- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Author: Captain Albert (page 1 of 3)

12 Nov. 2018: Nieuw Statendam Building, 18 Days to go.

Welcome Monday morning and the ship was buzzing again. Still we see less and less welders and fitters, but still lots of painters and contractors finishing off their respective public rooms. Everywhere technicians are following up on what is almost completed, or what did not work during the inspections or what needs to be tuned or touched up some more. Also the Cleaning Ladies are out in force again. While all these people are going about their regular business, the ship is slowly filling up with crew. As of this morning we are with 600 of us on board and today another 150 are being expected.  As we now have a lot of the inventory on board everybody is getting busy with un-boxing, separating materials and taking it to the cabins or the work place. My cabin collection of inventory increased today with a shoe basket. Every day is Santa Claus with something else popping up.

Housekeeping sorting out cabin amenities in the staircase.

The Fire/security/safety officers are trying to get everybody to wear safety shoes and helmets but they do not know where to start as we have the typical chicken and egg situation. The new crew can only get a hard hat and safety shoes after they have checked in but in order to check in they first have to walk through the ship, where hard hat and safety shoes are compulsory. And then there was the beautiful moment that the very tall Safety Officer was nicely told off by a very small Philipinna Lady……. that she might be able to wear a helmet tomorrow but not today as she had just washed her hair.  So he gave up, he was married I suppose and had come across a similar argument himself before. Luckily the chance of accidents has gone down enormously as the ship is not a real danger zone anymore as all the rough and tumble work has been completed.

The Cleaning Ladies are out everywhere in force. It is just hard to get them on Camera. Peculiar thing is that are only Ladies, never men. Not that I mind…..

With all the testing going on, testing the PA system is part of it, and during the last few days they have been playing music through all the cabin speakers (normal speaker in the cabin, emergency speaker in the bathroom) for most of the day. I am a great lover of the music of Queen but all day long the same CD is a bit much. This afternoon somebody changed the tape and now we have hard rock. They never seem to want to play classic music, while Beethoven’s 5th. rocks quite good as well.

With more and more items being handed over, there is normally some sort of training involved. We are now getting closer to the handover of the lifesaving systems and thus this morning we had an explanation of how the system with the Davits work. Luckily they kept the system identical to the Koningsdam and that made it a lot easier. Our lifeboat system is of the Semi-Gravity System. Full Gravity means lifting the brake and the boat goes down. But as these boats are stored further inside the ship, we have semi-gravity. This means that we have a little hydraulic system that pushes the Davit (the arms in which the lifeboat hangs) through its dead point of gravity after which mother earth can take over.  Gravity always works. Hydraulics are mechanical and thus we need to have several backup systems to ensure that it also always works. Most cruise ships have this or a similar system nowadays. But there are variations in how to go about it and thus we need a bit of training.

The assembled deck team and some Fleet trainers, listening to the wisdom of an instructor with a very Italian accent.

A few readers asked what Club Orange was. Well this is a new thing that Holland America is starting to roll out. The location is what is currently the Culinary Arts Centre / America’s Test Kitchen and in the evening used to be the Farm to Table Dinner concept. Details will be rolled out in the coming period but it is basically a response to what the guests observe on other cruise company’s where there are more options to “pick and choose” even if there is a price tag attached to it. Suite Guests are automatically included in Club Orange but those guests who do not care about a having a suite but would like to have some of the amenities of the Suite Guests, can sign up for the Club Orange package. Further details I leave to the company, see today’s Press Release.


As the Club Orange is a very recent development, the venue is still being delivered as the original Farm to Table Restaurant which incorporates America’s Test Kitchen. The area is finished apart from some ceiling panel work still going on.

Today was another perfect day for working on the ship, dry a little bit of sunshine and not too warm. Those who had to work on the open decks could not have had it better and those inside got the benefits as well by opening all the Emergency Exit doors to the outside deck.

Looking at the Clouds it should be more of the same tomorrow. Perfect weather for a finishing a lot of work.

How do you communicate with your team when starting up and nothing is running yet ? Meetings in the mornings and throughout the day. This is the Beverage Team meeting at 08.00 hrs. in the Ocean Bar,

11 November 2018: Nieuw Statendam Building, 19 Days to go.

We are having an overcast and dull day today and things are very quiet. Only some contractors are working and the painters and some clean-up crews. The rest is at home or in church as it is a Sunday. The crew continues to be busy with carrying things on board and bringing items to the cabins. Thus we had the Life Jackets coming on board and I received today my ice bucket, tissue holder and fruit bowl. Hot water started to work as well and the safe was unlocked, the TV is working and all the movie channels are available. The selection is the same as I saw 3 weeks ago on the Koningsdam and that means that we should have some new movies coming in shortly and some older ones going out. The catering is gearing up as well and although the full menu is not yet available, the cooks are doing their best and a lot is prepared a-la-carte as there is limited storage space but plenty of cooks. Near the end of the week, the Lido will open to deal with the large number of Officers and staff that will be joining. As explained we will get on average 150 crew each day in the coming days until we have a full complement (plus a lot of extra specialized staff) and for those numbers the Crew Kitchen is too small.

