The launching of a new ship has always been accompanied by a ceremony, and it seems only fitting that today this should include the world’s most celebratory drink. The smashing of a bottle of Champagne on the hull for good luck has become synonymous with the christening of any new boat, though a tradition that has only made an appearance in relatively recent times.
One of the earliest known offerings to the sea in return for safe passage was made by the Babylonians 5,000 years ago when oxen were sacrificed to the Gods. The Vikings preferred to offer slaves, whilst ancient Greeks used to drink wine and pour water on the ship as a blessing.
In 1610 the Prince of Wales started a new, and far-less savage, tradition of drinking wine from a goblet at the launch of a new boat, before throwing the rest of the contents on the deck and the goblet overboard for a lucky passerby to catch. By the late seventeenth century the goblet was deemed too costly a token due to the fact that the British navy was growing rapidly and it was no longer practical to keep giving away expensive cups every time a boat was launched. So, the goblet was replaced by a bottle of wine, which in turn has been replaced by the much more aristocratic Champagne, first smashed on a hull in 1891 when Queen Victoria launched HMS Royal Arthur. Given that it was such a prestigious warship with a royal name, Champagne seemed fitting and so the tradition stuck.
Whether superstition is to be believed or not, sea farers stand by the belief that a ship that hasn’t been properly christened is considered unlucky, especially so if the bottle of Champagne didn’t break during the ceremony. Perhaps there is some truth in it given that White Star Line, the company that built Titanic, didn’t christen any of their boats with Champagne and of course the famous unsinkable ship went on to sink a year later, killing 1,500 passengers and crew. Furthermore, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, controversially christened the Cunard liner Queen Victoria in 2007 upon which the bottle of Champagne failed to break. The first cruises were marred by outbreaks of a bad vomiting bug which was nicknamed ‘The Curse of Camilla’.
Champagne for safe passage is a tradition that still stands today with most recently the world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, being christened by 1 year old Ocean PenaVega pressing a buttonreleasing a bottle of Champagne to smash on the hull of the 6,680 passenger ship.
For anyone ready to launch a new superyacht, have a look at our selection online or call/email with any special requests. We can offer large formats of all Champagnes or whatever drink is deemed suitable for the ships launch just no oxen or viking sacrifices!
Safe passage to all of you!