- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

25 June 2019; Narvik, Norway.

Last night we sailed through the Inside Passage from Tromso to Narvik. There is an outside but the inside passage is shorter, more sheltered and much more scenic. About 3 hrs. down from Tromso the ship has to go under a bridge and for that you have to be the size of the Prinsendam or smaller. So the big boys have to go back outside if they would have wanted to go to Narvik. That is not often the case and it is also not that often the case with other cruise ships. This because Narvik is not really a cruise port and that is the reason why Yours Truly has not been there either. Nor my Lord and Master, and she has been out there for a long time as well on (really) small ships and she did not make it here either. But the ms Prinsendam is the Elegant Explorer and keeps going to ports to offer the guests something different, even if it is not the wildest thing in life. I am happy as I put another “dot” on my world map at home. Continue reading

24 June 2019; Tromso, Norway.

Today we are in Tromso docking at the regular cruise terminal from which we can see the town next to us and also the outer part of the town opposite the river. That part has the famous Arctic Cathedral (Domkirk in the local language) and is claimed to be the most northern one in the world.

Tromso Cathedral all lit up for the festive season. (Photo courtesy https://www.ishavskatedralen.no/en/the-arctic-cathedral/)

It does dominate the landscape, something that a church normally does but in this case with its modern design even more. Tromso is split up into two parts and they have a modern bridge to connect the two sides. A high bridge so that coastal ships still can go under it. As a result it is not so easy to just walk from one side to the other side as the bridge span is long and drawn out. Hence to see the cathedral you need to take a taxi or go on a tour. Because of the inclement weather (four seasons in the hour, except snow) I decided to stay on board having seen the place in the ancient past. Sun, wind and rain changed the weather by the hour and that made it a challenging day to be a tourist. Continue reading

23 June 2019; North Cape & Honnigsvag, Norway.

The wind turned to the North during the night and although that did not help with the outside temperatures, it did do wonders for the visibility at the North Cape. Seeing something here is always hit and miss with my experience being about 50/50 for seeing something or not, either the base of the Cape and /or seeing the top. But when we arrived at 08.30, it was sunny, it was bright, and it was clear. We could see the top with only a little bit of haze around the Globe Statue.

The top of the North Cape from the ship . Even the Globe Sculpture / Statue is clearly visible.

So the Captain swung the stern of the Prinsendam towards the Cape so everybody could have a good look. I was happy with a quick photo from my balcony as how many times can you look at the same Rock? From there the ship continued and sailed around the northern edge of Norway into Honnigsvag which is located in a V shaped entrance quite well protected from the winter weather. Not that it does not get cold here. It must be very cold here in the winter as now on summer’s day, the temperature only just reached 7oC/45oF; due to a northerly breeze blowing while there was not a cloud in the sky.   Continue reading

22 June 2019: Norwegian Sea.

Today is our sea day to get to the North Cape and Honnigsvag. The weather followed the weather forecast and it was nice, quiet and dry for most of the day. In the afternoon we got a bit of motion of the ocean courtesy to a weather front behind us which is creating some waves but the Prinsendam is a good surfer and thus the dis-comfort is very minimal. We are on average sailing a distance 12 miles from the shore. Partly because the dotted line between the pilot station of Trondheim and where we go around the corner of the North Cape makes it so, but also partly to stay out of coastal waters.  There is the 3 mile zone (full territorial waters) and we try to stay out to avoid the local rules; and there is the , 12 mile zone, where we stay out of if possible as here the international regulations might vary from country to country. The latter can be quite complicated and brings headaches to every captain. IMO (International Maritime Organization) sets the standards that are approved by every member. But the regulations are allowed to be “amended by the local administration”. So a measure of a Liter of paint in Europe might be a Gallon of paint in North America, and a Jin in China. To avoid going mad and/ or making mistakes we try to plan our courses outside the 12 NM. Continue reading

21 June 2019: Trondheim, Norway.

Trondheim is located in Trondheim fjord which is the 3rd largest fjord in Norway. About 72 nautical miles long and the city named after the fjord is about 40 miles deep into this fjord when measured from the open sea. It is one of the most ancient cities in Norway so old that it takes at times priority over Oslo the capital city. When new Norwegian Royalty ascends to the throne, it happens here and not in Oslo and there are few more of these things. The city has a 2nd name Nidaros and for a brief period in 1930 it was the official name. Then almost a revolution took place and the government put the name back to Trondheim. This must have been a major issue as the attitude of the Norwegians does itself normally not link to revolutions. I have been told that this is still smoldering on but more peacefully as there is a split in opinion about whether the name should be spelled Trondhjem or Trondheim. So maybe one day when we come here during a cruise we will see the barricades up again, dividing the town in a hjem and a heim. Continue reading

