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

12 Feb. 2019; Cartagena, Colombia.

When there is bad weather in the offing, then as a captain you always have to decide: how much are you going to tell the guests, how much detailed information to be given, what is enough to prepare them without confusing the message. Once you have done that, the waiting game starts until the bad weather comes through and you can find out how good your predictions were and if real life –ship in storm- equates to the guests perspective. The understanding achieved by the warnings given. There is no captain in the world who minds to be called a liar if the weather is less bad than he/she predicted but at the same time there is the nagging feeling of will they believe me next time or will they just think that I am always exaggerating.

That was also the situation last night. The ship moved considerably about between midnight and 3 am. but it was not as bad as expected as the waves were just a little bit lower than expected and more important, the angle was just a little bit better that predicted and thus the stabilizers could do a better job.  In the early evening we had guests on the outside decks “waiting to see the bad weather” and if course there was no bad weather, just a bit more wind and the predicted swell which should have caused a lot more movement than it did. But when you do not know what is exactly going to happen it is better to batten down the hatches and come through unscathed than to go the other way and have broken legs (and worse) all over the place.

Meet and Greet on the pier. This is something the company has been experimenting with. Due to the high workload of the Sr. Officers  it is hard for them to be in the ship all the time. The guests want to see the captain but he is busy with clicking away 400 emails or worrying about the weather. So now we do gangway meet and greet. This is today on arrival with Captain, Hotel manager and other Sr.Hotel staff engaging with the guests, while they are coming off the ship and are waiting for the tours.

Most of the guests were in bed anyway as we had an early arrival today, as Cartagena is a short stay with a full focus on the special tours here. That is what all the cruise ships are coming for, thus also the Norwegian Star and Island Princess were in port with us today.  So a good 8000 guests and crew could go ashore but as the stay is not a full day, it was mainly the tour people who were going off. For shopping Curacao and Aruba, our two previous ports are much better then Cartagena, but the ECO tours are very good. And then we also now have a hop on hop off bus for those who have done the tours already. The ship sells tickets for these tours and it gives the chance to do some sightseeing on your own, while still being back on board on time.

The route to Cartagena.  If they were just willing to cut a small hole in the causeway at the North West side, that would save us an hour in and an hour out  in sailing time.

For us as sailors there is a good thing and a bad thing about Cartagena. The good thing: it is a very sheltered port so we can always get in and safely dock. The bad thing: it takes such a long time to get in and back out again. Outside we have to sail all the way down the coast to the entrance which is called Boca Chica, and once inside the Bay, we have to sail all the way up again as the port of Cartagena is located at the top end of the inner bay.  It could go much faster if they would cut a channel through at the northern end but they do not want to do that as it would mean digging a tunnel for the traffic and less space to build more Escobar towers. (Local name, not mine, for apartment buildings built with the proceeds from………………) So we have to sail all the way around the area with all the apartment buildings and expensive shops, what they call the Golden Mile.

To make the day even more exciting, I threw one of my special drills to start prepping the crew for the coming inspections. They always know what to do but it helps to refresh the details. The ships like to score 110%, not 100%. Part of a fire drill is saving a casualty and we have a real life dummy, that floats (costs $ 1800 to buy) and is close to life like in weight and stiffness when moving it. And thus Medical loves it as they can do CPR and a lot of other medical things with it without having to worry about cracked ribs or complaints. Holland America dummy’s do not complain. If they did, then we give them to another company………

The medical team looking after our dummy. All the equipment comes out and is used, and real CPR and oxygen is applied as if it was a real person.

The short stop means a 13.00 hrs. sailing time in order to get to Panama on time. We are always scheduled for a 05.00 pilot time as we do a double call tomorrow. First show the Panama Canal approach and the Locks between 0500 and 0900. Then disembark approx. 900 guests on tour while in Gatun Lake, and then back through the locks and hopefully be docked at Colon at 16.00 hrs. The last part we never know if we will make as the locks are controlled by the Panama Canal Authority and not by Carnival. (Maybe something for them to invest into in the future) So if the Lock Master prefers another sequence of ships to reduce water consumption then we might not make 16.00 hrs. and be there later.

Weather forecast for Panama: Tropical, sunny 29oC / 85 oF. and very little wind in the morning.  It is going to be a sun block 50 day with gallons of fresh water needed.



  1. An excellent experimental ideal that HAL is trying with the M&G on the pier with some of the ship’s Officers! I hope that it proves successful and will be continued and expanded to the rest of the fleet.

    There was an “Officers on Deck” event on the Nieuw Statendam, held in the mid-ship’s pool area, that was well attended and very pleasant. One could meet the Officers one wished in a casual setting. I hope that will be successful enough that it will be continued.

  2. Robina Herrington

    February 13, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Lovely to see you are back again your blogs make my day
    BeSt Wishes Robina

  3. Robina Herrington

    February 13, 2019 at 7:49 am

    It is many years since I was in Cartegena ,
    Best wishes Robina

  4. Rosemarie Engler

    February 13, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Welcome back, Captain Albert, to writing and posting very informative and entertaining blogs. I look forward to each post and following your adventures on HAL ships. I will be on the Konigsdam end of August.

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