As Holland America Line readies to dedicate its newest cruise ship on July 1 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, I was thinking about the names of new cruise ships that give strong hints about the people who choose to vacation at sea and sometimes help us to understand the soul of a cruise line.
I have sailed on Ecstacy, danced on Fascination, bedded down on Fantasy. I have rested on Rhapsody and Radiance, fallen in love on Spirit. I rode the Royal Viking Sea into Leningrad when there was a Leningrad, the Crystal Serenity into Dublin, the Grand Princess out of Istanbul and into Venice, the Tahitian Explorer to Bora Bora.
If ship names say anything about who we are, then people who choose to cruise have changed during the past three decades from passive, pampered class-reachers to a more energetic and egalitarian, though often emotional, lot.
For decades, when cruising was elitist, with fewer ships and a clientele that was mostly wealthy, cruise lines manipulated the name Royal. In the 1970s and into the 1980s, cruise lines were selling a temporary crown to their passengers. Ships either were named royal (Royal, Royal Viking, Royal Caribbean) or royalty was implied, with Majesty or Crown or position such as the Pacific Princess and Island Princess, where television cameras in the 1980s shot scenes of ordinary people lapping up luxury on the "Love Boat" series.
Then along came the fun ships of Carnival, and class brows took a dip. On Carnival, we went to a Festival, a Mardi Gras or took a Holiday. Soon, most of the Royals (but thankfully not Royal Caribbean and Princess) abdicated.
The name game changed. Rivals Carnival and Royal Caribbean mined emotions. Carnival hit pay dirt with the Fantasy group and then such wonders as Imagination and Elation. Royal Caribbean snatched Brilliance and Enchantment. Both lines, with a patriotic theme, have shouted Freedom and Liberty. Disney grabbed onto Magic and Wonder. Princess and Norwegian are into gems. Celebrity soon will unearth the new Solstice.
Which brings us to Rotterdam, for the naming ceremony starring Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who will be Godmother of the Eurodam. The ship, which will cruise in Europe this summer, is the largest of Holland America's 14 vessels, but not by much; an additional deck increased the number of cabins by 63.
The Eurodam won't show off a lot of new bells and whistles, either. No rock-climbing walls. No waterpark on deck. Holland America clings to tradition, in style -- and names. All the ships end in dam, so the Dutch laugh that this is just another dam ship.