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Nov. 11: Remembering Audie Murphy

Audie MurphyYesterday was a day for remembering war vets. In Canada, people wear poppies and attend services, and poppy sales were at an all-time high this year. In the U.S., war heroes are celebrated and the never-ending list of people serving in the Armed Services are saluted.

People like Audie Murphy.

Who's Audie Murphy?

There are probably two generations of North Americans who haven't a clue, including many from our generation. Those who have heard of him likely think of the Hollywood actor who for two decades played mostly cowboy type roles on the big screen, which meant his real story as a soldier was lost on many.

Not on Viking Cruises.

One of the shore excursions on one of the Viking itineraries includes a trip to the Audie Murphy Memorial. That would be in France, near a small town called Holtzwihr. The people of Holtzwihr — there are fewer than 2,000 living there today Holtzwihr Memorial to Audie L. Murphy— never forgot him. Thirteen years ago, they built the memorial. An American hero, an American movie star, a soldier's soldier as they say…celebrated to this day in the French countryside where he lived what might be called the day he became a legend.

And speaking of legends…the most popular one is that he held off, injured and killed dozens of enemy soldiers that day, almost single-handedly. He climbed onto a burning German tank, turned it on the enemy and held them at bay until he ran out of ammunition, returning on a wounded leg to his company, which he then led into battle. It was one of the turning-point battles in World War II.

Murphy was decorated with every known military combat medal and award for courage and valor — 33 of them. He was wounded three times. After returning from France at age 21, he suffered mightily from what today is known as PTSD. He died at age 45 in a plane crash in Virginia, 43 years ago.

Yesterday was a reminder to remember him, as a symbol of war veterans — all gave some, some gave all.

Viking Cruises is part of that.

- Photo of Audie Murphy Memorial by Conrad SickowViking Prestige

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival's unique and upgraded WiFi

Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas
8 nights
January 16, 2015
Baltimore (return): Port Canaveral, Nassau, CocoCay, Key West
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $62
www.royalcaribbean.com

A History Lesson, Courtesy of Viking Cruises

Cruising is almost always an education. New countries, new ports, new customs, new people. Sometimes it can be an education just to read something about cruising. Sometimes, even advertising can do the job. Like Viking Cruises, which last week sent advertising emails which read as follows:

"Who are you? The year is 1887 A.D."

It was accompanied by a picture of a man who looked very much like Nikola Teslasomeone from 1887…a century and a quarter ago.

"You were born in a small town in what was then the Austrian Empire, now part of Croatia," the message continued. "You are a brilliant inventor, physicist, mechanical and electrical engineer. You are well aware of your own genius, and you are driven to do whatever it takes to realize your dreams. You will redefine the term 'mad scientist'; your home country will honor you and an exciting high-end consumer product will be named after you 150 years after your birth."

Hmmm…Einstein? Unlikely, since he would have been eight years old. Frankenstein? A fictional character. Charles Darwin? Right century, wrong science…he was more of an evolutionist and geologist.

The name of the "mad scientist" is Nikola Tesla, born in a small town in what is now Croatia. He patented a "brushless alternating current induction motor based on a rotating magnetic field principle" that was sold for $60,000 to Westinghouse, which two years later hired and enabled him to become an American citizen.

Tesla MuseumSixty years after he died, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs dedicated to making electric cars named their company Tesla Motors in his honor.

What does this have to do with Viking Cruises? On one of Viking's itineraries, Passage to Eastern Europe, ships regularly stop in Belgrade, where passengers can visit the Nikola Tesla Museum.

And, if you're like us, all of this enabled you to learn something new today…about Viking, and about Nikola.

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
November 17, 2013
Port Canaveral (return): FreeportNassau
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $39
www.carnival.com

When Ships Get Locked in a Lock

This news item was posted a few days ago on Cruise Critic:

"AmaWaterways have yet to confirm the details surrounding an incident in which their river cruise boat AmaDagio was trapped in a lock with another ship (on the Rhone River in France), forcing the line to debark passengers and delay the scheduled itinerary…"

You've never really lived until you've been stuck in a lock in France.

The passengers on the AmaDagio had some options, and that's not always the case. Especially if there's only one passenger…and one crew member.

For us, it was on the Midi Canal in southern France. We manoeuvred our ship, all 27 feet of it, into 64 locks that week. In one of them, we were trapped.

The water was dropping, just like it was supposed to because all 64 of our locks were going downstream. The "ship" beside us started to list…inward…think of a boat tipping sideways into the middle of a confined space. Our "ship" was doing the same thing.

There was no evacuation plan. Passenger(s) were stuck, going down with the ship as it were. The scheduled itinerary was endangered, especially if the boats were broken.

Fortunately for both vessels, there was a man at the wheel of the lock, controlling the dispersement of the water. Yes, a locksmith. He closed the gate, stopped the flow of water, allowed more water to pour in from the top, and the two ships became horizontal again.

After a few minutes of impending terror, we kept to the itinerary in one piece. The one-piece was more important than the itinerary.

Carnival Splendor
8 nights
October 8, 2013
New York (return): Grand TurkHalf Moon CayNassau
Inside: $369
Cost per day: $46
www.carnival.com

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