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Pregnant Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, names cruise ship

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 9:23 PM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Duchess of Cambridge names a new Princess Cruises ship, the Royal Princess
  • She smashes a bottle of champagne against the ship's hull for good luck
  • Catherine and Prince William are expecting their first child next month
  • The baby will be heir to the British throne regardless of its gender

(CNN) -- Sporting a growing "baby bump," Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, named a cruise ship on England's south coast Thursday, in what is expected to be her last solo public engagement before her child is due next month.

Wearing a stylish black and white animal print coat, she cut a cord to send the traditional bottle of champagne smashing against the hull of the Royal Princess.

The ceremony in the city of Southampton also included a blessing by the Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev. Tim Dakin, a performance by British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield and music from military bands.

Catherine was then to be given a brief tour of the cruise liner, as its "godmother."

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The ship, owned by Princess Cruises and with room for 3,600 passengers, will embark on its maiden voyage Sunday.

The Royal Princess will then sail Mediterranean cruises through the summer and Eastern Caribbean cruises in the fall. According to Princess Cruises, the huge ship houses the largest pastry store to be found at sea.

There was a gala dinner Wednesday night for guests at the naming ceremony, who included representatives of the charities for which Catherine serves as patron.

The Royal Princess was built for Princess Cruises, a part of Carnival Corp., at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

Alan Buckelew, the line's president and CEO, paid tribute to its British heritage in a speech ahead of the champagne smash, with a reference to its origins in the former London-registered Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., better known as P&O.

Prince William's late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was "godmother" to the original Royal Princess liner, which launched from Southampton in 1984.

She and Catherine pronounced the same words as they played their role in the official naming ceremony, saying: "I name this ship Royal Princess. May God bless her and all who sail in her."

Watch: 'Kate and Diana. a royal comparison

Other "godmothers" for the cruise line's ships include the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and actresses Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn.

Heir to the throne

It's not known if Catherine and Prince William are expecting a boy or a girl, but a change in royal succession laws means that their first child will be the heir to the British throne regardless of gender.

The couple married in London's Westminster Abbey in April 2011. William is second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles.

Queen Elizabeth II, William's grandmother, last week celebrated 60 years since her coronation.

On Monday, she paid a birthday visit to her husband, Prince Philip, in the hospital where he's convalescing after undergoing abdominal surgery last Friday.

The Duke of Edinburgh, age 92, could stay in the hospital for another week, according to a palace statement.

CNN's David Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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