I am looking forward to going back to sea. But this time I will not be standing in a dress uniform, “manning the rail”, as we deploy but rather a festive cruise line. Even the company, Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas, sounds like a festive destination rather than a vessel to get from Point A to Point B. The scheduled departure is still months in the future, but it is something to look forward in anticipation. I still have some hesitation about putting to sea. “Underway. Shift Colors!”, is a phrase all deployed U.S. Navy Sailors know as the moment the ship leaves the mooring and begins to put to sea. While today’s Sailors may have six or seven- or even nine- month deployments away from their home, the routine of everyday blurs the calendar. Menus define the day of the week – sliders (hamburgers) Wednesday, spaghetti ( with crumbled sliders for meat sauce) Thursdays, and so on.
A cruise line does not operate that way. From what I have been told, there’s food, drink, and entertainment twenty-four hours a day, if you pay for it. (Well, in the Chiefs’ Mess, we were able to fund some pretty wonderful food, snacks and even ice cream during deployment ). But today’s cruise liners make the last cruise ship I was on, the former Cunard Lines , Queen Mary seem tame in comparison. As a child accompanying my mother, I sailed on the RMS Queen Mary and the RMS Sylvania between Liverpool and New York in the 1960s. And in 2016, my wife and I stayed aboard the now-hotel Queen Mary in the city of Long Beach, California. Cruise lines, prior to the heyday of jumbo jets and routine flights to and from Europe, was a great form of travel. Both movie star Cary Grant and the vacationing nurse traveled in style albeit at substantially different accommodations and traveling companions.
Although manning a Navy ship does not give you many opportunities to enjoy the sea air, wind or waves, it is still something incredible when looking at the vast ocean. That is what I will look forward to seeing again. Along the east coast of North America, the Gulf Stream is a great conduit for whales, dolphins, game fish, and adventurous sailors in sailboats and other craft. I also know that the sea could be like glass or the gray-black of a squall on the horizon. But I imagine, instead of chow lines, field day, and drills, it will be cocktails, suntan lotion and enthusiastic support for my wife’s plans for ashore zip-lines and water slides.