I do not think that it is very often that you see a Cook with a helmet on cooking food. This was breakfast this morning at 07.00 hrs.

More and more art is popping up and this time it is the background in the Lido. The walls behind the food stations. In a blog from some time ago I showed the bare walls but the Lido Restaurant has now been delivered to the owner and thus there is no more work done which could damage the wall paneling. The art is similar as on the Koningsdam, market scenes, but I think the photos are different as I do not remember gondolas and real Italian people in these blown up photos. Still an Italian market scene from Venice is most appropriate as the location of the Lido has the name Market in the title.

Deck to Deck wall (bulk head) decoration providing a fitting background for the food stations of the Lido. Apologies for the blue hue over the photo, but this is caused by the protective plastic which still covers the wall.

When an area is finished it has to be cleaned and the shipyard employs a whole army of Ladies in green jackets who make each area dust free and remove glue and paint spots from paneling doors and decks. This does not make it spotless and up to Holland America standards and that can also not be expected. Work is still going on and with every door banging dust is blowing out of all nooks and crannies. So Housekeeping will have to do several deep cleans to get the ship really dust free. First with the front of the house and then behind every door, panel and out of sight space as well.

The Crew Gym being installed. It am not a fitness guru but I think there is enough space for 10 crew at the same time as long as they do all use different machines.

Apart from the Guest Gym, which is not yet completed as they are still working on the flooring we also have a crew gym. Again a whole history with the company as in the old days fitness was not an item high on the list, the focus was more on keeping up the Heineken shares steady (at least with the Europeans) but with jogging and working out going more and more mainstream (and worldwide) Holland America started to install Crew Gyms on the ship. In the beginning it was very basic but now our gyms have the same State of the Art equipment as can be found upstairs for the Guests. Except the machines do not have TV’s as most of us are not very interested in CNN, FOX or Bloomberg. The crew Gym is located on A deck amidships as close as possible to the officers and crew quarters which are mostly on A, B and C deck.

A multi colored Vase in the forward corner of the Sel de Mer Restaurant.

Today I also spotted this vase standing inside the Sel de Mer Restaurant. This restaurant is also finished and thus the doors are locked and it is safe to put something inside. On my Koningsdam photos from 2016 there is no vase present in the same location so I assume that somebody spotted an empty shelf and found a solution.

Tomorrow is Monday and then the ship should be buzzing again with a larger contingent of dock workers. Today they were painting the outside decks under the lifeboats as those areas have to be finished off as the training with the lifeboats will start shortly.

10 Nov. 2018: Nieuw Statendam Building, 20 days to go.

Yesterday I showed the painter in action at the Front Desk. Today I can show the results. All is ready to start receiving Guests. As deck 3 is part of the Music Walk and Opposite the Grand Dutch Café, the art here is a combination of the two. A musical instrument decorated with a Dutch Tile style scene.

Today was the day of the great HAL migration. We all moved on board apart from the officers living on Navigation Deck as their cabins will only be delivered next week. So from 06.00 hrs. onwards bus after bus departed from the various hotels and brought crew members to the ship. They all could go directly to their own cabins even while the ship around them is still being finished. It gives a sort of feeling as if you are buying a new house, and while already sleeping in the bedrooms, downstairs is still being wall papered and carpeted. Your fridge is in place but the tape is still on the outside door and the instructions are still in the Freezer compartment. A ship delivery is not much different, it is just happening on a larger scale. With the crew on board, the catering has started up as well and both the Dirty Officers Mess, Petty Officers Mess and the Crew Mess are now in operation. The Food and Beverage manager has created a complete schedule which runs until delivery and this also includes test runs of the Specialty Restaurants on Board and the Lido. That should start to happen near the end of the week.

Maybe not a very sexy photo but these stores for spare parts are crucial to the ships operation. And we have a large number of them in various locations in the ship and a Technical Provision Master and team to administer it all.

The yard has put a lot of focus on getting store rooms and lockers ready all over the ship. Although you might think that full focus would be on delivering the Guest Area’s, the ship cannot sail without stores, spare parts and supplies, some of which will be items the guests will never see. But if your cabin mirror breaks then it is found normal that a new one pops up. We can do that because the ship carries spares so we do not have to wait it until Amazon delivers a new one. But all that material is stored somewhere on the ship and the crew has to get it onboard. Now there is still time, the closer to the delivery of the ship, the more precious time will be. Plus in the middle of next week, there will be the large drills for Flag and Port State to show that the crew is fully trained and the ship can receive its passport so we can sail. While Hotel has been loading stores already for more than a week, deck and engine (new mirrors fall under the engine department by means of the Hotel Services Engineer) will start in the coming week with bringing their supplies on board.

More art in the centre of the Music Walk.  I do not know who the Gentleman in the picture is but he is holding a record of Chet Baker, the jazz trumpeter.

