Like all great fairy tales, the events unfolding had a building sense of enchantment.
The dual christening ceremony to launch Avalon Waterways’ two newest Panorama-class ships was a rare event, even for a cruise industry that is christening ships regularly. Side by side, the ships were decked stem to stern with flowers, balloons and bunting.
And as the day progressed so did the weather, from grey to brilliantly sunny. How could it not with two godmothers on hand to make sure that the clouds evaporated before the long awaited event?
Vivacious and energetic Canadian cruise industry innovator and publisher Vanessa Lee was the godmother of the Avalon Vista, while dynamic Nicole Mazza, of the U.S. agency Travelsavers would do the honors for Avalon Visionary.
Having godmothers is a long tradition I really hadn’t understood until now. They’re guiding spirits and since ships are always referred to as “she,” it’s appropriate that women be chosen to see them on their way into the world. Women add glamour and class to the occasion as well.
Would you really rather have a ship christened by a godfather?
The setting had a storybook charm of its own. The blue river ships docked on opposite sides of a pier in the historic town of Enkhuizen were surrounded by a profusion of tall-masted sailing ships that seemed a throwback to the days of setting sail for exotic lands.
The local officials were going all out to welcome Avalon, which plans to add calls to the historic town north of Amsterdam to its itineraries in the coming years.
Before the event, the godmothers and official party were invited by Mayor Jan Baas for a reception at Enkhuizen’s 400-year old city hall, one of the most lavishly decorated government buildings you can imagine. Paintings by seventeenth century Dutch masters line the halls. All the walls of the mayor’s office are upholstered in a fantastically intricate tapestry woven 400 years ago.
Another office is painted in floor to ceiling frescoes representing themes like war and wealth, truth and justice. And all the eyes seemed focused on those below: a subtle warning to politicians and bureaucrats to toe the line?.
Then there was a walk back to the pier through the charming streets of a city that grew enormously wealthy as a center of the Dutch East India Company and the place where duties were collected from ships entering the Zuider Zee.
On to the main event, hosted by Avalon’s managing director Patrick Clark, with the godmothers gracefully performing the ritual anointing of the bows of their ships with crashing bottles of Champagne.
Fortunately, there were plenty of bottles of the bubbly still on hand for the celebration that followed.
Avalon certainly knows how to throw a party. Three hot bands played through the evening, the gala dinner included Canadian lobster and a dessert buffet that filled the entire lounge of the Visionary.
The memorable day was topped off by an impressive fireworks display and a sense that the enchantment will continue wherever the sister ships sail.