Sandy Yawn and Michelle Dunham Named Godmothers Of Celebrity Ascent

Celebrity Cruises has announced the godmothers for its newest ship, Celebrity Ascent, launching in November of this year!

Congratulations to Captain Sandy Yawn, known for her appearance on Below Deck, and her sister Michelle Dunham, founder of the Jacksonville School for Autism (JSA), on becoming co-Godmothers. The two women will be at the ship’s official naming ceremony on December 1, 2023. They will each participate in blessing and christening the ship, which will serve as a symbol of good fortune and safeguarding for both the crew and all travelers aboard.

“We are honored to have Captain Sandy and her sister Michelle join the legacy of Celebrity’s Godmothers, as they are both inspirational women who have dedicated their lives to making a positive impact in the world,” says Laura Hodges Bethge, Celebrity Cruises’ President. “Captain Sandy’s life story is one of resilience, leadership and strength, as a pioneer in the maritime industry and as an inspirational role model for young women. Her sister Michelle is a tireless advocate for children with autism and shows us what is possible when you follow your vision for a better world. Both women live by Celebrity’s values, and we have no doubt they are the perfect choices for Ascent.”


 Captain Sandy Yawn:

  • Captain Sandy’s life is a testament to her resilience, having stared down the abyss of a life-threatening accident, cancer, and addiction before embarking on her career in the yachting industry.
  • Her unwavering commitment to integrity and fearlessness has earned her an impeccable reputation.
  • Her leadership qualities were tested in a dire situation when a catastrophic fire and the looming threat of pirates off the coast of Yemen threatened to derail all their efforts.
  • Captain Sandy rose to the challenge and displayed remarkable bravery, ultimately earning her the highly coveted Distinguished Crew Award from the International Superyacht Society in 2006.

“As I embark on this remarkable journey as a co-godmother of the Celebrity Ascent, I am deeply honored to represent not only the spirit of leadership but also the strength of women empowerment,” says Captain Sandy Yawn. “This role serves as a reminder that women can steer their destinies with grace and determination, commanding the seas of possibility and inspiring others to follow their own paths with courage and conviction. I am so honored that my sister and I can share this distinction. She has always been my biggest inspiration in her selfless pursuit to help my nephew and other families impacted by autism.”

Michelle Dunham:

  • Michelle Dunham and her husband, Mark, are the co-founder of Jacksonville School for Autism (JSA).
  • Driven by her desire to provide the best learning environment for her son Nicholas, she developed a unique model for JSA.
  • JSA is a nonprofit organization that offers comprehensive K-12 educational services to students and young adults with autism spectrum disorders.
  • They focus on holistic development and individualized programs encouraging community and family involvement.
  • The nonprofit believes in creating an inclusive environment that empowers students to develop independence while improving their quality of life.

“It fills my heart with immense pride to stand as co-godmother of the Celebrity Ascent, alongside my sister, Captain Sandy Yawn. As we embark on this journey, much like Celebrity Cruise’s commitment to delivering exceptional vacations and enriching lives, we embrace the same spirit of compassion and positive change,” says Michelle Dunham. “Together, we aspire to elevate lives, create boundless possibilities, and set sail towards a brighter, more inclusive future for all who grace our path through the charities we founded, Jacksonville School for Autism and Captain Sandy’s Charities.”

Captain Sandy and Michelle are set to become part of a distinguished circle of respected, driven, and motivating women who occupy the position of Godmother for a Celebrity Cruises vessel. Some previous Godmothers of the Edge® Series ships are individuals like:

  • Simone Biles, a 19-time World Champion and seven-time Olympic Medalist, who had the honor of christening the latest ship, Celebrity Beyond, in 2022.
  • Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of the global nonprofit organization Girls Who Code, bestowed the name Celebrity Apex on the ship in 2021.
  • Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel laureate and well-known activist, introduced the groundbreaking ship class when Edge set sail in 2018.

Will you be sailing on Celerity Ascent? Let us know in the comments!

Julie Bouchner is the Digital Editorial Manager for Porthole Cruise and Travel. She has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Syracuse University. When she is not writing, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, baking, and playing with her Siberian Husky named Ellie.