I do not know if “Murder in Venice” is an appropriate theme for a cruise ship. But luckily it is hanging quite close to the Security Office, in case somebody gets inspired by it in the coming days.










I was not disappointed with my question of where that Opera House was located which is featured on a photo hanging on Deck 2 amidships. So we now all have to go to the Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest to see the real thing. Some more photos have appeared on the bulkheads but the larger pieces of art still have to arrive. Thus today some more art from Deck 2. The wall decoration in the Ocean Bar and two photos hanging along the Music Walk. All the Art (at least as far as I know) is organized by a company called Artlink. (www.artlink.com) and they specialize in bringing forward artists and their work that is a bit more whimsical, quirky or makes people pause and think. I am by no means an Art historian but as Art is linked to the interiors of Ocean Liners and Cruise Ships I am quite fascinated by it.

This is the piano side of the lounge area, which is split in two halves by a semi separating bulkhead. Here is where most of the guests wait before going to dinner in one of the specialty restaurants.

If you go through Ocean Liner history until the 1920’s ships art consisted mostly of decorated wood (which covered pipes, grills and radiators) and painted ceilings and furniture which imitated what could be found in the houses of those who occupied the ships public rooms. Then Art Deco arrived and art became part of the ships design and the ships became floating exhibitions of the industrial might of the Home Country (Think about the Normandie, Queen Mary etc.) After  WWII it was still showing off what a country could do but in a more minimalistic way (Think United States, Rotterdam, France). Then with the arrival of the Cruise ships Art took another turn by filling blank spaces or creating focus points.

Holland America decided for her ships to go for a ship wide theme and between 1983 and 2010 that was mainly the Rich Dutch History. From 2010 onwards there was the subtle shift towards a different theme and that culminated in the Music Walk in 2016 for the Koningsdam. Now we have a relation between the ships layout, the ships art and the ships entertainment which all comes together in one philosophy.

Nothing to do with art, but still skillful. The Tailors were today installing their sewing machines.

Today was Saturday and it was slightly quieter on board. But the painters were still in full swing and in some areas the subcontractors were still working away at paneling and carpeting and that will continue until the whole ship has been completed. The yards operation might have slowed down a little bit, ships side is definitely gearing up as more areas become accessible to use.

Ever realized how many computer terminals, printers and other office equipment there is on board ? We have a complete “War Room” here where a group experts assemble, install and then check if everything works before the ship becomes operational. nearly all office computers and bar terminals are connected to a main frame server and it all has to be tested to see if it does what it is supposed to do.

09 Nov. 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 21 days to go.

Another good day but misty/foggy. Autumn has truly arrived in the Venice area and then it gets moist and foggy until the dry winter weather sets in. Winter is relative here but temperatures can still touch the 33o Fahrenheit or 0o Celsius on occasion. We will not be here anymore if that happens as that is January weather and then the Nieuw Statendam is already long time in the Caribbean.

This is the Front Desk. Not really visible as the painters are spray painting the ceiling.

Work went on as usual today as has been the case for the whole week; consisting of three main elements for the shipyard: deliveries, finishing jobs and painting. The painting guys are absolutely everywhere, under the Magrodome, outside against the bulkheads and inside in every nook and cranny that has not received a final touch up. For the HAL side of the equation the officers are running around approving (or not) what the yard wants to deliver and are busy tracing all the equipment and parts that have to be brought on board. Then also trying to figure out if more is needed or if anything has been forgotten. For the rest of the crew it is loading  cleaning and putting things in position. The Administration department has been busy in the last few days with getting everything ready for the transfer from Hotels to the ship, for when we board.

The Neptune Lounge, ready for delivery. This is looking forward. This lounge is for Suite Guests, located on Deck 7 and wedged between the cabins on port and starboard side.

This is looking aft. The furniture will be delivered as soon as Yard and Company are happy. The brown thing to the right is a lamp with the lamps shade still missing.










So also yours truly got his paperwork today and, very important, the cabin key. As I am not a crew member I am automatically parked in a guest cabin and so are quite a few of the officers as not every officer’s cabin is ready. I have now been allocated a cabin on deck 4 sb. fwd.  which is a Verandah cabin with a large balcony. Not much of a chance to sit on as it is still covered by deck covering and there is constant traffic passing by. Nowadays all the ships have cabins with balconies and all the balcony dividers can be opened. This is done so that the sailors can get their deck scrubbing machines through to scrub the balconies on a weekly basis. The rest of the week the upkeep is for the Cabin Steward. The yard has the dividers open of course as it is an excellent route to carry pipes from the bow to the stern and to work in various cabins while having your tools on the balcony. I was quite happy to see that everything in my cabin worked. This is also one of the reasons for the coming shakedown cruise. Test all the buttons, try the shower and the TV’s extensively to see if everything works. If it does not, not a problem, A. it is happening to Holland America Personnel and B. it gets reported and fixed before the paying guests come on board.

