Extra space may not sound like much of a luxury — until you are at sea for months at a time.

It was the first thing Sgt. Marco Mancha, a combat correspondent with II Marine Expeditionary Force combat correspondent, said he noticed when he boarded the Dutch amphibious transport dock HNLMS Rotterdam, for a three-month stint during Africa Partner Station 2013.

"As soon as you walk on that ship, oOne of the biggest things I noticed were the passageways," he said. "They were extremely wide. You can fit three people down a passageway if you want. And Dutch ships have actual stairs — you don't have to use ladders."

The extra space aboard European ships is just one added amenity Marines will notice when they begin operating on NATO ships this fall — British, French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian — as part of the Allied Maritime Basing Initiative. The goal is to get put Marines with land-based Europe-based crisis response units back to sea to afloat to improve response times when deploying to Africa and assure allies in the region startled by Russian saber-rattling. Marines will test floats aboard British, French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian ships, said Brig. Gen. Norm Cooling, deputy commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.

The extra space Mancha said the added space on the Dutch ship could also be noticed in the passageways of the Dutch ship could also be aboard the Dutch amphibious transport dock, was also seen in living quarters and recreational lounges. Marines won't have to get out of their rack in the middle of the night just to turn over like they do on American ships, he said. There is no chance a Marines will have to get out of their rack in the middle of the night just to turn over.

"The berthing area is awesome," he Mancha said. "They had all the racks against the wall stacked three to four high, but they were so big I could actually move around."

Mancha said he could store two big bags plus a laptop case, and a camera cases bag under his rack and still roll around. In the middle of the berthing area were two here to big tables where Marines and sailors could hang out, play cards or use their computers work on laptops.

Dutch ships are still mission oriented, but they put a greater emphasis on creature comforts than U.S. ships, which are designed to maximize space for work aboard European ships. On the Rotterdam, those comforts included a lounge with table tennis, Ffoosball tables, theater-style seating and an Internet cafe.

Crew recreation center aboard the French amphibious assault ship TONNERRE (L 9014). 14 May 2007
Crew recreation center aboard the French amphibious assault ship TONNERRE (L 9014). 14 May 2007

A crew recreation center aboard the French amphibious assault ship Tonnerre features a foosball table and a lounge area. Extra space and lounge areas are among the luxuries Marines may enjoy this fall while stationed aboard NATO vessels.

Photo Credit: Christopher P. Cavas/Staff

The dining was different, but still unfamiliar but enjoyable, he said. Breakfast was often a small meal of cinnamon crackers topped with Nutella, a hazelnut chocolate spread, and candied sprinkles on cinnamon crackers. And tThe ship also had a bar where Marines could drink imbibe in moderation, but only while docked.

Marines aboard Not the case on British and French vessels are likely to see more freedom when it comes to drinking while at sea though. While moderation is still expected, those who have served at sea with the British or French have in years past on those ships have raved about the food and bars.

"On our ships, there's no place where you can really unwind, get to know your shipmates on a personal level," then-Maj. Stephan "Poppy" Bradicich told Military Times in 2007 following a deployment aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious.

And One of those places to unwind, discuss operations or settle disagreements was the Illustrious' wardroom where officers could grab a pint, cocktail or coffee at a 20-foot oak bar.a sailor who deployed aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in 2012 called the food excellent. spoke to Navy Times in 2012 after receiving a Afghanistan Commemorative Metal from the French Navy for his service as a foreign exchange officer aboard the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, said the food was par excellence.

His favorite dish: moules et frites, or mussels and french fries.

Given the perks, Mancha said the experience at sea with the Dutch is something other Marines would likely enjoy, too.

"I can't speak for every Marine, but I know I would love to do that all over again if I could," he said. "It was such a fun experience to meet all these people and the amenities were great."