- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

24 March – 10 April 2020; Panama to Fort Lauderdale.

So I am back on the blog. A blog which I had to stop as things were getting too confused and fast moving for me to relate correctly and with sufficient authority. If you look at the last blogs, I had mentioned already a few times that the company was moving faster than I could record it. Then throw the world stage, with all its politics into the mix, and I did not know any more if I was coming or going. So we stopped.

On 09 April the last guests left the ship, and then ship went into warm lay-up. Healthy guests but a few guests remained on board who could not leave as they could not get home for all the reasons that went with the current situation. Things on board are now returning to a sort of normal, albeit a new normal.

This blog is a compilation of the past period as seen through the eyes of yours truly and as I am not involved in politics (*) there is no opinion about why something happened, just what happened and how the ships made it work.

(*) Maybe Captains should all run for office, each in their respective country, I am absolutely convinced the world would have less issues.

My last blog ended while the Zaandam and Rotterdam were steaming towards each other at a rendez- vous point somewhere deep sea off Panama. For 3 days we raced towards each other and then met off the Panamanian coast. The ultimate plan was to meet up at Panama Roads but that was another night steaming and the Captain of the Zaandam needed help ASAP. His medical team was performing heroically feats with only 4 medical staff on board; 4 very tired medicals looking after a large number of affected guests and crew; and or guests and crew that were isolated as a precaution because they had been in contact with those who were affected. That was an effort that went beyond the call of the duty with the ever lingering thought present that they themselves could be affected as well while doing so. Thus the Rotterdam came to the rescue after collecting medical staff, supplies and oxygen from the Eurodam and Oosterdam, and there was the ASAP meet up off Panama. The location was decided by scrutinising the wave charts of the North Pacific and a patch was found where the swell was less than 1.5 meters (5 feet) so a tenders could be lowered on the lee side of the ship and medical staff and supplies safely transferred. By 22.00 hrs. both ships were in position and in the blazing flood lights the Rotterdam tender ran its errand of support. That relieved the pressure on the Zaandam for the night and the rest could be done the next day.

Ms Zaandam and ms Rotterdam at anchor at Balboa bunkering anchorage. Photo by Yours Truly from the tender.

Then both ships raced towards Panama and dropped anchor there the next morning at 10 am. The Government of Panama had given permission for this humanitarian effort and after reviewing the company plans, as approved by the CDC and WHO, the ships were allowed to go the anchorage. To ensure it all went well they parked a navy skiff between the ships and the crew on board made sure that the tender operation was strictly between the two ships and we were not importing anything into Panama.

Human chain of officers and crew handing supplies down the gangway. This Is the deck department on the gangway, the Hotel gang was inside the Tender Break feeding it forward from the pallets.

For the next three days the tenders ran between the ships.  Luggage and 800 (Healthy) Guests went one way to Rotterdam and Supplies (Water, cleaning materials) went the other way to the Zaandam.  Again in conjunction with the CDC/WHO a plan had been derived at for the best way to ease the load for the Zaandam. And that was to transfer as many guests as possible who could move easily and quickly, with priority given to those who were over 70 and who were in inside staterooms so they could move to rooms with windows or a verandah. Protocols were made and approved and a constant shuttle of about 30 guests for each tender crossing was put in operation.  In an abundance of caution, all guests moved from the Zaandam had to continue to self-insulate in their staterooms on board the ms Rotterdam.  Then as a company you can only try to make it as comfortable for them as possible.

The meals were a-la-carte and the drinks were free.  Drinks were free………… I have never seen so much booze being delivered to guest cabins as during this period. The Men and Ladies of the Bar department had a full day job to keep up with demand. They say that alcohol does provide answers to any problem. That is probably correct but in this case it certainly helped to forget the reason why there was a problem. White wine, Red wine and six packs of Amstel Light all courtesy of the company.

Main tender load was trays with bottled water as the Zaandam had nearly ran out. In the foreground Bo’sun Teguh, and on the platform 2nd officer Peter van Steenselen and Security Officer Norm Doerksen.

What do captains do during a situation like this? Captain van Dreumel spent his days on conference calls to stay abreast of how the decision making process went forward and kept making speeches to guests and crew to explain, motivate and keep up the morale. Captains do not learn this at school but some have the talent and some develop the skill but in this case, a church leader would have been very jealous of what was coming over the P.A system. What did I do, as my regular work was now mainly on hold due to the situation? Talk to the crew, and help out where needed and try to be effective while at it. So among other things, yours truly was promoted to Tender driver and spent time ferrying supplies and guests to and from. Just walking around was important as well (hopefully) , as the  same as on land, the crew was apprehensive about how this all was going to work and then to see me in the midst of it all might have done some good. (Plus messing around with boats is always fun)

Here the Lido Kitchen team a few days before we had to go and come to the support of the ms Zaandam.

