health as she chatted with others on the VIP podium during the event at the historic waterfront in Southampton.

Her bottle-smashing performance was the highlight of a gala ceremony that included a formal blessing and a prayer from the Bishop of Winchester and a performance by pop star Natasha Bedingfield.

“We can think of no more fitting godmother for our magnificent new Royal Princess,” said Alan Buckelew, Princess Cruises’ president and CEO.

“Her Royal Highness is an inspiring ambassador for Britain - with whom Princess Cruises shares strong ties – and she is admired around the world for her style and grace. We’re so honored she accepted our invitation to become godmother to our new ship.”

She and William are expecting their first child in mid-July. The baby will become third in line for the throne behind William and his father, Prince Charles.

The ceremony on Thursday included a brief tour of the ship for the duchess. It is expected to be her final solo engagement before the birth.

Locally, employees celebrated the occasion in an outdoor courtyard with a sparkling toast, and lunch complete with pizza and gelato, said Briana Chisham for Princess Cruises.

Guest entertainer Chuck Gunter juggled for the crowd at what the cruise line company referred to as its shoreside celebration for the Royal Princess outside the cruise line’s headquarters in Valencia on Thursday.

The duchess's visit highlighted the importance of the new 3,600-passenger Royal Princess, which is scheduled to begin cruising the Mediterranean this summer.

The launch of the new ship is considered a highlight of this year's cruise season and would have garnered attention from the industry even without Kate's presence.

The vessel's noteworthy features include a large atrium that serves as a social hub for the ship, as well as a glass-bottomed walkway on the top deck called SeaWalk that extends 28 feet (3.5 meters) over the ship's edge.

The Royal Princess also has private poolside cabanas that look like they're floating on water; a private dining venue, Chef's Table Lumiere, which surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.



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