Meet our leading ladies
When it comes to naming our ships, we always endeavour to find the perfect fit for each vessel. In honour of Mother’s Day we’re reacquainting you with the women who have named each ship in our current fleet.
The tradition of blessing a ship before its maiden voyage dates back to ancient times, when gods were called upon to bring the ships luck and keep them safe on the water.
Today, the ship’s godmother has taken on the duties of the deities.
The godmother – always a woman of distinction and gravitas – attends the launch ceremony to bless and officially name the ship. She’ll break a bottle against its hull and deliver the official line: ‘I name this ship [name]. May God bless her and all who sail in her.’
We’ve always put great thought and care into choosing our ships’ godmothers with the aim of finding the perfect person for each vessel. As we look ahead to the naming of Iona’s godmother, we look back at the inspiring godmothers who preside over our current fleet.
HRH The Princess Royal
The only daughter of Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. She’s a talented equestrian rider, having been the first member of The Royal Family to compete at the Olympic Games (Montreal in 1976) on her beloved horse Goodwill. She’s also involved with over 300 charitable pursuits, including Save the Children UK, of which she’s been president since 1970.
HRH The Princess Royal holds her own place in maritime history, adding to her godmother kudos – she holds the honorary position of Admiral and Chief Commandant of the Women’s Royal Naval Service. She’s also made waves by launching our much-loved ship Aurora in 2000.
Dame Kelly Holmes DBE
As a double Olympic gold medallist, Dame Kelly Holmes DBE is familiar with celebrations. The middle-distance runner, who hails from Pembury in Kent, was made a Dame after her success in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where she raced to victory in the 800m and 1,500m races.
Her stellar sporting success made her the perfect choice to christen Arcadia in 2005, which at the time was the biggest cruise ship ever built for the British market. At the dockside stage surrounded by stars, circus artists and thousands of spectators, Dame Kelly smashed the customary bottle and sent Arcadia off in style.
Dame Helen Mirren DBE
Dame Helen Mirren DBE is one of Britain’s best and most beloved actors. Her work on stage and screen has earned her a number of the industry’s top accolades, including an Oscar for portraying Her Majesty The Queen. As a British icon, she was a natural fit for the role of Ventura’s godmother.
With some 1,500 guests in attendance, Ventura’s naming ceremony in 2008 was one for the books. Dame Helen broke with tradition for the bottle smash: instead of the customary pressing of a button, she commanded a team of Royal Marine Commandos, who rappelled down the side of the ship to break the Champagne bottle. An honoured Dame Helen said: ‘It is the first time I have ever named a ship, let alone one of the size of P&O Cruises Ventura, and I’m really looking forward to being godmother.’
Dame Darcey Bussell DBE
With nearly 20 years as The Royal Ballet's principal dancer, plus stints as a TV presenter, model and author, it’s safe to say Dame Darcey Bussell DBE is one of Britain’s best-known dance personalities.
Azura launched in 2010 and was designed with glamour and sophistication in mind: qualities that Darcey embodies effortlessly. The ship has a stunning dance area in its atrium, making the connection even more fitting. Of the choice to make Darcey a godmother, P&O Cruises said: ‘Azura will offer the service, quality and entertainment associated with cruising at its very best and as dance will play a key part in this, it is entirely fitting for Darcey to give Azura the best possible start in life.’
Her Majesty The Queen
For the naming of our flagship – at the time, the biggest ship ever built for the British market – we knew we had to find an icon who represented of the best of Britain. No one could do that better than Her Majesty The Queen, and we were honoured that she gave us her blessing for the second time, having named Oriana in 1995.
Britannia’s naming ceremony in March 2015 came nearly 62 years after Her Majesty launched Royal Yacht Britannia in Clydebank, Scotland. Back then, to reflect the mood of post-war austerity, she forwent traditional Champagne and smashed a bottle of Empire wine against the hull.
This time, in a celebration of all things British, Her Majesty launched Britannia with a Nebuchadnezzar of sparkling wine from the Wiston Estate Winery in Sussex in front of a cheering 1,500-strong crowd. She then enjoyed a tour of the Atrium, met crew members and our Food Heroes, and visited the bridge before enjoying lunch on board.