Is a Tiger Cruise a Real Thing? Yes, but It Doesn’t Involve Big Cats

It’s kind of hard to believe movies have any truth to them when “inspired by real events” flicks always end up being the furthest thing away from the truth when you go and actually investigate what really happened. (I’m looking at you, Cinderella Man.) So when the 2004 Disney Channel flick Tiger Cruise debuted that featured Hayden Panettiere and Bill Pullman, people wondered if a “tiger cruise” is actually a real thing.

So, is a “Tiger Cruise” a real thing? You betcha.

I know what you’re thinking: Vacation cruises are scary and annoying enough as it is. Being on a boat filled with a bunch of gross strangers and crumby buffet food while you spend your days sloshing around the seas or chilling in a tiny cabin already sounds like a nightmare. Doing so with a bunch of dangerous, enormous feline killing machines sounds even worse.

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“The occasional embarkation of family members of naval personnel is intended to contribute to good morale and instill in servicemembers a sense of pride in the Navy and their ships. It also enhances public understanding of the Navy and increases community awareness,” the foundation’s website reads.

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It continues, “Operation Tiger Cruise is the unclassified code name for a very special guest cruise program that includes two or more consecutive days underway. The primary purpose of a Tiger Cruise is for servicemembers to acquaint their family members with their ship and their shipboard duties.”

is a tiger cruise a real thing

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It’s really tough for family members of service women and men to be away from their loved ones for extended periods of time. Undoubtedly, a certain level of estrangement can develop between individuals, no matter how close they are. 

By better acquainting the “tigers” with the work that the service folks do on a daily basis, there’s a hope that a greater appreciation, and hopefully, understanding of their duties can help strengthen those bonds.

Sam Hall, a self proclaimed “Navy kid” talked about how much his perception of his father’s work changed when he went on a tiger cruise of his own.

“As a young Navy kid, I never really knew that much about my dad’s work,” Hall explained. “His time on shore duty felt like he was at any other job with long hours a mom or dad might’ve had…In late July of 1998, my perception of all of that changed as a young Tiger with my older brother, Garry.”

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Sam continued, “Hanging out with that awesome crew was some of the most fun I had, especially when I could eat my weight in ice cream in their wardroom … In all honesty, being a Navy kid was tough at times. When a parent is on a deployment, it can feel like a lifetime. But being a lucky, young Tiger sailing home with Dad, seeing what he did day-to-day, and meeting the amazing men and women he served with — those are memories I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

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The Hallmark movie, ‘USS Christmas,’ has a tiger cruise plotline of its own.

Portions of the movie were shot aboard the USS North Carolina, a 40,000+-ton battleship docked in Wilmington, N.C. The film follows the very Hallmark-y love story of journalist Maddie (played by Jen Lilley) joining her navy pilot sister and mom on the vessel, where she meets another pilot by the name of Lt. Billy Jenkins, whose nickname is “The Grinch.”

Guess why they call him that? The dude hates Christmas, but ultimately discovers his love for the holiday. Actor Trevor Donovan, who plays “The Grinch” said the first thing he did to research the role was “watch Top Gun.”

Maddie and Billy, while developing feelings for each other, work together to solve a decades-old love story about a couple who met on a tiger cruise during the Vietnam War.

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USS Christmas debuted on Nov. 28, 2020 at 10 p.m. EST on the Hallmark Channel.

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