- Captain Albert's Website and Blog -

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

12 March 2020; At Sea, First day.

Because we are doing basically the same cruise back to Fort Lauderdale we also have two sea days after leaving San Diego in the same way as before when arriving. For our cruise see chartlet below. How this cruise and future cruises will develop is everybody’s guess. It all depends on what happens with the Corona Virus and what wise men & women will decide about what is best. No doubt everybody is following the news hour by hour as things keep changing all the time. Carnival Corporation is constantly reviewing the situation and we get updated all the time. Processes are refined by the day, depending on what the Experts learn or what the political situation requires. Yours truly has now also been affected by the situation as well, in So far that I cannot travel around the fleet for the time being.

All our ships are healthy but as the company does not want to take any chances that a traveling person including a traveling Fleet Master would catch something while on the way, Inter ship travel has been postponed for the time being. So I am marooned on the beautiful and elegant ms Rotterdam. For those of you who know the ship, there are worse places to be marooned. Hence the plan is to stay on the Rotterdam until April 22nd and then go home from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. All depending on the way the situation progresses and what tomorrow will bring. Thus my blog will now continue with a “Rotterdam” flavor for that whole period. And will now encompass this Trans canal cruise, an East Caribbean Cruise and a Trans-Atlantic cruise.

Our return cruise to Fort Lauderdale.

As you will have heard the cruise companies are offering a no strings attached cancellation program for those who would like to stay home and thus the ship is not completely full. Not ideal, but as I always try to see things in the most positive way, the time made free now can be used by the crew to carry out the extra cleaning protocol that we have implemented. As said our ships and the Rotterdam is clean and we will do our best to keep ashore what is ashore.

So with all precautions in place the good ship Rotterdam is sailing over a smooth sea, with dolphins, seals and the occasional whale frolicking around the ship. Most of the seals were seen last night on departure from San Diego as they seem to enjoy swimming along with the ship, and (maybe) hoping for a free meal if the propellers would hit a fish.  So they swim in the wake of the propellers, just outside the white stuff and bob up and down.   Once outside we lost them as we sped up but on occasion we still see them in the distance.

A USCG -Jay hawk- helicopter doing exercises. The man on the wire is called a Swimmer and the operation is controlled by the Winch man (see in the door opening) while the pilot is fully focused on keeping a stable as possible position. (Photo courtesy USCG)

What we also saw, was a Navy helicopter doing Search and Rescue exercises about a mile away from the ship. For that purpose they had a smoke beacon in the water. Of course some of the guests at once thought it was a ship on fire but I was able to calm down those in the portside Lido, with just a simple observation: Ships on fire do not bellow pure white smoke. It is either dirty grey, brown or mostly black. A few minutes later they all realized what was going on as the helicopter flew over again.  They were exercising approach maneuvers and hanging maneuvers but I did not see a swimmer (frogman for European Navy Experts) going down to the beacon.  I think the focus of the exercise was on realizing that the smoke on the water does not necessarily indicate the same wind direction as 300 feet or more higher up.

And this is the Navy of Guatenamo Bay when I took the Maasdam there. They used a more open helicopter as it was nice weather and  the base was only 5 minutes away.  (I think they were painting the helicopter when we called them as I had never seen a Navy helicopter before, or since, with green winglets…… first coat of primer ????) But they got two patients off the ship in a very fast way and they both survived. So that is something to appreciate. For the skills of the pilot, the winch man and paramedic hanging on the wire.

That is a thing that we have learned during the multiple medivacs that are carried out on our ships. Often the pilot gets pre- information about wind and weather and then when he/she arrives at the ship they have to make their “own weather forecast” as the wind still varied in strength and direction and then there is the turbulence in the air caused by the ships movement. Most of the time we have USCG conduct these medivac’s but I have also received help in the years past from the Navy when we had a medical situation (Guantanamo Bay). Here in San Diego it would normally be the USCG that comes out, but it was good to see that the Navy was also practicing as a retrieval from the sea is not soo easy as it looks.

Tomorrow we have the second sea day, and then we should get a bit of current with us, if the current is where it normally is. The weather should continue to be good as all the nasty stuff is staying to the North.


  1. To stay on the positive side: what is better than to sail with de Rotterdam into the beautiful town and home port of Rotterdam? It will be good to see the beautiful ship back in the center of the city and to see it pass, just 75 meters from our home. Sure the old ss Rotterdam will blow the horn to welcome you.
    Have a very safe trip and stay healthy.

  2. as of right now, are you able to stop in all the ports on your way back to Lauderdale?

    • Captain Albert

      March 13, 2020 at 9:47 pm

      thank you for reading my blog.

      As of today, friday 13 march yes. Follow my blog and we will find out how things progress.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  3. Before we were released from quarantine in time to get one of the last flights from the country I am in now, there was thought of finding the nearest HAL ship in Chile after quarantine and getting the ‘slow’ boat home.
    So maybe there will be some interest from people who cannot re-schedule their flights in time to avoid grounded flights.

  4. Janvier & Maureen Smith

    March 14, 2020 at 1:34 am

    Captain Albert –

    Safe travels to you and all aboard. Please keep posting as we pass through these troubled waters. Better days ahead! We are booked on 14 days aboard Rotterdam in 2021, and know it will be a fine cruise!

  5. Unfortunately I’m having to cancel my Baltic trip on MS Rotterdam in May as I’m in the high risk category for the virus. So looking forward to it as all new ports for me and I’m missing my “cruise fix”. So glad there are no symptoms of it on any HAL ship. I wasn’t so worried about being on the ship but the journey there and back.

  6. Roger D Tollerud

    March 14, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Captain A,
    Over the years my wife and I have witnessed two USCG helicopter rescues from the ship. We believe that those crew members and the ship board medical staff that accompany a patient to shore side are real HEROS!
    Thanks and regards,
    Roger T

    • Captain Albert

      March 14, 2020 at 7:41 pm

      I fully agree with you, as hanging above the deck in not so nice weather while trying to save somebody is no mean feat.

      Unsung heroes, all of them

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  7. Safe travels to you captain. We are with you and wish the best for HAL and everyone on board the ships. I have an Alaska cruise booked for September and intend to be there. I very much appreciate your blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.