This week I am on board Caribbean Princess on a four-night sailing from the port of Houston. The occasion is Princess Cruises first-ever Cruising For A Cause sailing, devoted entirely to supporting a charitable organization. Make that two charitable organizations; Operation Homefront and The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
On board, veterans and their families will hear distinguished retired military officers and guest speakers share their experiences. Panel discussions will bring stories from World War II to present day. Informal receptions are planned for each of the five branches with generals and admirals as hosts. That’s coming up. Today is all about sailing away, under U.S. Coast Guard escort, on a ship full of stories.
The program started as we entered the Houston cruise terminal; a beautiful like-new facility not used all that much as most ships sailing from Texas hail Galveston as home. The giant embarkation hall was decorated with red, white and blue balloons and banners. Each passenger was given an American flag for a first-ever Red, White and Blue Sailaway party. A live band played songs of the past. And the stories began.
I can’t recall ever wishing a waiting line to get on a cruise ship would move slower.
Embarkation conversations happened between those in line, proud of their service and shared military experience, sporting ball caps and t-shirts specific to their branch of the Armed Forces. On the ship, stories continued as old friends met again, new friendships began and Princess began working their Escape Completely magic on what I would have thought to be one tough crowd.
Quite the contrary, heroes in their 90’s were dancing alongside young ‘kids’ in their 60’s with Princess entertainment staff mixed in to be sure everyone was having a good time.
We have sailed Caribbean Princess a number of times and enjoyed the onboard programming as well as the layout of the ship, unique features and more.
On board this week for Princess Cruises Cruising For A Cause, an entire sailing saluting U.S. Veterans, it’s no surprise that theme-specific offerings are a bit overwhelming. Still, let’s take a look at what we are getting in addition to what Princess normally offers.
- Interesting Events In The Princess Theater– In Princess Cruise For A Cause- The Stories Begin we talked about programming specific to military members and their families including a panel of senior officers and individual presentations of interest to veterans
- In-Cabin Television Programming– In addition to normal stateroom television programming, a Military TV Channel hosts video from Operation Homefront, the Veterans History Project and the World War II series.
- Keepsake Commemorative Challenge Coin- “Members of the U.S. military have a long-standing tradition of carrying a special coin symbolizing unit identity and esprit de corps,” explains Princess of a special Commemorative Challenge Coin given to each person sailing as a momento
- Special Guest Profiles- a booklet for each stateroom detailing the background of each member of the impressive Senior Officer Panel, Senior Spouse Panel, guest speakers, hosts and panel moderators.
- Cruise For A Cause Art Auction- standard fare cruise line art auction with a unique twist: all proceeds go to Veteran’s organizations
- Informal Receptions- for each branch of the service, hosted by a member of the officer’s panel.
- Themed Drinks of the Day- Stars and Stripes was white rum, blue curacao, pina colada mix and grenadine.
- Headliner Entertainment via country singer and veteran Rockie Lynne who has appeared nationally on Good Morning America, CMT, the Grand Ole Opry “Live” and Fox News. Lynne is also co-founder of a an annual motorcycle ride called Tribute to the Troops, which visits the homes of fallen soldiers acknowledging them for making the ultimate sacrifice.
- Support for Veteran’s Organizations- A portion of each passenger’s cruise fare from $100 to $300, depending on stateroom category, will be matched by Princess Cruises and donated equally to the two veterans’ organizations, Operation Homefront and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
- Taps- Passengers enjoy an evening performance with Jari Villanueva, a retired Air Force bugler from Arlington National Cemetery, who is a foremost authority on Taps and other U.S. military bugle calls.
Thinking about a themed cruise? Ask for specifics on what ‘extras’ come along with the deal. The list should be long and fulfilling if its going to come anything close to the marvelous time we’ve had on Caribbean Princess honoring our soldiers!