Dame Judi Drenched

Oscar-winning actress soaked in champagne after christening Carnival Legend

By: Theresa Norton Masek

HARWICH, England It took three tries, but Dame Judi Dench finally broke a bottle of bubbly on the hull of the new Carnival Legend.

And when the third bottle smashed, it sprayed Dench with champagne and bits of green glass. The British press promptly dubbed her Dame Judi Drench.

Dench took it all in stride, laughing and then brushing off offers of fresh makeup and a change of clothes.

“She was an unbelievably good sport,” said Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison. “The only issue she had after that was how fantastic she smelled with all that champagne.”

The Academy Award-winning actress and stage veteran is a legend herself in the United Kingdom.

When she spoke to the hundreds in attendance at the Legend’s christening ceremony here, she said she was “completely overwhelmed” and “deeply, deeply honored” to have been asked to serve as the godmother to Carnival Cruise Lines’ new 88,500-ton ship.

“I am godmother to 13 godchildren and godmother to a goddog. Now I am godmother to a great ship,” Dench said. “Any time this great ship feels the need for my help, I hope it will call to me, and I will go rushing to its side.”

Her first attempt to break the champagne bottle was by the usual method used nowadays pulling a lever dockside to send the bottle smashing into the ship’s hull by a system of ropes and pulleys.

The bottle simply bounced against the hull. When the champagne bottle fails to break, it is traditionally considered bad luck by the superstitious maritime industry.

Dench then walked up to the gangway, grabbed a bottle in her hand and aimed at the ship. It too failed to break and fell out of her hand into the water.

The third time was the charm.

The drenching of Dame Dench and her good humor led most attendees to forget about the bad luck. The British press had a field day, publishing numerous photos of the actress soaked in champagne.

In fact, Carnival garnered more publicity than usually accorded such an event, so it turned out to be good luck for the Fun Ship line so far.

50-50 Chances

Later, Arison updated the press on his efforts to buy another British legend, P&O Princess Cruises.

Carnival and its chief rival, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., are aggressively vying for P&O Princess.

The deals are awaiting the decision by the Federal Trade Commission on whether either would create a monopoly and stifle competition in the cruise industry. A decision is expected in mid-September or early October.

Arison said the chances for approval are 50-50 for either deal. Both or neither one will get clearance, he predicted, because Carnival and P&O would total 46% of the North American cruise market in total berths while RCCL-P&O would be 45%.

“If the FTC rejects them, it’s basically over for these two transactions, unless someone chooses to litigate,” Arison said.

If the FTC approves both transactions, the bidders will return to the P&O Princess shareholders and let them vote on which suitor they want.

“We are very confident that if it goes back to the shareholders, we will own P&O Princess,” Arison asserted. “I am confident of that.”

The $375 million Carnival Legend is the third Spirit-class vessel, following the Carnival Spirit and the Carnival Pride. A fourth in the class, the Carnival Miracle, is due out in early 2004.

The 2,124-passenger ship is the first Carnival vessel to sail in Europe, although it was scheduled to operate just two cruises before heading across the Atlantic to North America.

This fall, the Legend will operate Canada/New England cruises from New York and two Bermuda cruises from Philadelphia and Baltimore.

From Nov. 10 to April 19, the Legend will operate eight-day Southern and Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale.