- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

23 July 2019; Glacier Bay, Alaska.

With overcast skies, but dry weather, we sailed into Glacier Bay. The lack of glare from the sun gave excellent visibility and the Rangers were able to point out all sorts of wild life that otherwise might have been hard to see. Mountain Goats (conveniently grouping in clusters) were clearly visible against the grey stone of the mountains and whales were frolicking in the middle of the middle bay while we were sailing up towards the Glacier. On the way up we look for mountain goats by sailing along a steep cliff side and on the way down we sail past a small island which normally is inhabited by sea lions. Often Stellar Sea Lions which are quite rare. With our ships we normally only see them when sailing past Cape Spencer (so this morning) and when we are going to Valdez. So the rangers are quite excited to point them out to everybody on board.

Mountain goats as we see them in Glacier Bay. At least through a zoom lens as they are not that close by.

The Rangers come on board when the ship is passing Bartlett Cove at the entrance to the Bay where the Ranger Station and Visitors Bureau is located. There are normally 3 Rangers and then two or three representatives of the local Indian Tribe. Two Rangers do the narration and the lectures in the show lounge and the 3rd Ranger is all day in the crow’s nest manning the shop and being a focal point for all and any questions. Sometimes there is a supervisor coming with them to ensure that the Ranger team adhere to the set standards and thus ensure that the cruise guests on all ships receive the same service and quality of natural and cultural immersion.

The Rangers coming on board with their launch the Shirak. When they step on board we have clothing racks waiting in the pilot break area so they can leave helmets and red coats behind and walk through the ship in their regular Ranger Uniform.

The Rangers are not just on board to enlighten the guests, they are also the custodians of Glacier Bay and have to ensure that we, the visitors, operate and conform to the rules. Hence if we want to do something that is not on the regular routine then the Captain will have a chat first with the Sr. Ranger of the team. Most of the time the Rangers eagerly agree as we are all focused on delivering the best product for our guests. So if we spot bears along the beach, we go for it, and ask the pilot to sail a bit closer to the shore. Also the pilot has to agree as he is the representative of the State of Alaska for safe navigation and we are playing with “our boat” in his back garden.

I did not see much of Glacier Bay today as I was cooped up in the dungeons of the ship. All ships have training rooms on board and they are all tucked away out of site. For the Vista Class with the Westerdam the location is on A deck amidships and for the Signature class (Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam) and the Pinnacle Class (Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam) it is on the bow, under the viewing platform for the guests. Today the focus was on how to be a good Life Raft Commander. The officers on board train these crewmembers in the nuts and bolts of the job but when I get on board I take the chance to offer a more Holistic approach. That is teaching them the bigger picture and give them some useful tools for crowd control.

Normally they only have to deal with crew but if one or more lifeboats were damaged in the emergency Guests could end up in a Life raft. Completely legal as SOLAS (Safety of Lives At Sea) legislation does not require Guests to be in lifeboats. The only requirement there is, is that there are sufficient lifesaving spaces for everybody plus a certain percentage extra. If that would happen then suddenly a Jr. Cook from the galley would have to deal with Guests under special circumstances. Read Stressful circumstances. No please and thank you as in the Lido Line but being strict and forceful to get all the troops lined up and ensure they remain quiet. It is quite hard for the crew to summon the courage to start ordering guests around so it gives a lot of assurance when a grizzly old captain tells them that they are really allowed to do so and the company even expects it. Please and thank you might not always work in stressful circumstances but a loud voice with strong and precise orders will do it.

The Bar Lounge and Deck Staff here seen at the Lido Bar. The gentleman in the middle has been with Holland America for close to 30 years. That is a lot of experience in dealing with difficult customers. Experience we gladly use for ruling a life raft crew.

For Life raft commanders we mostly use the Bar Lounge and Deck Stewards and the Bar Tenders as their function gives them natural skills in dealing with audiences. And those audiences are not always that friendly either during the regular cruise. So they have built up a natural routine and experience in their day to day job. An amount of experience which we gladly apply to a Raft Commander Job.

Tomorrow we are in Haines. We will be with our friends from Star Cruises again but they will anchor and tender under our bow into port.  Expected weather, 20 to 40% chance of rain, overcast and temperatures of 16oC / 60oF.





  1. Elizabeth Hawkes

    July 24, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    Dear Captain Albert since you mentioned the life rafts today, perhaps you could answer a question that I have often wondered as I walk past them during my morning exercise walk when I am on board. Are the life rafts reusable? If so, how ever is it possible to stuff them back into those containers?? Do you ever practice deploying them? I look forward to reading your reply. Thanks in advance.

  2. Captain Albert

    July 25, 2019 at 3:17 am

    Hallo Copper,

    good to see that you are still around. Bsc. = Batchelor of Science. That was the degree I obtained next to my masters license. MNI = Member of the Nautical Institute and that is an accredited Trade organisation.

    Best regards

    Capt. Albert

  3. Thank you for your reply to my question/comments yesterday. It seems as if an early arrival will help with getting lunch and leaving luggage on the ship before exploring Seward, but the trade-off is leaving Anchorage at 7am (not to mention waking up very early). Decisions, decisions…. 🙂 Of course I will have “lots” of luggage because there must be a perfect outfit for every evening and day, including this new ‘Orange party’ mentioned in the Mariner magazine. Well, maybe not 10 pieces of luggage…more like 2. I don’t think I will ever be able to pack only one roll-on and shoulder bag for a 7-day or longer cruise. It is fun to wear a formal dress for gala nights.

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