- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

06 December 2019; At Sea.

We are sailing back the same way as we went to the East Caribbean, outside the Bahamas, in the North Atlantic Ocean and right inside the Bermuda Triangle. The sea is a bit choppy as Cape Hatteras has yet turned out another 3 day cycle special and this one did not go directly to the North East but more straight across and thus a bit more swell is reaching our area than was the case when we were going southbound.  We do not notice it very much but if you pay attention to the movement of the ship it rides as if it is going over a lot of very small bumps. No rolling, no pitching, just little bumps. Courtesy of this wave pattern mixing up with remnants of older wave patterns. Overcast skies and rain showers made for a day that was not “very exciting” outside. But the good news is that, tomorrow is going to be a sunny day again and today was the day to explore the ship as it is the last sea day of this cruise. Continue reading

05 December 2019: Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

The weather did what it was supposed to do, follow the Trade Wind rule and have the wind blow from the East. Thus the dark clouds that gathered during the night time (see my Caribbean cloud story from a few blogs ago) dissipated with the sun warming up the atmosphere and we had a glorious Caribbean day. Quite warm but the Trade Wind did blow through the port and that made it bearable. We were in port together with the Norwegian Bliss (4990 guests) and both ships docked at Havensight: that is the downtown cruise ship dock. Otherwise known as the pier of the West Indian Dock Company.  So together with our 2500+ guests there were about 7500 guests ashore which is nothing compared to what St. Thomas can handle. Put a few RCI mega liners in and you go well over the 10000 for a regular day. So it was a nice and quiet day for St. Thomas. And no traffic jam to and from downtown around the bay Continue reading

04 December 2019; San Juan, Puerto Rico.

San Juan is one of the more exciting ports for the guests to sail into as you sail past the old town with Morro Castle right on top of the entrance. It is also exciting for the captain as it can be a very difficult port to sail into if there is a strong wind blowing. A strong wind can push up a strong current as well and suddenly your ship is not going where you want it to go, if you are not paying close attention. That situation gives rise to discussions among the captains about do we pick up the pilot outside or inside?  If you pick up the pilot outside, then you get extra experience on board and extra local knowledge and that is good. But the San Juan pilot station is right in the final approach to the entrance and thus you have to abort your approach, make a lee, pick up the pilot, speed up again and try to find back your balance on wind and current and that is not good. Continue reading

03 Dec. 2019: Grand Turk Island, Turks and Caicos Islands.

Under a beautiful sunny sky we arrived at the dock in Grand Turk as part of a mighty convoy of three ships filled with eager beach go-ers. Apart from us there was the Carnival Elation and the Crystal Symphony.  There is only one dock for two ships and apart from the fact that the larger ships normally have docking preference, own ships go first as well, and thus the Symphony had to go to anchor. As mentioned before, anchoring at Grand Turk is a mixed blessing as the area is so exposed to the wind. Exposed to any wind direction so you have to have a lucky day. The Symphony was lucky today and although there was a bit of wind, wind force 2 breezing up to 4 during the day, the ship could maintain a good lee and thus they could be part of the invasion of Grand Turk. Continue reading

02 Dec. 2019: North Atlantic Ocean

As explained last cruise, getting to Grand Turk on time means that we have to go north of the Bahama bank or otherwise arrive about 2 hrs. late. In case of bad weather that might be the only choice but if it would be such bad weather that we had to do that, then that weather would also laying over The Grand Turk and Caicos Islands and then we might as well not bother at all. In that case we would continue to San Juan and we would be able to offer a full day and evening there, instead of an Afternoon arrival as we have on the schedule now. But the weather is really nice, if a bit windy and we are happily on our way. Continue reading