What did the crew do apart from a constant room service relay and cooking up a storm (*). Clean, sanitise, clean, sanitise etc. etc.  One way of keeping a ship clean and healthy is to assume that it is not as soon as you know the challenge is out there. So each time a group of guests came on board, Housekeeping still sanitised the tenders after each run, sanitised all the elevators and corridors after each group made it to the cabin and then sanitised all the area’s again where the rest of the crew, including the dining room stewards for the room service had walked and stood.

(*) With this whole crises the focus have been, quite rightly, on the Medical struggle. But as in so many situations, one of the most important ways to keep up morale is good catering. Thus unknown and not really recognised are cooks in the kitchen who now had to cater for room service for 800 guests which would normally have been dealt with in two sittings in the dining room. And according to the Exe. Chef the latter is a lot easier.

Even when under stress and working under serious conditions, there is room for humour. The order was all persons shall wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) when working in the ship and thus one of our replica terracotta soldiers in the ship was dressed up accordingly. I think they could not find a face mask which fitted the horses.

I think the persons with the most stress on their hands were the Hotel Director, the Executive Housekeeper as that is where most of the direct leadership of the Hotel Operation had to come from. During the process of getting guests in the cabin, keeping them there and keeping them there as comfortable as possible and then keep the ship as clean and sanitised as possible with all the movements going on.  And then later on, getting them all off the ship.

There was crew working in the back ground working on things you do not realise. If you have a technical problem in your cabin, there is the Engine Department to repair it. But how to go about it, if a crew member is not allowed to enter a cabin because the guests are in isolation. PPE shall be worn and I observed the unusual performance of a plumber repairing a toilet with a coat hanger so he did not need to enter the guest’s bathroom. When I asked him what he was doing, the brilliant answer was: “Hallo Boss, I fix by remote control”. And it worked.

Now the Lido in full Covid mode. Social distancing in place. Here the Housekeeping department goes for lunch and they all stay on the mark on the tiles and move forward once the person ahead  moves forward. The Lido Galley chef ensures that it all goes right.

While the guests were cooped up in the cabins the focus was also on keeping the crew healthy. Once you know what is out there (Something the Zaandam did not know when it all started) then it is easier to put routines in place to reduce any exposure that might still be possible. Thus apart from PPE. (Personal Protective Equipment) in the form of gloves, face masks, coveralls, safety glasses and aprons, Social Distancing was introduced. When possible (and you can do it most of the time) stay at least 1.5 meters away from each other and 2 meters if space allows is even better. And you can do that, if you are willing to and management leads by making the arrangements. Apart from being good for the general health, it also produced the funny situation of a long line of crew, nicely apart, waiting in line for the Hamburger Bar as that was kept open as a special treat. From there separate tables were equally distanced. Did these measures work, yes, until April 10 no crew on the Rotterdam had fallen ill and no fevers had been documented.

Same when eating the food. Distance was maintained. Tables for two were reserved for one, tables for 4 reserved for 2 and tables of 6 reserved for 3. By staggering the lunch hours for all departments it all work very nicely in a constant relay of crew moving around the Lido at 1.5 meters apart.

Once we had all our guests on board, the question arose what to do with the two ships? Another intense round of international politics arose, involving the Dutch Government = Flag State, the US Government = Final home port, Panama = territorial waters, Carnival Corporation = Owner, Holland America Line =operator, CDC and WHO = Health Guru’s and in the end the plan was made that the ships would steam towards Florida by means of the Panama Canal.

The Cocoli Locks with the door open. Although large, they are much less impressive than the old locks with the locomotives and opposing traffic. I really feels as if you are taking a short cut through the Canal and you miss all the good bits.

To arrange this with the minimum of disturbance in the Panama Canal routine and a maximum of health safety, the ships would make the night transit and go through the new locks so there was no Panama Canal crew needed for the locomotives, as the new locks do not have them. Everything was done by the ships thrusters while in the locks. Only thing needed was one Panama Canal pilot, to guide the ship through. And so we went. Zaandam first, followed by Rotterdam.

Doughnut sailing off Port Everglades sea buoy while awaiting final port clearance. The Zaandam and Rotterdam are the two green dots on the lower right. Also nearby were the Volendam and Nieuw Amsterdam in case more medical supplies were needed. The last two ships had come from their anchorage positions in the Bahamas.

Once through the Canal it was pedal to the metal towards Florida as arrangements were being made to land the guests. Again the political merry go around went into overdrive but in the end of the County of Broward indicated that they did have the capacity to help. New protocols were made up and that takes time as with each step other authorities are involved. Starting at the National Government level, down to State Government, down to the County and whole different entities who work under that umbrella, such as police, fire brigade, pilots, bus companies, CBP,  port security and those are the few that were visible. When we arrived in the morning of the first of April we went into “donut sailing” while we waited until the man/ woman with the last authorising stamp had been found and all was approved.

