- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

05 December 2007, Oranje Stad Aruba.

The calm weather, e.g. little to no wind, keeps persisting. Also on arrival Aruba this morning while it normally blows considerably here, today there was just a very light wind blowing. The pilot spoke about strange weather, very strange weather. I did not mind at all, as the less wind, the easier the docking. That is one of the reasons why I always arrive very early. The wind tends to be much less before sunrise and that makes it easier as well. The ship is supposed to be docked by 7 am. but most of the time we are already safely parked by 05.45 am. before the sun rises. Same so this morning. Maybe it is due to this lack of wind but, same as in Bonaire yesterday, we had rain clouds floating in. Clouds that off loaded a lot of water a few times during the morning. For the rest it was a sunny day with temperatures in the mid 80’s. Aruba is a short stay, due to the fact that the distance to Grand Cayman is considerable. It takes an average speed of 19 knots to get there on time. So when everybody was back on board just after 14.30 hrs, we raced out of the port, got the pilot off while making the turn to the North West and cranked the ship up. Within 30 minutes we were flying.

As I am nearing the end of my ships contract and my “blogging” period, I will try to tie up some loose ends, e.g. questions posted in the recent past:

1. Stabilizers. The are started, pumped out, from an operating console on the bridge. They have a length of 15 feet and as they are under an angle the stick outside the ships hull for about 10 feet. So it is important that they are pulled in, before the ship docks. If the ship does not move, we keep them in. Stabelizers cost speed and thus extra fuel has to be burned to compensate for that. When the ship starts to roll, the officer of the watch will decide to engage them.
2. Bollard: any sort of belaying cleat on the pier side. Most are round but some are angled. A dolphin is a bollard standing in the water. Some are complete artificial islands, some are just sticks.


3. Receiving a bollicking is indeed “een uitbrander”
4. Reporting “rogue” cargo ships who do not follow the rules of the road. You can only really do it when a ship is in coastal waters. Say if it happens within the three mile zone of a country, you could report it to the local coastguard station and they might take action. Dover VTS which covers the English Channel, has been known to pass “rogue” actions on to port state inspectors if the ship in question would call at an English port directly after the incident. For the rest it is very difficult to do something about it.
5. The captain not drinking. Holland America has an Alcohol policy which sets limits for the amount of alcohol that can be consumed when “on duty” and when “off duty”. The limit is clearly defined in percentages but it is hard to translate that into the exact number of glasses of beer of wine you can drink, before you reach that limit. As the captain is supposed to be “on duty” all the time, it means that whatever accident occurs, he will have to do a D&A test. To make my own life easy and not having to worry, whether I am close to the limit or not, I simply go dry for three months. It also stops the questions of “who is driving the ship” when you stand in the bar.
6. Cruise planning. It is one of the most complicated issues that a company has to tackle as it all hinges on the ultimate question: “will it sell” and you are never certain until the cruise is sold. For Holland America guests we need to offer a mixture of cruises. We have guests who just want a simple cruise to hop onto, such as the Veendam is currently doing at the moment from Tampa. We also have guests who want the HAL product while doing something exotic, such as the cruises the Prinsendam is doing all year around.
Some of the things to consider:
a. Length of the cruise. Has the target group the number of days off during the year to make that cruise.
b. Does the ship fit in the port
c. Can the ship make the ports in the set time? Speed wise and route wise.
d. Is the route safe (middle east as an example)
e. Is it politically acceptable to go there?
f. Is there enough to do in a port for the target group? (shops, tours, local attitude)
g. If it is a change over port: connections with the airport, access to the ships, check- ins, bunkers, provisions.
h. If a whole new cruise is being developed a balance is sought with putting in a few “old-timers” and a few new ports. This way at least everybody will enjoy a few of the ports, if all the new ones do not work out. Even if the guest books a cruise just because of that new port, it is still our fault, if after calling there; the guest did not like it. So mix and match.
i. What is the feedback from the guests during past cruise calls.

Tomorrow we have a day at sea and the weather forecast is really good.


  1. Captain: thank you for explaining how the stabiliizers work and also for explaining the difference between bollards and dolphins. Your blog provides a wealth of interesting information for those of us on the “outside” I am going to miss your postings while you are on your well deserved break. I wish you and your wife a wonderful holiday season.
    Bill Smith, Las Vegas, NV

  2. Captain –

    Since you have been writing about the ship’s anchors and stabilizers, a discussion of propellors (screws) and rudders vs azipods, and the advantages/disadvantages of each would be interesting.


