And thus I said goodbye to the good ship ms Zuiderdam and flew from Aruba to Atlanta to San Diego. Aruba was an interesting experience as it is one of the Countries where you go through US immigration before you reach USA territory. So in Atlanta I landed in the Domestic part of the terminal. CBP has been working on these arrangements for some years now, based on the success with doing it in Canadian airports. I assume to reduce the pressure on the USA airports with all these holiday flights coming in. But it gave the peculiar sensation of going twice through security.
When you arrive you check in and hand in your luggage. Then you go through the Aruba Airport security which gets you into the main terminal. Then you walk through the terminal and end up in the luggage area where you collect your bag again. Now we go through USA –CBP processing, which for me means showing my Visa and explaining that I am a enrichment to the USA and not a danger. As I am to a certain extent an unusual fish coming by, I have most of the time a nice conversation while the CBP officer is entering my data in the computer system. I always try to sell a (HAL) cruise and most of them want to know if they can park the kids somewhere on board so he/she and spouse can have a bit of vacation as well. Once the computer had ascertained that I am who I say I am, the suitcase goes on the belt and it disappears to its final destination (pending airline code sharing of course). So I did not see my suitcase again until the next day in San Diego. Once through CBP you have to go through USA airport security in Aruba. For reasons unknown to me as everybody had been in the international side all the time. Also the scanning equipment was identical so I have a lingering question mark here. But once my shoes were checked with both a Dutch scanner and an American scanner I was admitted to the departure gate and there I went.
And here we are now on the ms Volendam. Number three of the R Class and she came into service in 1999. The R Class is really a split class R1 (Rotterdam and Amsterdam with two funnels) and R2 (Volendam and Zaandam with one funnel) Also the two groups differ as the R1 was designed for longer cruises and the R2 for 14 day to 21 day cruises. Although that policy has been out of the window for a long time as the Volendam and Zaandam are now also engaged in longer cruises. The Volendam (III) just finished a 30 day cruise down to South America. She is now making Trans Canal cruises from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale and then back again. So I can add two more Panama Canal transits to my total tally which is now far over the 100. One day, when I am bored in retirement, I will calculate how many it was since 1979. For now I only count the Alaska cruises and I am up to 251. (Imagine 251 Ketchikan ………….. with over 200 rainy day calls?? l )
In command of the ms Volendam is Captain Frank van der Hoeven. See his biography in the HAL of Fame on the website. He has been with us for a long time and I remember having him on board my ship as a 2nd officer and for a short while as Chief Officer.
San Diego is one of my favorite Turn around Ports as the ship docks with the nose right into down town and it only takes 5 minutes from the ship to cross the street and you are in the middle of it all, including close to super markets which of course is very important for the crew, so they can get their necessities in between disembarkation and embarkation.
We were the only ship in today but if needed the port can handle 3 ships at the same time, although then it gets a bit tight with all the cars, trucks and shuttle buses. One ship is a doddle and I made from my taxi to the gangway in less than five minutes, while observing all the security procedures. Which is a sort of record.
The ship will leave at 17.00 hrs. and then sail out of San Diego Bay, leaving the airport to the starboard side and the USCG station and assorted Navy hardware to the portside. Our first port of call will be Cabo San Lucas. There we will not be alone; there will be three ships in. So everybody is sort of awaiting with anticipation to which anchorage the ship will be assigned to.
And we need good weather as it is a tight run, with an average current of 1 knot against us. We will keep that current against us all the way to the Panama Canal, with a few local exceptions.