The ms Rotterdam entering port, while the ms Zaandam has just docked. (Photo courtesy: unknown source on the internet}

Entering the port was a media affair of the first order with helicopters and boats swarming above and around the ship but it made the cadet happy, who I was teaching stations, as his parents saw him later on the Dutch TV as the arrival was live streamed. Thus he achieved his 2 seconds of worldwide fame. Once in port, first the urgent guests were taken off the Zaandam and then in the next two days most of the other guests followed. The CBP waived the regular immigration inspections provided that the coaches would go directly to the airport which was facilitated by the Broward Sheriff’s department who had 22 deputies (all on green Harley Davidson’s) lined up to lead the convoy safely and quickly to the airport. A truly impressive feat of coordination and organization.

Because of all the hard work of everybody involved Captain Bas van Dreumel flew the Flag Sign Bravo – Zulu, which in Nautical Code Language means “Job Well Done”The whole disembarkation took at the ship side also a large amount of organising. Guest Services under the leadership of the GRM had already worked night and day to get the 800 guests on board and in the right cabins (they all got a cabin similar to what they had on the Zaandam) and now, within a few days,  the landing papers for Ft. Lauderdale had to be prepared. Normally that is a routine which can be spread over a large number of days, but when you do not know what port you are going to, and when and who might be allowed off and who not, the situation differs considerably. 800 guests in self-isolation do not remain quiet for very long and thus the Guest Services team had a constant flow of telephone calls with requests for information, and complaints and suggestions of how to improve the surrounding world and their personal situation in particular. Holland America shore side was dealing with all the air travel arrangements and the Captain announced that accordingly. But the calls continued, understandable if you are stick between 4 walls for an extended amount of time. Air /Sea our shore side ticketing department did an amazing job in getting all those tickets, and in a few cases with that ticket came a complete charter plane, and all that information had to be forwarded to the cabins.

So each department in its own way had to step outside the box to provide the best results possible. A situation that none of us had ever been in. Normally guests move around. They go ashore and you can do maintenance in the cabin. They will come to the food and the drinks in the restaurants and Bars, now it had to be provided on a cabin by cabin basis. And then they had to be disembarked under very special circumstances.  Stepping back and seeing it all in perspective, one can only have respect for what was pulled off on the Rotterdam, and especially pulled off by the crews on the Zaandam and the Westerdam (remember they sailed with guests from China in February along the pacific rim until they reached Cambodja for final disembarkation) who faced a much more complicated job. And that is then only our little Holland America world. The newspapers show what the rest of the cruise fleet is facing and unfortunately there is little praise in those reports for the crew who have to deal with it. Deal with it, with very limited resources in very uncertain circumstances.

Those still left on board after the 2nd day in Fort Lauderdale, where those who were still under observation or those who could not get off because their home country was in complete lockdown. Which was also the reason why the drama with the Zaandam hard started in the first place. Certain countries had closed their border 100% regardless of the consequences. And then by April 09, the last guests went home. The company had organised charter flights for this purpose and as the HR department had figured out there was still space, I was put on the charter flight to London.

The Zaandam sailed in the evening of the 8th. And went to anchor off the Bahamas where part of rest of the Holland America Line fleet is located and the Rotterdam stayed for one more night until flights has been secured for the remaining guests, then she also sailed.

An 10 April screen shot of the Carib fleet of the company at anchor. The Koningsdam is at the Panama Canal , the Amsterdam is on the way towards Asia to bring the Indonesian and Philipino crew home and the rest of the fleet is at anchor near Puerto Vallarta. Diagram courtesy www.Cruisemapper.com)

With the cruise ships being already or going into warm-layup, the company has now started to look at reducing the crew on board. Some were due for leave, some had by now expired visas, some have expired physicals and the plan is to go down to a limited number of crew only as required for safe manning. Only those will stay on board who are needed to keep the ship running and in good shape. Out of 800 crew that is about 200 crew members. I was now considered part of the latter and as there was seat on the charter plane free, I got my marching orders.

We now have to wait and see how Holland America and every other cruise company is going to handle this. Roughly 20.000+ officers, staff and crew, at a minimum, have to be repatriated and that is a big logistical challenge. As most governments worldwide are enforcing –essential travel only- rules, the new crew will only come out when the green light for normal life and travel is given again. That is already involving ships (see ms Amsterdam) and will involve a lot of creativity from the company but also from the whole Maritime and Airline Industry.

