- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

23 April 2019; Haifa, Israel, Day 1.

After a slow sail from Ashdod to Haifa we arrived at the pilot station at 06.30 and sailed in shortly afterwards. Haifa is located against a curved mountain ridge which tapers off towards the sea. The top of the ridge is called Mount Carmel. The mountain is well known from biblical days as the location where the Prophet Elijah challenged the local competition to settle the problem of who was the true God.

The port of Haifa as seen from the pilot station. Haifa is mostly located against the Northerly ridge of Mount Carmel.

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22 April 2019; Ashdod, Israel.


Together with the Seven Seas Navigator we sailed along the coast towards Ashdod with the idea to arrive early as the clearance operations take time here. However the Navigator had to wait and we had to stay behind her and then she got clearance first. So the plan of sending the guests ashore, bright and early, did not exactly work out. We were still docked ahead of time but then we had to wait for the authorities to walk from one ship to the other, and once done they could finally start comparing all our faces with all our passports. (Everybody had to go through, Guests and Crew) Once that was accomplished you received a stamped landing card for going ashore.

Extra, Extra Security at the gangway. This to complement our own scanning equipment inside.

When going off there was a mobile scanning post set up at the gangway and everybody was subject to a scan and a handbag inspection before they could board the coaches for their tours. Luckily we are staying until 23.00 hrs. tonight so the late departure will not result in a reduction of the tour time. As can be expected security is very tight here in the various ports and both cruise ships are surrounded by a row of containers with only a small entrance / exit for the coaches and the shuttlebuses. Continue reading

21 Apr. 2019: Suez Canal, Egypt.

We arrived last night at 22.00 hrs. at the anchorage of Suez to make sure that we would be ready for the convoy once it started to line up. That “lining up” can be time consuming with the planned time not always happening. But the SCA (Suez Canal Authority) likes to have its chickens lined up well ahead of time so when the convoy can sail there is no delay. Hence we made sure that we were early, and made sure that we had paid our Suez Canal fee. Otherwise no transit.  The transit fee is calculated via a standard tariff scale which you can find on the internet. You take the Suez Canal Tonnage of the Seabourn Ovation of 44000 as the guideline. I came to a rough price of $ 176,000 as I did not calculate behind the comma so it might have been at little bit more. Suez goes by volume only, Panama has a surcharge for guests on board maybe because so many more cruise ships transit the Panama Canal.  The plan was this morning to raise the anchor at 04.00 hrs. and then to be in the canal by 06.00 hrs. Continue reading

20 April 2019: Gulf of Suez.

We left indeed later than scheduled last evening. The first coaches were back on schedule but not all of them, plus we had a private tour that got somewhat lost but the delay was kept to about 30 minutes and that is not bad for Aqaba.

One of the Seabourn signature activities. The crew meets and greets the returning Guests from the tour. Music, Waving, Champagne and Cold towels.

And 30 minutes on the next stretch to the Suez Canal is nothing. For the remainder of the night we sailed back to where we came from and this morning we were back in the Red Sea. Only to make a turn to the North around the corner at Sharm-El- Sheikh which is also a well-known holiday resort where many cruise ships call. While sailing in the Gulf of Aqaba we were fairly sheltered from the northerly winds but when we made the turn at Continue reading

19 April 2019: Al Aqabah, Jordan.

Today we are in Aqabah which is located at the end of the Gulf of Eliatt.

The Northern part of the Red Sea which splits in two parts here by the Sinai Peninsula. (Courtesy www. GraphicMaps.com)

The Jordanians call it the Gulf of Aqabah and may the best PR. Department win the battle of whatever the best name is.  Aqabah is the only coastal city of Jordan which is for the rest land locked between Israel and Syria.  Ancient Aqabah was once called Eliath but that name now only exists on the Israelian side. And that side is quite close. As a matter of fact the border runs right along Aqabah itself and the same at the other side for Eliath.

