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Cruise ship in Dover named Spirit of Discovery by Duchess of Cornwall

By Sam Lennon

Passengers already on the Spirit of Discovery looked down on the quayside before the Duchess of Cornwall named the new cruise ship.

The pre-ceremony garden party was in full swing this afternoon as Her Royal Highness arrived in Dover for the naming ceremony.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, officially named the new vessel the Spirit of Discovery during the event and officially became its Godmother.

The Duchess of Cornwall and Chief Executive Lance Batchelor at the naming ceremony of Saga's Spirit of Discovery at the Dover Cruise Terminal on Friday.. Picture: Chris Davey
The Duchess of Cornwall and Chief Executive Lance Batchelor at the naming ceremony of Saga's Spirit of Discovery at the Dover Cruise Terminal on Friday.. Picture: Chris Davey

The ceremony for the Saga cruiser was held at the port.

On arrival Camilla, was greeted by dignitaries including Patrick O'Sullivan, chairman of Saga and the company's chief executive Lance Batchelor.

The Duchess pushed a mechanical arm, which brought the bottle of sparkling wine, from Hush Heath based in Kent, smashing against the ship's hull. She wore a navy dress and a yellow wide-brimmed hat with a black band.

Recently-retired Bishop of Dover Trevor Willmott also took part in the blessing.

Other dignitaries at the event included Mayor Gordon Cowan and Dover MP Charlie Elphicke as well as South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay and wife Katie.

After arriving the Duchess had a short tour of the ship and unveiled a plaque.

The Hush Heath wine launching the ship Picture: Chris Davey
The Hush Heath wine launching the ship Picture: Chris Davey

Afterwards she join around 500 guests on a quay at the garden party-themed reception.

Guests also included those involved in the design and construction of the ship, including the Saga cruise team, Sir Roger de Haan, son of company founder Sidney de Haan, and some of the firm's customers who have been on past cruises.

After the reception the Duchess cut a cake made by award-winning choclatier and pastry chef Mark Tilling.

The cake is a two-metre replica of the ship.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay and wife Katie, guests at the garden party and ceremony
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay and wife Katie, guests at the garden party and ceremony

The Duchess also enjoyed the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Collingwood performing before the opening of the hour-long ceremony.

The Morriston Orpheus Choir also performed and the ship was blessed by the Bishop of Dover.

Before she named the ship, she also made a speech to the guests as did Mr Batchelor.

A bottle of Balfour sparkling wine was smashed against the hull and flower confetti cannons were set off.

The Royal Marines Band playing at the naming ceremony of Saga's Spirit of Discovery at the Dover Cruise Terminal on Friday.. Picture: Chris Davey.
The Royal Marines Band playing at the naming ceremony of Saga's Spirit of Discovery at the Dover Cruise Terminal on Friday.. Picture: Chris Davey.

The Royal Marines Band performed throughout the ceremony and played Rod Stewart's sailing as one of their last numbers.

Musician Jools Holland played on board that evening and had been on the ship that afternoon, meeting the Duchess there.

He told Kent Online: "The ship is extraordinary, I've never seen anything like it in my life

"It's like a floating world, with restaurants and a theatre there.

"I've been to Dover a lot of times but I've never seen it from 14 storeys up. Looking back at Dover it's totally amazing with the cliffs and the castle, it's quite a spectacle.

Jools Holland and Duchess of Cornwall
Jools Holland and Duchess of Cornwall

"I've also never been to the naming of a ship so it's been great fun."

When asked what he and his band would play tonight he quipped: "We could play A Life on the Ocean Wave, La Mer, 'somewhere over the sea or 'all the nice girls love a sailor'.

"But I think we will probably stick to our own specialised subject of boogie woogie music.

Others attending the ceremony included Dover MP Charlie Elphicke.

He said: “It was a fitting event for a truly impressive ship – and an honour to welcome the Duchess of Cornwall to Dover.

“It shows just how far we have come. The number of cruise arrivals continues to go up and up each year.

“Record investment is delivering the improvements this area has long deserved."

Spirit of Discovery is the first of two new passenger ships for Folkestone-based Saga.

The company specialises in providing products and services for the over-50s such as holidays, insurance and personal finance.

Spirit of Discovery will host 999 guests and 523 crew members.

It has a gross of 58,250 tonnes, is 774.3ft long and has a maximum bema of 102.4ft.

Saga is in the final year of a three-year partnership with The Silver Line, of which the Duchess is a patron.

It is a 24-hour helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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