Thus the same will go for me. I arrived home  on the 10th, and I have put myself in self isolation at home in the 2nd bed room which also has a 2nd bathroom. My wife is very happy that I am home but most likely did not realise that I now need Room Service. So I ordered Surf and Turf for dinner and I got a Ham Salad……………..

My thoughts go out to all the teams at sea. They can only be relieved when there is the moment they can sign off and the others, in the essential functions, when their reliefs can make it to the ship. And we do not know yet when that will be. With Skype and other communication options, the crew can see and talk to family and keep up the morale as best as possible. Some people missed important dates in their life such as our Environmental Officer who was supposed to be home for the birth of his first child but now just had to hope for the best. Luckily all went well and he is know the proud father of a beautiful baby girl. Name yet unknown as there is are two Grand Mothers in the equation.

Then we have the medical departments on all the cruise ships but especially those on the Zaandam. Those who were there from the beginning and those who transferred over later to help out. Cruise ships are set up to control medical emergencies for the short term and to deal with regular G.P work. Now they had go way beyond that normality and deliver. And I think they did and even delivered much more then we could have ever have expected.

Hippocrates, Father of Modern Medicine.

Our Rotterdam Sr. Doctors name is Socrates (as his parents expected him to become a teacher) or Doctor Soc for short, but he should have been called doctor Hippocrates as he and his team and all the other medical teams stepped up to the challenge with a professionalism that this Greek Doctor would have expected when 2000 years ago he devised the early code of the medical profession. Due to social distancing I did not see them at all, but next time when I meet them, there will be a bottle of champagne on my account. Winston Churchill said in 1940 during the Battle of Britain about the RAF pilots: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few. I think that applies to our Medical people as well in this case.

And now the blog will stop for the time being. I will have no personal experiences to relate and what happens here in England is no different than in the rest of the world. When will I return? No idea, it all depends on how fast the Covid-19 threat will diminish and victory is secured.  Thus until then I will be at home working on my Honey Do List, my work for the apartment building, and on HAL History, which I will continue to upload. For those of you interested in this, I just uploaded the next captains biography; Captain Stuut. Quite an unusual career.

https://www.captainalbert.com/captains-from-the-past/stuut-theunis/

To help the fight:

  1. Wash your hands frequently with water and soap for at least 20 seconds and do not forget to rub in between the fingers. 20 seconds is the time it takes to sing “Happy birthday” twice.
  2. Wear a face mask if you are in situation when you cannot exercise Social Distancing.
  3. If you can stay at least 1.5 meters away from each other. (One meter is the suggested minimum, distance; 2 meters is better)
  4. Stay at home, unless the world needs you to help keep the world going.
  5. Keep up morale: It is always 5 pm. somewhere in the world so have a cocktail and remember, a glass of wine should always be half full. If it is not get another bottle.

Stay well and healthy and thank you for your continued interest in my daily adventures. I will be back in due course. When that will be is any-bodies guess. I suppose as soon as we are bringing the ships back to full crew status.

Poster courtesy of the World Health Organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Comments

  1. Sally Albertazzie

    April 16, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    I’m so happy to read your latest entry. I checked everyday since the March 23 entry, even though I knew you were way to busy to post. I’m glad you are home and that you are safe. And I look forward to reading your adventures again the future.

  2. Great to see you posting again, Kaptein! Congrats to everyone on the outstanding work that was done, and is still being done, under no doubt difficult circumstances!! Was that, by any chance, a new canal transit record (by time, and for cruise ships) accomplished by Rotterdam and Zaandam? All the best for whatever the future might bring to you, Capt. van D, and his crew on Rotjeknor! 🙂

  3. Everything that was done by all crew of the Zaandam, Rotterdam and all ships to help with this crisis is why my father and I love Holland America. As you said, a lot has been reported about the cruise ship Industry and little of it very positive. This backstage view of how the company went above and beyond to help the guests and crew are why I am proud to sail with Holland America.
    As someone who normally works in the hospitality industry, I have been impacted by the economic downturn on my profession and look forward to the day when restrictions can be lifted and the world can travel again. We will travel again and I look forward to my next cruise with this company!

  4. Thank you Captain Albert. Your explanations and experiences we’re very interesting and informative. Your insight helped me understand the situation like no news report ever could. Hope you and I can be sailing again soon.

  5. It is great to hear from you and to read of your experiences in this high sea drama.
    Stay well, stay safe and come back as soon as you can.
    You were missed by many, many people around the world.
    We thank you for your service.

    Don

  6. You and the cruise line are amazing!! I followed what I could with the two ships, but once back in Ft. Lauderdale there were no more news!! So happy to hear that you, and most of the other crew are relatively healthy, and I know I will hear from you again very soon, as I believe the US is going to slowly open up, and once the cruise ships are up and about, I will be booking. I NEED TO GET AWAY (LOL)!!! You and your wife stay healthy, and have a great little vaca!!!

