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The Duchess of Cambridge attends a Princess Cruises' ship naming ceremony

13th June 2013

The Duchess of Cambridge cuts the ribbon to break the bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne at Ocean Terminal in Southampton during the ceremony where she named Princess Cruises' newest ship, Royal Princess, in her capacity as the ship's Godmother.

The Duchess of Cambridge cuts the ribbon to break the bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne at Ocean Terminal in Southampton during the ceremony where she named Princess Cruises' newest ship, Royal Princess, in her capacity as the ship's Godmother.

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The Duchess of Cambridge carried out her last solo engagement today before her baby is born - launching a new liner.

Her Royal Highness attended the naming ceremony of Princess Cruises' 3,600-passenger vessel Royal Princess.

She took her place on a stage in blustery conditions that threatened rain and seated opposite in a large grandstand were guests associated with charities that have The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or Prince Harry as their patrons.

Spectators were from East Anglia's Children's Hospice, The Duchess's charity, SkillForce which has The Duke as its figurehead, and Prince Harry's organisation WellChild.

Her Royal Highness is the new liner's godmother, a symbolic position similar to a patron or sponsor that dates back to the mid-19th Century when leading women were selected for the honour.

Princess Cruises has a history of illustrious godmothers for past ships including Diana, Princess of Wales, who named the first Princess Royal in 1984, actress Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Baroness Thatcher.

The Band of her Majesty's Royal Marines Portsmouth accompanied by the Pipers of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards gave the start of the ceremonies a military flavour. They lined The Duchess's route to her seat after playing rousing tunes such as Pomp And Circumstance, sea shanties and a march called HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The musical celebrations also featured pop singer Natasha Bedingfield, who sang her hit Unwritten. The Royal Princess embarks on its maiden cruise to the Mediterranean on Sunday and will sail those waters throughout the summer until it begins a series of eastern Caribbean cruises in the autumn. Spectators were treated to a performance by singer Kerry Ellis, a well-known face on the stages of London's West End, who was backed by the Mass Ensemble. The musicians are known for their unusual instruments and dynamic performances and one band member played the earth harp - a three-necked guitar, dubbed the world's largest stringed instrument.

Alan Buckelew, President and Chief Executive officer of Princess Cruises, gave a speech praising The Duchess for taking part in the naming ceremony. He said: "This is, indeed, a very proud day for all of us at Princess Cruises, because it marks the culmination of several years of designing, building and delivering this spectacular ship.

"And we're delighted to name our new ship in Southampton, because our company's ties to Britain are strong.

"To welcome Royal Princess into our fleet, we're incredibly honoured that HRH the Duchess of Cambridge will officially name the ship today, marking the start of its many journeys through the world's oceans and to fascinating shores.

"The naming of a ship is a tradition thousands of years old. The ritual marks the birth of a vessel, and asks for a blessing of good fortune and safety for the ship, its crew, and passengers.

"Perhaps the most important element of the naming tradition is the godmother selected to christen a ship. A godmother is the figurative patron of the ship through its entire life, and symbolises the spirit of the vessel.

"We can think of no more fitting godmother for our magnificent new ship. Her Royal Highness is an inspiring ambassador for Britain, and she is admired around the world for her style and grace, and for her compassion for others."

The Right Rev Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, blessed the ship, delivering a prayer. Captain Tony Draper invited The Duchess up to perform the naming ceremony on a nearby platform.

A few feet away, suspended from the ship's hull by a rope, was a huge bottle of champagne by Moet and Chandon, holding 15 litres and known as a Nebuchadnezzar.

Two youngsters, Isobel Rowbotham, 14, and her eight-year-old brother Charles, handed The Duchess a pair of scissors to cut a length of rope to launch the bottle into the hull.

The youngsters' brother died from a brain tumour while a toddler but they were supported by The Duchess's charity East Anglia's Children's Hospice.

Before cutting the rope, Her Royal Highness chatted to the pair, then carried out the ceremony, telling the guests: "I name this ship Royal Princess, may God bless her and all who sail in her."

The bottle was released and flew into the hull, smashing to a large cheer.

The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to crew during a tour on board the Princess Cruises ship after its naming ceremony at Ocean Terminal, Southampton.

The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to crew during a tour on board the Princess Cruises ship after its naming ceremony at Ocean Terminal, Southampton.

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Later, The Duchess was taken on a tour of the cruise ship by the Captain and after meeting staff in the vessel's atrium she visited the bridge.

She had views across Southampton waters and was shown the ship's bell from the previous Royal Princess associated with the late Diana, The Princess of Wales.

The bridge has two side wings jutting over the hull from which the liner can be steered when she is being docked, and The Duchess was taken to view the port side wing.

During her gap year after leaving Marlborough College in 2000,  Her Royal Highness crewed on the Round the World challenge in the Solent and told the captain she sailed.
As she looked down at the quayside The Duchess pointed at the ground and said: "I'm used to going alongside and throwing a rope over."

Captain Draper gestured to a button on a console and asked her if she would like to sound the liner's whistle. After a window was opened The Duchess pressed the control and a long low sound reverberated around the dock.

The Duchess laughed and smiled and described the experience as "brilliant" adding: "I was expecting something high pitched."

Before leaving the bridge she looked around her and said: "It feels very stable, doesn't fell like you're on board at all."

When The Duchess met staff in the atrium, she chatted to chief baker Antonio Distasio, from Naples, Italy.

He said: "She told me she likes pizza but she can't make a good pizza.

"I have been making pizza since I was eight so told her I'd teach her and send her some recipes."

Her Royal Highness went into the ship's nightclub and bar area where she met various people affiliated with the cruise company and dignitaries from Southampton.

Doug Morrison, port director of Southampton Port, said: "She was delightful.

"She has this wonderful ability to make people relax.

"She said she's been to Southampton a few times but this was her first time on a cruise ship."

Also present was former chairman of P&O Cruises Lord Sterling and his wife Dorothy.

Lord Sterling was present when The Princess of Wales named her first cruise ship - also Royal Princess - in 1984.

He said: "I remember when young Diana named her first cruise ship and she said she was quite nervous.

"I was recalling that to The Duchess today and saying today brings back memories for me of Prince William's mother."

Just before she left, The Duchess signed a card which will be framed along with a photograph of herself that will hang in the ship.

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