- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

23 September 2007, at Sea.

Today we sailed down the St Lawrence River and via the Laurentian channel into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The weather forecast had predicted very windy weather and that prediction came true. The wind blew all day long. First with us, so on deck it was quite pleasant as the relative wind over the deck became a pleasant breeze but later it swung to the East. As the ship was going South East we had for the afternoon and evening the wind almost full on the bow; creating a good gale which whistled around the ship.

The organizational issue of this cruise is, is that there is only one sea day. That’s today. For the rest we have a port everyday until arrival in New York. Now we face on board the contradiction that a lot of guests complain about the lack of sea days, while at the same time they book this cruise because they see so many ports in one cruise. The maximum port group on board is happy and the maximum sea day proponents huff and puff. With only one sea day, the Hotel manager faces the problem of how to schedule all the standard HAL activities that we are supposed to do during a cruise on this one day, while we normally have two or three days to accomplish this. As you will understand it does not work. There are only 16 available hours in the day and we need at least 32.

So we decided to free up some time by doing the captains welcome on board in a different way. The company is already in transition with this as well. Captain intros are going to be reduced to a brief staff introduction, a champagne toast and the popping of confetti just before the show starts. So no more captains’s receiving line and picture taking with the captain. Here on the Veendam we have not implemented that yet as we are waiting for the props. Namely a confetti popping thing which I have been told is some sort of gun in the form of a champagne bottle. Only the ships staff, the cruise consultant and the employee of the month will then be introduced. It all takes about 5 minutes and ends with a champagne toast and a few positive words about the following show.

Thus as the HM needed the time, I thought let’s do it in a similar way but then from the balcony in the dining room. The guests get their free drinks while entering the dining room, same way as when entering the lounge and I do a little speech, between appetizer and main course. It took a lot less time and as far as I have heard the guests thought it was oke.

I personally do not mind doing captain’s introduction at all. I find it a pleasant challenge to deliver a welcome on board speech that keeps the audience entertained and brings a positive atmosphere to the whole ship. A harder gig is the picture taking in the receiving line. Again I do not mind doing the photo’s, although getting 600 people through the line in 40 minutes, during each sitting, takes a bit of doing; I just do not like it when people are not dressed up.

It is fine with me whatever dress code is but if the dress code says formal, then it should be adhered to. It is part of the Holland America product, which people buy, to have two or more formal nights during a cruise. They select a cruise on that basis and then they walk around in shorts and T shirts on a formal, or change after dinner. It boggles my mind. Unfortunately there is no law of the sea that gives me the right to enforce a dress code……………If you do not dress up, you walk the plank……… or something like that and I will have to live with it. Because of that I won’t mind not doing the receiving line anymore. But, I can still dictate the dress code at the captain’s table and that is what I will continue to do.

Tomorrow we are in Charlotte town Prince Edward Island. Last cruise we cancelled the call due to bad weather and for tomorrow it again does not look good.


  1. Capt. thanks for adding your comments about the infamous “dress code” and pax adhering (or not adhering) to it! A “hot topic” as I’m sure, you know.

    In one of your future posts, can you go a little bit into the concept of “sounding the ship’s whistle” when you depart a port of call? And hopefuly, specifically, into the exchanges (the meaning of the whistle blasts) of two HAL ships having what seems to be a “whistle competion” with each other when one leaves port before the other?

    Hartelijk bedankt!

  2. Captain Albert: I have very much enjoyed reading your weblog. You have provided us landlubbers a wealth of information and insight into the opearatiion of the Veendam and management of the crew and guests! It is facinating reading, at least to me.

    I wholeheartedly concur with your feelings about the dress code. We do enjoy formal nights and wish that more HAL guests would honor this tradition and resepect HAL’s request for the desired apparel for those evenings. Thank you expressing your feelings about it.

    Although we have cruised with HAL over a dozen times, unfortunately we have yet to sail on the M.S. Veendam. I hope that we will have opportunity to sail with you sometime soon.

    Thank you, again, for taking the time to report your experiences and insights to one of the HAL fans.

    Bill S

  3. In Oct will have first HAL cruise; prior cruises have been on Princess (4 — cruising is not our first choice of travel, that being Europe on land). Therefore, I am most likely not your “typical” market target. However, to present a different point of view:

    1) Glad to see the move away from that ridiculous long reception line — have passengers, at least in modern times, really been naive enough to think the Captain will remember who you are among the thousands on board, much less care? (Granted there are exceptions – i.e., Bill Gates, etc.)

    2) Disagree totally with you when you say “It is part of the Holland America product, which people buy, to have two or more formal nights during a cruise. They select a cruise on that basis”
    We have never chosen a cruise based on its having formal evenings — our choice is determined by the PORTS, not the ship or its “traditions”. Formal Dressing for dinner is very much a hangover of Victorian custom, and one that pretty much disappeared in post-WWII, and certainly so during the 60s. While we do dress for a cruise’s formal dinners, although never in Tux or Gown, it is just part of the “price” for easy transport between objectives — the Ports.

