- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

19 June, Gulf of Biscay.

The weather system did what the experts had predicted; it remained offshore, West of Cape Finisterre. We were crossing the Gulf of Biscay on a North Easterly course and so steering away from it. By midnight the wind and the swell started to die down and the guests could enjoy a peaceful night. A wind force four remained, pushing us in the back and that gave an extra knot of speed, which pleased the chief engineer as it helped with the fuel consumption.

The cruise is slowly coming to an end with only two ports to go and today we had our Mariners party, the party for all our repeat guests. On a complement of 1250 guests there were 802 who had done two or more cruises. The top scorer this time having 1157 days clocked up. I have made cruises where we had everybody on board as a repeat guest and I have done cruises (Alaska) where there were as few as 250. Most of the time the figure hovers around 75 – 80%. Holland America has a recognition system for loyal guests. Not only can you get better deals if you have traveled before, with early booking options and extra discounts, but we also have a medal system.

We have pins for 25 and 50 days, a copper medal for 100, a silver for 300, gold for 500 and platinum for 700 days. 700 days is the top level and we have guests who go way over. There are one or two ladies who do all the long cruises with HAL, and they are somewhere near 4500 days. That is a lot of sailing days. To put that in perspective:
I have been at sea now since 1979 and clocked up about 6100 days, with having on average 4 months leave a year. 4500 days is nearly 12.5 years full time at sea. It helps when you do world cruises, each one is over a 100 days, but you still have to do a lot besides that to get to that level. It makes sense that the holders of these numbers, get a bouquet of flowers from the President of the company, each time they sail.

Most of the route along the French coast is regulated by Traffic separation schemes. Highways at sea, which keep the South bound traffic apart from the North bound traffic. Most commercial traffic, except the fishing boats, adheres to it. I had taking a two hours watch today, as the chief officer wanted to have lunch with all the navigators as a part of his teambuilding effort. I like to stand a watch once in a while, as it keeps the routine going of dealing with the regular watch issues. It was great fun to listen to the VHF and to hear all the conversation going on between the various ships, voices with different accents, different styles of talking and varying levels of English proficiency. Far away on the port bow, a tanker was not behaving according the rules and was getting into a muddle with two bulk carriers and another tanker. When they started talking to each other, getting more agitated while the conversation progressed, it turned out that they were all from Indian decent and their sing-song English filled the airwaves. VHF remark of the day of one ship to the other:
Captain, captain, if your grand mother would see what you are doing, she would call you a very very naughty boy…………………

Tomorrow we are in Le Havre, gateway to Paris.


  1. I just was informed of your blog. I’ve enjoyed reading it very much.. Tho we’ve travelled on the Veendam many times we haven’t had the pleasure of sailing under your command. We hope to sail with you in the near future. Please continue your blog and take care.

  2. I am enjoying reading your blog. It provides some great insights.

    We have over 50 days on Holland America ships, but have not yet had the pleasure of sailing the Veendam. Hopefully we can some day.

  3. Enjoy your time off. I will be looking forward to reading your blogs when you return.


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