- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

13 June 2018; Visby, Gotland, Sweden.

Once you are out of the Swedish Archipelago it is only a short distance to Gotland. And that meant that the ms Prinsendam could travel with a sedate speed through the night and still be docked by 07.00 hrs. at Visby. Would that have meant that we could have sailed later from Stockholm? Not really as there is the requirement of making the 90o turn during daylight so the pilots have a good view while making the turn.  This turn is not really something you can do on the instruments as any change in current or wind will push you off the ideal track and instruments are always a fraction delayed in displaying the correct position of the ship. Especially when the “ideal track” is the “only track” as there is no room for error.  And we went through the turn with the sun nearly setting behind us in the west, I think we had no more than about 20 minutes leeway in the schedule.

Visby as seen from the ship at the new pier. Behind the white ferry lays the medieval town of Visby. Quite a distance away, hence the port providing shuttle busses.

Visby did indeed complete a new cruise dock, with 2 berths each with a length of 340 meters which means that cruise ships up to 120.000 tons will be able to dock here without much issue. Seeing the dock also brought back some information from my background memory (not always that reliable as it is using machinery constructed more than 50 years ago) and I remembered that when I docked here with the Prinsendam in 2010 it was on a Sunday, when, at that time, there was a ferry less on that day, so we had the ferry pier available. The 2nd time I was here was on a week day and we had to anchor outside, and on occasion stop the tender service for 30 minutes to enable ferries to go in and out.  Not very nice for the guests and the tour departures. So this is a much better solution, even if the pier is outside the old harbor and much further from downtown. But the port ran a shuttle service. Taking that into account the cost for this call which the company has to pay is not too bad. It charges a basic fee of 24.33 Swedish Kroner for each guest of which 15.20 kroner is spent on security related issues such as port security. (There is 8.6 SEK to the dollar and 10.15 SEK to the Euro) Then of course there is the cost for the pilot, linesmen and the rest. For the money saved through the years they have built this new pier, which we unfortunately had to share with the ms Marco Polo.

The 50 year old Marco Polo. about 2/3 the size of the Prinsendam she is still out there sailing the seven seas.

This is a real piece of history still in service. Built as an old Russian Trans-Atlantic liner called the Alexandr Pushkin, she sailed with a few sister ships from Leningrad to New York and vice versa and then went into cruising. Via several owners she ended up in charter for CMV an English company. Operating for the British market she offers a solid 3 star product with cruises in Europe but also much further afield. My wife and I made a cruise on her not too long ago as I wanted to see her before she would be withdrawn from service; but that has not happened yet. By the various owners she has been completely remodeled through the years but when you wander down to the lower decks and sneak into the crew areas very much from her Russian days is still on display.

Gotland with Visby as a capital is not a small island and because it commands a prominent location in the Baltic there were the Baltic starts to get narrower towards Germany. Therefore it has always been considered a strategic point and has been fought over for centuries; but it has also acted as an important trading post in medieval times. The oldest settlements go back to the bronze age and the oldest permanent structure still standing is a Gunpowder tower in the old port of Visby which is called Almedalen.(which shows the amount of quarreling that has gone on over here) Most appropriate the most popular tour on the island is called Roses & Ruins. Commerce brought money and a lot of that was spent on churches and the medieval city. Enough for everybody to do and enjoy and a longer stay would not have gone amiss but we have to make Copenhagen on time. And however beautiful Visby is, it cannot compete with Copenhagen.

Back to the good old days. A busy day in Copenhagen. The ss Statendam III docked at the Lange Linje in 1933. The 2nd ocean liner/cruise ship is the ss Strathnaver of P&O but I cannot identify nbr 3. If you look to the wall to the left, that is still there. Only the cars have been replaced by security fences. (Photo courtesy: The Copenhagen Maritime Museum)

Copenhagen as every other port has grown immensely from the days that one or two small ships called here (and all docked at the Lange Linje pier in downtown) to the present day where they have constructed a complete cruise port to the west of the town. That latter is where the big boys are going but we are scheduled at the Lange Linje pier, right behind the city.

Today the weather forecast on arrival was off and some rain came down, but it cleared later on and for tomorrow we are expecting overcast weather with a temperature of 22oC or 71oF


  1. As mentioned, we end our Baltic trip with a few days in Copenhagen

  2. A more than beautifull pic. of the Statendam !.

  3. Natasha van Bentum

    June 14, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you, Captain Albert, for posting the Marco Polo photo. So glad to hear she’s still in service after all these years. We sailed with her when she was the Alexandr Pushkin, back in 1970 (transatlantic), but more memorably as Marco Polo in 2003 when we made landing at St. Helena (via tender), despite the major swell. (QE2 has been there a week before us, and was unable to get any pax. ashore.) So we considered ourselves very lucky to visit St. Helena. That was an excellent itinerary, from Cape Town to Buenos Aires via Windhoek (Namibia), Cape Verde and St. Helena. Cheers, NvB

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