Deployed Sailors, Marines Aboard USS Whidbey Island Enjoy MWR Tours in Italy


Deployed Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) spent five days in Naples, Italy, during a scheduled port visit Jan. 17-22.

Thanks to the ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation committee, the crew of more than 700 Sailors and embarked Marines had the rare opportunity to visit Rome and Pompeii, tour one of the most well-known Italian cameo factories, or climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvius while on liberty.

“It’s important for the Marines and Sailors to take advantage of these types of tours in order to learn about the world around them,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Ward. “So often we take for granted the history that is right in front of us, and if we don’t capitalize on the opportunity, we will regret it.”

The day trip to Rome offered Sailors and Marines the chance to visit the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and much more through a guided bus tour around the city.

“I have always wanted to go to Rome, especially the Vatican because I always heard about it on the news,” said Logistics Specialist Seaman Kaisha Lewis. “When I think of Rome I used to think of ancient structures I wanted to see, and I got that opportunity. My favorite part was the city tour on the bus when we got to see a lot while the tour guide was explaining. I really loved the Trevi Fountain. The water looked so clean and pure, and I liked the story behind it.”

The first stop on the day trip to Pompeii brought Sailors and Marines to the Donadio cameo factory, established in 1885, where they were able to watch one of the master carvers at work, browse the gallery of intricate cameos or purchase souvenir gifts for loved ones.

“It was completely amazing to see an 81-year-old master of his craft still in action producing the most amazing works of art,” said Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW) Anson Ivey. “I purchased an earring and pendant set on Mt. Vesuvius made from a blue quartz stone found within the mountain, for the miracle in my life, my daughter.”

The next stop for the group was the ancient Roman town of Pompeii, which was engulfed by erupting Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and rediscovered, excavated and opened to the public in the mid-18th century.

“The tour was fantastic and much more than I expected,” said Ward. “The history, the architecture, the entire story of Pompeii backed up by the beauty of it all was amazing. My favorite part of the tour was learning how the structures were built to utilize the elements, for example; natural lighting, steam baths, etc. Seeing how many of systems were developed during these times led to how we build and structure our cities today was impressive.”

The last stop of the day offered the more adventurous Sailors and Marines the chance to climb to the top of the still-active Mt. Vesuvius to take in the spectacular view of the city of Naples.

“The climb was tiring and cold but once at the top the views made the trek all worth while,” said Ivey. “Just knowing you are standing on top of an active volcano, able to see almost a 360 degree view of pure beauty just takes you to a whole different realm. My favorite part of the tour would be split in two between the glory of the mountain and the vast array of the city frozen in time, walking through the streets of Pompeii and seeing the vast knowledge of the time is just breathtaking.”

Most tour participants understood the value and rarity of the opportunity to see the sights via an MWR tour while in Italy.

“I think it is important for Sailors and Marines to take advantage of MWR tours because they are really cheap compared to if we had to do it on our own,” said Lewis. “Another thing is we get to learn about a different place from experienced tour guides. The tour guides always try to keep us out of harm’s way. I think if we had to do it alone we would get lost or go somewhere we might end up in trouble.”

Whidbey Island deployed March 23, 2011 as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. The Whidbey Island has spent the past 10 months supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

Naval Today Staff , January 25, 2012