Uniworld's newest river ship, the ultra-luxe SS Joie de Vivre, will be christened in Paris next month by none other than the redoubtable Dame Joan Collins. Dame Joan is best known for her role as the arch-bitch Alexis Carrington in the soapie Dynasty and was given the title dame for her services to charity.
So why was she chosen to do the honours as SS Joie de Vivre's godmother? "Dame Joan epitomises the 'joy of living' philosophy that is reflected in every bold detail and gentle touch of super ship," says Ellen Bettridge, president and chief executive of Uniworld.
The glamorous star is a celebrated bon vivant with close ties to France. She owns a house in St Tropez, attends Paris Fashion Week every year and, with the release of her 2017 movie, The Time of Their Lives, continues to have a high profile as a successful actor.
"I hold France and its City of Light close to my heart, and now, thanks to Uniworld, my ties to the beautiful country are even closer," Dame Joan says. "I am honoured to be the godmother of the SS Joie de Vivre and welcome guests from all over the world to fall in love with Paris just as I have."
The christening promises to be a fabulous affair and I'm thrilled to be attending the event – watch this space. People often ask why ships have godmothers: is it just a marketing ploy, getting a famous face to launch (a thousand) ships, to garner headlines and encourage sales? Well, yes and no.
Ships have been launched with varying degrees of pomp and ceremony for centuries, to bring good luck to the ship and "all who sail on her". The ancient Greeks drank wine to honour the gods and poured water on the new vessel to bless it. The Babylonians sacrificed an ox, the Turks sacrificed a sheep, and the Vikings offered human blood to the fearsome Norse sea gods.
Today, most ships are christened by women – until about 200 years ago it was always a man's job. The practice of smashing a bottle of wine on the ship's bow apparently began in England in the 18th century. Attaching the bottle to a rope became de rigueur after a princess threw the bottle and missed the ship, hitting a spectator.Dame Joan will be in good company. High-profile 21st-century ships' godmothers include members of the British and Dutch royal families, actors Sophia Loren and Dame Helen Mirren, and the cast of The Love Boat.