  7. Captain Albert, the return to your blog is welcoming for those of us who have been wondering: “where is he?”

    My cheeks have been streaked with tears as I read your account. The crews of the Rotterdam and the Zaandam are heroes. Your quote by Prime Minister Churchill is quite suitable for what the crew of the Rotterdam and Zaandam accomplished for their guests.

    I appreciated your humor. In home quarantine, your request for a dinner of Surf and Turf resulted in a dinner of Ham Salad!

    Stay safe; stay well. We will see you on “the other side”!

  8. Captain Albert, thank you so much for this. I am glad you are safely back at home. And am sorry your caterer was not able to deliver your surf and turf….
    I look forward to sailing again with HAL once the world is safe again.

  9. You all dod a fantastic job..was worried about you and the crew but looks like all went well… if you get a chance you should check out what happened to the MV World Odyssey…with 500 students on…quite a story as well…meanwhile I’m sitting at home planning a Holland America trip as soon as everything open up…far winds and following seas, as they say

  10. Oh my, what an adventure!
    Welcome home and thank you for the update. I followed the Rotterdam through all of this and have kept you, all the guests and crew in my prayers.

    Since I am in the travel business and a 4 star Mariner, I get information from your CEO and als updates as a former passenger. But nothing can compete with your first hand explanation of what went down on the Rotterdam during this crisis.

    Thank your for your blog and I hope yo hear from you soon from another ship.

    Stay well!

  11. Patrice Pallone

    April 17, 2020 at 12:18 am

    Thank you for this interesting & thorough report, Captain Albert. My husband & I followed the progress of the Zaandam/Rotterdam situation, as we were sailing on the 2020 Amsterdam world cruise & thereafter, but your blog provides so much more detailed & accurate information. We so enjoyed your presentations on the Prinsendam’s final cruise in 2019 & look forward to reading more of your observations & seeing more of your presentations, in person.

  12. Well done to all aboard Rotterdam & Zaandam, on which I have enjoyed 2 wonderful cruises! I have followed the ships continually through these troubling times and admire the efforts the Captains and crew have been providing in such a devastating time in our life’s.
    Thank you all and thank you Cpt Albert for your interesting and informative blogs, pleased you are now home safely.
    Take care, stay safe and all the best until we hear from you again 😊

  13. Thank you, Captain. I really appreciate your time and perspective on the story. We were watching the story unfold in the media and Cruise Critic. That “flight” through the canal was something. Congratulations to all on the several ships involved.

  14. Catherine de Korte

    April 17, 2020 at 1:06 am

    Dear Captain:
    Believe me when I say that there were literally thousands of people watching the story of the Rotterdam and the Zaandam unfold. When the news came that the two ships were safely berthed in Port Everglades, we breathed a sigh of relief. We thought of the fate of the crews and how they would get back to their families. Few of us can imagine what it was like to experience this extraordinary series of events.
    Your first hand account of the last couple of weeks has enlightened us. And also you have assured me and perhaps many, many others that HAL crews and officers are the best that the maritime world has sailing on the 7 seas.

    We are in this together and look forward to better days ahead!

    Take Care and Dank Je wel.

    Catherine de Korte

  15. Thank you Captain for your excellent and interesting account. Your industry is now under siege and for all our sakes we can only hope and pray for relief.

  16. Thank you Captain Albert for a moving account of what was accomplished by the outstanding crews of both ships.
    Till we meet again . #HAL STRONG

  17. Jeannette Seale

    April 17, 2020 at 2:01 am

    The ship Rotterdam from 2020 or the original Rotterdam that rescued the passengers off the Regent Star, old HAL Statendam, in the Gulf of Alaska after an engine room fire in the summer of 1993 have the same outcome. Every one safe and the crew did so much more than they could have imagined would be necessary. The crew are and will always be the unsung heroes. Thank you so much for high lighting the crew members who made this work!

    Please continue on with the idea of the captains becoming politicians!

    We never stopped praying for all of you and won’t stop now. Trying to get the crew home is the next hurdle and I know HAL will do its best to accomplish that job!

  18. Vernon M Schreiner

    April 17, 2020 at 3:07 am

    I am glad you are home safely but we will miss your daily posts. I am recently retired so I look forward to them each day as they provide education but most importantly humor! We hope one day that our paths cross on a Holland America cruise. We really appreciate all you do and what you add to the cruise experience. In the meantime, be safe and healthy! Best regards!

