Women of NASA celebrated at naming ceremony for Sky Princess

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Princess Cruises chose the theme ‘Reach for the Sky’ to fit the naming ceremony for its newest ship, Sky Princess, held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 7 December 2019. In keeping with that theme, the company honoured two women of NASA for their achievements in the US space programme: Captain Kay Hire and engineer Poppy Northcutt, who jointly served as the godmothers of the vessel.

“As we celebrate our newest, most technologically advanced ship – one whose spirit of adventure and discovery match the grandeur of her name, Sky Princess, we also applaud the groundbreaking women of the US space programme,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises’ president. “Our godmothers, Captain Kay Hire and Poppy Northcutt, remind us all of what we can achieve when we reach for the sky.”

Captain Hire began her 30-year NASA career as a mechanical systems engineer, helping to launch more than 40 space missions. Later serving as an astronaut, she logged 700 hours in space, flew more than 12 million miles and orbited the earth 475 times. Captain Hire was also the first female assigned to a military combat flight crew while serving in the US Navy. She retired from the US Navy with more 35 years of service.

Northcutt served as the first female mission control engineer when NASA made history with its mission to the moon. When the crew of Apollo 13 became stranded in their service module, it was her team’s calculations that brought them home safely – a feat of heroism that earned the entire mission operations a Presidential Medal of Freedom Team Award.

Captain Hire and Northcutt recited the traditional cruise ship blessing before pushing a NASA-style launch button releasing and smashing a 15-litre bottle of champagne, officially naming Sky Princess.

Additional women of NASA were recognised for their unwavering quest to ‘Reach for the Sky’ in a tribute video. They included the first woman of colour to travel to outer space, Dr Mae Jemison; the first hispanic woman in space, who later became director of the Johnson Space Center, Dr Ellen Ochoa; the first woman to command the space shuttle, Eileen Collins; the first woman to command the International Space Stations, Peggy Whiston; and the first woman to join a spacewalk, Kathryn D Sullivan.

Sky Princess Captain Heikki Laakkonen also recognised two Sky Princess female officers who embody the ‘Reach for the Sky’ theme, striving for success in leadership positions. Kerry Ann Wright started working in the cruise industry as a spa technician and went back to school to rise through the ranks to become a second officer working on the bridge. Meanwhile, chief security officer Susan Morgan is the longest-serving woman in the British Royal Navy.

Princess Cruises’ celebrations ambassador and ‘Love Boat’ actress Jill Whelan served as ceremony co-host with Sky Princess cruise director Alexander Yepremian. Entertainment included a performance of Dream On from America’s Got Talent alum Brian Justin Crum. The finale of the naming ceremony included a performance of This is Me from The Greatest Showman, featured in the cruise line’s new production, Rock Opera.

The 143,700-ton, 3,660-guest Sky Princess recently completed her inaugural season in Europe and is now sailing on voyages to the Caribbean through Spring 2020. The vessel represents an evolution of the design platform used for sister Royal-Class ships – Regal Princess, Royal Princess and Majestic Princess – with additional distinct features.

One new introduction on Sky Princess is the new luxury Sky Suite. These offer expansive views from private balconies. Two new entertainment experiences were also introduced on this ship: Phantom Bridge, an immersive escape room combining digital and physical elements, and Take Five, a jazz theatre at sea.

The debut of Sky Princess marks the first Medallion-Class newbuild, with service features enabled by the OceanMedallion wearable device. The Princess Cruises fleet will continue to expand with Enchanted Princess in June 2020, Discovery Princess in November 2021 and two new LNG ships in 2023 and 2025.

Image: Princess Cruises

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Marisa has been writing about transport design and the passenger experience since 2013 and is also a contributor to sister titles Aircraft Interiors International and Business Jet Interiors International. She has travelled the world extensively by car, plane, train and cruise liner.

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