- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

10 March 2019: Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.

This is a cargo port and the reason we are calling here is for the tours. Everybody, who goes on tour, disappears into the main land for shore excursions. They are all nearly full day tours and due to the peculiarities of the way the Guatemalans travel on the roads, they are sometimes more than a full day. The tours mainly go to Colonial Antigua which is a UNESCO world heritage site. 

The name colonial already indicates that Guatemala was a colony of Spain in the grey mists of time and the city, has remained mostly intact. In 1773 there was an earthquake but everything was rebuilt and has remained that way ever since. The Spanish are gone and the Guatemalans now have a great tourist attraction which draws 1000’s of tourists every year and lots of them are coming from the cruise ships.  There is a cathedral, a Capuchin Convent, cobblestones, Musea and restaurants. If the place had not been so nicely maintained, you could have pictured Clint Eastwood coming around the corner chasing some scruffy bandits holed up in a dilapidated church.

Antigua, Guatemala. I have never been there but according to Wikipedia this photo gives the best impression of the place. Gaily painted houses in old Spanish style. Gate with Clock tower and cobbled stoned streets.

For those not going on tour, there is a small souvenir market on the dock, so you can stretch your legs, nose around, have a drink and get some trinkets for the home front. We have a challenge at the moment as we do not dock at the cruise terminal. Sometime ago a tanker bashed into the docking supports of the floating pontoon and now the terminal is under repair. And it has been under repair for quite some time. And it might be under repair for quite some time to come. They are working on it, all the time…………… but just not at the moment. So we wait until the work is finished. Last year we were promised that “it would not take much longer” so we have to assume that this will be any day soon. We just do not know which day or which month………………………  the pontoon in the center of this dock would go up and down with the tide as it floats and thus our gangway would always be at a perfect level.

The bridge had a wonderful view all day of cargo ships being loaded. The bulkcarrier was loading tapioca, luckily in bags, so it did not smell and did not cover our ship in a mealy substance.

This is inconveniencing everybody as we now have to dock at the Muelle Commercial or the cargo dock. We as cruise ship people do not like this dock as Puerto Quetzal has a considerable tide range (due to the tapering of the port entrance which is 90 degree onto the ocean that gives an estuary tide range) and thus we always have challenges with our gangways as the Guatemalans built the dock wall quite high. That height is not a problem for cargo ships with a high freeboard but for cruise ships that try to keep the gangway as horizontal as possible it is. So the ship was in action all day to move the gangway from A deck (high tide on arrival and departure) to Deck 2 (low tide, when A deck gangway door disappeared under pier level)

They might be slow with repairing the cruise dock but that does not mean that the Guatemalans are unfriendly people. There are not many ports where you are greeted with a sign like this when sailing in.

Not only WE do not like it, also the cargo captain who had to leave the dock to accommodate us cannot have been very happy. His ship will be delayed with loading for a day. He had to start up the engines and go to the anchorage and then when we finally decide to leave, only then can he bring his ship back. He will not be compensated for that lost time but I think the port does not charge for the pilot and the tugboats used for the leaving and the returning. Such is life until the cruise terminal gets repaired which should be …………………………..

While everybody was happy on tour, I had a sauna day in a ships tender. I was asked by the ship if I would do a refresher for all the tenders’ drivers so their knowledge and skills stay fresh and up-to-date. That entails that they show me that they can maneuver the tender, gently, taking into account wind and current. We had current today but no wind and a lot of sunshine with the sun burning down directly onto the tender. And the only thing the tender was doing was docking, undocking, docking, undocking, so there was not much of a “gentle breeze” to cool things down. I must have lost at least a pound today. Maybe that is something for the company. Marketing a HAL-Tender diet. If you think you are putting on weight during the cruise, we have the “Tender Option” to get it all off again. Only thing you have to do is to go sightseeing through the port with the windows closed and it will go by itself.

The “do not fall between ship and pier” barrier. The little sign on the barrier is to warn guests not to walk around the barrier to stop the risk of falling between the ship and the pier.

Yesterday I asked as a byline under one of the photos if anybody had an idea what the yellow gates were for behind our refreshment stand? You might not believe it but we have them on each side of the gangway to prevent guests from falling into the water. We have guests who aim for the gangway (which is 3 feet wide) and somehow miss it and go straight into the water. They manage to do this for all sorts of reasons and quite frequently. I am referring to a comment by Copper posted on 09 March; he is one of our security officers.

Tomorrow we are in Corinto, Nicaragua. We expect again the same weather as today, so also Corinto will be a warm and sunny happening.


  1. I am really enjoying this section of the blog. I called in at a lot of these ports when the Nieuw Amsterdam sailed through the Panama Canal for the first time 2 or 3 years ago. It’s so nice to learn more about the countries we called into. Also, can I be first in line to test the HAL tender diet amongst your passengers!!!!

  2. Hi again Captain Albert. I just keep reading your blogs (since 2005) like the energizer Bunny.
    Your post today: “…..We have guests who aim for the gangway (which is 3 feet wide) and somehow miss it and go straight into the water. They manage to do this for all sorts of reasons and quite frequently…..” just can’t be true. Please elaborate about all these people missing the gangway and going into the water
    But, more important, tomorrow is Puerto Corinto, the object of a fairly intense community/HAL effort about 10 years ago to help improve the school there. Are you going to check their progress & condition, and please will you report back ??????

    Your faithful blog reader and friend Ruud

    • Captain Albert

      March 14, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Hallo Ruud,

      Thank you for you continuous support. With the guests falling over board, it is of course not continuous on each ship. But as a fleet wide measurement
      there are quite a few. Enough to have the company decide to issue these harmonica fences to stop it. They extend on either way a considerable difference sideways from the gangway, to stop the challenge. I cannot give you numbers but believe me it is an issue. Hence also the comment from Copper (HAL security officer) to my blog story as he is in the know and gave an example of one Security Officer with 3 rescues to the name

      For Corinto, I went back and the school looks still good from the outside. I have not gone back in the school as I know the Head Teacher will hope for more help which I cannot give anymore due to local circumstances.

      Best Regards

      Capt. Albert

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