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

06 December 2019; At Sea.

We are sailing back the same way as we went to the East Caribbean, outside the Bahamas, in the North Atlantic Ocean and right inside the Bermuda Triangle. The sea is a bit choppy as Cape Hatteras has yet turned out another 3 day cycle special and this one did not go directly to the North East but more straight across and thus a bit more swell is reaching our area than was the case when we were going southbound.  We do not notice it very much but if you pay attention to the movement of the ship it rides as if it is going over a lot of very small bumps. No rolling, no pitching, just little bumps. Courtesy of this wave pattern mixing up with remnants of older wave patterns. Overcast skies and rain showers made for a day that was not “very exciting” outside. But the good news is that, tomorrow is going to be a sunny day again and today was the day to explore the ship as it is the last sea day of this cruise.

With a seven day cruise, the ships company always struggles to fit everything in of what is part of the standard Holland America Line offerings for the guests. So the Hotel department staff is running around as “chickens without a head” but in this case “with a head” as the operation always runs smoothly and like clockwork but it is very frantic behind the scenes.

The wobbly North Atlantic. No heavy storms anywhere (although 20 feet of waves  still makes the ship rock) but  very widely spread wave patterns. We are just on the edge of medium and light blue and thus the waves are fairly low. But they are confused and mixed  up with older systems.

One of the high lights is the Mariner party and luncheon which is set up in such a way that only those who are Mariners notice it as they get an invite to attend. Holland America has the highest repeater rate of the cruise industry and thus there is always a greater number of members on board.  The only times where I have seen relatively small numbers is during Alaska Cruises as often we get lots of new – first time- cruisers there; who then automatically turn into Mariners during their next cruise. As most often their first HAL cruise is not their last one. I remember that I made a cruise with the Veendam to Alaska and we only had one medal holder on board and about 50 repeat guests, the other 1100+ were all new to the company and mostly new to cruising.  So that turned out for me into a very small Captains table with a single couple to entertain.

The current form of the Mariners Society has been around since 1971 when they started keeping detailed records with I.D numbers to track the number of cruises each guest (then still called passengers) had made. Before that time there was also a sort of tracking system in place but I am still trying to find out how that exactly worked. The oldest record I have been able to un-earth is a mention in the memoirs of Captain Haagmans (See on my website) where he writes about his uncle who was the organist of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York around 1900. When this man made his 50th. Crossing with HAL all his on board expenses were paid and when he made his 100th. crossing, it was with a free fare.

Then through the years, here and there tidbits of information surface in newspapers and in company press releases about passengers reaching mile stones. Often travel agents who made frequent crossings as part of their work and I assume that Marketing or Ticketing kept a register of these people but I have not yet found detailed records of how this worked. During the February 1953 storm and subsequent flooding of the western part of the Netherlands, Holland America lost a part of their archives when the cellar in Rotterdam head office flooded and many things were lost and when the Holland America Line Offices merged from Rotterdam, New York, Stamford into Seattle. Nothing unusual as every historian can tell you that the 70’s and the 80’s were not the years when the focus of the Nautical Industry was on looking after their heritage. Everybody was busy with survival as things were changing very quickly in those two decades. Plus you need a certain mind set to see what “might not be valuable now, but will be in the future, especially in a Social Economic contest”.  Hence I am tirelessly collecting, filing and cataloging for future generations. (One day the Captain Albert Archives will be world famous ……some where….)

I am of course a prophet for my own company but when my wife and I sail with the competition we always try to get in the “repeater parties” of the other cruise companies to see what they are up to. And if I compare what they do to what we do then I can only say Holland America is looking pretty well after its return guests.

For those of you who are interest in the tiles that we give to the guests as part of the Mariners Society, we also have a collector who specializes in this and who researches the background of all that the company (or other company’s in relation to HAL) has issued through the years.  According to the website Hal has issued 325 different tiles in its history. https://tonrijppaert.nl/en/mariner-collection/

Tomorrow we are in Half Moon Cay and the weather forecast is good. Partly Cloudy skies 78oF / 26oC with a gentle breeze. And 1% chance of rain. I would love to see that 1% coming by…….  As I have never seen a 1% cloud in my life before.


  1. I had a 1% cloud go by when I was playing soccer. It was a small, lonely dark cloud drifting straight to the game I was playing in (murphy’s law!!), and then it was dumping rain for about 5 or 10 minutes as it drifted over. Then after it drifted by, we went back to playing (we had a game stoppage as it was really wet and people were aware of lightning danger).
    I think the Bo’sun will be hoping the cloud will rain on the ship 😉

  2. Jeannette Seale

    December 7, 2019 at 3:41 am

    Hello Capt. Albert,
    Are you aware of the book Burning Cold. by H. Paul Jeffers about the 1980 Prinsendam fire? It was written more than 20 years after the fire.
    I did a radio show after the sinking including interviews with the crew that I had made earlier in the summer. It may be in the KTOO archives in Juneau. I think I have an audio copy also. Maybe these items would be useful for your research.
    Also I interviewed Masaran, who had been the bos’n during the fire, about 1984 or 85 at our house in Juneau.
    I really enjoy your posts. Your personality is coming through loud and clear!

    • Captain Albert

      December 7, 2019 at 6:29 pm

      Hello Jeanette,

      good to hear from you, I hope the Alaskan winter is kind to you. I have the book and I also have the audio tape. Came across it a few years ago when googling for prinsendam stuff. So maybe KTOO or another one from the syndicate put it on line. I sailed with Bo’sun Masran in the early 80’s. He retired and wanted to start his own crew agency but found it too much work in the past. So he decided to sit in front of his house and watch his children work. Which is always a good idea, watching other people work.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  3. Captain A
    My wife and I have loyalty status with Carnival and appreciate their kindness. I loved your peek into the HAL Mariner program and the pictures of the tiles. My question is what is a medal holder and how does one get there?
    Best regards,
    Roger T

    • Captain Albert

      December 7, 2019 at 6:26 pm

      Thank you for (still) reading my blog.

      A medal holder is when you reach 100, 300 500 or 700 days with the company (Copper, silver, gold and platinum) then on top of that is the Presidents Club when you have survived 1400 days of Holland America Line pampering. Cunard has a similar system (I was just promoted from Gold to whatever is next) but they do not do the medal thing) With the medals come the star rating, so with each step more perks. With 500 you get free laundry and that seems to be a big thing for most of our repeat guests.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  4. I truly enjoy your daily posts. Even though I think I know so much about HAL, I love learning more.

    Holland America does an outstanding job in recognizing their Mariners. For sure one event and sometimes two when time permits. And the entire meal, cocktail party or whatever the event , is always top notch.

    Thank you again for keeping the history of this grand company alive!

    Kind regards and happy sailing!

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