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If a strong sense of wanderlust and a high regard for travel agent expertise are high among favorable traits for a cruise ship godmother, few are more qualified than "A"-list English actress Dame Helen Mirren, who on Tuesday christened 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse, Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours' luxury expedition ship, at a New York pier-side ceremony.
The sleek and small cruise ship features a yacht-like profile and will journey to 68 ports in its inaugural season, including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. All guest airplane flights, transfers, land-based shore excursions, restaurants, drinks, pre-departure hotel stays, in-suite mini-bar and staff gratuities are included in a single fare.
"It's a very beautiful ship and I am fortunate to be a part of it," Mirren said Tuesday in a press conference prior to the christening event. "I'll definitely have to do my 'Titanic' moment at the front at some point," she joked.
Asked what sort of movie character the new ship would represent were she a cinema star, Mirren said "Definitely a queen. A modern queen."
Scenic Eclipse is designed as an authentic expedition vessel, with an ice-class rating for the vessel's Arctic and Antarctic voyages. The ship also carries kayaks, snowshoes, e-bikes and scuba and snorkeling equipment for guests, enabling passengers to extend their off-shore exploration.
In addition, Scenic Eclipse features two helicopters, six-passenger Scenic Neptune, an expedition submarine, and a fleet of Zodiac boats, all utilized for included air and sea excursions.
Scenic Eclipse's advanced, environmentally sensitive GPS dynamic positioning system is designed to permit stationary maneuvers without an anchor says company officials, eliminating potential coral reef damage.
Mirren said Tuesday her inaugural sailing as Scenic Eclipse's godmother will be her first ocean-going voyage. "I've never been on a cruise," she said. "I did grow up sailing on boats, on a Thames River estuary. Very small boats of only two or three people. With a sail."
Nevertheless, the Tony- and Academy Award-winning actress is a dedicated traveler. "I've had the incredible advantage of traveling to amazing places to do my work," she said.
"I'm so fortunate I get to travel for my job. I love to travel, explore and look about," Mirren said. "And the first place I normally visit is the local grocery store. Not the supermarket, but the grocery store, because you learn about the local culture there."
Asked for her initial reaction to Scenic's interest in her as a cruise ship godmother, Mirren said, "I thought 'That would be fun!' not really understanding what it really was.
"I had no concept of the honor of what I was to be a part of," she said. "The role of the godmother is actually quite important. You have that umbilical cord with the ship wherever it is. There is a world of belief and faith for time immemorial across the seas for sailors. Sailing has always had a lot of belief, faith and luck."
Mirren is also a savvy traveler in that she has high regard for the key role played by travel agents.
"A really good travel agent is such an important thing to have, especially when things go wrong, right?" she said Tuesday. "It's really important when you are someone like me, who travels a lot for work. My husband and I rely on our travel agent tremendously."
Brian Major is Managing Editor for Digital Publications & Guides/Caribbean.
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