- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

23 October 2007, At Sea.

Today was a peaceful day at sea. The Veendam is moving along with a sedate speed of 15 knots for a scheduled arrival tomorrow morning at Belize pilot station of 5 am. If we would go full out then we would be there around midnight. However there is not much too see in Belize around midnight, hence we arrive at the more decent time of 7 am at the anchorage. We have quite a few familiar faces on board this cruise, guests who could not wait for the Veendam to return to Tampa and who hopped straight back on board. Including a lady, whom we all call Mama Lou, and who has accumulated close to 3000 days sailing with us. That is not the company top scorer but 3000 days is still a very good amount.

Today I want to write a little bit about what guests seldom notice and that is all the training that goes on behind the scenes. Yes you hear the fire alarm and you see the lifeboats going down when you take a cruise but there is a lot more happening besides that. Each Holland America Line ship has a training room and we have an internet based system where the crew can do computer courses. These courses provide basic knowledge for each crewmember so that he/she can much quicker assimilate into shipboard life or into a new function. Apart from that there are more formal classes that are given by the shipboard officers and/or outside trainers. The Culinary Operations Manager gives Health and Sanitation Classes, the cellar master wine classes and even I get going and do Leadership in Action classes. These are 10 hour management trainings for two and one stripe officers on board. The company developed a course plan and book for this and some of the fleets senior officers volunteered to give these classes. They idea is that while leading the class you also pass on some wisdom that you accumulated during the years of sailing. (What sort of wisdom remains debatable ofcourse……………..)

However we also get on a regular basis outside trainers on board. Last cruise we had a fire fighter from Seattle who came on board to conduct CPR classes which included Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation training, the use of the Automated External Defibrillator and the Heimlich maneuver. During the cruise several classes were given and about 60 to 80 officers and petty officers attended. The reason that I telling about this, is, that one of our officers brought what he had learned into practice the very next day. This was our Asst. Dining room Manager who had just learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver. During the very next dinner sitting one of our guests got some food stuck in the air pipe and started to choke. By taking quick action and using the Heimlich maneuver, the foreign object got dislodged and the guest was saved from a potentially very dangerous situation.

The company strongly believes that such actions should be acknowledged and we have several ways of doing that. There is the captain’s letter of commendation, there is a certificate of appreciation from the President and there are the selection of the Employee of the Month (per ship) and the company employee of the quarter and employee of the year. I like to hand out these commendation letters as they are real morale boosters. Nothing gets an employee more going than when appreciated by his superiors and when standing out among his peers.
Captains letter of commendation
I am still learning how to fully utilize all the options of a web log and I just found another button on the Edit web log page that makes it possible to upload photos into the daily blog page. So here we go, the first photo that goes into my daily blog is of one of the outstanding crewmembers of the Veendam, Mr. Florin Dragomir, Asst Dining room Manager. Surrounded by the CPR trainer, our Lead Nurse, the Hotelmanager and the Diningroom manager.


  1. Thanks for the picture, Captain Albert. And you can click on it to enlarge the image. What a happy bunch.

  2. Heimlich Maneuver has saved many lives. I’ve used it twice on choking persons nearby. I hope someone knows it well if ever I get into trouble. I’m delighted you’re teaching key personnel this valuable life-saving method. Thanks again for your wonderful blog. I read it every day.

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