As the ship is now in such an advanced stage of delivery, the art work is starting to arrive. The Koningsdam was the first ship where the company moved away from just antiques and that trend is now continuing on the Nieuw Statendam. Main Theme is still music but we will see other art as well. And one these first pieces of art to arrive, is a silver or stainless steel bunny. (Apologies to the artist if it is not a bunny but as there is no label to tell me otherwise, I assume it is a bunny as it looks like a bunny) We had a big green one on the Koningsdam behind the Crow’s nest and now we have a small one on deck 2 aft. If I remember correctly, the Koningsdam has a Rooster there.

The first “large piece” of art having arrived on board. A stainless steel bunny

On the music walk, the long walkway from the restaurants to the Main Stage, musical themed photos / art displays have gone up. This is from an Opera or Theatre somewhere. Maybe one of the readers knows which one; as I know a few but not this one.

Hanging on Deck 2 midships. Guess which Opera house or Theatre this is ???

Tomorrow morning approximately 250 crew are going on board and a bus system has been setup to provide transport from the various hotels. It all starts around 0600 in the morning and then continues until noon time. We have to do it in small groups as all the luggage has to go up the gangway and then up (or down) to the cabins and we do not want to block the whole shipyard operation. I will wait until all the crew is out of the way and then lug my suitcase up 5 decks. There are a few lifts in operation but they are constantly full with yard people.

Weather: Same as today, nor rain, some haziness in the morning and sunshine later.

08 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 22 Days to go.

We had a nice a sunny day today which helped greatly to keep the momentum going with everything that has to be loaded on board. Especially with the loading directly from the container to the ship. Nobody likes getting wet while unloading and not everything that is unloaded has been protected and packaged in such a way that it can survive standing in the rain on a dock for a prolonged time. So we take every bit of dry weather as a blessing and a bonus.

Not a bad seize as far as a tent goes.

We have only 22 days to go to sailing date and even less to the handover as that is planned for the 29th. Then on the next day we sail for Venice to get the ship ready for the Shake Down Cruise which will start on the 1st.  As the hand over is a very elaborate happening, the yard is already building a large tent just outside the ship for everybody who is involved in the proceedings. Apart from that there is also a day that the yard people can bring their families on board to show them the ship they have been working on. Some of them from the start of the building process.  You would almost think that with so many ships being constructed here, they could leave the thing here permanently but I suppose if you want to have the tent (or marquee to use the posh word) close to the ship, then it has to go up and down with every delivery.  It simply would take up to much valuable space for the construction.

A belated Halloween on the Nieuw Statendam with the Ocean Spa as haunted mansion.

Walking around the ship is still a confusing happening at times. Although a lot of wires, pipes and cables have been cleared away, there is still tile setting going on, some carpeting and laying of tiles and wood. This means that there is no walking from bow to stern in the straight way that the guests are able to do. Everywhere (Fire screen) doors are closed blocking off half the passage way or completely if there is another door out. This is done by the Sub Contractors working in a specific area to keep other workers from stepping over their latest handiwork.  There are shipyard fire patrols roving over the ship and one of their duties is to ensure that the emergency routes are being kept clear to at least a certain extent in case something happens. Thus I was able to witness a rather heated conversation between a fireguard protecting the safety of the ship and a contractor trying to protect his flooring. The fireguard of course won the argument and work had to continue in 2 stages. At the same time they try to protect everything they have finished until ALL the work is finished and there is no danger of further damage. This made the corridor in the Spa area look like something especially rigged up for Halloween. Only the flickering candles and a witch or two were missing.

Sb Forward Dining room. What the Koningsdam has in white, we have in black.

The first pieces of art have arrived, although the major pieces which are in the way of the yard traffic will come later. But the large sculptures in the Queens Lounge and Dining room that go up over two decks are already in place plus a few tentative framed photos in the Photo Gallery which has been completed apart from the Technical equipment. Layout of the dining room is the same as on the Koningsdam with the except that what was white on the Koningsdam is black on the Nieuw Statendam.

The sculpture aft of the Queens Lounge / BB King Jazz Club. It also rises up through the deck in a sort of DNA string form.

I hate it when I am not clear in my descriptions of what is going on. But to answer a query on the blog. Deck 2 has the Music Walk. And it is the main public room area after the Main Stage. The port side is Billboard on Board with the dueling pianos. This area is separated by a winding staircase which goes to deck 3 (casino area). The right hand side of the space was in use by the Lincoln Art Center and more or less wasted after their last performance. Here is where the Rolling Stone Rock Room will be situated. The overflow of guests can sit/stay in the Billboard on Board area and vice-versa, depending on who is playing. Lincoln Art Centre is moved to the Queens Lounge. Here we had “wasted hours” as well as BB King only starts at 21.00 hrs. in the evening and that is the time that Lincoln Arts normally finishes anyway.

Tomorrow will be another day and I am predicting another sunny day. Seems to work, I was right today.

The rather iconic staircase which leads from Deck 2 up to deck 3. It sort of divides the space in two while still making it possible for the guests to see everything.

07 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 23 days to go.

