Leslie Jon, the cruise director of the m/s Riviera, served as the master of ceremony. A duet of "Barcelona" performed by Soprano Alina Furman and Tenor Giorgio Olmo and a flamenco dance company set a festive atmosphere for the ceremony. The national anthems of the U.S. and Spain followed after the entertainment.
The first speakers on the program were the president of the Port of Barcelona and the Mayor of the city of Barcelona. The representative of the port of Barcelona spoke of the huge growth in Barcelona cruise ship traffic over the past several years. He noted that about 800 cruise ships with over 2.6 million passengers would stopover in Barcelona this year, making it the fourth busiest cruise ship port in the world. He was followed by the Mayor of Barcelona, who also touched on the growth of Bareclona tourism. In 1992, the year Barcelona held the Olympics, the city welcomed about one million tourists. In 2012, the city expects over 8 million tourists, with about one third of them arriving on a cruise ship.
Kunal S. Kamlani, President and COO of Oceania Cruises, spoke about the cruise line and its ships. I had very current, personal experience with Oceania, having embarked on the Riviera in Monte Carlo five days before the christening, and was very impressed with how smoothly the ship's operations were running. If I hadn't known we were the first passengers onboard, I would have thought the ship had been sailing for months. The interior and exterior common areas are pristine and very elegant. The service is friendly and attentive without being overly obsequious. The food has been uniformly excellent. This preview cruise is packed with travel agents, media, and other travel partners--not usually an easy crowd to please. Yet, I haven't heard any real complaints from a single guest.
Mr. Kamlani introduced Frank Del Rio, the cruise line's founder and chairman. He explained that "tradition and a little superstition" brought Oceania back to Barcelona for the christening of the Riviera. The cruise line's first ship, Regatta, was also named in Barcelona. This fascinating city will be the European homeport for Riviera's first cruise season, another good reason to name the ship there.
Mr. Del Rio spoke of the success of his company since its beginning in 2002 and recognized several of those who contributed to this success. He told us earlier in the week that the Riviera had 727 changes from Marina, Riviera's sister ship launched early in 2011. Most of these changes are very small and won't be noticed by cruise travelers sailing on both ships. However, making even these small changes demonstrates that the cruise line listens to the guests' feedback.
Captain Luca Manzi, master of the Riviera, spoke of the hard work and dedication of the staff in readying the ship for this launch. I'm sure others in the crowd were as touched as I was to see many of them proudly standing on the ship's balconies and on the walkways around the pier.
Finally, the big moment arrived. Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez-Martos of the Barcelona's Apostleship of the Sea bestowed the traditional blessings on the Riviera. Godmother Cat Cora briefly spoke of how delighted she was to have been chosen as the Riviera's godmother. She officially named the ship, pulled a large silver lever, and a 15-liter (about 4 gallons) Nebuchadnezzar of Champagne (weighing over 200 pounds), custom-made by Veuve Clicquot, broke against the ship's hull to commemorate its naming. Large cannons spewed red and yellow (the colors of Spain) confetti over the guests, and it swirled in the ocean breeze. What a marvelous moment!
More on the Riviera
The christening cruise I was on embarked in Monte Carlo and will disembark in Venice. Following this christening cruise, Riviera begins a 10-day maiden voyage from Venice to Athens, departing on May 16, 2012. From May 16 through November 29, 2012, she will offer a total of 20 Mediterranean voyages, calling at ports in France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Turkey as well as Israel, Croatia, Cyprus, Montenegro, Morocco and Monaco, with maiden calls in Cephalonia (Argostoli), Motril (Granada) and the Canary Islands.
I'll be adding more information and photos of the Riviera to this site over the next few weeks. Now, it's time to go enjoy myself outdoors on the deck of this gorgeous new addition to the Oceania fleet!
Champagne Bottle Breaks Against the Hull of the Riviera to Commemorate its Naming (c) Linda Garrison