The mood was festive and jubilant in the port of Miami this weekend as Marina was officially christened by Godmother Mary Hart. The excitement was palpable at this joyous celebration.
The planning of the gala event began over a year ago, and a frenzy of preparations ensued even before Marina arrived in port. An enormous screen was erected on which all of the festivities were broadcast live, so that every guest had an excellent view.
The stage was set up to the forward starboard side of Marina.
Two crew members hoisted the bejeweled lever to the stage.
This sparkling lever would soon release the champagne bottle that would christen the ship.
The nebuchadnezzar of champagne was custom designed for the occasion by Armand de Brignac.
Of course, there were also cases of fine champagne for the guests to enjoy.
And hundreds of glasses in which to serve it.
Pedestals were placed around the staging area where musicians would perform. Two gentlemen perched precariously to install the decor atop the pedestal to the right of the curtained entrance where guests would be welcomed.
Oceania Cruises team members were eager to welcome the guests' arrival.
Photographers stood ready to capture every moment of the grand event.
As Blogger at Large, I was privileged to have my photograph taken with the Violin Divas, who provided some of the evening's entertainment. Guess which one is me.
One of the beautiful Violin Divas aloft on her pedestal.
The white-gloved staff prepared to greet guests with champagne.
The stage was set, the lights were up, and everyone was in position. It was finally time for the guests to disembark Marina and let the celebration begin!
Oceania Cruises Senior Director of Marketing Jim Lida, Senior VP of Marketing James Rodriguez, and guest Camilo Montecillo.
The crowd grew quickly as enthusiastic guests filled the seats.
Manager of Loyalty Marketing Nick DeSantis with Captain and Mrs. Flokos.
Stylish and stunning, Godmother Mary Hart made a grand entrance with President Bob Binder.
Ms. Hart returned the warm greetings of the crowd.
Flamenco Guitarist Alex Fox kicked off the entertainment, serenading Master Chef Jacques Pépin, President Bob Binder, Godmother Mary Hart, and an enthralled audience of hundreds.
Marina Cruise Director Leslie Jon was Master of Ceremonies.
The Miami Color Guard stood at attention as Dee Dee Wilde sang the National Anthem.
It was now time for President Bob Binder to take the stage. "We would not be here today," he said, "if it were not for the vision of Frank Del Rio. Frank more than anyone else has really driven us to be the best, and his passion and all of his dreams have come to life today in the form of this extraordinary ship.
"I've known Frank 18 years, and there's never been a dull moment," Bob quipped. "Sometimes maybe I could've used a dull moment or two."
President Binder had high praise for all of the Oceania Cruises team members, their shareholders, and their travel agent partners, without whom the dream of Marina would never have been possible. "When we started the company, many people said that we were crazy, but we didn't think so. Our shareholders didn't think we were crazy. Our travel agent partners didn't think we were crazy, and that's why they got behind this great product. And here we are today, and I have to say, I think things worked out pretty well."
Steve Martinez of Apollo Management remarked, "Some people will say that money built this ship. Money is the commodity. The foundation of this ship is the vision and the passion of a group of very, very special people. As I stand here today, I can honestly say, Frank and team, I am humbled by what you have created. And I am grateful and thankful that I have been a part of it. And I am excited about the many successes that lie in our future."
Mr. Martinez then welcomed to the stage Chairman and CEO, Frank Del Rio. Frank's remarks were both heartfelt and inspiring. "In the summer of 1998," he said, "I was in...France at a cruise ship naming ceremony much like today's. After the ceremony, my son Frank Jr., who was 20 years old at the time, and knowing the professional trials and tribulations I was going through at the time, took me aside and said, 'Dad, we need to start a cruise line of our own with a new ship.' I remember turning to him as any father would in those circumstances and saying to him with conviction, 'Son, I promise, someday we will.'"
Mr. Del Rio then stepped out from behind the podium, gestured to his son, and with a sweep of his hand toward Marina proclaimed, "At last!"
Frank continued, "The saying goes, 'Good things come to those who wait,' and although Marina's arrival has indeed been long awaited, she's more than just good. She is the most beautiful, sophisticated, stylish, elegant ship launched in the modern era of cruising, a span of some fifty years.
"Just eight years ago Oceania was a start-up cruise line in an industry dominated by two titans. Not many gave us a chance to survive, much less succeed, but we persevered and we triumphed. We triumphed because we had a clear vision, an exact plan, the desire and will to execute flawlessly, and most important, a group of men and women who sought excellence and refused to falter...I never tire of thanking them and acknowledging them for their herculean achievement."
Marina Captain Dimitrios Flokos then took the stage to introduce the Senior Officers and a parade of the staff and crew members that are so essential to the success of Marina and of Oceania Cruises.
The blessing was given, and then it was time for Mary Hart to speak. Ms. Hart is not only a beloved television personality, but also a woman with a longstanding personal commitment to bettering the lives of children, serving on the Board of Directors for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, as a Telethon Cohost for the Children's Miracle Network, and as an Ambassador for Child Help USA. After 29 years at Entertainment Tonight, this will be Ms. Hart's final season, and everyone at Oceania Cruises is thrilled that she is taking on a new role as Marina's Godmother.
Ms. Hart was exceptionally impressed with the ship and deeply honored to be named Godmother. "Walking onboard Marina today...when I got to the very first step onboard, walked in and came down that staircase and started to meet the staff and the crew, I was so touched. I could tell right there, that is the best test of quality of the ship, because the personnel, everybody is so kind, so welcoming, so in love with this ship and so proud that it made me feel proud to be her godmother too."
Ms. Hart expressed thoughts that were on the minds of many guests as they gazed upon Marina. "I am thrilled to be here. She's incomparably beautiful...For everybody going on this and future cruises, you are in for the time of your life."
The time for the grand finale had arrived. The drum roll sounded, and Marina was officially christened with the crashing of the enormous champagne bottle against her hull. Double click the image below to view a video of this extraordinary moment.
Mr. Del Rio threw his arms in the air in celebration, and he, Mr. Binder, and Ms. Hart enjoyed a congratulatory hug.
Mr. and Mrs. Del Rio toasted Marina's success.
The grandchildren joined the stage, and the real celebration began, led by the Marina Choir.
Mr. Del Rio, Ms. Hart, and the hundreds of other people in attendance continued to celebrate into the evening, toasting the extraordinary success of the Christening Ceremony, of Marina, and of Oceania Cruises. It was a grand affair befitting the elegance and beauty of the stunning new Marina.