Part One: The ‘LAND’ Reunion [10/6-10/10] Galveston, Texas
The sixth USS Grant Reunion was a two part reunion consisting of a land-based reunion from Oct 6th-10th at the Casa del Mar Beachfront Suites on Galveston Island. The second part was a five day cruise from Oct 10th-15th aboard the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph out of Galveston Island, Texas.
Shipmates began arriving Thursday, Oct 6th, by car and air. Shipmates arriving at Houston Hobby Airport were met by USS Grant vehicles and transported to the gulf beachfront Casa del Mar hotel on Galveston Island. A “Welcome Aboard” celebration with refreshments, soup, sandwiches and snacks available.
A hot breakfast was served Friday Morning in the Grant Hospitality Room by the Reunion Committee. By nine o’clock, the first Grant Shuttle Van was transporting shipmates to several tourist sites including The Strand, Moody Gardens, the Railroad Museum, the Lone Star Flight Museum, the Seaport Museum and other locations. Several shipmates enjoyed visiting “The Strand”, a historic shopping section of Galveston Island which includes the Texas Seaport Museum and is the home of the 1877 tall ship “Elissa”. The “Grant Pizza Party” was the highlight of the evening in the Grant Hospitality Room. Shipmates reunited with memories aboard the Grant. Many a tall tale was spun throughout the evening. Submarine Door prizes were given away. The Ships Store also offered several Grant memorabilia items for sale to shipmates and their families and guests.
Saturday morning began with a hot breakfast in the Grant Hospitality Room. Three meals a day were served by the reunion committee each day. Buses departed at 9:30 am for the Space Center Houston.
The Space Center was full of activities for all ages. A NASA Tram Tour took Grant visitors to see the historic Apollo Mission Control Center and the ISS Training Center with mockups of all Space Station modules. The Tram Tour finished with a visit to the Saturn V Complex which was overwhelming. The complex houses a complete Saturn V Rocket laid horizontally on display. It is unbelievably huge. The Space Center had interactive games which included an opportunity to try your luck at landing the Space Shuttle successfully. Several shipmates did so and rightfully pounded their chests.
Dinner was again served buffet style in the Hospitality Room. Another evening of sharing life stories and experiences amongst shipmates and their guests made for a great time had by all. More Submarine Door Prizes were given away. Special USS Grant Ball Hats created by Bob and Arnette Arias were auctioned off to the highest bidder with proceeds going to the Association. The Board of Directors held their business meeting in the Sunset Room during the course of the evening. Submarine Door Prizes were drawn and given away during the evening.
Up again early on Sunday morning and another hot breakfast in the Hospitality Room. The Grant Shuttle Buses began transporting reunion attendees to Seawolf Park for a tour of the USS Cavalla SS-244 and the conducting of the USS Grant Shipmate Remembrance Ceremony. The day began with some rather heavy rain and the decision was made to conduct the Remembrance Ceremony on board the USS Stewart DE-238 which is tied up next to the USS Cavalla. The Ceremony was both simple and reverent as each of our shipmates on Eternal Patrol name’s were read aloud. At the completion of the reading, Taps was played by the bugler. Captain Engle and Captain MacDonald each said a few words of meaningful reflection honoring our fallen shipmates and thanking them for their service to our country.
All hands completed the ceremony by saying aloud, “Sailor, Rest Your Oars”.
After the Shipmate Remembrance Ceremony, a tour of the USS Cavalla began with some of our old diesel boat shipmates stationed in each compartment as tour guides. One of the guides, Chief George Nault EMCS(SS), served aboard the USS Cavalla during his career. The Cavalla was a Gato Class fleet sub, designed and built in the summer of 1943 by Electric Boat. On her first World War II patrol, she sunk the 30,000 ton Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku which was a ship involved in the Pearl Harbor attack and the Battle of Coral Sea. In 1971, the Navy transferred possession of the sub to the Texas Veterans of WWII and she is now in her permanent home at Seawolf Park. Seawolf Park is also the home of the sail of the USS Tautog SSN-639, a Sturgeon Class Attack Submarine, commissioned on 17 August 1968 and decommissioned on 31 March 1997.
A light lunch was served in the Hospitality Room upon returning from Seawolf Park. The Land Based Reunion came to a completion on Sunday evening with a tasty catered Mexican Buffet Dinner. After dinner, Association President James “Ed” Farris conducted a membership meeting. Several items were brought up for a vote including the slate of Board Members for the next two years. Ed also announced the site of the 2013 USS Grant Reunion will be in Charleston, South Carolina in the fall. The reunion committee chairman is Chief Larry Jordan and his committee consists of Chief Ray Lomberk and shipmate Jim Sweany. The President announced the Board’s intention to explore an Auxiliary Membership program for shipmate dependents. He also presented USS Grant Jackets to Ruth and Larry Jordan and Ray Lomberk in appreciation of their efforts to plan and implement a successful reunion. The evening continued with more Submarine Door Prizes being given away and group photos being taken in the Hospitality Room.
