The nautical festivities associated with Fleet Week -- tours of boats, exhibitions of naval military might, parades of war ships and tall ships -- will be off the gaff. This year's event marks OpSail 2012 and the bicentennial of the War of 1812, as well as a little ditty written later about the war known as "The Star Spangled Banner."
Fleet Week -- held almost every year since 1984 -- is not only anticipated by maritime buffs, sailor fetishists and all who enjoy seeing the city briefly transformed into a set for a Fred Astaire movie, but by many of the 6,000 service men and women flooding the city for the next week starting today through Tuesday.
Joshua Albrecht, a U.S.N. Master at Arms stationed in Norfolk, Va., is "really jealous we get to come up," said his wife, U.S.N. Specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class Gretchen Albrecht, speaking from the amphibious all-purpose assault ship, the U.S.S. Wasp. In penance for her good fortune, Albrecht will be sending her left-behind husband a New York cheesecake.
In some respects, Albrecht isn't all that different from any other New York tourist: She's dying to see a musical and unprepared for just how difficult it might be to snag tickets to "The Book of Mormon." She plans to hit a Mets game and is anticipating a pastrami-on-rye from The Carnegie Deli like, well, a sailor looking forward to shore leave.
A lot of Albrecht's shipmates are planning pilgrimages to the 9/11 Memorial. Albrecht, who visited the top of the Twin Towers with her family when she was last in NYC at age 10, plans a visit as well.
Fleet Week also gives the soldiers of the sea a cherished opportunity to compare ship equipment, living conditions and customs with brother and sister sailors from the other nations participating in the boat bonanza - among them, Japan, Mexico, Spain, France, Columbia, Indonesia and Ecuador. Shipboard meals are a frequent "compare and contrast" topic, noted Albrecht, who was surprised to discover that Canadian and British sailors are allowed to drink beer on their ships. "On ours, we can't," she observed.
There is one way in which the visiting Marines, Navy and Coast Guard personnel differ considerably from other tourists. Albrecht, for example, doesn't have to worry about how to afford the nation's highest hotel rates (an average of $226 a night, according to a recent Orbitz survey) in the country's number two tourist destination. (NYC trails Orlando.)
"We sleep on the ship!" crowed Albrecht who returns each night to her floating home at Pier 92.
As servicemen and women take the city this week, here are some events to help you get into the military spirit.
Fleet Week Parade of Ships
What: Seventeen tall ships and 10 warships will traverse the Hudson before docking at spots in Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn
When: Wednesday, 8 a.m. to noon
Where: Best views are anywhere along the Hudson
Military Air and Water Demonstrations
What: Watch the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Air run demos of various operations
When: Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Coney Island
See the ships
What: Take a tour of vessels docked in Manhattan and Staten Island
When: Thursday through Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Manhattan, at Piers 90 and 92; Staten Island, at the Homeport Pier
Marine Corps Day
What: Marines will descend upon Battery Park to take photos with the public, show off their gear and perform feats of strength.
When: Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Battery Park City
Military Day in Times Square
What: Take in various military displays and other events, including a 5 p.m. show from the Navy Band Northeast Jazz Ensemble
When: Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Times Square
Watch the military bands perform
What: Catch a concert featuring various military musical groups, including the Marine Corps band at 2 p.m. and the Navy Band Northeast Popular Music Group at 5 p.m.
When: Sunday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Times Square
For more events, go to fleetweeknewyork.com