  19. Thank you for your report and your assistance to the Zaandam and Rotterdam. Bravo to all! Many of us on Cruise Critic were following you through the canal and all the way to Ft. Lauderdale. However, we were concerned about some posts about crew on the Rotterdam not wanting to help the sick guests on the Zaandam. Same person posted a photo of crew with dishes and trays in the hallways of the Zaandam and said they were in touch with a Rotterdam crew member. Did you experience anything like this – any crew who refused to do their jobs to help Zaandam guests and crew?

  20. Thank you for your narrative. We disembarked from the MS Zaandam in Santiago, Chile on February 22 to return home and were concerned about the conditions that were occurring around the world (particulary the Westerdam in Cambodia). We were able to keep up with the saga of the Zaandam from the US media, but your story is so much more personal. Thank you for maintaining the traditions of the seas and helping all to get to safe port. I look forward to meeting you on a future cruise.

  21. As the grandson of Commodore Pieter Verhoog, your sea tales give me great comfort. Many a morning, as a child, my brother and I would clamour for more stories, which if we were lucky, he would sit down and tell. Now that I have found your blog, I shall await your stories. More! More! Thank you, and HAL, which always will have a place in my heart.

  22. Patrice Pallone

    April 17, 2020 at 6:30 am

    Thank you, Captain, for this thorough & interesting report on this unusual & challenging Zaandam/Rotterdam experience. My husband & I followed various news reports & HAL updates, while we were on the Amsterdam’s 2020 world cruise & thereafter. However, your blog provides another dimension. Unfortunately, some news outlets & passengers have sensationalized the situation (as did a few passengers on our world cruise). We enjoyed your dynamic & informative presentations on the Prinsendam’s final voyage in 2019 & look forward to your appearances on future cruises. We hope to be back on ships as soon as governments & the cruise industry give their ok.

  23. Margaret Piper

    April 17, 2020 at 7:13 am

    Well done captain.
    I was on the World Cruise on Amsterdam. Our cruise went into controlled mayhem after leaving Cairns with daily, frequently more, updates on changes to itinerary,ports, routes, destinations. All handled brilliantly by Captain Mercer. What a pleasure to hear his calm voice. This was the only time that I can recall absolute silence as soon as announcements commenced. We were all disembarked in Fremantle Western Australia.
    HAL should print and circulate this blog widely as it shows clearly the dedication of the company, ship, officers and crew to the health and safety of their passengers.
    I have sailed with you as Captain (I will never forget you edging Prinsendam into the Arctic ice shelf) and later as training Captain with pleasant and informative dinners and coffee gatherings. I hope we will meet again when cruising restarts.
    Keep well and please continue with your blogs.
    Margaret Piper

  24. Jacquie Beveridge

    April 17, 2020 at 7:19 am

    What an incredible ordeal! After disembarking the Maasdam in San Diego on March 28th, we’ve continued to follow all that is going on for the other “dam” ships. We hope you can exhale completely and repeat as needed. Against all odds, HAL has done an amazing job! May you continue to sail and may you and your crew all stay well! Thank you all for a stellar job!

  25. Thank you so much… for everything.

  26. Wat fijn om weer van u te horen, dank daarvoor. Natuurlijk hebben wij alles nauwlettend via diverse media gevolgd, maar het is zo verhelderend om alles over de laatste dagen aan boord van u te vernemen. We waren onder de indruk van de constante communicatie en toewijding van de HAL om het juiste te doen aangaande de hele vloot. Het was een lange moeizame weg voor de HAL en alle medewerkers. De inspanningen waren groot in omvang en kosten, zowel mentaal als financieel.
    Wij zien er naar uit dat, na de overwinning van Covid-19, het voor u en vele anderen weer mogelijk zal zijn het ruime sop te kiezen zodat wij ook weer van uw blog kunnen genieten.
    Goede gezondheid in Engeland toegewenst voor u en uw dierbaren. Wellicht krijgt u nu de tijd om de ” Honey Do List ” helemaal af te werken😊

  27. Dank Kapitein voor het verslag van deze 2 schepen. Een buitengewone prestatie geleverd door de bemanningen van beide schepen. ik heb met de crew meegeleefd want voor deze situatie moet je veel improviseren. Je wordt opgeleid om dingen het hoofd te bieden maar voor deze situatie is geen opleiding voor. Beadankt dat je alsnog een eindblog geschreven heb.

  28. Elbert L.J. Bosma

    April 17, 2020 at 11:51 am

    So good to read your blog again!
    Wow what an update, what a story.
    Thanks Captain Albert! Stay safe and healthy at home!
    Let’s hope and pray that this terrible virus ordeal will soon be over, so that the cruiseships will be sailing again with people longing for the sea and far away destinations.

