Witnessing a ship come to life is an amazing thing. Steel, wires, wood and marble are hauled in, cut, straightened, contorted and pieced together to create vessels that will sail the world’s mighty oceans. To see the transformation of Royal Princess from shipyard (see 51 Royal Princess Photos During Its Construction) to completion (see Royal Princess, In Photos) underscored the marvel of this remarkable accomplishment. The places where I had walked at the shipyard in late March, beneath a dangle of wiring and amid the bustle of workers, now appeared refined and elegant, a classy floating resort that has the distinct advantage of being able to transport its guests from one destination to another in comfort and style.
Shipyard workers traded places with service personnel, and what was only a few months ago a skeleton of steel is now populated with people from many nations who subscribe to the Princess Cruises’ philosophy of fulfilling their roles as the “Consummate Host,” a phrase we heard repeatedly this week on board Royal Princess, along with “Good Morning,” Good Afternoon,” “Good Evening” and “How was your day?” Who cares if the cruise lines encourage and enforce a 100 percent “greet” policy, as do many service organizations? On Royal Princess, the salutations seemed genuine and set the tone for a week when it did seem possible to “Escape Completely,” a brand promise that Princess Cruises strives to deliver on each and every cruise.
Alas, my time on board was only a partial escape. I came here, with my journalistic colleagues and top-producing travel agents from around the world, to witness the launch of Princess Cruises’ newest vessel. And what a launch it was.
It would be hard to think of a more beloved soul than Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, to christen Royal Princess. She did so on an overcast day in Southampton this past Thursday, intoning only a few words before cutting the ribbon that would send a 15-liter bottle of bubbly smashing against the “P” in Royal Princess, in blue letters on the hull.
That the Duchess said not much was of no consequence. She spoke tomes with her smile and her presence, a woman eight months pregnant, glowing and radiant and bringing good cheer to the dull sky.
Following the christening, after the last confetti had flittered to the ground, the Duchess toured the ship with Captain Tony Draper. She left a piece of herself behind, to sail with Royal Princess forever, an inscription on her portrait, which adorns a wall between the Atrium and Guest Services on Deck 5. With pen in hand, she had scribbled simply, “Catherine.”
To those who were present, me among them, it seemed that Royal Princess, a structure of steel and wires and marble and wood, blessed by such a remarkable woman, had taken its first breath. She gave the ship something that guests may notice after some time on board — the ship of steel now has a soul.