Sunny day today so I do not know what the Italian weather gurus were thinking about with predicting overcast skies with a chance of a mid-morning shower. It was just a very nice sunny day today.  On the ship there is major clearing up process going on and today we saw the cranes in operation with containers hanging at the side of the ship and yard people filling them up with debris coming from the inside. At the same time materials were going in and the ship’s crew was assisting with loading deck furniture for the cabins.

Chairs go up in a much faster way now, than human labor can deliver.

With the Koningsdam each stretcher and chair had to be hand carried from A Deck up to the cabins but now a removal loader was in use. One that we see for removals with apartments. A cruise ship is not much different to an apartment building and as long as you have one that goes high enough it works very well. It had the full approval from the HAL crew helping out as most of them had also assisted with the Koningsdam and remembered the long walks and the climbs.

If I was the ware house master here, I would have a bike as this shed goes on forever and ever.

In this case the stretchers (officially called Sun-Loungers) came directly out of the truck and that is now happening a lot. If Hotel has already the space available on board for storing then it does not have to go into the ware house. That ware house is slowly getting fuller and fuller, as the arrivals are sometimes earlier than the space on board is available. At the same time there is a lot of owner- supplied material in the ware house which will still be installed by the yard and thus it stays there until the yard is ready.

This is the Marshaling area where we normally receive the stores and luggage. As spray paint is used for the walls, everything that should not be painted white has been covered over.

With the ship being cleared up, there is more and final painting going on in area’s which were not accessible until now due to the work being carried out in the area. Installers need benches and locations to store their tool boxes & materials and as now more and more is removed, the painters are moving in.

Although the Nieuw Statendam has the same Music Walk as the Koningsdam, the setup has changed a little bit. We have a new venue called the Rolling Stones Rock Room which has become part of the Music Walk. For full details please see the HAL blog but it boils down to another addition to the music options on board. Lincoln Art Center which was occupying the space opposite the Bill-Board on Board is moving to the Queens Lounge = B.B. King Jazz Club and they will play their normal hours as they did before. Once they clear the stage, BB King will take over. The Rolling Stone musicians (nothing to do with the Rolling Stone Band but everything with the Rolling Stone Magazine) will then alternate with the dueling Piano’s in the same area. (Playing at the same time would not make sense…………………..) This gives the option that there will always be music somewhere on the Music Walk even if one group of Musicians go on break.

“Italians being  bored ????

Delivery continues and somebody must have been in a mellow mode as I found one corridor today where several cabins were delivered “upside down”. At least according to the door sticker. (see also one of the previous blogs). Not all cabins have been finished yet but we are coming very close that the contractors are busy with the wall paneling and the electrics. That goes very fast so nothing to worry about.

One last thing for today. We lost our stairs with the glass bottom platform halfway up. This was introduced on the Koningsdam so you could walk outside the ship when going from Deck 9 Seaview Deck to deck 10 behind the Tamarind. I had already heard rumors about our guests not being irrevocably in favor of it and now you can still walk outside the ship but on a nice teakwood staircase.

Work will continue tomorrow and the weather should be nice. I am not looking at the weather forecast anymore but doing my sailor thing and look at the sky. We have had un-interrupted nice weather clouds this afternoon so it will be nice tomorrow. Good for a lot of paint jobs to be finished.

More Painting. Now the underside of the Magrodome. One of the reasons why we all wear a helmet while in the yard.

06 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 24 days to go.

I am quite happy to advise that the Italian weather forecast can be as wrong as in the rest of the world. Instead of a rainy day all day it turned into a mild and dry day with the sun coming out in the late morning. Almost too warm for shipyard purposes, when walking around with a hard hat on and coveralls. The Italians seem to think it is quite chilly as most of them are wearing some sort of body warmer or similar even when working in the ship in areas where the A.C is not yet working. I wonder how these guys dress up when it gets really cold here. Which can happen if the wind turns to the North. The snow capped mountains of northern Italy and Austria are not that far away. So in January it can drop down to around freezing.

Another Public Space nearly ready for delivery. As soon as they Crows nest has been handed over we can park all the furniture in there.

The work that keeps me busy at the moment is to produce a scenario for how to structurally search for missing people or reports of suspicious packages. This is an international requirement for all ships (and I also think for a lot of factory’s and office buildings shore side) and it can only be done once a ship is nearing completion.  Just copying the plan from the Koningsdam that I made in 2016 does not work because: A. the company is introducing changes based on the experience with the Koningsdam and B. the yard is never doing everything the same as before.  With the latter I mean is that I come across a certain amount of creativity.  In general everything is sort of the same, but I am no longer amazed that an identical locker on the Koningsdam now has another number on the Nieuw Statendam. Thus a locker which was labelled L.02.6. 04 (Locker deck 2 zone 6 number 4) on the Koningsdam is now labelled L 02.6. 06. While the locker that was L02.6.06 before is now L02.06.04 etc.etc. For the operation of the ship it does not matter at all but when you do a search, it is important that the checklist reflects reality. Otherwise we might miss a space. And thus I verify, check and double check and hopefully I do not miss anything.

