VALLETTA, Malta (NNS) -- Deployed Sailors aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) concluded a four-day port visit in Valletta, Malta, July 23.
The visit allowed Cape St. George Sailors to unwind after more than six months in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Malta is a place where you can't help but notice diverse influences," said Capt. Don Gabrielson, Cape's commanding officer. "The Maltese went out of their way to share their rich culture, dating back to the oldest known man-made structures on earth. During a monastery tour, admiring priceless inlaid olivewood buffet tables, we asked our guide how old they might be. He replied, 'They are not so old, only maybe 200 or 300 years.' After that, he pointed out a painting from the 12th century Byzantine Empire, which put things into perspective."
The crew spent the visit learning about Malta's vast history and enjoying a wealth of activities. Cape Sailors toured prehistoric megalithic temples, St. John's co-cathedral, and the island of Gozo, where according to Homer's "Odyssey," the beautiful nymph Calypso once held Odysseus captive.
"This port visit was a great morale booster for the crew," said Command Master Chief Pete Santos. "It gave us something to look forward to before we arrived, and it met all of our expectations. The food, people, scenery, culture and history were overwhelming. It is definitely a port worth coming back to."
Additionally, Sailors participated in Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)-sponsored tours of Maltese cultural and historical sites and stopped by Dar Merhba Bik, a center for domestic abuse victims, for a community service activity (COMSERV).
"The COMSERV was both enjoyable and productive," said Lt. Joseph Buenviaje, a chaplain assigned to Cape St. George. "The people at the center were accommodating, hospitable, open and friendly. After accomplishing two months worth of work in three hours, we were treated to traditional Maltese baked pasta. It was definitely a highlight of our visit."
Some Sailors were baptized while in the port, which, according to the Bible, is where the shipwreck of the apostle Paul occurred in 60 A.D.
"Not too many people get to be baptized in a biblical country," said Buenviaje. "This was a rare opportunity to become a part of the vast history of the region."
Cape St. George is deployed as part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, which also includes the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9. CSG-9 is on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet AOR.
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