How I Became a Cruise Ship’s Godmother—and Why I Can’t Review My Own Ship

6 years ago

I’ve been a travel reporter for 25 years, and never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be named godmother of a cruise ship someday. But last week I christened the newest addition to Windstar Cruises’ fleet, the 212-passenger Star Breeze, in a ceremony on the French Riviera, and then hosted the inaugural voyage to Rome.

Star Breeze christening ceremony in Nice, France, on May 6, 2015

It’s a longstanding maritime tradition for cruise ships to have godmothers—they bless the ship and historically have been entrusted with the safe passage of the vessel—and I’m told I’m the first journalist to receive this honor. Usually it’s reserved for people like Sophia Loren and Princess Kate. Here’s why Windstar chose me.

Star Breeze captain Krasimir Ivanov, priest Father Jean Marie, Windstar CEO Hans Birkholz, and Wendy

Hans Birkholz introducing Wendy as the ship’s godmother

The ship’s crew watching the ceremony—and a Jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot waiting to be smashed against the ship’s bow

The moment before the champagne bottle hit the ship

Being named godmother is a tremendous honor. It’s also one that some people might view as a conflict of interest for a journalist. You might be wondering whether I’ll show bias toward Windstar. You might question how I can report impartially on Star Breeze when my portrait hangs in one of its hallways.

So let me explain why I accepted this honor. First, as I’ve told you, it’s meaningful to me personally. The Windstar sailings I took with my dad two decades ago are among my favorite memories of our time together. And my husband and I still keep in touch with friends we made on our Windstar honeymoon voyage 15 years ago.

Moreover, I want to do what I can to support small ships. Some would say they’re endangered. Most of the new ships that cruise lines build nowadays are behemoths. And while a vacation in a 4,000-passenger floating city may make sense for some people, it’s certainly not the best way to explore foreign countries. So I’m relieved that there are still a few small ships taking travelers to those off-the-beaten-path islands and hidden-gem harbors that might otherwise be too logistically difficult or prohibitively expensive to get to any other way. Anything I can do to help small ships continue to help sophisticated travelers see the world better, I’ll do.

I want to assure anyone who might be concerned about a conflict of interest that my godmother role will have zero influence on my travel reportage or the advice I give travelers. I remain the same unbiased truth teller and honest adviser I’ve always been. Just because Windstar’s style of small-ship travel suits me personally, that does not mean it’s for everyone. We all have different travel tastes, interests, and needs, and my mission is the same as it’s been for 25 years: To point you toward the right travel experience for your goals, whether that’s a small ship, a big ship, or no ship at all.

If you’re hoping for a review of Star Breeze, though, I’m going to recuse myself—not because I can’t write about the ship impartially, but because there was nothing typical about the voyage I just experienced. I was showered with special treatment (as you’ll see in the photos below), and while there were a number of regular passengers onboard—and I spent as much time as I could chatting with them—I was mainly with the media and travel-industry execs who were being wined and dined (as they are on nearly every new cruise ship’s inaugural voyage). In other words, it was not a normal cruise like one that my readers would experience, and therefore it would be a disservice to them to pretend that it was.

So I will leave the reviews of Star Breeze to exceptional cruise reporters such as Cruise Critic’s Carolyn Spencer Brown and USA Today’s Gene Sloan. You can read their accounts of the christening ceremony here on Cruise Critic and here in USA Today. My husband Tim (who shot the photos here) also plans to weigh in (I’m not sure how, but I’m sure it will involve more photos). Stay tuned.

With Nancy Anschutz, godmother of Star Breeze’s sister ship Star Pride

With Windstar CEO Hans Birkholz

The sailaway from Nice

Arriving in Monte Carlo that same night

The top deck

The Yacht Club observation lounge

The dining room

The Veranda café

A pretty typical room on Star Breeze

Wendy’s room: Suite 03 (one of the Owner’s Suites)

Wendy on her balcony on the ship’s bow


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