  29. Captain Albert, Thank you for the update for which we all have been waiting.
    On the same day the Zaandam boarded her passengers in Buenos Aires, we boarded our ship in the same terminal.
    Since our return home we have followed the Zaandam’s plight. Hopefully her crew can now relax and soon head home. All these ships’ crews and staff did extraordinary jobs. I wish them all the best.
    Stay healthy! Keep posting about the adventures of the past. This new chapter will join them after cruise ships will sail again. We have booked the Rotterdam from Rotterdam to Fort Lauderdale in October 2020. Who knows what’s going to happen.

  30. David & Sally Davis

    April 17, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Upon completion of the Trans South America – Antarctica cruise, my wife and I disembarked Volendam March 20th, 8am at Ft Lauderdale. Throughout our cruise I was impressed by the ship’s company (an old Navy term I still use.

    Thank you Captain for this Blog. And thank you Holland America for the camaraderie so apparent throughout voyage, and so aptly described here. We look forward to a future cruise with HAL.

    P.S. “we’re gonna get through this.” ___ Governor Beshear for #TEAM Kentucky.

  31. CAPTAIN ALBERT GLAD YOU ARE HOME SAFELY WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING THIS ORDEAL EVER SINCE THE WESTERDAM FINALLY WAS ABLE TO DOCK SAFELY IN CAMBODIA WHO WOULD HAVE EVER GUESSED THAT THIS VIRUS BASICALLY IS DESTROYING THE WORLD ECONOMY AND HAS JUST ABOUT KILLED THE CRUISE INDUSTRY WHICH PROBABLY WILL NOT GET GOING AGAIN UNTIL THIS FALL WE ALREADY HAD 2 CRUISES CANCELED FOR MARCH AND APRIL AND HOPE THAT OUR OCTOBER CRUISE WILL STILL BE A GO AS YOU KNOW LOTS OF OUR OFFICER FRIENDS ARE STUCK ON THE SHIPS WITH NO CLEAR PICTURE AS TO WHEN THEY WILL BE GETTING OFF THE SHIPS. WE HERE IN AZ ARE NOT AS BAD OFF AS SOME OTHER STATES AS WE CAN STILL ENJOY THE OUTDOORS AS THE WEATHER HAS BEEN PERFECT. SOME STATES MAY BE OPENING ON MAY 1 SO LET’S HOPE THAT WITHIN 90 DAYS WE WILL BE ABLE TO ACTIVATE THE SHIPS AGAIN IN SOME LIMITED CAPACITY SO THAT CCL AND HAL CAN SURVIVE THIS CALAMITY CHEERS AND HOPE TO SEE YOU AGAIN NEXT YEAR ON A DAM SHIP!

  32. As recent guests on the Zaandam and Rotterdam my husband and I are very interested in the follow up story to our beloved ships. We commend HAL, Captains Smit and van Dreumel and the crew of both vessels for their excellent care during a difficult and unprecedented sailing. We were kept up to date on our ever-changing situation a few times a day by each captain. We looked forward to listening their fatherly voices and reassurances which helped us make the best of our confinement.
    We are looking forward to sailing again on HAL and will specifically look for Captain Smit and Captain van Dreumel who provided outstanding leadership during a very trying time. Kudos to the crew on both ships for rising to the challenges and faithfully fulfilling their duties with skill and aplomb. Remain HAL strong until we see each other again.

  33. Congratulations to the crews of both ships for handling this emergency in a professional yet caring manner. The training that you and others at HAL give the crew may not have prepared them for this specific type of event, but as you stated in an earlier post, much of cleaning and sanitizing is similar to norovirus. So, they built on that training and expanded on it to meet the new virus – Holland America Line has a great deal to be proud of in the way this was handled.

    I’m sorry your present room service staff is not fulfilling your menu requests, but I suspect all will be forgotten when quarantine is over. Stay safe, and I hope to hear from you once cruises begin again. We had a 14 day cruise booked in March 2020 on the ms Volendam (canceled), but we have re-booked it for 2021 – perhaps you will be onboard.

    I have a question in regards to your book “Holland America Line – 145 years.” Has it been published? If so, where can I purchase a copy? I have the “HAL 125 years” book and would like to add the new one to my collection.

  34. Mary Beth Burns

    April 17, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    You know Captain, ham salad tastes pretty good when you are home, right?
    I went back and checked my cruise list and I had sailed with you on Dec. 9, 2011 on the first half of the Collectors Voyage through Panama Canal on the old Statendam. Great trip, maybe we will meet again.
    Afraid I have lost track of Hank and Christell , did they retire when Johnathan Mercer did this year on the Amsterdam?
    Good luck, stay healthy, and God Bless.

  35. Richard Kroeger

    April 17, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    I am in total admiration for the entire HAL fleet especially for the Eurodam and Oosterdam for assisting the Rotterdam on its mission to help the Zaandam. I am only inconvenienced at this time. All of the crew members have been under extra stress and worry but still needing to get their job done. I hope that all of the crew members will be able to get their needed and deserved rest with their family and friends. I look forward to the day that we will board our next HAL cruise to congratulate the crew for going above and beyond. I greatly appreciate all that HAL has done to help fight this pandemic.

