- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

24 March – 10 April 2020; Panama to Fort Lauderdale.

So I am back on the blog. A blog which I had to stop as things were getting too confused and fast moving for me to relate correctly and with sufficient authority. If you look at the last blogs, I had mentioned already a few times that the company was moving faster than I could record it. Then throw the world stage, with all its politics into the mix, and I did not know any more if I was coming or going. So we stopped.

On 09 April the last guests left the ship, and then ship went into warm lay-up. Healthy guests but a few guests remained on board who could not leave as they could not get home for all the reasons that went with the current situation. Things on board are now returning to a sort of normal, albeit a new normal.

This blog is a compilation of the past period as seen through the eyes of yours truly and as I am not involved in politics (*) there is no opinion about why something happened, just what happened and how the ships made it work.

(*) Maybe Captains should all run for office, each in their respective country, I am absolutely convinced the world would have less issues. Continue reading

23 March 2020; At Sea off the Mexican Coast …… Day 8 without guests.

I have mentioned it before in my blog, it seems that the company every time does something as soon as I have uploaded my blog for the day. Yesterday was no different. Barely was the world appraised of the fact that we were still happily alongside in Puerto Vallarta for the for-seeable future and we were gone. The Captain received notice that help was needed for one of our ships, medical help, and thus Rotterdam, Oosterdam and Eurodam went to battle stations. Medical crew and supplies were to be gathered and then the Rotterdam being the fastest ship in the fleet was assigned to carry out this humanitarian mission. Continue reading

22 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 8) … Day 7 without guests.

Another good day in Puerto Vallarta. Although we are marooned on the ship as we cannot go ashore, we are still much better off than other people in the world and thus you will not hear any complaints from us on board. Yesterday was Saturday so no doubt a lot of Holiday Makers will have gone home and I do not think that new holiday makers will come out.  But many Mexicans might still be on the way home so the planes are still flying. Continue reading

21 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 7) … Day 6 without guests.

Another day with good weather and alongside in Puerto Vallarta. We are congratulating ourselves for the fact that we could go ashore for the last seven days, while our sister ships were at anchorage or are still trying to land their guests. Our Amsterdam, which aborted her world cruise is currently landing our guests in Fremantle. Although Australia is also in lockdown the local government has decided that as the ship does not have any Covid-19 cases on board, there was no problem to bus everybody directly to the airport and back home. Our Maasdam and Zaandam are still looking for a port and might, I say might, have to come to the States before that is possible. That gives the challenges with provisioning and the Zaandam went to anchor at Valparaiso and although also Chile and Peru are in lockdown, it was allowed to use a (small) shore boat to get 9 containers with fresh produce and other essentials to the ship. So the Captain had 150 crew working in relay from the tender platforms to carry everything by hand out of the boats and then at once to the cold and freezer rooms to ensure that it did not spoil. With the current situation at hand everybody has to be creative and make things work. Luckily ships crews are great in improvising and have faced bigger operational challenges in port and thus always works out one way or the other. Continue reading

20 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 6) … Day 5 without guests.

This morning we returned to Puerto Vallarta after the Chief Engineer did all the things he had to do during the night and we were docked again by 09.00 hrs. We will now stay alongside until “further notice” as they call it. The Europa arrived this morning and the Norwegian Joy is still on the schedule for sometime late this afternoon.. We are now also expecting the Eurodam and the Westerdam but when is not certain yet as the Eurodam is approaching at slow speed, I think they are travelling on one pod and the Westerdam is still far away. The Oosterdam is still at anchor at Cabo San Lucas. (Have a look at this website, https://www.cruisemapper.com/, it gives the locations of all the cruise ships. Our thoughts are at the moment with the Maasdam and the Zaandam as they have challenges with landing their guests as most countries are now in lock down and are only letting their own citizens back in. And thus the office is now hard at work to find for these ships a port where the guests can still reach an airport for their final repatriation.   Continue reading

19 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 6) … Day 4 without guests.

