- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

19 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 6) … Day 4 without guests.

Another dry and sunny day in Puerto Vallarta and we are still happy alongside the dock. Looking ashore it does not look that the town is overly concerned about what is going on in the rest of the world as there are no cases here, nor any in the direct area. There is some reduction in traffic which has mostly to do I think with the slowdown in Holiday Makers in the area. With the USA in lockdown, people on vacation go home but no new people are coming out. But life goes on while we all keep adapting to the changing circumstances. Change will continue as everybody is in the process of fine tuning with what they can do. It is a bit as if we re-inventing the wheel. Once the realization is there that there is a wheel, then the first version is square, then it becomes round, then somebody puts hard rubber around it, then the air tire comes along and slowly buts steadily the perfect wheel emerges and is put in use. To stay with this metaphor I think we are just in the phase from the square wheel to the round wheel.

But we have action as well here with the ms Rotterdam. Tonight we will go to sea for a night, so the chief engineer can run his engines on full speed (think soot clogging in the funnel, which is extremely dangerous as it can cause a funnel fire), we can process oily bilge water, back to clean water (machinery is only allowed to run at sea with speeds of over six knots) and we can discharge grey water (this is shower and kitchen water which is not harmful for the environment) Puerto Vallarta has only limited facilities to deal with this, as it is not a change over port, but a port of call. Then tomorrow morning we will come back to the dock, unless Mexico would decide to go in complete lockdown overnight for the whole country. As mentioned before, this area does not have any problems so it is better for the economy to keep going for as long as it can, and maybe it will not be affected at all.

More ships are coming this way now; we have heard about the Norwegian Joy of NCL which according to Marine Traffic will arrive here tomorrow afternoon by 16.00 hrs. and the Europa of Hapag Lloyd which is scheduled for 20.00 hrs. Tomorrow night. Then the port will be full with three ships. (A very big one, a medium size and a small cruise ship altogether in port) If Mexico does go in lockdown then we will all be at the anchorage and then the company’s will discuss with the authorities the best way forward.

The Lido in full swing at lunch time. Both sides open to accommodate 600 crew in 2 hours.

On board feeding arrangements have been adapted as well. Normally the Officers and staff eat in the Lido with the guests, the crew has the crew mess room and the Petty Officers the P.O mess room. As we are now not operational, it makes sense to combine the various outlets and it was decided to make the Lido Restaurant the venue of choice. It has two sides and one side is for those in (clean) coveralls and the other side for those in uniforms or civvies. Also open today was the Dive In and thus a long, long line of Dining room stewards could be observed waiting for a Hot Dog. I did not know that hot dogs were so popular in Indonesia, but obviously they are. Apart from the Indonesian and Filipino food cycle (which is regulated in agreement with the respective labor unions) we also had the Spaghetti station open, the salad bar and the ice cream bar. Plus the Pizza place on the aft Sea View deck. Next to it is the Sea View bar which is also open so everybody can have a drink under the stars. (With “happy hour” crew prices) Tonight this will also be the venue for the crew bingo.

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The moment of presentation of the Sapling to the manager of the port (port Principal). Apart from the Captain the following Port Authorities were present:                                           Port principal – Arq. Constanza Monica Suarez Jimenez 
Puerto Vallarta Navy’s Captain – Captain Franciso Urtaza
Port Pilot – Capitan Olivares
Port Administration manager – Lic. Miguel Maya Alvarez
Commercial manager – Lic. Alexandra Trejo
Port Agent Manager – Mercedes Tirado Duran
Port Agent Operations Manager – Lic. Argenis Olvera

The local authorities have been very good in helping us out, with what we need to keep the ship going and that is not what they are used to during a normal day call. As a thank you and a reminder to the strange times we have been thrown in, the Captain offered a tree, sapling, to the port and which was duly planted in the port area. With a bit of luck the small tree will grow to be a big tree and will thus immortalize our visit and our gratefulness for the support of the people of Puerto Vallarta. Captain Bas van Dreumel who presented the tree  quoted: ” There is a proverb which says “Anyone who plants a tree knowing that he will never sit in its shade has at least begun to grasp the meaning of life.”  So maybe generations to come will be able to sit under the tree.

As there is only so much cleaning that can be done by 600 crew, everybody is now branching out to other activities as well. Thus Housekeeping staff have now been promoted to auxiliary sailors and have started to paint their steward stations. One of the stewards managed to paint himself more than the bulkheads but he made promise me not to publish the photo…………. Because his wife is reading the blog everyday………………….

