Over The Yardarm: What’s In A Name?

February 9, 2017


Over The Yardarm - Cruise Musings

What’s in a name?

We understand the need for recycling. It’s an important part of everyday life these days, and we do it almost without thinking. But does it also have to apply to ship names as well, which seem to be popping up with equally little forethought?

This latest promenade grumble arose after we noticed the official handover of the new Viking Sky online (yes, we do subscribe to the Interweb, for our sins; it’s practically inescapable, even at sea). A smart new vessel, it has just been released by the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy and is the third in a growing fleet of impressive dimensions.

It looks good, has excellent nautical lines – and is saddled with a name that has already been used. Royal Viking Cruises were a 1970s paradigm of good sea-going taste and style, whose CEO, Torstein Hagen, is now chairman of Viking Cruises (river and ocean-going). Torstein obviously likes his Nordic roots, as he has named each of his new ships the exact same as their Royal Viking forebears.

That really rankles our rigging. Not only that, there is already a Norwegian Sky, and we have also had Sky Princess and Fairsky, while Noble Caledonia has three ships with Sky in the name.

And it’s not just Sky. Sun, Sea and Star crop up with dismal regularity in no fewer than 21 vessels that either carry that name or have had it in the past. Sorry, Viking, that’s you again on all three counts.

Of course, there are other serial offenders besides poor old Viking. Carnival’s new ship will be the Carnival Horizon, which obviously forgets that the old Horizon of Celebrity Cruises is still doing the rounds for Croisières de France. Equally, Carnival has a Dream (as does Disney Cruise Line, Thomson Cruises and Pullmantur in Spain, and as did Norwegian) and a Spirit (just like Silversea, Seabourn, Windstar, Thomson and Norwegian).

Royal Caribbean don’t escape our scrutiny, either. They were happy to name their 2003 newcomer Mariner of the Seas even though Regent already had their Seven Seas Mariner. How much confusion could you want? It’s a wonder some of these ships don’t suffer from schizophrenia.

In fact, there are few lines that get off lightly when it comes to naming conventions. Just a quick scroll through any handy cruise guide (the Berlitz Guide by the inestimable Douglas Ward is our preference) and you’ll find multiple occurrences of Legend, Magic, Pride, Freedom, Island, Fantasy and Explorer, while gemstones are simply all over the place. Whatever happened to originality?

OK, cancel that. We’ve just heard that MSC Cruises plan to call their next two ships Seaside and Seaview. Seaside and Seaview? Those are not names, those are 1960s B&Bs in Paignton for heaven’s sake. Seaview? What do you expect to get from a cruise ship – WildebeestView? Of course there’s a view of the sea, anything else would be redundant (as whoever dreamt up those names should be).

How can a cruise line that was developing unique monikers – witness the likes of Lirica, Poesia and Opera – suddenly slap their passengers in the face with two such ridiculous terms?

And don’t even get us started on Norwegian Breakaway. The very last thing we’d want from our sea-going paragon would be things breaking away from it. Or it breaking away from things. Who thought that was a good idea?

Still, it is not as bad as the now defunct Renaissance Cruises, who briefly caused a stir in the late 1990s. They went from one ship to eight in just four years (thereby precipitating their immediate downfall), and obviously gave no thought at all to worthwhile names, just using R One, R Two, etc. R U kidding? What is this, Ships Я Us?

PO Britannia Christening

Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, officially name P&O Cruises’ new ship, Britannia, during a glittering ceremony in March 2015 – Photo by James Morgan.

Happily, there are still a few lines that know a great ship starts with a memorable name. The venerable Peninsula & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (horribly shortened to P&O) continue to give their vessels titles that befit ocean-going voyagers. Oriana, Arcadia, Azura and even Britannia (if we overlook it being purloined from royal quarters) are all perfectly proper soubriquets, while Fred. Olsen remain wonderfully traditional with Black Watch, Balmoral, Braemar and Boudicca.

Cunard are still the exemplars of nautical nomenclature for us, however. One simply can’t deny the true cruise ambience of sailing on the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria. Hopefully, the Mauretania, Carpathia and Carinthia are still on their list. After all, if you’re going to recycle names, wouldn’t you want to use the best?

Treadwell & Tenny

What do you think – are ship names becoming ridiculous? What rankles YOUR rigging about some of the latest names, and what’s the worst name out there? Treadwell & Tenny want to hear from you.

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