Another dry and sunny day in Puerto Vallarta and we are still happy alongside the dock. Looking ashore it does not look that the town is overly concerned about what is going on in the rest of the world as there are no cases here, nor any in the direct area. There is some reduction in traffic which has mostly to do I think with the slowdown in Holiday Makers in the area. With the USA in lockdown, people on vacation go home but no new people are coming out. But life goes on while we all keep adapting to the changing circumstances. Change will continue as everybody is in the process of fine tuning with what they can do. It is a bit as if we re-inventing the wheel. Once the realization is there that there is a wheel, then the first version is square, then it becomes round, then somebody puts hard rubber around it, then the air tire comes along and slowly buts steadily the perfect wheel emerges and is put in use. To stay with this metaphor I think we are just in the phase from the square wheel to the round wheel. Continue reading

18 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 5) … Day 3 without guests.

Another day in Paradise (?) as we are still happily alongside in Puerto Vallarta. The sun is shining again but it is not Hot, Hot; just warm, and the sailors working outside are really happy. Good weather for painting.  Everybody is now getting into the groove of giving the ship a good shine and everything I touch has just been cleaned or is about to be cleaned. I have been nearly run over by two vacuum cleaners (normal hazard for a HAL ship) but as there are no guests on board the vacuum pilots (GPA Housekeeping) are a bit more exuberant in their swings and moves than normal. I did get a full blast of shampoo spray as Housekeeping is tackling the carpets on Deck 5 today (Casino, Mix and Hudson room) No problems with that, but a shot of this stuff turns my brown shoes white and thus I had to run and find tissue paper.  The engineers have started on their drain and pipe project and thus caused a panic with housekeeping as they switched the water off. And without water no cleaning. Continue reading

17 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 4) …. Day 2 without guests.

The crew is slowly coming to grips with the fact that there are no more guests on board and there will not be any for the fore-seeable future. Everybody knows that and every realizes that, sort of. But now on a sub-conscious level it starts to sink in as well. Especially for the Hotel Department, the presence of guests is the Raison- d’etre of their existence and that is gone for obvious reasons. And it is not because of dry-dock. Although we are grabbing the chance to do a lot of work. The crew suddenly realizes that they can slow their pace down for a few minutes, that they get extra time off and that we are together in a waiting game. Take a race driver his/her car away, take a yachtsman his sails away and you have the same effect as taking the guest away from a Holland America Line crew member. Continue reading

16 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 3) … Day 1 without guests.

This is our first day without guests and the ship has moved to a regular work day from 08.00 – 17.00 hrs. for those who now do not need to work shifts. Similar as with a dry dock, the Hotel department grabs the chance to turn all the cabins and the whole ship upside down. Compare it to the Spring Clean ashore. Also because it is now expected that we will be out of service for a considerable amount of time (see the publications to the outside world) the cabins are stripped from all linens and the mattresses put in an upright position as that is better for them when they are not used.  This whole operation will keep everybody occupied for quite a few days, maybe even a few weeks. The Bar service is doing the same thing, turning all the bars upside down and having a complete inventory count. That is already normal practice but it is hard to get it completely right when service continues to the guests at the same time. Continue reading

15 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I am somehow not in synch with the world leaders as every time, just as I have published my blog, something exciting happens. Same yesterday, I put my blog on line by 1600 hrs. ships time; early as I had to go on standby to teach the cadet and at 16.30 hrs. the Captain received orders to stay in port and send all the guests home.  After careful consideration the decision was made to abort our cruise and ask the guests to fly home, as at this moment they would still be able to reach home. As well as in the Europe, as in the USA and anywhere else, the countries could stop all (international) travel by Monday. Mexico is not yet in lock down as there are hardly any cases here but that might well happen as the numbers in other parts of the world continue to rise. Most of Europe will reduce travel and movement as of Monday and then it might become extremely difficult to get home. Continue reading

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