- Captain Albert's Website and Blog -

Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

01 March 2018; Key West, Florida, USA.

And thus I transferred ships yesterday; walking across the street from Pier 26 to Pier 21 and after safely negotiating around a speeding Park and Ride shuttle, I made it on board the ms Veendam. The Veendam is of course one of my old ships and has not changed very much inside since 2006 as it is too small to really incorporate the Music Walk in all its options.  That does not make the ship less popular it just means that the focus is much more on the destination than being a destination in itself. But the latter still appeals to guests as well as the Veendam had in the recent past a few guests who remained on board for nearly a year, making the Veendam their permanent home.  It can be a lot cheaper than a retirement home, but you need to have good insurance as we are not a retirement home, so there has to be a plan B for the case of.

Our 7 day cruise with focus on Cuba.


The Veendam is the ship that has been assigned to open up Cuba for the company and the ship has made a few calls there already. On some cruises it is just Havana but this cruise we are doing two ports, Havana where we stay until 2 am. the next morning and Cienfuegos, located on the south side of the island, where we anchor inside a large bay. Both ports are new to me and even after 39 years at sea I have still something to be excited about.

However we are calling at Key West first and that is today. We sailed shortly after 1700 hrs. and followed the coastline of Florida all the way along the keys. It has been a while since I saw the sun setting over Miami but last evening the skies were so clear that the guests had ample opportunity to take a photo of Skyscrapers bathing in the golden rays of a sun not obscured by clouds. Shortly after Miami the Florida Keys start and then it is hard to see very much. Plus we have to stay a considerable distance away from from them as most of the area is protected by a Conservation Order to ensure the fragile eco systems are not endangered.  The ship tries to stay as close as possible to the border line of these areas to avoid the edge of the Gulf Stream. We would not affect the areas anyway as we keep all over boards inside except water called permeate, from the filter plant we have on board. There grey and black water is cleaned back to potable water, although the health laws prohibit us from using it as such. Therefore we call it technical water and use it for cleaning the ship when needed. But at sea we make too much with all the guests on board and thus we are allowed to discharge this extra clean water anywhere 24 /7.

Our dock is really the breakwater/ outer pier of the Navy dock. By modifying the top end, it can now be used for large ships. The track shows that we swung on arrival at 07.15 hrs. and we did so as it was flooding and that way we could keep the flood on our starboard side and help us push towards the dock.

Key West has three piers, Mallory in downtown at Mallory square, the B pier opposite the White Hotel and the Navy Pier outside dock which is now permanently available to cruise ships as the Navy scaled down their operations here a number of years ago. We were the only ship in today but had to dock at the Navy pier which is the furthest out and it is even a long way to the gate. To alleviate that problem they run these little tsjook-tsjook trains to and from the ship. Why can we not dock in downtown?, because we are leaving too close to sun-set. Watching sunset from Mallory square, surrounded by buskers and all sorts of other artists, is a time honored tradition and the locals and non –locals ferociously protect that right. With three ships in you can get a number of exemptions, so you can stay past dark but they are not easy to obtain and the complaints are loud and clear when one is given. So we happily docked at the Navy pier and the small trains shuttled everybody out of the port.

Havana is located just at the other side of the Straits of Florida and when we sail out, we have to kill some time by going slow in the Gulf Stream. That will bring us to Havana pilot station by 06.15 and then we should be docked by 07.00 hrs.

Weather for tomorrow: 30oC / 86oF and very little wind. It will be a warm day.


  1. Capt Albert
    I’m on the Koningsdam and have just attended the captain’s Q & A and learned that our captain, Capt de Vries, is to be the new Fleet Captain.

    Could you tell me what that entails so when I see him at our cocktail reception I will sound somewhat knowledgeable.

    I look forward to you continuing posts as your roam the fleet and and train the crews!


    • Thank you for reading my blog.
      Yes that is the plan. There are two captains circling through the fleet, A fleet captain and me, the travelling Master. My job is to review, help and maintain standards for everything off the bridge. The fleet captain is doing the same but on the bridge. So he sits in a corner and observes how the officers conduct watches, he refreshes procedures, introduces new ideas coming out of the training center and ensures that the highest standard of watch keeping is maintained at all times. Fleet Captains rotate every two years and a HAL fleet captain does not only look at HAL ships but might also be sent out to sister brands to ensure that everybody does the same thing. A fleet captain normally makes short visits of about 3 days in length,hence after living out of the suitcase for two years, they return to the fleet. I stay on each ship for three weeks, so I can unpack……………..

      I hope this helps

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  2. Have a great time in Havana and Cienfuegos Captain! This itinerary is on my bucket list especially since my wife is from Havana 😉 Are there any type of restrictions for guests AND crew to be able to get off the ship in both Cuban ports?

  3. re: we keep all over boards inside except water called permeate, from the filter plant we have on board. There grey and black water is cleaned back to potable water, although the health laws prohibit us from using it as such.

    I saw my first shipboard sewage treatment system on the Great Lakes in 1961. A 3-stage-system, in a single, free-standing, rectangular tank. The manufacturer’s representative repeatedly drank glasses full of this clean water discharge. That was legal for us to dump anywhere but not legal to drink.

    Greg Hayden
    Vista (San Diego area) California

  4. Frans van Giersbergen

    March 2, 2018 at 6:15 am


    There are all sorts of stories going around cruise fora that everybody, not only US passengers, need to buy a HAL excursion to be able to get off the ship in Cuba. So in effect, no simple walk off the ship and explore on your own. Since you are now on a Cuba bound ship, can you enlighten us about this.

    Love reading your blogs.
    Best regards
    Frans van Giersbergen.

    • Thank you for reading my blog.

      The situation is as follows, Cuba has opened up due to an agreement between the USA and Cuba for cultural exchanges. This means that US cruiseships (and the Veendam is a US cruise ship as the owner Carnival Corp is an American company) can call at Cuban ports if it has a cultural connection. The agreement calls for each guest on board a US cruise ship to partake in Cuban cultural experiences. This has been translated in practical form for each and every guest to participate in a shore excursion. Once the shore excursion has been made, the remainder of the day and night is free for personal exploration. This is the case for our calls to Havana and also for our call at Cienfuegos.

      I hope this helps

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  5. sandyrose2546

    March 2, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Looking forward to your impression of Cuba. Thank you again for your very informative, entertaining blog. I hope you will be able to put your feet on terra firma when you get to Cuba.

  6. Thanks for clearing that up, Captain! There seems to be a lot of confusion on this topic

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