Motherships, ahoy

Being a ship's godmother seems to be another sparkling facet of a celebrity's life these days.

Actor Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct) recently christened the river ship AmaVida in Portugal.

"We are so thrilled to have the lovely and gracious Sharon Stone here to bless the AmaVida on this very special day," AmaWaterways' executive vice-president and co-owner Kristin Karst said.

On the same day, Queen Isabel (Uniworld Boutique River Cruises' newest ship on Portugal's Douro River) was officially named by actor and L'Oreal spokeswoman Andie MacDowell.

Stone and MacDowell might be newcomers to the godmother business, but veteran screen siren Sophia Loren is godmother to the entire MSC Cruises fleet. She christened the line's 12th vessel, MSC Preziosa, in the fleet's home port of Genoa, Italy, just four days after the AmaWaterways event.

Pipping all of the above at the post was the mass christening of 10 Viking River Cruises longships in Amsterdam on March 20. This involved 10 godmothers doing the honours with 10 bottles of Moet, a feat that landed the cruise line in Guinness World Records.

The 10 Viking River Cruises godmothers are a collection of European women who represent history, art, education, exploration and discovery, so are not household names in Australia.

At the unseasonably cold ceremony, Torstein Hagen, the chairman of Viking River Cruises, said: "Today is a proud day for Viking and for river cruising. We are honoured to showcase 10 of our revolutionary new longships and to have had such a celebrated group of women helping us christen them."

And as 2013 promises several more high-profile ship launches, expect to see lots more about their glamorous godmothers.

Package of the week

Three cruises link hotel stays in Paris, Rome, New York, Singapore and Fort Lauderdale in Worldwide Cruise Centres' 40-day My Global Getaway package. Flights depart from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne on November 14, 2013 (and are included in the package) and the trip takes in Singapore, three nights aboard the Mariner of the Seas, Paris, Rome, 15 nights cruising through Europe aboard Celebrity Constellation, Fort Lauderdale, New York and the Bahamas. You arrive back in Australia on December 23. Prices start at $7499 a person, twin share, valid until May 30, 2013, or until sold out, whichever happens first. (02) 9900 7299,

In brief

MV Oceania is cruising the Kimberley for the first time, from April to December. This 27-metre catamaran offers a range of itineraries for up to 20 guests, including whale-watching in August.

Next northern summer, P&O Cruises World Cruising is basing its first ship in the Mediterranean in a move that's expected to appeal to Australian cruisers. Ventura will sail on a series of seven- and 14-night cruises around Italy, Greece and Croatia from late March to October.

MSC Cruises' recently launched MSC Preziosa will be based in Genoa and sail seven-night itineraries around the western Meditteranean. Children under 18 can cruise for free when staying in their parents' cabin.

Shipshape: MS Volendam

LAUNCHED 1999 PASSENGERS 1432 REGULAR HAUNTS Australia, New Zealand, south Pacific, Asia and Alaska BEST FOR Couples and families with older kids THE DETAILS A 14-day Indonesia cruise, a round trip from Singapore departing January 6, 2014, is priced from $1698.95 a person, twin share, interior cabin. 1300 987 322,

Need to know

1 Volendam is in the "Rotterdam" class of Holland America Line's fleet of 15 ships and has been operating Down Under since 2009. It's a four-star, premium ship with a mostly Indonesian crew.

2 The decor "theme" is floral and there are magnificent displays of fresh flowers throughout the ship and flower-related artworks. Volendam shares many key features of its HAL fleetmates, including the extra-charge Pinnacle Grill.

3 Volendam's main restaurant, the Rotterdam Dining Room, is two decks high and has ocean views on three sides. Other dining options include the Pinnacle Grill, Lido Restaurant and Explorations Cafe.

4 Keen cooks love the Culinary Arts Centre, a demonstration kitchen that offers hands-on cookery classes, while the photography classes at the Digital Workshop are another popular option.

5 Facilities for kids include Club HAL for three- to seven-year-olds; a "Tweens" program for eight- to 12-year-olds; and The Loft for teenagers. Two pools and a cinema will also keep them entertained.

Port watch: Amsterdam

Need to know Amsterdam is the second-largest port in The Netherlands — after Rotterdam — and in 2013 expects to host 190 cruise ships and 1350 river cruise ships. The new passenger terminal is an easy walk from Amsterdam Central Station, the bus terminal and trams. Public transport is excellent: you can catch a train to the international airport (Schiphol) from Central, a journey that takes about 15 minutes.

Do not miss As well as the hash cafes and red-light district that everyone has heard about, Amsterdam is a historical, cultural and architectural delight. It bristles with museums and monuments but it's not all about history lessons: the Dutch are fond of partying and there are hundreds of bars and clubs tucked away in tiny streets and alleys. This year is the 125th anniversary of the Concertgebouw, the Rijksmuseum will reopen, and it is the 400th anniversary of Amsterdam's city canals.


What is the difference between Panamax and post-Panamax ships?
- F. Nicholls, Belrose.

The word Panamax relates to the Panama Canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. A Panamax ship can fit through the locks and a post-Panamax ship can't. To fit through the locks, a ship has to be a maximum of 294 metres long, 32.3 metres wide, and have a maximum draught (the area below the ship's waterline) of 12 metres. Most big resort ships (Queen Mary 2, Celebrity Solstice, Ruby Princess are prime examples) are post-Panamax. The Panama Canal is being expanded and new locks, due to be operational in 2015, will allow the transit of larger post-Panamax vessels. We'll then become familiar with the term "new Panamax".


Offer of the week

Island Escape Cruises Book a six-night Secrets of Vanuatu cruise in May and June on MV Island Passage and you'll receive a helicopter flight from Port Vila and a flying-boat trip from Aore Resort. Round-trip fares from Espiritu Santo start at $2995 a person, twin share. 1300 950 622,


Cruiseco 17-night cruise from Sydney to Singapore on Celebrity Millennium, plus one night's stay in the luxurious Fairmont Singapore and return airfare. Departing on November 20, 2013, with prices from $2895 a person, twin share. (02) 9492 8520,

Ecruising Book by April 30 for special prices on a 13-night trip that includes a seven-night Mekong River cruise on-board The Jahan, return airfares from Australia and six nights' accommodation in hotels in Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia. Departing Australia on September 18, prices from $4309. 1300 369 848,

Royal Caribbean International Voyager of the Seas returns to Australia next spring: a 14-night Asia repositioning cruise, departing Singapore on October 24, costs from $2025 a person and Sydney-Singapore flights are a bargain at $49 a person. 1800 754 500,

Sally Macmillan is editor of Cruise Passenger magazine.