A beaming Duchess of Cambridge was today given a tour and met the crew of the spectacular cruise ship that she launched with a £1,250 Nebuchednezzar of champagne in Southampton this morning.

The Duchess, who was making her last solo public appearance prior to the birth of her first child next month, was shown around the Royal Princess by its captain, Tony Draper.

She enjoyed views across the Solent and was shown the ship’s bell from the previous Royal Princess, which was christened by Princess Diana in 1984 in the same spot.

The Duchess chatted to Captain Draper about her experiences of sailing in the Solent when she was part of a small boat crew during the 2000 Round the World challenge.

As she looked down at the quayside, the Duchess pointed at the ground and quipped: ‘I’m used to going alongside and throwing a rope over.’

Hungry? The Duchess of Cambridge is introduced to the Royal Princess' contingent of chefs as other members of the crew watch from above Hungry? The Duchess of Cambridge is introduced to the Royal Princess’ contingent of chefs as other members of the crew watch from above

Grand entrance: The Duchess of Cambridge strides through the ship's opulent atrium during a tour on the arm of commanding officer, Captain Tony Draper

Grand entrance: The Duchess of Cambridge strides through the ship’s opulent atrium during a tour on the arm of commanding officer, Captain Tony Draper

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Is that me? The Duchess is shown a portrait of herself by President and CEO of Princess Cruises Alan Buckelew, which will be displayed in the ship's art gallery

Is that me? The Duchess is shown a portrait of herself by President and CEO of Princess Cruises Alan Buckelew, which will be displayed in the ship’s art gallery

 

Officer class: The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to officers belonging to the crew of the cruise ship Royal Princess during a tour of the vessel

Officer class: The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to officers belonging to the crew of the cruise ship Royal Princess during a tour of the vessel

Captain Kate: The Duchess tries out a few buttons up on the Royal Princess' bridge much to the delight of Princess Cruises CEO, Alan Buckelew

Captain Kate: The Duchess tries out a few buttons up on the Royal Princess’ bridge much to the delight of Princess Cruises CEO, Alan Buckelew

Driver's seat: Captain Tony Draper gives the Duchess of Cambridge a guided tour of the Royal Princess' high tech Bridge

Driver’s seat: Captain Tony Draper gives the Duchess of Cambridge a guided tour of the Royal Princess’ state-of-the-art bridge area

Near miss: The Duchess of Cambridge blinks as the nebuchadnezzar smashes against the ship's hull just metres from her face

Near miss: The Duchess of Cambridge blinks as the Nebuchadnezzar smashes against the ship’s hull just metres from her face

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Crash! The Duchess of Cambridge looks on as the vast Nebuchednezzar of champagne smashes into the hull of the Royal Princess

Crash! The Duchess of Cambridge looks on as the vast Nebuchednezzar of champagne smashes into the hull of the Royal Princess

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OUR GUIDE TO THE BIBLICALLY NAMED CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE SIZES

 

Different sizes of bottle

Quarter 18.75 cl – 1/4 bottle

Half-Bottle 37.5 cl – 1/2 bottle

Bottle 75 cl – 1 bottle

Magnum 1.5 litre – 2 bottles

Jeroboam 3 litre – 4 bottles

Rehoboam 4.5 litre – 6 bottles

Methuselah 6 litre – 8 bottles

Salmanazar 9 litre – 12 bottles

Balthazar 12 litre – 16 bottles

Nebuchadnezzar 15 litre – 20 bottles

 

Captain Draper gestured to a button on a console and asked Kate 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.’

 

Sporting a £169 dalmatian print coat from high street retailer, Hobbs, which she accessorised with classic black court shoes and a neat black fascinator, the Duchess had arrived to find a royal blue carpet and enjoyed a rousing musical welcome courtesy of the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

The Duchess looked relaxed as she stepped from her chauffeur-driven vehicle to the quayside in Southampton, after making the journey from London by helicopter.

Smiling broadly, the eight-months pregnant Duchess shook hands with officials and representatives from the cruise operator watched by guests and a celebrity contingent that included veteran TV presenter Sir Bruce Forsyth, actor Christopher Biggins and former Atomic Kitten singer Liz McClarnon.

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

 

Among the spectators were representatives from the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice, the Duchess’s charity, SkillForce which has the Duke of Cambridge as its figurehead, and Prince Harry’s organisation WellChild.

 

After a performance from pop singer Natasha Bedingfield, the ship was blessed by the Right Rev Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, before the Duchess smashed a £1,250 Nebuchadnezzar of Moet et Chandon champagne against the hull of the Royal Princess to officially name the ship.

Captain Tony Draper invited the Duchess to perform the naming ceremony on a nearby platform. Two children, Isobel Rowbotham, 14, and her eight-year-old brother Charles, handed the Duchess a pair of scissors to cut the rope and release the huge bottle of champagne .

The children were chosen after their brother died from a brain tumour as a toddler at the East Anglia Children’s Hospice.

Before cutting the rope, Duchess chatted to the siblings, then completed the ceremony with the words: ‘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 the sound of a large cheer.

The 15-litre Nebuchednezzar of champagne was the third to be smashed today and came after at least two trial runs earlier this morning. In total, the champagne bill was thought to be in the region of £4,000.

