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Carnival’s Voices Of Freedom

In quasi-military vernacular, what happened in Galveston on the weekend might be called the “perfect storm.”

Operation Homefront, recognizing the troops. A country singer, because country singers are the most prominent pro-military entertainers. And a ship called “Freedom.”

This was Carnival’s Freedom, of course, and it was in Galveston to begin operations from its new home-port. It was also Carnival’s Martina McBride, the country superstar who has Freedom-Galvestonbeen performing in the cruise line’s wildly popular entertainment series called Carnival Live.

And both of them were there to pay tribute to troops.

A check for $100,000 was cut for Operation Homefront, the nonprofit that supports military families, some of whom were the audience for what was called an exclusive Carnival Live concert by the winner of 14 Grammy Awards. She sang from the upper deck of a ship that last year underwent a $70-million refurbishing that enhanced its family features, such as Seuss At Sea and Camp Ocean, where kids enjoy 200 marine-themed activities.

The consensus was that McBride gave a show-stopping performance. For those of us who have seen her (twice now), this is not a surprise. She was the consummate professional the first time we saw her, in 1996, and again in 2013. All the succeeding years did was make her even better.

“Performing for these military families was an incredible honor,” she said in Galveston. “I’m so glad I was asked to be part of it.”

Carnival now has three ships based in Galveston — the Triumph, the Magic and the Freedom. While it may not be a stretch to make a military connection to the names of all three, nothing speaks to the troops like the Freedom does.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
14 nights
May 4, 2015
Tampa, Norfolk, Cork, Cherbourg, Brussels, London
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57

Cruise for a Cause — a $600,000 exercise

They're everywhere. Some of them can be spotted by their license plates. Or maybe because they're wearing a cap that is their identity. Or maybe, sadly, because they're wearing a prosthetic. Sometimes, more than one.

They are veterans.

Vets are thanked, supported and decorated all over the country. Even on cruise ships. And no cruise ships do more for veterans than the ones flying the Princess Cruises flag.

In November, the Caribbean Princess sailed a 5-day cruise from Houston that was dedicated to veterans. Princess called it Cruising for a Cause and on board were guest speakers, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman (Admiral Mike Mullen), US Navy-VietnamMoving Wallretired senior officers from all walks of military life and a war correspondent (Joe Galloway) whom Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf called "the finest combat correspondent of our generation" for carrying soldiers to safety in Vietnam.

How's this for support?

The cruise was a fundraiser for Operation Homefront and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. A portion of each passenger's fare was dedicated to the cause. Passengers were invited to show their support in fundraising activities. This week, Princess CEO Alan Buckelew — a Vietnam Vet — delivered a check for $300,000 to Operation Homefront. An identical check was already in the coffers of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Total: $600,000.

It fell short of the cruise lines expectations of $1 million. Maybe the passengers weren't as generous as expected. Maybe Princess was over-zealous in its ambitions. But it's $600,000 that wounded warriors and veterans' causes like The Wall in Washington (above) and families in need didn't have last month.

Walk by a former soldier who's struggling to get out of a car or into a grocery store. or just get through the day, and Cruising for a Cause — and programs like it — are not just admirable.

They're vital.

Holland America Noordam
14 nights
March 21, 2014
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCadizMalagaCartagenaBarcelona
Oceanview: $699
Cost per day: $49

Vets' Cast for Caribbean Princess

In this day and age, is there a more heartfelt group to support in America than military veterans?

Several weeks ago, Princess Cruises announced its first cruise out of the new/old cruise ship terminal in Houston this year. It's to support U.S. veterans, hopefully to the tune of $1 million to be divided between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and Operation Homefront

Nice touch.

Now, for anyone who is moved by such events, come the names of those who will be on the Caribbean Princess for five days in November, as part of the celebration. Decorating the ship will be two admirals (including one who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), two generals, a famous war correspondent, a veterans' advocate who was shot in the head and nearly died in Iraq, and a Vietnam Vet who is now president and CEO of a cruise line.

Yes, Princess is the line and Alan Buckelew is the vet.

Even though the Joint Chiefs Chairman is Mike Mullen (left), who is know beyond military circles, the guest who caught our attention is Gregory Melikian.

Until now, we had never heard of him. Probably you haven't, either, unless you're a military history nerd. Sixty-eight years ago from May 7, Gregory Melikian was a young sergeant with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces in France. His boss was Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who would become the U.S. President.

At 3:30 that afternoon, Gregory Melikian — Eisenhower's telegraph operator — announced the end of World War II.

How cool is that?

Carnival Legend
12 nights
May 28, 2013
Venice, Dubrovnik, Messina, Naples, Rome, Florence, Monaco, Marseille, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside:  $929
Cost per day: $77

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