    Enjoying your blog — for years spent summers on the coast DownEast.

  4. Captain,

    My wife and I agree with you about formal night being formal. We look forward to those evenings. Actually, she thinks every night on a cruise should be formal! We are looking forward to being on your ship next June 13 for 14 days in Alaska.

  5. I agree with you on the dress code. This is one of the reasons my husband & I have sailed with HAL so many times in comparision to the other cruise lines. We love the elegance of walking into the dining room and everyone looks so nice. We also enjoy walking the promenade deck after and once again, I see more people after dinner walking that deck than I do on the casual nights.

  6. Just wanted to add my full agreement on the dress code! I have only been on one cruise (and that with HAL) and looked forward then to the two formal nights and will look forward to the formal nights on my next HAL cruise. I am sad that they are doing away with the tradition of the Captain’s reception, however. It’s sad that for some people the ship isn’t also a part of the destination, and some even go out of their way to ruin the ambiance. I guess we can all just quietly hope that someone allows you to make people walk the plank!

    Thanks for taking the time to take us with you!

  7. Capt. Albert-
    I am very much enjoying your blog as we will be cruising to NE/Canada next fall on the Eurodam.

    Prior to that, I will be boarding your fine ship for a late November 14 day Caribbean trip, it’s my favorite HAL Southern Caribean cruise offering. I am hoping that you will still be aboard at that time. We will be dressed appropriately on formal nights, I assure you.

    Look forward to vacation on the beautiful Veendam. Thank you for sharing your travels and insights with us!

  8. Thank you so much for validating the feelings of many Holland America Mariners regarding formal attire. It’s something my wife and I look forward to. We very much enjoy and expect the ambiance of HAL ships. It is a part of the experience to us, as you noted in your blog entry.

    I continue to enjoy your writings. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Dear Captain,
    What a great weblog–very informative! While we have sailed 100+ days on HAL, we have unfortunately not (yet) been on the Veendam, and have not yet met you. Perhaps some day soon.

    I entirely agree with you regarding dress-code, and indeed wish the old standard of “formal, informal, casual” was maintained. The dining room is so elegant and it is a shame to cheapen it with everyone in casual clothes almost every evening.

    Am also sorry to learn that the Captain’s welcome reception is being done away with, as it was nice to see all the officers presented, and to meet the Captain on the way into the lounge.
    Best regards,

  10. Frank and Jennifer Bloswick

    September 24, 2007 at 8:32 am

    I, too, agree with your comments on the dress code. I really enjoy the Captain’s reception line and will miss it. (I always did feel a little sorry for the Captain having to smile through all those photos, but figured that was all part of the job.)

    I love to dress for dinner and view it as part of the cruise. I was delighted to receive our documents for the Nov. 4 Veendam cruise and see 4 formal nights on the agenda. My husband’s tux is getting cleaned and pressed for the big trip and I have a new dress (or 2) on order. Hopefully HAL never does away with the formal nights and I wish they would get you a plank!

    Thanks for taking time in your schedule to to this blog. It is the highlight of my morning.


  11. Captain… Thank you for your wonderful Blog. Really enjoy reading all your comments. We have done the Canada/New England itinerary on Maasdam out of Boston many times and love it.

    We fully agree with your comments about formal dress. If HAL is going to continue planning formal nights, IMO, it should be enforced with approval from Seattle. We love dressing for dinner twice a week and hope we will continue to see HAL offering that opportunity.

    Look forward to the chance to sail again with you soon.

  12. Mike and Joyce Newman

    September 24, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Captain Albert;
    I am so much enjoying you Weblog with all of the information regarding the ports and all the intricate workings of the ship and of yourself. We also fully agree with you regarding the dress code. We often cruise with friends (the Kellers) and very much look forward to formal nights. It gives the guys a chace to wear their tux and us girls to look our finest in our gowns.
    We also like the new “dress code” having 2 formal nights per week and the rest are “smart casual”. We, and the Kellers, will be cruising with you on the Nov. 4th cruise out of Tampa. We will be celebrating 59 days of cruising with HAL and already have a Mediterranean cruise booked for next summer on the ms Zuiderdam. We are looking very much forward to meeting you in November.

    Mike and Joyce Newman
    DeBary, FL

  13. I agree with much of Marion’s above post, Captain.

    I’m a new HAL convert. Looking forward to my Amsterdam cruise December.

    To ME, the “HAL PRODUCT” has nothing to do with formality.

    We chose HAL last December because of the fantastic itinerary on the Volendam.

    Not only did we LOVE your line, but we especially loved your employees and their kind service.

    Formality has absolutely NOTHING to do with our fondness for Holland America.