  3. Captain, many thanks for updating us and for being so responsive about those matters in which we have expressed an interest.
    Having had to ‘abandon ship’ before departure date, it has been a real pleasure to follow the Veendam’s route on a map and also to read your daily journal. I’m particularly impressed by the problem-solving which happens along the way, especially, of course, the propellor shaft/ship’s speed issue. That must have been great team work involving the ship’s chief engineer & his crew, Head office, specialist engineeers who flew out to you, I guess many others and I also guess your own role must have been crucial. I’m sure your guests will be very appreciative.
    And I have to report (while the cold December wind howls around my house and rain lashes at the windows) that much as I enjoy this ‘virtual cruising’ it is no substitute for the real thing!

  4. Terry & Barb Green

    December 6, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Kapitein Schoonderbeek,

    Geniet van uw aanstaande vakantietijd en wij wensen u zeer een seizoen van de joyusvakantie.

    Groene Terry en Weerhaak
    Marysville, Washington

    (Just in case my translation was not perfect)

    Captain Schoonderbeek,

    Enjoy your upcoming vacation time and we wish you a very joyus holiday season.

    Terry and Barb Green
    Marysville, Washington

  5. I have been enjoying your daily blog since first learning of it on CruiseCritic. Thanks for all the great information. Were you and your wife able to book the cruises that you wanted? If so, I hope you will share your experiences and impressions when you return after vacation. Best wishes to you and your family at this holiday season.

  6. Kapitein Schoonderbeek,

    Mijn vrouw en ik wil u voor het vergen van de tijd danken om uw Blog dagelijks bij te werken. Wij genieten van lezend Blog en hebben een beter inzicht in uw baan en het leven aan boord van een cruiseschip.

    Geniet van uw vakantie en onze beste wensen aan u en uw familie. Heb een groot vakantieseizoen! Zie u in Mei.

    Terry & Barbara Green
    Marysville, Washington

    (In case my translation is not correct)

    Captain Schoonderbeek,

    My wife and I want to thank you for taking the time to update your Blog daily. We enjoy reading the Blog and have a better insight into your job and life onboard a cruise ship.

    Enjoy your vacation and our best wishes to you and your family. Have a great holiday season! See you in May.

    Terry & Barbara Green
    Marysville, Washington

  7. Captain,
    Hope your holiday is enjoyable and look forward to reading your blog entries again. The best part of my morning! I live in West Palm Beach and may have to drive to Tampa and try out the ms Veendam in 2008!

  8. Captain,
    Sorry, but I meant to ask which Captain is your relief on the Veendam?

  9. Captain,

    I just translated what I had written in Dutch back to English. Needless to say……something was lost in the orginal translation from English to Dutch. I will try to do better next time. If there is a NEXT time.


    (My translated comment from Dutch to English)

    Captain of the creek,

    My woman and I want thank you for demanding the time to update your Blog daily. We enjoy reading Blog and have a better insight in your job and living to border of a cruising chip.

    Enjoys your holiday and our congratulations to you and your family. Have a large holiday season! See you in May.

    Terry & Barbara Green
    Marysville, Washington

  10. Captain Albert:
    My very best wishes to you and your wife for a wonderful holiday season and well deserved vacation. I have learned so much from reading your daily entries. I am looking forward to meeting you on the April 6 cruise.

  11. Capital Cruiser

    December 7, 2007 at 7:44 am

    Captain Albert,
    I am really happy that the propeller problem seems to have been resolved. My cousin and her husband are boarding the Veendam on Sunday and I have been telling them what a great ship she is. I am sure that you are pleased that you will be leaving her in ship-shape condition.

    Enjoy your well-earned vacation. Many, many thanks for your fascinating blog. I have enjoyed reading it every day and look forward to future installments.

    Best wishes for the holiday season to you, your wife and the entire Veendam crew.

  12. Thanks for maintaining your blog. I know your daily duties fill the clock, but your backstage insights are most interesting … especially to those of us who make Holland America our cruise line of choice.

    I’m sure you’re looking forward to your vacation. I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing time.

  13. I certainly appreciate the time you give to this blog. Thank you very much. It was facinating to read how things like the stabilizers work, and in the entry after this one…how the meetings work and communication evolves.

    Have a great vacation….aleady looking forward to your return.

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