Monday morning started with breakfast in the Hospitality Room. Shipmates departing for home boarded the Grant Shuttle Vans for Houston Hobby Airport. The Bus departing for the Galveston Cruise Terminal loaded bags and shipmates around Noon and transported the Grant Cruisers to the boarding area to begin the 2011 USS U.S. Grant “At-Sea” Reunion.
Part Two: The "Cruise Reunion" [10/10-10/15]
Monday – Oct 10th - Shipmates and their guests begin boarding the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph in the early afternoon. The mandatory lifeboat drill was held and the fun began. The Grant Cruise Group was seated in the Paris Dining Room together. The first meal was exquisite as were all the meals aboard the Cruise Ship Triumph. Our cruise coordinator Al Magee sent his compliments by providing the wine at dinner for all. The Cocktail of the Day was the “Funship Special”.
Tuesday – Oct 11th – Shipmates spent the day at sea enjoying the activities aboard the cruise ship. A Grant organized “Pass the Spoon” game involving two teams of twelve shipmates/guests was held topside. The game was won handily by the “Starboard” team. Winners received laser engraved Grant Key Clips. Several Grant people took to the Water Slide on the upper deck and basking in the sun in deck chairs. A private Grant Association sponsored “Happy Hour and Dance Party” with music by the live “Black Gold” country band was held in the afternoon in the Venezia Lounge. The band played without a break for the entire two hours as Grant shipmates filled the dance floor. The party was so successful that Association President Ed Farris had to guard the door to prevent numerous attempts at entry by “party crashers”. The “Black Gold” band was undoubtedly the best band on the cruise. The evening was a dress-up affair as the Grant crew attended the “Captain’s Dinner” in the Paris Dining Room. The ladies were all decked out in their finest outfits and the men in their suits and ties. The meal was exquisite and all had a great time. Ship Photos were taken of all parties. The Cocktail of the Day was the “Yellow Bird”.
Wednesday, Oct 12th – The ship docked in the early morning at the port of Progresso in Yucatan, Mexico. Fifteen shipmates took the tour of the Seventh Wonder of the World “Chichen Itzu” Mayan ruins. Some shipmates went on snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours. Others went shopping in the local stores and vendor stands. There were all types of excursions available to please any and all. The ship was underway again in the late afternoon. Dinner was again exceptional. The Cocktail of the Day was the “Blue Margarita”.
Thursday, Oct 13th – The ship docked in the very early morning at the International Pier on the island of Cozumel in Mexico. Two shipmates took the tour of the Tulum Ruins by taking the catamaran Ferry Boat to the beautiful city of Playa del Cameron and then by van to the well cared for ruins situated on the coast. A large shopping area at the end of the pier with several restaurants and clubs with live music kept many a shipmate close by. Several shipmates toured the island by private car. The port is known for it’s beautiful waters and being a diver’s paradise. Back underway by mid-afternoon, shipmates enjoyed the live entertainment and shows aboard the ship in the evening, the karaoke lounge and the casino. Dinner was again exceptional and everyone had gained a few pounds by this point in the cruise. The Cocktail of the Day was the “Caribbean Breeze”.
Friday, Oct 14th – The day was spent at sea. A “Water Balloon Toss” game for Grant Shipmates/guest was held topside in the mid-morning. John and Jan Kendall walked away with the prize. Many shipmates hit the casino and a few walked away with substantial winnings. This was a day to enjoy the sun and the entertainment on the ship. A Grant “Happy Hour” was held in the “Big Easy” lounge in the late afternoon. A 60’s trivia game for the men was won by Curtis Frost with a perfect score. A “No Hands Shot Glass Drinking” contest for the ladies was won by Sherry Moe. Both winners received U.S.Grant submarine related prizes. All twelve ladies participating in the “Shot Glass” contest received laser-etched “Dolphin” shot glasses. A group photo was taken on the spiral staircase in the Capitol Lounge. Shipmates stayed up late in the evening to spend as much time with each other as possible. The Cocktail of the Day was the "Ultimate Suntan".
Saturday, Oct 15th – The Triumph docked in Galveston early in the morning. Grant shipmates said their goodbyes and vowed to see each other in Charleston in two years. Shipmates flying out of Houston Hobby Airport were met by the chartered tour bus and taken to their respective departure gates
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