For someone who is terrified of flying, the trip in this Jet was surprisingly easy. Perhaps it helped that we were seated in swivelling white leather armchairs. I know my tapping helped (see earlier blog re EFT). It felt as though we were in someones sitting room. The crew brought hot and cold flannels, as many drinks as we wanted and lots of snacks and fresh fruit.
I realised that this was an opportunity for Richard Fain to get to know each one of us, and for him to have his say as to whom he wanted as Godmother of the largest cruise ship in the world.
During the trip he and his PA spoke to each of the four potential Godmothers in turn, asking us about our lives, our families and of course the charities we ran.
When it was my turn to speak to Richard Fain, I knew I had better ask about all the technical and engineering details of the ship in order to take back the information to the men folk in the family. Oh boy did he know his stuff. He knew everything about the Independence down to the finest detail, including all the interior design. I learnt about the tonnage, the engines, the stabilisers, the passenger numbers, you name it he knew it!
The Independence was his newest and largest baby.
What with chatting to the other ladies and snacking, the flight seemed to take no time at all, and soon we were flying low over lots of little islands off the coast of Finland. Many Finns have holiday homes on these islands and use them during the summer months.
After landing in Turku we had a short journey to the shipyard.
I could hardly believe my eyes as the most enormous, magnificent ship appeared before us. We were warmly greeted by Captain Teo who met us on the quayside, and after initial introductions we were escorted on to the ship.
Our hand luggage was taken to our suites.
There was just enough time to have a brief tour of the breathtakingly beautiful ship, before we went to one of the speciality restaurants for a wonderful lunch.
Many photographs were taken of us all with Richard Fain and Captain Teo.
The suites were fabulous, bottles of champagne and wine were on ice (wasted on me), a fruit bowl piled high with every imaginable fruit, and handmade chocolates were there for our enjoyment whilst we rested and made ourselves glamorous for the evening, as we had been asked to bring ball gowns with us.
A crew member called for us and escorted us down to the main dining room, where an enormous table was placed in the centre underneath the chandelier.
All around us were many people, Finnish and Americans who had come to celebrate the official handover.
I was placed next to the Captain and had a most enjoyable evening. We both had daughters of a similar age, and found lots to talk about.
The Finnish shipbuilders formally handed over the ship to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. After Speeches and congratulatory applause, celebrations continued with music and dancing on the promenade.
After a wonderful evening we retired to our suites. We disembarked at 5.00 am, and taken to the airport, sadly this was just a normal plane.
When we arrived in England we were met by representatives of RCCL and taken to a hotel where we freshened up. We were then whisked off to the UK head office of RCCL where a panel of three people including Sir Steve Redgrave interviewed us individually.
Sir Steve was particularly interested in my work with excluded young people.
After a buffet lunch we were each driven to our respective homes with the message that they would let us know their decision by nine o clock the next morning.
I was buzzing. I had had the most fabulous time. Words cannot begin to tell you how marvellous the whole experience had been. I regaled the whole family long into the night with my fabulous adventure.
Eight O clock the following morning the phone rang, not expecting to hear from RCCL until nine I was taken aback, when the voice at the other end of the phone said “Elizabeth, we had a lovely time interviewing the four of you, we think you all do wonderful things for the community but we unanimously agreed that you should be the Godmother of the Independence of the Seas”.
I couldn’t take it in, I spluttered and stuttered, then I heard a voice say, “Elizabeth are you still there? its you, we chose you!”
I must have seemed very ungrateful, as I calmly said “Are you sure?” Don’t forget I had met the other ladies, they were great and all very worthy winners, I had in my eyes already had a fairytale adventure.
When I had gathered myself, the penny finally dropped, and that is when I uttered the famous words, with great excitement and delight “Its better than winning the Lottery”
I was told that they had rung me early as they wanted to give me time to gather myself before they informed the rest of the world………………..