The Lido Deck starboard aft of the pool. Once the deck is found to be laid well, the top surface is smoothed over with sanding and polishing machines.

While most of the areas of the ship are swept clean on a regular basis (we even have roving teams from our crew involved) on the higher decks it is a bit of a dusty affair. The deck covering has almost been completed and now the Sub-contractors are sanding to make the deck look nice and to remove all smudges, paint /glue rests and blemishes. Some of the deck covering comes from a Dutch company called Bolidt who in the 1990’s invented an artificial material that looked like teak wood but was much lighter and easier to clean.  Holland America started with an experiment on the Statendam in 1992 and has never looked back. You can now find it around all the Indoor (Lido) swimming pools on the ships and in other areas as well. Using teak wood is posh and beautiful but teak wood takes long to grow and it is harder and harder to source enough teak wood that has been grown in a sustainable way to really “pave” large stretches of ship with it.  In principle teak wood lasts forever but Bolidt decks are so easy to repair that even that argument is long gone. But they sand and shave the top layer before delivery and thus it is very dusty on the higher decks.

This is the area where eventually all sorts of torture machines will be installed, ensuring that those who worry about an “inch to pinch” during the cruise can regulate their calorie intake.

The same process was going on in the fitness area on Deck 9 forward. Because fitness people are not necessarily the quietest of the guests on board, special care is being taken against the impact noise of jumping guests or dropping dumbbells. Under the Fitness area  are no guests cabins but the Bridge and the staff officers cabins but also the Captain needs a quiet night; and with the impact noise of a dropping dumbbell that would not be the case. Thus there is a whole sound damping sandwich construction laid out under the surface to ensure as little noise as possible. If it will be sufficient? The Captain will find out during the Shake Down Cruise.

The Jacuzzi on Deck 5 Fwd. as seen from the Bridge.

The Jacuzzi Machinery Room right below on Deck 04.










Quite a few readers might have a Jacuzzi at home, similar in size to what we have on the forward deck 5. But I doubt if you have the same size Machinery Room to ensure that you get the best and safest experience possible. Health rules for Jacuzzi’s on ships are very strict, both for construction as well for maintenance and those requirements turn what is a little pump with a filter at home into a full blown engine room.

Tomorrow will be another day closer to the handover of the ship and hopefully the weather will hold. The weather forecast is still advising rain but the weather gurus have it scaled down now to a maximum of 43% with temperatures around 61oF / 16oC.

05 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 25 Days to go.

To make us all happy on this Monday morning, the day started with a deluge. Not just a rain shower but the “skies opened, bucket variation”. The first group of us was sitting in the training room and the trainer was nearly drowned out by the noise. We are going through our First Training Program of what will be a series of trainings and drills to get proficient with the Health, Environmental, Safety and Security aspects of our work. We call this the HESS induction and it is mandatory for everybody, even for those who are part of the building team. It seems peculiar to have to listen to a Fleet Trainer who explains what you have just explained to him a few days before. But that is the way the law works and what the auditors want: a list with all names and signatures.  Future trainings will be job specific but all the crew has to go through this initial HESS induction program before they are even allowed to work on board. Normally they do this when they join the ship in the home port and then it is split in two parts. One part to do before they are allowed to work and the 2nd part within 24 hrs. when safely feasible. Now we have the luxury to do it shore side and with a bit more time on our hands and so we run with it.

The was the program for today. What happened to the days when being told where the bridge and your cabin was, was all you needed to start working ?

While walking from the training center to the ship I saw this scene. A gigantic hydraulic jack up truck moving completed sections of a ship’s hull. As far as I know this steel is for the next Costa Cruise ship that is in the planning and her construction will start as soon as the Carnival Panorama moves out of the building dock. Ships are nowadays built in modules and sections and thus the yard can already construct part of a ship while it is not ready yet for the actual building. Sometimes new sections are even coming in from other yards (on barge) if there is space in their schedule and eventually all these building blocks are welded together as one giant jigsaw puzzle.

Moving a complete deck section for a future ship.

On the ship we are not looking at a giant jigsaw puzzle, it is more a puzzle with a lot of very small pieces that have to fill the gaps as the larger part of the puzzle has been completed. Therefore we see very little welding on the ship anymore but an awful lot of painting the large sections of bare steel and small touch ups in area’s where the paint was damaged. And then the fitting out continues. Sheets of Formica  covering walls are put in place, deck coverings are being completed and sanded and a lot of remedial work is going on, there where the hand over inspections have uncovered details which are not yet up to standard.

Electricians installing the ceiling lights above the Shop Display cases in the Jewellery Shop.

As the ships nowadays depend on electronics, the number of service engineers in connection to this are increasing by the day. There were of course the electricians who installed the wiring and the operational panels on the Bridge and the Engine room but now we have the teams coming who will install the TV’s and the monitors and the computers and will make the network work in such a way that we can use it all before we leave the shipyard. And then more and more lighting is being installed. Nearly all of it LED lights, lights that do not get warm and also use very little energy.