    I’m enjoying your blog, sir! Just wanted to speak up for those of us who don’t much care for Formal Evenings. *smiling*

  14. Captain

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post this blog. It has been fascinating reading about the day to day dilemmas and traditions you encounter. I too would like to echo the sentiment of the majority of commentors here. We have not sailed often, but it is with anticipation of being able to “dress to the nines” It is not something we ever get to do and in my mind it enhances the cruise to feel elegant — even if only for a few nights. It adds to the fairy tale feeling that cruising seems to bring out.

  15. First, thank you for your insightful comments. I have learned alot reading your blog.

    However, my opinion is slightly different regarding the dress code. I pick my cruises based on itinerary and not so much whether or not there are formal nights.

    I do dress up for formal dinners but unless I am having formal portraits done that evening I change out of the suit and put on more casual clothes. I see no real reason to sit in the
    show lounge in formal attire.

    I keep my shirt & tie on but leave the suit behind. I am on vacation from dressing up.

    Just my take on the formal thing.

  16. John & Pat Rustenburg

    September 24, 2007 at 3:49 pm


    Thank you for your comments about the dress code. I couldn’t agree with you more. Dressing up is for us a big part of the cruise experience. The formal nights are one of the reasons why we cruise with Holland America. Itinerary is of less importance to us. We come to relax, enjoy the ambiance, and dress up.

    I can understand doing away with the formal Captain’s receiving line and picture taking. With today’s large numbers of passengers I think it is unrealistic to continue this.

    met vriendelijke groeten


  17. Great weblog – I really enjoy reading your entries. My husband and I agree with you re: dress codes on formal evenings. It is too bad there isn’t more enforcement (with back up from Head Office) than we’ve seen in the past. People have to follow other codes – safety, conduct, etc., why not dress codes also? Too bad about that walk the plank thing . . . 🙂

  18. Captain:

    I have followed your blog and than you for it.

    There are likely three things that spark debate on a cruise, Tipping, Smoking and Dress Code.

    I first cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam back in October 1983 and can remember Captain Hess coming onto the dinning room at lunch and escorting a passenger in shorts out of the dinning room because the dress code called for pants. I wish more of this would happen.
    Yes over the years it has been relaxed even on Holland America. I have never understood if you don’t want to get dressed up in Formal Wear or wear a Jacket on other nights then pick a cruise line that offers causal dress code.

    Now let’s don’t get going on tipping or smoking or your blog will suddenly get very busy.

    Thank you again

  19. Captain:

    I have followed your blog and thank you for it.

    There are likely three things that spark debate on a cruise, Tipping, Smoking and Dress Code.

    I first cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam back in October 1983 and can remember Captain Hess coming onto the dinning room at lunch and escorting a passenger in shorts out of the dinning room because the dress code called for pants. I wish more of this would happen.
    Yes over the years it has been relaxed even on Holland America. I have never understood if you don’t want to get dressed up in Formal Wear or wear a Jacket on other nights then pick a cruise line that offers causal dress code.

    Now let’s don’t get going on tipping or smoking or your blog will suddenly get very busy.

    Thank you again

  20. Captain – Appreciate your honesty in expressing your personal opinions, not just providing the details of the day in your wonderful voice. My husband & I truly enjoy the festive formal atmosphere of the ship those nights & will miss the opportunity to meet the captain & have our photo taken with him.

    It does kind of boggle my mind a bit that there are folks onboard who complain about the “lack of sea days” or “too many port calls”. Didn’t they know what the itinerary was before they signed on for the cruise?

  21. Dear Captain:
    We love your web postings. They provide a good picture of what is required to run a fine ship.

    We have sailed with HAL before and enjoyed it thoroughly. We are booked on the Veendam for the October 9th cruise and looking forward to it.

    Also have enjoyed the formal nights and wouldn’t like to do without them. We would wear our best formal attire at the Captain’s Table.

    Looking forward to meeting you.

    Samantha and Bob Nagel

  22. Dear Captain,

    I was just introduced to your blogs, but plan to keep reading – it’s very interesting to about cruises/ships from someone other than a passenger.

    I agree with you on formal dress code. You are correct in saying it is part of the HAL product, even if that does not drive why you chose HAL. Holland is one of the more upscale lines and you can’t tell me that NO other cruise line has the same itinerary.

    I lived in Paris for a year, and it was mainly the Americans who wore jeans. The French wore nice pants, skirts and even heels walking on the cobblestones. Granted, heels and cobblestones don’t mix well, but they have the right idea. Not one person was wearing a sweatshirt and certainly no sweatpants while out in public. I have to agree with my Dad when he said we’ve become a country of slobs – people don’t really care about appearance any more. It’s a shame. I think TLC’s What Not To Wear should be required viewing. 🙂

    I think formal nights have a great atmosphere that is not easily recreated elsewhere. So why not enjoy it?

    Take care.

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