Oceania Riviera: Big Day in Barcelona

ON THE MEDITERRANEAN — They call it a "christening" when a cruise ship sails for the first time and, religious conflicts aside, it's probably the right term. The word dovetails nicely with cruising, the ship gets a ceremonial bath, and its name becomes official.

For the Oceania Riviera, this will happen tomorrow, in Barcelona, and the "font" (or bathtub) will be the Mediterranean Sea. The Riviera has prepared for the event by bathing in the Med for almost four days carrying a passenger load of mostly travel agents and travel writers who may or may not specialize in cruise ships.

This baby belongs to Frank Del Rio, the founder for Oceania, now a consortium of investors who justifiably think of her as an offspring of their own.

Like all babies, she's a beauty. She's clean and white and, if it's not impertinent to say it about of one so young, she has a great body with curves in all the right places. For her, that means sweeping balconies around her stern that soften her look. They also provide the owners (there are three "owner's" suites) and passengers with deep enough pockets that they likely own "something" of significant material value or they wouldn't able to rent suites that curve around the back of a ship.

This is our first time on a cruise ship that's sailing for the first time, with passengers and crew members as new to the ship as we are.

You can tell.

It starts with the smell. Everything new just smells that way, even babies, except when…well, you know. New ships are like new cars, but the smell's a little different, probably because ships  have restaurants and flowers and much more broadloom.

Although cruise ships are always clean, new ones are cleaner. The outside of the ship is whiter than white, if that's possible. As perfect as the Riviera was leaving Italy, new paint is already being applied. There are no marks on walls in the staterooms. The drawers are sticky not because they're sticky drawers, but because they're new. If crew members seem a little more nervous, it's likely because so much of what they do is new, too.

The Riviera will look her best in Barcelona tomorrow, because babies and brides always do on their biggest of days, but it's hard to believe they can make this baby look any better.

The spiritual side of the ship's ceremony is that she gets a godmother. The Riviera's is Cat Cora and, while she'll be part of the cruise christening, she wasn't chosen for alliteration, although her given name, Catherine, also starts with a "C". She was chosen for food, but that's another story…beyond Barcelona.

Celebrity Millennium
5 nights
May 27, 2012
San Diego, San Francisco, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside:  $399
Cost per day: $79

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