Tomorrow should be another nice day, and if it all works out, the captain is planning to dock the ship again alongside by 09.00 hrs.  for the coming days.

14 Comments

  1. As I was reading your blog post aloud to my father, he remarked that someone is working hard to keep crew morale and interest up. I agree. I hope at the end of this, it will be a positive, team-building event. 🙂
    This is almost the end of the usual tourist season, but maybe some of the tour operators would want to offer special ‘crew-only’ prices?
    With the two ships arriving soon, Walmart will be doing very, very good business. I was hoping they would be HAL ships, but one cannot win everything. Thinking of your role in drilling and lifeboat training, I am curious what the differences and similarities between HAL, NCL, and H-L will be as the ships follow the drill and lifeboat schedules. Of course, the Rotterdam crew will be trained the best :-).
    I have heard some news about the situations the Maasdam and Amsterdam find themselves in. It is quite an “interesting” and stressful one.
    Happy sailing tonight!

  2. Wonderful and welcome to our Vallarta community for as long as it takes keep well.

  3. Mary Van Bellinghen

    March 20, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Thank You Captain Albert. I was supposed to sail on Volendam on 3/22. Now I have to live my cruise vicariously through your blog. Just reading about what your crew is doing makes me want to book another cruise. I know those fine people are the best at sea. Thanks again.

  4. Captain, I have long been “captivated” by your daily postings when at sea and look forward to them every day. You are both a kind and good teacher and someday I hope to. be on a HAL ship so that I might attend one of your lectures. I currently have three cruises booked with HAL for the next twelve months and maybe I will get lucky. In the meantime a thousands thanks for allowing me to be aboard, even vicariously.

  5. Jerry O'Donnell

    March 20, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    Captain Albert we are thoroughly enjoying your blogs each day. We left the ms Rotterdam on March 11th in San Diego after a wonderful cruise. In fact, as we were leaving our cabin on Main Deck for disembarkation we briefly ran into you. It so happens you had just gotten stamped by CBP and were delighted to continue onward to Puerto Vallarta and beyond. Well, it is what it is in the cruise industry. We thank you for the updates provided by your blogs. They’ve allowed us to know how the Officers, staff and crew our fairing. With 10 + cruises with HAL, we felt the ms Rotterdam had an A-team–one of the finest with so many special people we met among the 600 crew. So, we kindly wish you all the best during this difficult time. Keep on keeping on!!!

  6. I am sad I didn’t get to hear your talks on the Rotterdam…..sigh, I thought I had time. Loved the ship and her crew and hope to sail on her again.

  7. As a new follower of your blog, I want to thank you for sharing what you are seeing and experiencing. We are scheduled to sail on the Rotterdam in October from Rotterdam to Florida. It would be fun to meet you in person on that or one of our 2021 cruises. Please share with crew that we passengers miss them and are concerned about them.

  8. I am so sad I ddn’t get to attend one of your talks on the Rotterdam. I thought I had time…but not so.

  9. Janvier and Maureen Smith

    March 20, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    Dear Captain Albert,
    We are very lucky to have your updates, especially during a particularly challenging time in the cruise industry. You also educate loyal HAL guests and others on how things actually work behind the scenes, and that is fascinating!
    The captain of MS Amsterdam, Jonathan Mercer, is likewise making tough choices on his final Grand World Voyage, which is ending sadly short of its original plan for guests in the next few days. This was to be his last voyage as a distinguished HAL captain, and was our captain on a wonderful 2017 two-week Alaska cruise. If he were willing, I hope company management will ask him to come back to lead a proper Grand World Cruise next year. I hope, if he is so inclined, that you will help make that happen!
    Be safe and healthy!

  10. Best of luck to you and the crew!
    Regards,
    Vince McNally
    Former SO

  11. I have enjoyed your blog for several years. Thank you for doing it.

    I have read that the Westerdam is going to go to PV. Will it have to anchor offshore?

  12. Irene Verschoor-Loggen

    March 21, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Dear Captain Albert,

    Thank you for your blogs we enjoy them very much. Ms Rotterdam is our favorite ship, especially sailing out of Rotterdam, the city where i grew up. Now where living in Alblasserdam near the windmills in Kinderdijk.
    We miss you all and hope to see you back soon! Stay safe an healthy everyone!

  13. Werner Verbrugge

    March 21, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Captain, as always, and now perhaps still more interesting due to the particularly special situation, I do appreciate the daily feedback. it is interesting from the front line and its front line people, who are much more important for us, regular passengers, than the “ambassadors” all around, who want to make us belief their peptalk is useful always !
    Thanks, sincerely Yours.

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