Yesterday, my oldest and I went on the 25th annual Fleet Week Port Everglades ship tour, and, for lack of a better word, it was AWESOME.
As we approached the USS Wasp, giddy with excitement, we couldn’t help but to feel so incredibly tiny. There’s something overwhelming about being surrounded by hundreds of Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, and their awe inspiring ships. I mean, its anchor alone weighed 40,000 lbs. And it had two of them!
When I first registered for a tour a couple of months ago, I wanted to get into the submarine tour. I knew my eight-year old would enjoy it, and, frankly, I didn’t recognize any of the other types of ships. However, it seemed most everyone else had the same line of thinking because all the slots were booked. So, I settled for the amphibious assault ship. I had no idea what it was, but I’m glad I did. This ship can hold a crew of 1,100, and is designed for fast troop movement using a whole range of helicopters and amphibious vehicles it can accommodate inside, as well as its Landing Craft Air Cushion, a sort of hover craft that looks like an Everglades airboat on steroids.
It truly was an amazing opportunity. No book, movie or picture (or blog post!) can convey the immensity of these ships. Or the weight of the weapons my son was able to hold. Or the force with which they ricocheted when he fired the (unloaded) guns. Or the pride each of the officers had as they spoke about and showed off their vehicles. It will take days to let it all sink in, and I look forward to the conversations it will help springboard with the boys – about courage, war, peace, sacrifice.
If you plan on going this week, here are a few tips for your trip:
If you have not already registered, it is too late to attend a tour this year. But, sign up for the newsletter here so you can find out when registration opens up for 2016.
Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. It’ll be windy, and there’ll be lots of climbing up and down ramps. You’ll want to avoid flip flops, heels and skirts.
Bring cash. You can buy souvenirs ranging from $5 to $45, but they only take cash.
Bring your camera. The website says pictures aren’t allowed, but they are in most areas. I promise there will be plenty of picture-worthy moments.
Bring an umbrella. You know, because it’s rainy season.
No children under 8. Although I did see a kid who definitely looked younger, I noticed she tired easily with all the walking, and seemed a bit scared with all the guns and crafts on display. They can be intimidating for little ones.
Plan to arrive about 30 minutes before your tour. That should give you enough time to park and go through the two security check points.
Go to the bathroom before the tour starts. There are no bathrooms for public use aboard the ships.
Be patient. Once you arrive, you may need to wait another 20 minutes or so before your group can board the ship. Bring some water and snacks if you need to.
Above all, make sure to have fun and take this opportunity to thank these Sailors for their service.