All good for the fuel consumption as the company is forever focused on reducing our carbon foot print. We think we can still do a lot more than we are doing now but it all depends on the technology available; technology that we incorporate in a new ship whenever possible. Compared to the old steamships from the 70’s we have gone down by about 150 % in fuel consumption or so, but the Nieuw Statendam uses the same amount of fuel on a daily basis as the Nieuw Amsterdam from 1983; while the Statendam is 60,000 tons bigger and carries double the number of guests. One item that helps a little bit, but every little bit helps, is a Hotel lock in the cabins. This means that you insert your cabin key in a card reader and only then the lights in your cabin go on. When you leave pull out the key and all the lights go out.  One cabin does not make much of a difference, but a 1000 cabins, day in day out, in the course of a year does make a difference.

the Dining room chairs have arrived. As soon as all the finishing touches have been completed on the lower level all the chairs will be moved in position and the table linen will come out.

More and more stores and inventory is coming on board. Today the Hotel Department was loading frozen and non-frozen stores which will be needed as soon as the catering on board begins but also chairs and related arrived and the dining room now has it chairs in situ. The medical department received is first equipment and more crew cabins were prepared for 10 November when we go on board.

All this work will continue during the coming week and hopefully it will not rain as much as this morning. Although the weather gives a 40% chance of rain on average for the next two days. Luckily the temperature remains steady around 16oC /61 oF.

Although the scaffolding on deck 2 and deck 1 has not gone yet, Deck 3 of the Atrium is clear and today I saw for the first time the multi colored lighting reflecting itself in the stainless steel structure.


04 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 26 Days to go.

When the weekend comes, the yard slows down. At least the regular dock yard workers who are employed by Fincantieri. They work from Monday to Friday for a regular work week and there are only a few present in the weekend. Either to keep vital services going, such as power, security and warehousing or to support the Sub Contractors. They normally work the weekends as they are from all over the world and have to meet pre-arranged deadlines. Even the yard restaurants close down while they are also used by the contractors and us the ship people.

This is the Pinnacle Restaurant. Nearly ready for hand over. At the moment the light fixtures are being installed. The restaurants ashore are not as posh but still good.

There are two big restaurants at the yard, one inside the yard which is mainly meant for those who do not have the chance to change out of their work clothes. Such as the welders, painters and other functions related to dirty work. Then outside the yard there is a second restaurant which is used by those who can change out of their working clothes and can show up at least half clean. And that includes us. We go into the ship in coveralls and we will continue to do so until the yard stops working on board. But we can regulate our own working time to a certain extent and thus the coverall goes off and we walk over to the restaurant for lunch. The food is surprisingly good, and caters for all tastes and not only pasta. For 12 euro’s you have a full meal including water, a glass of wine or a beer.

While in the rest of the world it is frowned upon to have alcohol in the work place, in the more southern countries wine is a standard part of lunch and dinner. I kept an eye on this during the last week, to see how much of the good stuff was consumed but I never saw more than 1 glass being consumed. Still it is popular and they do not serve the wine from bottles but as draft, in the same way as beer. I do not drink during the day so I have not been able to test and find out if this wine is any good or can be labeled as Chateau Plonk (for the English) or as Chateau Migraine (for the Americans)

This is a standard Carnival outside cabin and the photo is taken through what will be the porthole. It is a mock up with no floor and only the desk and the Bathroom cubicle in place. While the ship is still in the steel stage, the owner can approve what has been done or still tinker with lights and other gadgets.

We are not the only ship being constructed at the moment; next to us is the Carnival Panorama which is not much more then a steel skeleton with some electric wires pulled though. She is 40% bigger than the Nieuw Statendam coming in at 133,500 tons and is scheduled for service in autumn 2019. What is of interest is to see in what way the yard is getting an agreement with the owner about the layout of the cabins. For that purpose they create mock ups and they are somewhere tested and inspected by the owner’s representatives. The yard had two on display next to our ship but then they were packed up and send off to somewhere unknown. Every company has its own way of figuring out how to make a cabin the best available. There is a nice little anecdote in the Industry; that when celebrity started with the Celebrity Eclipse, they “locked” five designer ladies up in these cabin mock ups and let them sleep and shower in there with clothing for a 14 day cruise, and then had them sort out what was needed. The result was cabins full with extra drawers and the life jackets in little baskets under the bed. Holland America did it different with the Koningsdam. The office of Orlando Ashford asked everybody on the ships what would be an improvement and of course they checked all the COB’s. (Comment on Board evaluations filled out on the computer after the end of the cruise). I am quite proud of the fact that I reminded them to install little USB ports next to the bed so when you use your phone as an alarm clock, it charges at the same time. I don’t know if I was the first one to come up with the idea but the Koningsdam has it and all our other ships are now retrofitted with them.

The Bill Board On Board. At the moment it looks more like the United Nations Security Council round table  but once the protective covers are gone and the Piano’s have been rolled in it will all look much better.

