- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

26 April 2019; Santorini, Greece.

With sunrise at 06.00 and a hazy sky we serenely sailed over a flat calm Mediterranean and then into Santorini. The hazy sky was courtesy of the lack of wind today but it all cleared up by 09.00 hrs. when the sun burned it off. The high pressure system over the Balkans which causes the winds in the Aegean Sea is not yet permanently in place (they also have cloudy days on the Pusta’s) and thus it was wind still, yesterday and today. The captain had opted to come in via the South West entrance and then sail north to our “floating area”. The Celestyal Spirit was already at anchor on the hump as she is larger than the Ovation in guest capacity and makes more calls but still small enough to leave plenty of space to come close to the town.  Sailing into Santorini is always interesting as parts of the outer Crater wall loom overhead and the black core creates a sort of round-a-bout where the ships have to sail around to get wherever they want to go. Continue reading

25 April 2019; At Sea.

Today we have a sea day as we are on our way to Santorini. The distance is 550 miles and that we cannot cover in one night so we are having a relaxing day at sea. And this time I can say this as the daily program does not feature any wild activities. One can be mentally and physically exercised if one wishes so but it is all spaced out and doable. The earliest activity was a remembrance service of ANZAC day this morning at sunrise and although the ship is small there was a good number of veterans on board to attend. As the crowd on board is very international it was amazing to see that the attendee’s also represented the whole scala of “Allied Forces” who were active in the wars and not just the Australians and New Zealanders for whom this remembrance days is specially meant. It was a real “Brother and Sister in Arms” gathering at sunrise. While this morning was the remembrance part this afternoon the ship will organize a get together for some reminiscing with a good glass of wine in hand. Continue reading

24 April 2019: Haifa, Israel, 2nd day.

Although the ship was in port overnight and the gangway wide open for the whole period, most guests came back on board for a good night’s sleep and then got up again very early for the next set of shore excursions. The Colonnade Restaurant (Comparable to HAL Ships Lido for breakfast and lunch operation although they offer A La Carte as well’) opens at 06.30 on port days but it looked as if they had torn the doors down as half the Restaurant was already full when I arrived at 06.31 hrs. Last night it was very quiet in the ship and I felt really important as I had the whole Club Lounge to myself including the Band. Some guests joined later but when I left the crowdedness of the lounge reduced again by 20%. Still a few people were on board during the day as not everybody participated in tours on both days. For just going ashore, without a cultural goal, Haifa is not as spectacular as due to the curved nature of the port, it lacks a concentrated down town area. So it is not as ideal for a concentrated shopping stroll as might be the case in other ports. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

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