Celebrity Cruises today announced the appointment of Emma Pontin, an inspirational UK-based yachtswoman, to serve as Godmother of Celebrity Eclipse, the third in a series of five stunning Solstice Class ships. Pontin will name the ship in Southampton, England, during the ship’s formal naming ceremony April 24, which will conclude with a magnum of champagne, custom-made by The Corning Museum of Glass, commemoratively crashing against the hull of the 2,850-guest ship.
Pontin began her career as an ocean-racing yachtswoman in 2002 when she crewed on her first Challenge Transatlantic race with only one week’s sailing experience. Her devotion to the sport grew to the point that, in 2006, she was selected to skipper a yacht for the ARC Transatlantic race. But, prior to the start of the race, Pontin was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to immediately return to the UK for a mastectomy, which culminated in a double mastectomy for precautionary measures.
Celebrity Cruises selected Pontin to serve in the revered role of Godmother in recognition of her positive and empowering fight against the disease, from which both her aunt and grandmother died. Throughout her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she continued to sail, instruct and race, and even went on to skipper several major races during the following 12 months, including the Fastnet and the Sydney-Hobart race.
“Emma is an outstanding individual with an incredible zest for life, and is an inspiration to women from all walks of life,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman of Celebrity Cruises and Chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “Her determination to make every day count, her courage, and her positive attitude amidst challenging sailings, even during times of adversity, is tremendously inspiring for other women and their families who are, or have similarly, faced this disease.”
“We are honored to have such a strong and energetic role model serve as Godmother of Celebrity Eclipse; someone whose candid and open approach has helped so many others understand the day-to-day battle against breast cancer,” said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. “Her personal triumph over the disease and her continued commitment to raise awareness through sailing is an inspiration and encouragement to thousands of women and their families in the UK and beyond.”
In addition to surviving breast cancer, Pontin’s numerous life and sailing achievements include logging more than 100,000 nautical miles and completing 15 transatlantic races, some of which are considered the most grueling sailing challenges in existence. During her treatment, BBC Radio followed Pontin’s story as part of their "100 Lives" project, to highlight her courageous fight. During this period, she chronicled, in diary format, her battle against the disease, in what ultimately became a book, Beating the Blowfish.
“I am hugely honored and believe that serving as the Godmother of this wonderful ship is truly one of the greatest compliments to be bestowed on me," said Pontin. "I look forward enormously to taking up my duties in presiding over and naming this ship during what is one of the most important dates in a ship's life. It is extremely flattering to be recognized for what came naturally to me when fighting breast cancer, and I hope that through this association with Celebrity Cruises, I will continue to inspire and encourage many others. I feel very blessed and privileged to be able to name Celebrity Eclipse in one of the UK’s sailing capitals."
Pontin is currently mounting her next big challenge: a full circumnavigation of the world (30,000 miles), with a planned departure from London in October 2011 to raise funds for, and global awareness of, breast cancer. Her team will be comprised of a small number of experienced sailors, combined with a crew of 42 selected members of the public, all of whom have had a very personal relationship with breast cancer.
And, on April 24, as part of the Celebrity Eclipse naming celebrations, the first “Celebrity Sunwalk” sponsored by Celebrity Cruises will see thousands of women, men and families walking through Southampton in decorated bras helping to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. The walk will begin and end in Mayflower Park, where Celebrity Eclipse will create a sensational backdrop for visitors while they watch the live broadcast of the ceremony on a big screen.
Celebrity Eclipse enters service April 26 from Southampton on a three-night Paris (Le Havre) cruise, then returns to Southampton to embark on the ship’s official maiden voyage departing April 29 with a short 4-night cruise to Cork (Cobh), Ireland. The ship will present a series of Mediterranean and Russia and Scandinavian cruises throughout the summer, and will offer Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, beginning this winter.