More public spaces are handed over as all the work is nearly completed. We now see mostly carpenters doing remedial work and electricians installing light fixtures, as that is always one of the last things to be done. This to avoid them getting damaged from passing ladders and long poles and planks. Only light fixtures that are very high up, go up early as nobody can get at them. And that accounts for the lights in the dining room, the show lounge (main stage) and the Queens lounge already being in position for quite a while. My personal favorite are the Queens Lounge lights as they really give a fairy tale impression. But to see them really well, you have to dance with your head up in the air and that is not always advisable with a full dance floor.

The Ceiling of the Queens Lounge. The view is still a bit marred by the scaffolding but in a few days from now it will be the most beautiful lounge on board.

Tomorrow the company is making a beginning with the training of all the crew that is already at the shipyard. With the Koningsdam we used a ships meeting room as everybody was already on board but now we have a lecture room at the shipyard, a few blocks away from the ship. So all day we will see clusters of crew moving to and from our “indoctrination location”. And guess what, after a beautiful and dry weekend it is going to rain……………………

03 November 2018: Nieuw Statendam Building, 27 days to go.

One of the issues during a new building always is, where does the new owner come in, what is the company allowed to do and where does the yard = the ship-owner, say Stop and keep your hands off my property. A simple example is the lifeboats; we do not get our hands on them until the ship is taken over as the yard does not want to have any damage.  Thus during inspections the boats are handled by yard people but we cannot use them to go tramping around Marghera.

The starboard Aft side of the Casino. Slowly but steadily machine by machine is installed, completely checked inside and then started up. Although not in use they are being left on to see if no component burns out or malfunctions.

At the same time, the ship has to be started up and made ready and most of the items installed on board are “Owner Provided” and thus the yard has to give permission for company technicians to start tinkering around in the ship. Hence we already have IT network specialists in situ for starting up the connectivity between the ships computer servers and the rest of the ship. And a very good example is the Casino.  All wiring and pedestals are all Shipyard supplied and installed. The machines come from Carnival in Miami which is Holland America’s Casino Concession. Those machines have to be connected and once the yard has supplied the correct electrical cable for the power supply, the rest is up to the Casino technicians.  They need nearly a month to get the whole Casino going as the machines nowadays are very complicated and network connected. The days that you just plugged a slot machine in (Fruit Machine in the English Language) and started to push buttons are long gone. The technique now ensures that a player is protected against malfunctioning and some machines are also connected to other slot machines under the Concessions Control. So the jack pot is not limited to the maximum of one ship. We see on the ship regularly photos on display with a lucky guest receiving 50 or 60K in dollars due to a combined fleet wide pay out.

The Ships Hydro pool. This is part of the Spa complex on deck 9. It is already filled with water so the engineer can check for leaks and if all the pumps are working. Normally you cannot see this pool unless you have a Wellness ticket or if you take the tour on embarkation day.

Another thing that takes much time is delivering everything to USPH standards. Every country has its own health standards and every country does it differently. Most countries have a point system and you have to reach a minimum score to pass the minimum standards. This does not mean that you are not safe and hygienic if you would fail, it just indicates that there is a higher chance that you would not, if you do not score the minimum because there might be a lot more wrong than what the Inspector found. While at the shipyard, Holland America invites USPH (United States Public Health) over for construction inspections; apart from what the Hotel Staff does themselves. These are not operational inspections as there is not yet anybody cooking and serving food but pure equipment construction compliance inspections. Part of the contract with the yard is that the yard guarantees that the ship will be delivered “to the satisfaction of the Inspector”. To get to that level takes some doing as not every Italian pipe fitter, and electrician or other installer is fully aware what USPH wants. Thus there is a 3 day inspection cycle which generates a work list and all the details get corrected then. Good examples are the pools and Jacuzzi’s on board. There are construction requirements for temperature, water flow, water cleaning and the min & max of the chlorine level. We invite USPH over, as for 6 months of the year we sailing from the USA and have to comply with their rules. If we were permanently sailing in other parts of the world that would not be necessary but the USPH standards are in general high enough that we do not have do too much extra or different to comply with Dutch, British or Australian rules and to be in compliance with everybody.

Touch up around the hull. As all the dirty work (e.g. welding sparks) is nearly out of the way and with very little wind, it is a great opportunity the touch up the paint work where there are blemishes or not sufficient cover. The large windows are from the Dining room and the white gratings are the “Anti Piracy Gates”  of the aft mooring deck.

Being Holland America means we have our ships registered in Rotterdam, our official home port, where we once began as a small emigrant carrying company back in 1873. So it was good to see that the painters installed the name on the stern of the ship after they had finished touching up the blue hull.

Today was a very nice and sunny day as we expect from an Italian autumn. We should have the same tomorrow but then for the next four days we should have rain and drizzle. Not nice but what is important is that the coming weekend is forecast to be dry again. Important as next Saturday we have to lug all our suitcases up the gangway as we will start living on board.

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