As I write this, the USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76 has steamed from its home port of San Diego to provide assistance and protection to the Cruise ship Carnival Splendor, which is being towed, likely to San Diego. The event provides me a time of reflection on the twenty-plus years I spent as a Navy dentist and the two tours I had on carriers.
I remember the awe that accompanies the first time you board a carrier that is going to be your home for the next couple of years. One marvels at the size, the complexity and, more interestingly how easy it is to become acclimated to the “floating city”. My first ship was the USS Boxer in the ship generic family of LPH-4. The abbreviations all are very descriptive: CVN meaning carrier vessel nuclear and LPH meaning landing platform helicopter. My second ship, USS Hancock a CVA (attack) was larger and designed with the same mission as Ronald Reagan. I am reminded that, although each tour had several missions, each had a component of assistance. Boxer helped Haiti cope with a hurricane in the mid-1960s and Hancock was one of the ships that helped evacuate refugees when Saigon fell.
Beside assistance as a mission of similarity with navy ships, the similarity between Ronald Reagan and Carnival Splendor is worth noting. Ships complement on Reagan is about 3200 crew and accommodations for about 2500 air wing personnel. Splendor has about 3000 passengers and 1200 crew. Both are self-contained (when systems are working) with water and food available for extended periods of time. Splendor requires more frequent replenishment.
One obvious difference is their purpose. With the Carnival line people expect all the creature comforts promised. The navy promises very little beyond keeping the crew as safe as possible. Crew on a naval ship works pretty much 14-hour days, seven days a week unless they are in port. The strange thing is that I look back on those days as some of the most pleasant in my life. The bonding of shipmates has no comparison, with a cruise ship or anything else.
There must be some other old salts out there. Any similar recollections?