01 December 2019: Fort Lauderdale, USA.

During the night the Nieuw Statendam was pushed up the coast with a nice – Gulf Stream- in the back  and that brought her on time to Port Everglades pilot station where the ship had to be slotted in with the rest of the cruise ships. The season is now well under way and all the Ft. Lauderdale ships have returned from wherever they spent the summer. With 8 cruise ships all wanting to be in at the same time, it is not possible that the captain just picks his most favorable arrival time. It is now simply dictated by the Harbor Master. And he/she is not looking at which company the ship belongs to, it is just a matter of making the puzzle fit. Some ships will be blocking each other once they are docked and then there are the demands of which way a ship needs to dock for operational reasons. If it is the “wrong way” around, hence swinging on arrival, then the time between ships coming in has to be more than 15 minutes because the center harbor / turning basin is blocked for a longer period. Continue reading

30 November 2019: Key West, Florida, USA.

Promptly on time the Nieuw Statendam arrived at the Key West Pilot station at 06.30 in the morning. We had an hour back last night, and by 06.30 when the Lido opened, the place as already heaving. So there was great interest in, first in the food and then the sailing in. Quite a few people had forgot to set their clocks back; with one lady complaining why we had to go to “funny time” and then back again to normal time. Well if Caribbean Time is “funny” time then I wonder what she would make of West European time, which is 4 hrs. more “funnier” than Caribbean time, plus that we do not do am. & pm. But run the 24 hrs. Clock. Which the States calls Navy Time. But at least it meant that everybody was up and about for CBP immigration inspection which everybody had to see, including my good self as I am that most complicated of person who is a crew member but travels on a “Guest” visa. So I had to show my face to the CBP officer, to make sure that my face belonged to a passport and that the passport belonged to me.  Once that was done all was well in the world. Continue reading

29 November 2019; At Sea.

Thus we sailed to day through “Cruise ship alley” or the Old Bahama channel. The water way above Cuba which is taken by the cruise ships from Miami if they go to the East Caribbean.  It is nice and sheltered, being protected by Cuba to the south and the Bahama Banks to the North. Those Bahama banks we did not see today, the reefs, cays and sandbanks are too low to poke above the horizon. We did see Cuba though as it has a high mountain range and we had with sunrise the sun shining straight on it. That works extremely well when we are going the way we are going today. Sailing North West and thus having Sun, Wind and Sea going with us while doing so. The ship was doing about 19 knots on the engine and 20 knots over the ground, courtesy of a 1 knot current behind us. A following current that will become part of the Gulf Stream once the water reaches the Straits of Florida. Continue reading

28 November 2019; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.

Amber Cove has slightly different weather than ports which are at the west side (lee side) of an island and of the Trade Winds.  Amber Cove is located at the North side of the Dominican Republic and is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides. This means that rain showers which develop overnight in this area and then pull away in the morning due to warming up do not do that here. A rain cloud is just a bit of vapor which expands and contracts. When it expands (surrounding temperature goes up), it can take in more fluid or moisture, when it contracts (surrounding temperature goes down) then it becomes over saturated and will release water until everything is back in balance. So during the night clouds can gather and densify as the vapor gets more concentrated and thus we can often see bands of rains clouds when the sun rises. Later in the day they are then completely gone because the air is warming up and the vapor can spread out. Continue reading

27 November 2019: Grand Turk Island, Turks & Caicos Islands.

Last week I had to moan and groan about the weather guru’s in the area of St. Thomas who did not have a clue what they were doing but in this area the forecast was spot on. The sun quickly burned all the early morning clouds away and it was a warm and sunny day. Both: Very Warm and Very Sunny. We were the only ship in port today as the dock can take two cruise ships. Even if two mega liners are in and offload 4000 guests each then the resort can take it quite well although it is full then. Today with only 2500 from our Nieuw Statendam there was oodles of space everywhere and even the shuttle bus system to Cock burn town could cope with the traffic.  Cockburn town is about 1.5 miles away and although you can easily walk it, it is not a pleasant walk in the burning sun. I wished all the sun worshipers the very best but I stayed happily inside in the A.C. Most guests only went for a few hours, either in the morning or in the afternoon and long flows of family’s (in various states of “happiness”) came back between 1300 and 1400 hrs. It is going to be mayhem later on at the Dive-Inn, New York Pizza and the Ice cream stand. Continue reading

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