Took a trip down to this year’s Fleet Week at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
This is the second year in a row my son drove home so that he and I could make the two and a half hour drive south and the ships that had made the trip had us pretty excited. In attendance this year were the USS New York, USS Cole, USS Indiana and the USNS Newport. You had to make reservations online to visit the surface vessels and then hope for an email the morning of your visit for a chance to go on the nuclear powered attack submarine. We had made reservations for both the Newport and the New York, had hoped to have time to get on board the Cole and no we didn’t hit the lottery to board the Indiana.
First things first. I am always going to stop at locally owned doughnut shops whenever I’m in an area I either am visiting for the first time or yes, even when visiting again. For this trip, we hit up Jupiter Donuts in Boynton Beach (which I have been to before).
When you arrive at Port Everglades, the first thing you have to do is go through a security checkpoint. This is the case at anytime of the year and for Fleet Week you have to show a state or federal I.D. and your reservation. Then you head to the parking garage adjacent to the pier where the ships are docked and then you walk through a security screening just like you would when boarding a cruise ship.
Lines can get long during Fleet Week and you do need to have a bit of patience. We started off with a tour of the USNS Newport which is the U.S. Navy’s twelfth Spearhead Expeditionary Fast Transport and is a part of the Military Sealift Command.
The Newport and its sister ships are different than most naval vessels as they’re made of aluminum instead of steel (this reduces the weight of the ships), they have catamaran hulls as opposed to the single hulls we’re all used to seeing and they lack propellers (yes, they’re basically giant jet skis). You also don’t see the usual grey paint on them that you’re used to seeing on other naval ships. That’s bare aluminum on the outside.
The ships in this class are used to get cargo to areas where larger ships can’t go and get that cargo to its destination in a hurry as the draft of this ship is about half that of other cargo ships and it’s about twice as fast.
Inside the cargo deck we were introduced to different groups of sailors and Marines who spoke about their specific missions on board.
Visitors are encouraged to walk around, climb in and in some cases climb up onto the top of some of the vehicles under the supervision of the Navy personnel and Marines.
Visitors of all ages are able to go on the tours BUT the ships are not really wheelchair accessible so be aware of that.
This was a pair of AAV-7s located inside the Newport. They are used to take Marines from ships onto beaches.
While we did not go on a tour of the USS Cole, it was still amazing to walk beside this very historic ship.
If you didn’t know, the Cole, which is an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, was attacked by a suicide bomber on October 12th of 2000 while in Yemen and it sustained massive damage while 17 sailors lost their lives and 40 others were wounded. Even at a cost that would have typically sent other warships to the scrapyard, the Cole was repaired and put back into service to serve as a reminder that the United States will never surrender to acts of terror.
The USS Indiana is a Virginia class nuclear powered fast attack submarine and yes those were some lucky souls that were able to take a tour inside her.
Then we took the walk over to the USS New York which is a San Antonio class Amphibious Transport Dock. It has a “well deck” that can be lowered to allow hovercraft as well as other amphibious vehicles to enter and exit the ship while underway and there are several decks to store vehicles and supplies.
The New York also is a floating tribute to the tenacity of the United States to withstand whatever can be thrown at us and to the victims of the attacks on 9/11. There are tributes to those victims throughout the ship AND there are 7.5 tons of steel from the wreckage of the World Trade Center forged into the bow of the ship.
This was an amazing tour that took us from the well deck, to one of the vehicle storage decks, up to the flight deck, into the hanger and throughout many of the interior spaces before ending back on the well deck.
The huge hanger door does open to allow a pair of helicopters or MV-22 Ospreys inside.
Looking out over the flight deck of the USS New York.
Each tour group on the USS New York had an enlisted crewman narrating the tour and a pair of Marines providing an escort to make sure no one strayed off course. You can’t be too careful when there are civilians on board.
This is the medical bay located just inside the hanger and it’s where wounded will first receive care on board.
There are many tributes to the sacrifices made on 9/11 throughout the ship.
This is Broadway, named after the famous street in New York City. There are autographs from some of the actors who have performed in some of the plays when they have been aboard.
Inside the crew mess you will find this display. On the left is the jacket of the late Captain William S. “Billy” Butler who was one of 14 people trapped in Stairwell B of the North World Trade Center Tower on 9/11. As the story goes, when the tower began to collapse, the unique structure of this stairwell saved those 14 people and before his death, Captain Butler donated this jacket to the crew of the USS New York in the hope that the jacket will protect the ship and its crew like the miracle that protected him that day.
The table to the right of the jacket is the POW/MIA Table and it is a permanent reminder of those who may be prisoners of war and of those who are still missing in action.
This is an actual sign from the subway station that was beneath the World Trade Center.
The well deck was full of vehicles for guests to learn more about.
This is a Landing Craft Air Cushion known as an LCAC. They are used to take vehicles and personnel from the ship to land and San Antonio class ships can hold a pair of them in the well deck.
After finishing up our tours we drove over to Gulf Stream Brewing Company for a flight of beer and lunch from Pizzeria Magaddino which is located inside.
We weren’t done quite yet and went in search of a locally owned ice cream shop. Ended up at Wilton Creamery in Wilton Manor.
As a mid afternoon bonus, we were able to see some of the US Navy Blue Angels performance (albeit from not the best angle) during the first day of the Fort Lauderdale Air Show while eating the ice cream.
Can’t wait to see what ships come to Fleet Week next year and we’ll be back down there for sure.