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Catching Up with the Godmother of Independence of the Seas

By JoWednesday 25th May 2016

Elizabeth and her daughter, Alicia. Elizabeth and her daughter, Alicia.

Last weekend, Independence of the Seas returned to Southampton for the first time since she joined the fleet. This summer, she will call Southampton home and, from here, she’ll cruise to amazing destinations around the Mediterranean.

Before setting off on her next adventure, Independence of the Seas spent the weekend docked in Southampton for a quick break. It was just enough time for a lucky few to join us onboard for a day of fun. One of those people was the ship’s Godmother, Elizabeth Hill.

 Eight years after she was crowned, and after her day spent back onboard, we caught up with Elizabeth for a chat. Here’s what she had to say.

A bit of background…

In anticipation of Independence of the Seas’ launch in 2008, ITV and the Steve Redgrave Fund ran a competition to find a Godmother for the ship. They asked the public to nominate someone who works in the charity sector or spends a large part of their time helping others. Elizabeth Hill, who founded Gamelea Countryside Training Trust, which helps young people with physical or learning disabilities and those who are having trouble in school, was nominated by her 11 year-old daughter, Alicia. From 1,700 entries, Elizabeth was picked as the winner, to be crowned Godmother of Independence of the Seas.

It’s been eight years since you became Godmother, what’s changed since then?

Gamelea Countryside Training Trust was my baby, and in 2008 we were at the height of our activities. We went on to work with homeless ex-service personnel and set up a drop-in café, a signposting service and a halfway house. While all of this was going on, my husband fell ill with Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, this meant we had to relinquish the tenancy of the farm. Although we found a smaller place nearby, we encountered several difficulties, and it was with a great sadness that we gave up the fight for Gamelea Countryside Training Trust in the summer of 2013. It was a great blow, but I didn’t give up. We moved to be near our family in Buxton and I began to help farmers around the country set up ‘care farms’. I also trained as a Home-Start volunteer, helping struggling young families, which is very satisfying. I’m also helping my daughter Alicia set up a social enterprise to make music and the arts accessible to all, and I’m busy on the speaker circuit, going out to local groups several times a month to talk about my experience as a Godmother.

What’s your favourite part of being a Godmother?

It’s hard to say what my favourite part is, as I’ve enjoyed privileges and experiences that were beyond my wildest dreams. I loved the ceremony, of course, but I also loved doing my other Godmother duties. I’ve enjoyed the cruises and the facilities and entertainment onboard the wonderful ship. Most of all, I love it that I am still made to feel part of the Royal Caribbean family and when I’m onboard I am treated like Royalty.

What’s your memory of Indy’s inaugural sailing in 2008?

The day of the inaugural sailing was incredibly busy, and I could only call in on my family in the Presidential Suite (who were having a fabulous party without me!) briefly. Captain Teo looked after me and escorted me to the stage, chatting away to help my nerves, and Alicia was given a gift for her 13th birthday. However, most memorable was when I received a wonderful gift, a diamond brooch, and I had to give a thank you speech. In the excitement of the day, nobody had told me about the speech! How I made my legs carry me to the microphone I have no idea. The private party afterwards was also amazing, as I was given another fabulous gold necklace by the Finnish shipyard owners. For the evening meal I was sat between Richard Fain and Sir Steve Redgrave. I quickly realised how little I know about sport!

What are your favourite things about Independence of the Seas?

I really enjoy that it is so family-friendly. There is so much to keep children of all ages entertained, while still allowing parents to enjoy their holiday too. The food is second to none and even the fussiest eater would be in for a treat. The accommodation is superbly comfortable and the entertainment, both in the theatre and the ice rink, is fantastic. I also love dressing up for the formal dining. All the staff are friendly and helpful, and nothing is too much trouble for them. You’ll always make new friends onboard, as the fun and friendly atmosphere rubs off on everyone.

What did you enjoy about being back onboard last weekend?

It was really great to be back onboard and I was so thrilled by the warm welcome from the captain and crew. Alicia and I remarked that Indy looked just as fresh as she did on naming day, and we both loved the new shops, particularly Michael Kors. As a grandmother and a Godmother it was great to see that there was now a club for much younger children. This certainly ensures that mums and dads get a well-deserved break and some alone time – very crucial when you have a young family! Although I was a little disappointed to see the two shows had gone, but I’m sure Grease will more than make up for it.

What advice would you give to families going on a cruise for the first time?

I would suggest that they take advantage of every opportunity. Definitely do the formal dining – it’s a lovely experience, like being in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Go to every theatre and ice rink show, as these are superb. For the younger passengers, the FlowRider and the Climbing Wall are fantastic, as is the pool with the glass bottom. If you want to explore the ports or go further afield, take an organised tour. It takes the stress out of sightseeing, as you’ll be guaranteed to get back onboard on time, leaving you to enjoy your day. Make sure you bring a sun hat and sun cream, and get your daily itinerary from the Service Desk so you don’t miss any activities. Remember, the ship is like a small town, so you need to keep an eye on the kids at all times.

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