She presided over festivities for the Royal Caribbean vessel at PortMiami on Jan. 15, 1988. Taittinger created a special sovereign-sized bottle (equal to 35 standard bottles) of Champagne for the occasion.
Former President Jimmy Carter was there, and the Carter family then set sail on a regular revenue cruise to St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Sovereign a sensation
Built at Chantiers de l'Atlantique, Sovereign of the Seas measured 73,192gt, stretched 880 feet and had capacity for 2,673 passengers — a behemoth at the time, along with Norwegian Caribbean Line's Norway (the former ocean liner France).
Sovereign's arrival in Miami caused a sensation, with crowds lining Government Cut, and enormous media coverage.
In 2008 the ship was transferred to Royal Caribbean affiliate Pullmantur where it operated as Sovereign until the pandemic. It was scrapped at Aliaga, Turkey, in July 2020.
Carter was president from Jan. 20, 1977 to Jan. 20, 1981.
Also cruised on Song of America
During the mid-1990s, the Carters returned for a Caribbean cruise aboard Song of America and Ken Muskat, current managing director, Scenic Group USA, said he had the honor of hosting the family for that trip shortly after he joined the line in 1994 as entertainment supervisor. (The 1982-built Song of America most recently sailed as Celestyal Olympia which, as reported here last week, is being retired by Celestyal Cruises.)
Muskat was in charge of putting together the family vacation with President Carter's personal assistant and Karen Coffey, Richard Fain's PA at Royal Caribbean. Working closely with the Secret Service, Muskat scoped out all destinations to create private shore excursions before the cruise.
An inclusive family
'Traveling with the entire family was amazing, and since I had to be with the Carters at all times, I actually got to know the president and first lady well after traveling together for a week,' Muskat said. 'They even included me in some family photos from the trip ... Rosalynn was the perfect mother and grandmother, quiet and refined, very friendly and appreciative.
'We also had a book signing with President Carter and his daughter Amy, and the entire family was great with all the guests.'
Muskat expressed sympathy to the Carters for their loss and said he is 'forever touched by this very special first lady.'