The end of an old cruise; the beginning of a new cruise. This is cruise 045 of the Nieuw Statendam since she left Civitavecchia on 05 December 2018. So the ship is now just over a year old.  Voyage numbers meant something in the past when most passenger ships would make journeys of roughly the same length. Those days are long gone and now a ship predominantly assigned to short cruises will clock up a much higher voyage total than ships assigned to long voyages. Thus could it be that the Veendam had cruise 996 last week and the Amsterdam was at cruise 474. Courtesy of a World Cruise every year. We are not making a world cruise this week but a seven day to the Caribbean. A different cruise than last week and so we have over 200 CVG guests on board who were on their 2nd cruise, or even more cruises in a row.

The cruise we make this week is an around Cuba cruise, sailing today from Ft. Lauderdale and calling at Half Moon Cay, (Bahamas), Falmouth (Jamaica), Georgetown, (Grand Cayman), Cozumel (Mexico) and then we are back in Fort Lauderdale on the 15th.

This weeks cruise. It would have been so easy to call at Cuba. But unfortunately that is not allowed at the moment.

We have a new leader on board, Captain Sijbe de Boer went on vacation and now we have Captain Kevin Beirnaert on board. Who is our first Belgian Captain. Luckily he speaks Dutch so all is well in the world. With the European Union now connecting all 28 countries (down to 27

Captain Kevin Beirnaert.

shortly), the schooling systems have been synchronized. This does not mean that the EU tells the schools what to do, but if you want to be internationally accredited then you have to comply with the same standards. That makes it now possible to have non Dutch captains on our ships. Nothing wrong with that as long as they come up through the ranks and learn the Holland America Line way. Captain Beirnart joined us back in 2006 as second officer and so he is a Holland America Line man. (I will upload his biography in the coming days)  He was the Staff Captain for the new build of the Koningsdam and the Nieuw Statendam and will return to Italy to be the Staff captain of the Ryndam, after which permanent promotion will come. It will be a few years before we will have the next new building anyway.

With the start of this cruise, the official Holland America Line Christmas Season has started as well. Last week the first Christmas trees popped up in the ship and we knew that we were in full swing when the Winter Village display was built opposite the Grand Dutch Café. That will be the focal point for a lot of guests for taking pictures and having their picture taken. They were still doing things this morning, so I will share a few photos from other locations as soon as I know they are finished with rigging up whatever they were rigging up.  Around us Fort Lauderdale is also getting into the mood with a lot of ships coming by on the Intra Coastal Waterway festooned with some sort of Christmas Decoration. Rather peculiar looked the Jungle Queen, the local Mississippi Paddle wheeler, which now sports a Santa Claus with sledge and Seven Reindeer on the top deck. I do not know if the skipper realizes what it looks like, but to me, looking down from the bridge, the impression was one of an “air craft carrier coming to mind” as it looked as if Santa Claus had just landed in full flight on the top deck. Maybe we can see it in dark in the coming weeks as it must look quite enchanting when the lights are on.

Our Christmas Village on Deck 3 outside the Grand Dutch Cafe. It has a merry -go- around and a little train surrounded by candy houses. They are not completely real as the inside has to be from wood as either the candy would crumble (A.C.) and sag or melt and sag (Warm air from outside)  and that is not the idea. (Panoramic Photo Courtesy:  Myself. I have a new company phone and have just discovered it has a button for Panoramic photos. This is the first attempt)

We had a regular change over day with the highlight being the fuel loading today. Port Everglades is one of the few ports in the world where you do not need a barge but can connect a hose to a ring line pipe system that runs through the whole port. The only challenge with this is that if more ships are bunkering fuel at the same time, then the pressure drops and bunkering takes a lot longer. I did not hear too much groaning from the Engineers today so I assume the pressure was reasonable as there were 3 more cruise ships in port. But most ships bunker re-fuel every 14 days and thus maybe we were the only one hooked up and then it goes fast. According to the experts in the port, the system can provide anything between 240 to 400 tons of fuel an hour. Thus if you need 2000 tons, then you are done in 5 hrs. If the pressure drops, it might take the whole duration of the call or even another hook up after seven days again.

Tomorrow we are back at Half Moon Cay for a full day of beach fun. There is no other Holland America Line ship scheduled and thus we will be by ourselves. Weather: Another nice and sunny day with 80oF / 27oC and a moderate breeze. It looks that the Trade Winds are re-establishing themselves.