- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

10 July 2018; Venice, Italy, First Day.

While sailing over an Adriatic Sea that was a flat as a mirror, we approached Venice pilot station. As we were entering the port at 11.30. it was a very decent time for all the guests to be up and about and to see Venice in all its glory. And I can only advise all the guests to do so while they still can.  Sometime in the future there will be a channel dug or enlarged (there is already a channel system coming to Venice via Maghera where the shipyard is) and all the cruise ships, at least the big ones, will go via this channel to the cruise terminals.

The Electronic chart overview of Venice. To the west is all shallows, interspersed with small rivers. One of rivers will be enlarged to guide large ships directly to the terminal without sailing through Venice as we did this morning.

Although it will be a pity that the guests will be deprived of one of the more spectacular sailings in and out of a port, I can understand the concern of the local authorities of having these ever larger ships coming through what is basically a fairly narrow fairway.  What size ship will still be allowed to come through, I do not know, there was talk about 90,000 tons and if so then the Vista Class ships will still go through. Wait and see, nothing has been decided yet.

Approaching the centre of Venice. The tugboat has made fast to ensure we will change course to port on time and not go straight ahead into the Grand Canal.

To mitigate the danger of a large cruise ship missing the turn when curving past San Marco’s square it is now compulsory to have a tugboat forward and a tugboat aft. They both make fast with a towing line on deck and if something would happen, they would be able to stop the ship (the aft tug) or to keep it on the intended track (the forward tug). I was forward again with the cadet and I took the opportunity to refresh the sailors mind about how to receive a towing line and later on to safely let it slip through the Panama chock back to the tugboat again. As the Oosterdam has so much maneuvering power, we seldom use tugboats and the experience gets a bit rusty then. This evolution is not so simple to do and to do it safely needs some coordination.

The sailors in action. They are just putting the tug rope onto the bollard.

The line is pulled on deck with the winch and then the eye has to be lifted over the bollard on deck so the tugboat can pull. This means: one sailor on the winch, one sailor guiding the messenger line over the capstan of the winch, two sailors holding the rope or wire when it comes on deck and two sailors for guiding the eye of the rope over the bollard. The dangerous moment is when two sailors have to keep the rope in position so the other two can lift it over. If the rope would slip out of their hands it might cause an accident to the two holding the eye. Thus the two holding the eye will handle the eye of the rope with “open grip”; e.g.  they lift the rope up but their fingers are not going around the  rope. So if the rope would “jump up” it slips out of their hands without damaging their fingers. So we did a little exercise first and then under the guidance of the Bo ‘sun it went perfect and very safe.

Although it still looks busy. This is a quiet day in high summer for Venice.

Today we had a wind less approach to the dock and the tugboats were not needed to guide the ms Oosterdam through the Lido or into the berth area. We were the only one at the cruise terminal which made everything a lot simpler. Once docked we could look to the South West and see the Nieuw Statendam taking shape in the distance.  More about her in the autumn when I will be on board to help starting her up.

The Nieuw Statendam at the Marghera Shipyard. When she comes to Venice, she will have to go to open sea and then come in through the regular entrance to the East of Venice. A direct channel will come, but is not there yet.

For the guests it should have been a good day, today, as it was not that busy in Venice. If there are more cruise ships in port then it gets busier of course but the city itself attracts so many visitors that one would almost expect that it would sink into the Laguna under all the weight, cruise ship guests or no cruise ship guests. Most of the visitors are all milling around San Marco square and do not venture that deep into the city itself. Which is a pity as the architecture and little piazza’s that you can find add a lot to a good understanding and enjoyment of being there. One advise, make sure the cell phone is on a map or navigation system so that you can find your way out again as all the islands (and there are more than a 100 which make up the cluster of Venice) are all densely built up. This makes it is hard to see the sun or any other landmark. To give you a good reason to go a few streets away from the main square and the area around the Grand Canal:  at San Marco’s square a pizza costs 50 euro’s. Two streets deep into the city behind it (where the locals live) it goes down to 9 euro’s and they taste as good, if not better.

The entrance to the Grand Canal. A wonderful area to get lost in. And if you have the time, then it does not matter as eventually you will come to a canal and then there is always a Vaporetto stop nearby to take you home.

We will remain here until tomorrow afternoon 17.00 hrs. and then start our next cruise which will bring us to the West side of Italy and beyond. The cruise will end in Barcelona but I will be leaving in Civitavecchia to join the Koningsdam so I will take you back to the Norwegian Fjords.

Weather for tomorrow: Sunny again but with 40% chance of a thunder storm. That will bring the temperatures down to about 28oC or 82oF and that is cool compared to the last few days.


  1. Interesting seeing the comment re construction of Nieue Statendam, only an hour earlier we were reading a report of an interview with Captain Albert from 2006/2007 when he was possibly on Veendam, direct quote “The Vista class is as big as we will ever go because it doesn’t go with our product. … Will continue to be a market for small ships as more niche markets are coming”. We read this whilst mourning the exit of the elegant explorer, Prinsendam, and being bumped from the Rotterdam to the Zuiderdam for our voyage next year. We’re off to find some smaller ships and restart earning our “stars”.

    • Thank you for reading my blog,

      Your are correct, that was my statement based on what my company’s policy was at that time.
      Little did we know that The Vista Class and the new Pinnacle class are now “medium sized ships” while before 2010 they were big.
      Now we have to see how Holland America can continue to position itself in the market more and more dominated by “big boys”
      I still hope that I was not too far off the mark in 2006.
      I would suggest a short cruise on one of the very big ones, to see if the HAL ships do not compare better in being smaller and
      more intimate as size is now becoming very relative.

      Best regards

      Captain Albert

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