Brothers, sisters make Celebrity Ascent naming ceremony a family affair

The naming ceremony for Celebrity Ascent at Port Everglades on Dec. 1 was a memorable family affair. For the first time Celebrity Cruises chose brothers Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis as co-captains, and sisters Sandy Yawn, star of Bravo TV’s hit franchise Below Deck, and Michelle Dunham, founder of the Jacksonville School for Autism, as co-godmothers.

“Captain Dimitrios spent his entire maritime career spanning more than three decades with Celebrity Cruises. He started as apprentice officer in 1990 onboard Celebrity’s first vessel, the Horizon,” said Laura Hodges Bethge, who was taking part in her first naming ceremony as the president of Celebrity Cruises. “Captain Tasos grew up watching his older brother make a career at sea and he realized he wanted to follow in his footsteps. He joined Celebrity Cruises in 1998 and has been with us for more than 20 years. Together they’re our maritime dream team and we are so proud to have them in the Celebrity family. In addition to our accomplished brother captains, we have barrier-breaking godmother sisters, truly making this naming ceremony quite the family affair.”

Michael Bayley, CEO of Royal Caribbean International; Richard Fain, the former CEO of Royal Caribbean Group; HGTV’s Nate Berkus, who designed the Sunset Bar, and other Below Deck stars such as Captain Glenn Shephard were among those on hand for the celebration.

“It’s the greatest honour to work with the incredible Celebrity team around all around the world as we bring joy to millions of guests who choose to spend their really valuable vacation time with us on these stunning ships,” said Hodges Bethge during the ceremony for the fourth ship in the Edge series and the 65th ship in the parent company Royal Caribbean family. “I’ve been fortunate to work with this company for 23 years and I’ve had many, many wonderful experiences. I have now been brand president for exactly seven months and one day — and I can say unequivocally say that this is the best job ever and this is the best day by far.”

Some all new entertainment programming debuted with the ship, including Bridges and Awaken, which features choreography by Brandi Chun, the winner of Netflix’s Dance 100.

“As we’re breaking new ground in every aspect of our business, we thought it was only right and proper that the first cruise ship to have two brothers as co-captains should also have sisters as the godmothers,” said Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group. “We have found the perfect godmothers who embody the spirit of Ascent in Captain Sandy, star of Bravo’s successful Below Deck and of course her sister Michelle, the executive director of the Jacksonville School for Autism. These sisters pursued different life paths but they each raised the bar in the world around them.” 

After blessing and naming the ship, Yawn and Dunham lifted a symbolic X on a podium on stage to trigger the release of an 80-pound bottle of Veuve Clicquot that smashed on the ship’s hull to a round of applause in a longstanding maritime tradition.

“I’m a big fan of a quote by the famed author and poet Maya Angelou who wrote I learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel,” added Liberty. “Our crew delivers an ever-lasting feeling that our guests always remember. It’s a key differentiator for us and it’s what drives our guests to come back for more.”

Kicking off its inaugural Caribbean season, Ascent set sail from Ft. Lauderdale on Dec. 3 on a 7-night Eastern Caribbean sailing, visiting destinations such as St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and the Dominican Republic, following two inaugural sailings for industry personnel and media.