  36. Amazing story, Captain, and you filled in so much more than when we were looking at the pics of the ships on the net..
    Thanks so much and hope you can have a good rest before you go to your next ship.

  37. Katherine Drew

    April 17, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    It was so good to hear from you Captain. I, along with your fellow readers, was worried when no posts were forthcoming. I am glad that you are now home, safe and sound. It is very interesting to read your first hand account and to have your perspective on what had to be a nervous and concerning few weeks.

  38. Thank you for providing this blog. We’ve been reading since we disembarked the Rotterdam Mar. 11. After reading about the efforts made taking care of guests and crew, we are very proud to call HAL our exclusive cruise line. God willing, we will sail again!

  39. I just discovered your blog and am so glad I did. Not many people are aware of everything thing that happened with the two ships, nor what extraordinary measures the crews and Holland America went to to ensure the safety and well-being of the passengers. I have cruised many times with Holland America and will cruise again once this situation has cleared. Thank you.

  40. Roger D Tollerud

    April 18, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Captain A
    Welcome back and thanks for the in-depth update that so many of us have been eagerly awaiting. The tireless and heroic efforts of the staff and crew speak volumes about how important leadership and team work is when things start to fall apart. Next time we cruise, hopefully our October cruise will go as scheduled, we will do it with a new respect for the crew that we already highly respected.
    Glad you are home safe and we look forward to your next post–when ever that may be.
    Best regards,
    Roger T

  41. Kim Michael Rolls

    April 18, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Captain Albert, thank you for posting this and putting a period on the saga of the Zaandam and Rotterdam. I watch both ships on camera during the canal transit and was impressed that there was no delay – kinda pedal to the metal operation. I was fascinated as the logistics issue had to be daunting for all involved. I do mourn for those lost that may not have had to happen if Chile had co-operated and shown some compassion and humanity. It just shows how vulnerable ships are at sea when shut off from the world and then the crews step forward and innovate and manage very difficult situations. Kudos to all concerned with HAL aboard ship and the shoreside personnel to handle all the craziness and make sense out of it all. Shoreside logistics – amazing job! Grateful for all you do to keep us informed of the complexities of the operation and maintenance of these wonderful ships. Hopefully no tropical storms will form to threaten the anchorages as I counted 58 ships at anchor or station keeping between Florida and the Bahamas. Alaska won’t open until July 1. Sit and wait. Thanks again and best regards to you and spouse – surf and turf? No, not now — survival rations!

  42. Michelle Rintz

    April 18, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing. I started to read your blog and could not stop. This is what we need the world to hear. This is who we as humans are. I hope your story is shared around the world. We cannot thank the crew enough. We will be back.

  43. Capt. Albert,
    May I join the followers of your recent message in thanking you for the most interesting narrative of this extraordinary sailing. Also, above all, thanking you for the outstanding results, you, the two Captains, the two crews and the world wide on-land support staff have achieved. During the long silence, it was good to know that Capt.v.D. had you on board, too, with your vast experience , and leadership ability .
    After this difficult time, both physically and emotionally exhausting, welcome home to the relative ease of the “honey do” list -:)) !!

    Be safe and stay healthy!! Both of you!

    Almuth Ewing

  44. Welcome home!!!
    We will sail without hesitation when it’s possible to do so, knowing we are in such good hands with your officers and crew. Right now, fingers are crossed for boarding the Rotterdam in Rotterdam in October.

  45. Thanks for this astounding story. A dear friend of mine was aboard the Zaandam, transferred to the Rotterdam, disembarked, and flown home to Canada, and has just emerged from Canadian home-quarantine. He posted your blog; thanks, Joe Carr. I thank you and all your crew for your so-dedicated work; may you have a nice rest, and I hope you will stay safe. You kept so many safe!

  46. Wonderful and insightful read!

  47. It was very good to hear you are safe and sound. I was saddened to hear that Zaandam lost a crew member. I am relieved to hear that at least some crew members are going home– even though it is a long sail back for crew members from Indonesia and the Philippines. With that mission, the ships are no longer ‘cruise ships’ but ‘ocean liners’ to transport people to and from. (I know…not built like the Rotterdam V and her older fleet mates 😉 ). I appreciate your efforts to bring some ‘behind-the-scenes’ information to us. I had heard that there are a few people who had to stay longer because their governments were “too busy” with other citizens flying back.
    It seems that home catering was not able to find sardines or anchovies from the local supplier to add to the salad for the surf part of ‘surf and turf.’ Home catering is doing their best 🙂

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