- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

14 Feb. 2019; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Puerto Limon is one of the two major ports in Costa Rica. There is a 3rd one Porto Moin but I have been told it is too obscure for cruise ships.  One port is located on the west coast, Puerto Caldera with attached to it Punta Arenas cruise terminal and on the East coast there is Puerto Limon.  Limon is not really much of a port. It is just a corner of a large bay with a cargo pier at the north side and a newer pier with two berths next to it. The cargo dock is lying inside the natural sea wall and that is not for nothing. The coast here is a real surfer’s paradise with swells that built up very high and then roll freely into the bay. Very exciting for surfers who come in droves to this coast to ride the waves.

The country of Costa Rica with its access ports.

Very exciting as well for the captains of the cruise ships as cruise ships are not meant to surf and if they try it then they most likely bash into the pier or are lifted on top of it. So we do not like swell rolling into ports. And Costa Rica has this feature both on the west coast as well as on the east coast, although Puerto Limon is normally worse than Puerto Caldera.  Thus they built the cargo pier in the lee of the beach to make it possible for cargo ships to dock and lay relatively still alongside while cargo operations are going on. The pier next to it is for cruise ships and that pier is much more exposed to the swell than the cargo pier.  The only option would be to extend the sea wall / breakwater much further so that the swell does not reach the docks anymore. I have not heard about any plans to do so, so in the meantime the captains worry.  Cancelling Puerto Limon is not an easy decision as there is no plan B available. The nearest port is Colon in Panama and we have come from there. Any other port cannot be reached with a sort of regular schedule unless you make it a night call.

The port itself. This is a stock photo from the internet showing a MSC cruise ship also on a quiet day, otherwise she would be nose out. The best dock is the cargo dock but with only two berths it is always occupied with cargo ships.

Thus the captains worry but today is all worked out. The swell never reached more than 2 feet and thus the gangways did not move very much and it was safe to step on and off the ship.  The Island Princess who has been following us since Cartagena was on the east side and because of the swell she docked nose out. If the swell would hit the ship, the bow would cut the wave and there would be less movement. If the wave would hit the blunt stern then there would be a fair chance that the wave would lift the stern up and that makes the ship move.

Very nice. The Island Princess acting as a wave breaker so we could slide forward and nose in. This photo was taken from the forward mooring deck. Hence you can see  all the ropes and heaving lines hanging out.

We docked on the west side and because the Island Princess was now acting as a sort free-of-charge swell stopper we could go nose in as that is easier for the gangway setup on the Vista Class ships.  As usual the port has a small tourist market, what we would call a Flea market. But since the 80’s I have not seen any 2nd hand stuff anymore at these markets and thus the word ”tourist market” is better in my opinion. In the good old days, these markets were indeed flea markets as apart from fleas being sometimes present in the blankets; there were often also 2nd hand items and simple antiques for sale.   

We call at both ports of Costa Rica for the Eco tours and for visiting the Capital of San Jose which is a two hour drive up the mountain.  Because of the tropical rain forest, there is a lot of rain and that results on a regular basis in mud slides that block the roads and then the roads have to be dug clear to allow traffic to continue. Then there is the creative interpretation of the Traffic Regulations by the locals and that often results in the roads being blocked by assorted piles of metal, which then have to be cleared. Thus the ships seldom leave from these ports on time, as the returning tours are often delayed because of this. Luckily there is always some leeway in the cruise schedule, so the ship can catch up if we have to stay another hour or so.

After Puerto Limon we will have two full days at sea, before we are back in Fort Lauderdale which is the end of the cruise. The weather looks good, at least for the first day. There is a weather front laying over the Bahamas and tomorrow we will have more insight if it will affect us much or not.   

A cold front laying over the Bahamas. The name cold front is relative as it only means a few degree less in temperature than without the cold front.  (Courtesy: The Weather Channel, Caribbean Weather Maps)


  1. Hallo Kaptein; off topic a bit from your current assignment but wondering if you’ve ever heard of a trolley tram built in Rotterdam around 1938 which was made to look like a 1:18 scale replica of the Nieuw Amsterdam II? It was made by personnel from RET (Rotterdamsche Electrische Tram) to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina’s reign as Queen of the Netherlands. The Nieuw A tram was driven in Rotterdam for a week as part of the festivities, survived the war, and was driven in The Hague in 1948 to raise money to help Zeeland’s Walcheren island back on its feet after the war. Later in 1948, the tram was back in Rotterdam to celebrate Wilhelmina’s 50th anniversary as Queen. Supposedly, in 1951 the tram was purchased by HAL however, it wound up in the U.S., possibly in Los Angeles. I have two pics of the “boat tram” but am unable to post them here. If interested in them (unless you already have them), just let me know

    • Captain Albert

      February 16, 2019 at 5:56 pm

      Hello Copper, good to see that you are still out there.

      yes I know about the tram, quite a bit as well and have a series of photos with the tram. The model was used to promote HAL but also anything else the HAL could think about. I have a photo where it was advertising sponsorship for Allied war graves. Extra money needed until the Dutch Government had its funding in place. Germany, England and the USA all look after their own graves in Holland but the dutch government had the task of getting the remains from where they were found to the correct grave yard and in 1946 there was not much budget. I had also heard that the tram went to the USA but I have not been able to find out yet how. Nothing substantial yet in the HAL archives.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  2. Please disregard the mention of any conversation with another captain about my email,
    That was uncalled for, bad manners, and poor taste on my part. Thanks

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