20 June 2019: Alesund, Norway.

Alesund is one of the better ports in Norway at least from a Navigators perspective. It is sheltered from most winds, it has nice docks, we dock with the gangway in downtown and downtown is worthwhile to visit. Most of it is constructed in German Jungendstil style or related to it after a big fire they had here a long time ago.  There are some other good ports as far as shelter or docks or downtown distance is concerned but there are not that many Norwegian ports that have it all together. You might think about Oslo but this port is located at the end of Oslo fjord which is so wide that the wind can still blow the ship all over the place or keep it pinned to the dock. So Alesund is very highly rated on the list of ports that come closest to a Cruise Captains dream of having the best of all. And I fully agree as it even has a Big Red Bus for hop on hop off and for an initial exploration of a city it is one of the best ways to go. Holland America also recognizes that and nowadays you can buy the tickets on board. Continue reading

19 June 2019; Stavanger, Norway.

The weather turned out better than expected and under dry skies we picked up the pilot at 05.00 hrs. and docked just before 07.00 in Stavanger. Today it was a busy day in port with four cruise ships in. Our good selves, the Costa Favolosa, the Costa Mediterranea and The Viking Sky (*). Being the smallest ship meant we went to the smallest dock but in this port that does not matter that much. The downtown docks of Stavanger which are now mainly used for the cruise ships are surrounded by the town and that means that downtown is nearby at all sides.  If we dock at the official cruise terminal, then we are opposite the Maritime Museum and while we now are docked here, we are across from the Pub so both docks have its advantages. Luckily downtown Stavanger with is large park behind it is fairly spacious so it could easily absorb the approx. 8000 guests going ashore (Not to mention the about 3000 crew members. (*)) Continue reading

18 June 2019; At Sea.

Today we are at sea after leaving the Netherlands two hours late. Reason, the lock door of the Main Lock in Ijmuiden did not want to open. Amsterdam can only be reached by deep sea ships via Ijmuiden and then sail via the North Sea Canal to the various cargo berths of Amsterdam Port or all the way to downtown where the Passenger Terminal is located. Which is a great location as there are not many big ports where you dock a 5 minute walk from the downtown area. Also for joining and leaving the ship it is great as Central (Train) Station is also only 5 minutes away. And if there are a lot of Dutch guests on board you can see long lines of “cloggies” roiling their suitcase down the street from the train to the ship.

They have now built the walls of the new locks and have lifted a complete dredger into the lock pool to clear out all the mud inside. (Photo Courtesy: Dutch Government)

But the locks are another matter. They are expanding the locks to be the biggest in the world and it seems that the old one is a bit upset about that and starts giving sensor problems. And without electronic sensors nothing can work nowadays. Not even a set of locks that are already over a 100 years old (The first one is from 1876) and must have worked a long long time without any electric wizardly. The Prinsendam was delayed 2 hours inbound two weeks ago and now again two hours while outbound. If it has to happen then outbound is better, as inbound it might affect the dis-embarkation & flights of the guests going home. Outbound there is most of the time sufficient leeway in the schedule to catch up again. And in this schedule on the way to Stavanger we have plenty of time. Continue reading

17 June 2019: Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Today we witnessed something totally new for Holland America; Entertainment employing a nautical person to make a cruise successful.  And to ensure that this milestone was indeed taking place, yours truly joined the ms Prinsendam (II) today in Amsterdam from where she commenced her final voyage. This is a 14 day North Cape cruise, calling only at Norwegian ports, and the final port is Amsterdam. Then she will sail to Germany for handover in dry-dock and a large refit. Eventually she will emerge as the Amera for Phoenix Reisen. To make the investment by entertainment worth their while I have offered to do 5 lectures and the Entertainment Manager is trying to squeeze it all in. For the rest there will be the social stuff. I always say, it is great to be the Captain on the bridge, but it is not so bad either to be a Captain in the bar. And as a Norway cruise is an extremely busy one for a cruise ship captain, I have no problems to volunteer to take over the time he cannot be in the ship to entertain. So I stopped over at home to change my work uniform for formal wear so I can be presentable in accordance with the company’s dress code.  Continue reading

14 June 2019: Quebec, Canada.

At 23.00 hrs. we boarded the St. Lawrence River pilots at Escomins and then sailed up the river for a 06.00 hrs. approach to the port. For that we pick up a docking pilot about 3 miles away from Quebec port itself. We use a local docking pilot as he can talk to the linesmen for the rope configuration etc. once we come alongside. Not an un-necessary service as the local linesmen here belong to the most argumentive linesmen we have during our cruises anywhere. So when the ships want something,  they do not always agree and that makes the port pilot very useful. On departure we do not have one, as letting go the lines does normally not result in too many heated exchanges. I speak a certain amount of French but not Quebecois but this morning on arrival I heard a few choice words which I have to try to remember as they might be very handy for the future. They sounded quite impressive but maybe not to be used in refined company.    Continue reading

« Older posts