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Kate christens new cruise ship in smashing style

The Duchess of Cambrideg looks on as a magnum of champagne breaks against the ship's hull Photo: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

The Duchess of Cambridge christened a new cruise ship in smashing style as she carried out her last solo engagement before her baby is born.

In time-honoured tradition, Kate let fly a magnum of champagne against the hull of the vessel Royal Princess, without a hitch.

The Duchess, who is due to give birth in mid-July, flew to Southampton by helicopter for the naming ceremony of the 3,600-passenger liner in front of hundreds of guests.

ITV News' Royal Correspondent Tim Ewart reports:

Alan Buckelew, president and chief executive of ship owner Princess Cruises, said the tradition of naming a ship goes back thousands of years:

The ritual marks the birth of a vessel, and asks for a blessing of good fortune and safety for the ship, its crew and passengers.

Perhaps the most important element of the naming tradition is the godmother selected to christen a ship.

A godmother is the figurative patron of the ship through its entire life, and symbolises the spirit of the vessel.

We can think of no more fitting godmother for our magnificent new ship. Her Royal Highness is an inspiring ambassador for Britain, and she is admired around the world for her style and grace, and for her compassion for others.

– Alan Buckelew, chief executive, princess cruises
The Duchess of Cambridge with Captain Tony Draper Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Kate wore a black and white animal print Hobbs coat and dark hat for the ceremony.

Before cutting the cord that released the magnum of champagne, she said:

I name this ship Royal Princess, may God bless her and all who sail in her.

– duchess of cambridge

The 15-litre Nebuchadnezzar-sized bottle from Moet & Chandon - costing £1,250 - was released and flew into the hull, smashing to a large cheer.

The crew looks on as the Duchess of Cambridge tours the Royal Princess Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

The occasion was also a musical extravaganza featuring military bands and pop singer Natasha Bedingfield performing on the quayside.

Later Kate was taken on a tour of the ship by the captain and, after meeting staff in the vessel's atrium, she visited the bridge.

The Duchess of Cambridge tours the bridge with Captain Tony Draper Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

Princess Cruises has a history of illustrious godmothers for past ships including Diana, Princess of Wales, who named the first Royal Princess in 1984.

Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Baroness Thatcher have all been godmothers in the past.

Hallo Sailor: The Duchess meets crew members Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

Features of the new ship include a glass-bottomed walkway extending 8.5 metres (28 feet) beyond the edge of the ship, the largest pastry shop at sea and balconies on all outside staterooms.

The vessel weighs 141,000 tons, has 19 decks and can carry passengers at a speed of 22 knots.