Princess Christina of Sweden took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Meriden, Conn., yesterday to formally open a regional distribution center for the Swedish-made Saab Scania automobile. Her visit, however, may be royally overshadowed Wednesday when the Duchess of York, the former Sarah Ferguson, rides into the Nutmeg State.

The wife of Britain's Prince Andrew is expected to visit the home of playwright Eugene O'Neill in Waterford before popping off to New York to attend the gala benefit opening of "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Majestic Theater on Broadway.

Her visit comes amid reports by British newspapers that the duchess is expecting a baby this summer. Officials at Buckingham Palace, however, remain mum on the issue.

The duchess was in Connecticut last September to visit her mother Susan Barrantes, who has a home in Greenwich with the duchess' stepfather, Argentine polo player Hector Barrantes.

A Carter Christening

Rosalynn Carter christened the world's largest cruise ship yesterday by sending a 5 1/2-gallon bottle of champagne crashing against its hull at dockside in Miami. "It's a big, big ship," the former first lady said of the $186 million Sovereign of the Seas. How big is it? Well, it is 14 stories high, has four miles of corridors, 1,141 cabins, 2,000 telephones, a five-story atrium and twin glass elevators. Goodbye Love Boat, hello Sovereign.

Rosalynn Carter was accompanied by husband Jimmy, but the former president did not participate in the ceremony. Today the Carters and the other passengers will board the ship for its maiden voyage to the Caribbean.

Memories of Madonna

A gym owner from Rimini, Italy, who served as one of Madonna's bodyguards when the singer performed in Italy last year, said he was, for a time, her secret lover.

Ettore Santinello, 29, held a news conference to confirm a report published by the British newspaper The Star this week about his romance with the "Material Girl."

Santinello, an aspiring actor, said, "I have beautiful memories of her. We talk every so often on the telephone."

Santinello said he disclosed nothing to the press about the romance and that the story was fed to The Star by other bodyguards. However, like a true opportunist, Santinello is excited about his new-found stardom. "At this point I will try to exploit it," he said. "I would like to be an actor ... because I know I am handsome and I know that women like me."

Santinello said he is thinking over offers to tell his story in full, "especially the juicy details."

Rainier's Wrath

The British press reports that Prince Rainier of Monaco is striking back at Pope John Paul II over the Holy Rota's refusal to annul Princess Caroline's marriage to Philippe Junot "on grounds that they were hopelessly immature," writes syndicated columnist Liz Smith. Rainier is said to have cut off his annual $800,000 contribution to the church in Monte Carlo, and neither he nor his children now celebrate mass at Monaco's cliff-top cathedral, but instead attend the palace chapel. "They are still Catholics, after all," says a palace insider. "Rainier is most upset with the Vatican's attitude."