Jordan and Israel are on reasonable terms and thus the border is in frequent use and most cruise ships do crew exchanges here. So connections can be made from airports on either side of the border. What a funny part is, is that there is no direct transport over the border. Thus if you leave the ship in Aqabah, the agent will bring you to the border, then you pull your suitcase through the border and show your passport and then on the other side another agent (same agency) with another car takes you to the airport. Going the other way, goes the same. But this is only done if there is no flight available from the airport at Aqaba which connects with the international airport in the capital of Amman. Continue reading

18 April 2019: At Sea, Day 04.

Another Sea day, the last one before we reach Aqabah and the wind his changed. Before it was in the back or stern and it increased during the day time which is normal for winds generated by landmasses warming up. That changes about half way up the Red Sea. And we were halfway yesterday afternoon. At about 1600 hrs. we passed Mecca with its port, Jeddah, on our starboard side. We had 50 miles to starboard and 50 miles to port so our course stayed as far as possible from all the land around us. Now we are coming closer to Europe and Asia so other landmasses, read temperatures are starting to play a part in the weather equation. And thus in the early morning hours the wind breezed up and is now against us with a nice wind force 4 to 5 blowing (20 to 25 knots) and the ship is “bumping” into it with 16 knots of speed. This gives a bit of movement as the Seabourn with being smaller does not have all the options of a larger ship, with a bigger bow, to ride over everything. Continue reading

17 April 2019; At Sea; Day 03.

We are slowly making our way up the Red Sea and as the waters are quite wide here we do not see that many ships. We have also left the piracy waters behind us and our extra security friends have been stood down by the Staff Captain and are enjoying a well-deserved rest. Our guests were trying to do the same but their morning tranquility was interrupted by a full safety drill. We try to do the drills nowadays in port so it does not affect the guests and also because we can then involve all the crew in the drill. Now larger groups had to be excused as the guests still needed to be served. The crew that missed this drill will attend the next one in a week’s time. Legally each crewmember has to participate in one fire and one abandon ship drill each month. Plus they need to attend trainings drills and thus most ships have now gone to Full Drills each week so it can all be done in one go and nobody falls by the way side. (And crew is often very good in trying to fall by the wayside………) This system works very well, except on sea days when Hotel Operations continue in full swing. Also we have to conduct a Fire Drill (Or First Stage Response Drill) every seven days and thus there is no way around it and we had to impede on the guests restfulness a little bit this morning. So I pulled one of my specials today for the fire teams and they responded very well. Continue reading

16 April 2019; At Sea, Day 3.

This morning at 06.00 hrs. we passed the Cape & Island of Bab El Mandeb, which forms the official entrance to the Red Sea.  This is a fairly narrow strait and when going in we sailed only about a 1.5 miles off the coast line of Yemen.

The Bab El Mandeb entry into the Red Sea. (Thank you Wikipedia)

This is an area where there has been a lot of piracy in the past and in 2018 Saudi Arabia closed the Red Sea off here for a short while as there was a political dispute going on. Bab El Mandeb is also known as the Gate of the Tears due to the many shipwrecks and related havoc that took place here in the bygone days. When the British established control over the routes to India one of the first things they did was to put a light house on one of the islands here to guide the ships safely around the small islands and reefs.  I checked and the light house was still there, although I could not see if the light was still working as the sun rose right above it. All in all an historic area to cross. Continue reading

15 April 2019; At Sea, Day 2.

Today we are sailing along the South East part of Yemen and tomorrow we are turning into the Gulf of Aden and from there into the Red Sea. Bab El Mandab should be visible tomorrow afternoon if we continue with this speed. So hopefully we will be able to see the rock formation but it will depend on the traffic which all has to converge there due to the narrowness of the fairway. More about that tomorrow.  We are still quite a ways from land and thus there is not very much to see except that the wind picked up during the night and we now have white caps with a wind force 4 (up to 16 knots)  sometimes breezing up to  6 (20+ knots).  It is a following wind so it does not matter for the ship as the ship is traveling with the same speed as the velocity of the wind and thus it is nearly wind still on deck.  The wind is from the North East and has been blowing over warm areas and thus it is a warm wind, making it nice and toasty outside. Continue reading

14 April 2019: At Sea Day 1.

We are now on our way to Al Aqabah which is a five day sea voyage up the Gulf of Aden and then into the Red Sea. Eventually I hope to report if the Red Sea is indeed red or if there is something different going on (Or was going on, when they came up with the name). But that will take a while as of lunch time today it was still 500 miles to the Bab El Mandab rock formation which forms the official entrance to the Red Sea coming from the south. We are sailing at a considerable distance away from the shore line, to stay in international waters but also to stay away from fishing boats and other mayhem which tends to congregate on the edge of the deep water to shallow water. That is where the fish tends to come to the surface and might swim straight into the nets. Continue reading

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