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Celebrity Cruises announced sister-duo as co-godmothers of brand-new ship

06 Aug 2023
Elizabeth Wright

Celebrity Cruises has officially announced the two Godmothers for Celebrity Ascent, the cruise line's newest Edge Class ship launching in November. 


Captain Sandy Yawn, who is known for her appearance on Bravo TV’s reality show Below Deck, alongside her sister Michelle Dunham, founder of the Jacksonville School for Autism (JSA), have been chosen to be the co-Godmothers of the brand-new ship.  

"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.” 


Both Captain Sandy and Michelle will join a group of other women who hold the title of Godmother for other Edge Class ships, Simone Biles of Celebrity Beyond in 2022, Reshma Saujani of Celebrity Apex in 2021; and Malala Yousafzai of Celebrity Edge in 2018.

When Celebrity Ascent is officially named on December 1, 2023, the sisters will bless and christen the ship. This is meant to bring good luck and protection for the crew and all passengers onboard.

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Captain Sandy Yawn


Prior to launching her career in the yacht industry, Sandy Yawn survived a life-threatening accident, cancer, and struggles with addiction. 

In addition to her outstanding reputation, she received the prestigious Distinguished Crew Award from the International Superyacht Society in 2006 due to her leadership and bravery during a fire and pirate threat off the coast of Yemen. 


Captain Sandy Yawn says, “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."

“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.” 

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Michelle Dunham


Michelle Dunham co-founded the Jacksonville School for Autism (JSA) with her husband Mark in 2005 in order to give her son, Nicholas, better educational opportunities. 

JSA is a not-for-profit private school that serves grades K-12. Students and young adults with autism spectrum disorders are eligible to attend, and the school focuses on whole child development and individualized programs that encourage both family and community involvement.  

The school highlights the necessity for each student to develop independence while improving the quality of their lives. In order to accomplish this, they have created an inclusive environment for each student to be themselves in order to educate, engage, and inspire.


In March 2020, JSA relocated to a larger campus with more outdoor space, both introducing a vocational gardening program and giving students frequent opportunities for engagement with the outdoors. 

“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.”

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The sisters are joining brothers Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis, the industry's first brother Captains


Greek brothers Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis will be co-captains of the highly-anticipated Celebrity Ascent. This will be the first time that the cruising industry will see brother Captains. 

Captain Dimitrios' entire maritime career has been spent exclusively with Celebrity Cruises. In 1990, he began working for the company as an Apprentice Office onboard Celebrity's first-ever ship, the Horizon

Eight years later, Captain Tasos joined the company. He grew up watching his brother work on cruise ships and followed in his footsteps. Since he began working for Celebrity Cruises in 1998, he has been involved in the opening of Celebrity Summit, Solstice, Equinox, and Reflection. His most recent position was Captain of Celebrity Edge. 

The pair of brothers will alternate who is working onboard Celebrity Ascent in three-month rotational periods. 

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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