The Duchess then looked on as the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards staged a colourful parade to round off the christening ceremony.

Despite the ship’s regal name, the vessel was not named after the Duchess of Cambridge. Instead, the name was taken from the original Royal Princess ship which launched in 1984 and no longer belongs to Princess Cruises.

The original ship is now known as the MV Artania and is based in Germany, where it is part of the fleet belonging to German cruise company, Phoenix Reisen.

The ceremony for the Finnish-built ship in 1984 was attended by the then president of Finland, Mauno Koivisto, and the vessel was blessed by David Cartwright, then Bishop of Southampton, before Princess Diana completed the christening.

 

Becoming a ship’s godmother is 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.

 

‘Appointing a godmother to name a new ship is one of maritime’s oldest traditions,’ said Paul Ludlow, UK Director of Princess Cruises.

 

‘Historically their role is to be entrusted with the safe guidance of a vessel and its passengers. We are thrilled to welcome HRH Duchess of Cambridge, godmother to Royal Princess, to Southampton and look forward to celebrating this historic occasion.’

‘It is a great honour for Princess Cruises that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has accepted our invitation to become the Godmother to Royal Princess,’ added Princess Cruises CEO Alan Buckelew.

‘We are delighted that the Duchess will launch our new ship and can think of no better way to celebrate our company’s British heritage and our commitment to the country.’

The spectacular vessel arrived in Southampton after a lengthy journey from the Monfalcone shipyard where she was built, and was met with a rousing welcome from the Southampton University Brass Band.

Along with a a fully-equipped games room, casino and a spa, the vast cruise ship has a has a 28ft glass-bottomed viewing gallery, 10 different restaurants including one that specialises in steak and lobster, and 1,780 luxury staterooms.

Royal Princess is now the largest in Princess Cruises’ 16-strong fleet, although it will be joined by a similarly sized sister ship, Regal Princess, next year.

The newly christened Royal Princess will now depart on her maiden voyage, which will take her round the coastline of Spain to Barcelona, via Vigo, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Malaga.

From Barcelona, the ship will embark on a 12-day voyage around the Mediterranean before a longer 30-day cruise that will take it across the Atlantic to the sunny Florida city of Fort Lauderdale.

It will then depart on a five-day Caribbean cruise that takes in Princess Cays in the Bahamas, the pretty island of St Maarten, the British Virgin Islands and St. Thomas before returning to the American port.

THE BIRTH OF A CRUISING TITAN: INSIDE THE ROYAL PRINCESS

3,600: Number of passengers the ship can accommodate at any given time

 

1,082: The ship’s length in feet

 

141,000: The gross tonnage of the Royal Princess

 

Five: The number of stops the ship will make on her maiden voyage. These include Barcelona, Gibraltar, Malaga, Lisbon and Vigo

 

10: The number of restaurants on board

 

One: The number of casinos on the Royal Princess

 

Two: The number of royal princesses at the naming ceremony. One is the ship itself, the other is the Duchess of Cambridge.

 

1,780: The number of staterooms on the Royal Princess

 

30: The number of days the leisurely voyage to Fort Lauderdale will take

 

Four: The number of Caribbean islands the Royal Princess will visit. They include the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and St. Maarten.

Spectacular: The piazza is crammed with high end boutiques, while the staircase leading to the upper decks looks like something a Bond villain would own

Spectacular: The piazza is crammed with high end boutiques, while the staircase leading to the upper decks looks like something a Bond villain would own

 

 
Luxurious: Each suite comes complete with 100 per cent Egyptian cotton bed linen, a 37
Luxurious: Each suite comes complete with 100 per cent Egyptian cotton bed linen, a 37
 

Luxurious: Each suite comes complete with 100 per cent Egyptian cotton bed linen, a 37″ flat screen television and a deluxe en suite bathroom

 

 

 
Panorama: The stunning Sea View bar offers commanding views of the surrounding ocean as well as a fully stocked bar staffed by expert mixologists

Panorama: The stunning Sea View bar offers commanding views of the surrounding ocean as well as a fully stocked bar staffed by expert mixologists

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Maiden voyage: The Royal Princess' inaugural trip will take it to Barcelona, via Gibraltar, Lisbon and Malaga. After that, it heads across the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale
Maiden voyage: The Royal Princess' inaugural trip will take it to Barcelona, via Gibraltar, Lisbon and Malaga. After that, it heads across the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale
 

Maiden voyage: The Royal Princess’ inaugural trip will take it to Barcelona, via Gibraltar and Malaga. After that, it heads across the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale (above)

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Glamorous: The Crown Grill & Wheelhouse Bar is the perfect spot for a relaxing sundowner
Glamorous: The Crown Grill & Wheelhouse Bar is the perfect spot for a relaxing sundowner after a long day browsing the shops in the spectacular atrium (right)
 

Glamorous: The Crown Grill & Wheelhouse Bar is the perfect spot for a relaxing sundowner after a long day browsing the shops in the spectacular atrium (right)

 

 

Luxury: Along with a casino, a spa and a gym, the Royal Princess also has its own fine art gallery for guests to enjoy

Luxury: Along with a casino, a spa and a gym, the Royal Princess also has its own fine art gallery for guests to enjoy

 

 

 

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