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Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

25 Nov. 2015; Crown Bay, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

Nicely on time we docked this morning at the Crown Bay cruise ship dock at 07.00 hrs. As explained last cruise all HAL ships use this dock instead of the Havensight dock opposite the downtown area of Charlotte Amalie. It was a full day today with all the docks occupied. If there had been more ships then they would have had to go to the anchorage.  Next to us we had the Allure of the Seas who came in a little bit later in the morning. At Havensight we had the Carnival Splendor, the Disney Fantasy and the Regal Princess. If you only count the number of lower beds on the ships then there would have been in port today 12,800 guests. It being a Thanksgiving cruise means that a lot of the upper beds must have been in use as well, so my guess is that the shopkeepers could say hello today to at least 15,000 guests, and then we are not counting the crew. The Westerdam has a lower berth capacity of 1916 and we have 2150 on board this cruise. I expect the other ships are in a similar situation.

Today was a busy day on the Westerdam. With all the guests going ashore the Staff Captain lined up all his 18 sailors for a major chipping project on the under decks of the ps. lifeboats.  St. Thomas is about the only day when nearly all the guests are gone and you do not inconvenience anybody if you rope off one side of the ship. I just hope nobody wanted to sleep in until after 09.00 hrs.

Then at 10.30 there was the monthly General Emergency Drill; where we go through the whole alarm cycle as if it is a real emergency and not a training drill. Our biggest challenge here is to ensure everybody is accounted for. If the ship sinks we can always buy a new ship, Mr. Arison is rich enough, but we cannot buy a new guest or a new crew member. No one will be left behind. Today’s focus of the drills was how to get guests and  crew to their muster stations if they were wounded, confused or unwilling to go.

For that purpose I had enlisted my team of trainee’s.  There were two with a broken leg laying in a crew area, one Drama Queen who refused to leave the cabin and two obnoxious guests who were acting as if they did not believe it was real and did not want to leave the public area they were sitting in. To discern them from the real guests, they all wore a white helmet.

To identify / find these people we have three main teams, the Passenger Assist Team who evacuate all the Guest Cabins, the Passenger Sweep Team who clear out the public area’s and the Crew Sweep Team who evacuate the crew cabins and crew areas.

Once they were given the order to start their sweep, it took only 5 minutes to find them all. Then the stretcher teams and the wheel chairs had to be brought to the location to get all “the helmets” safely to the muster station. This takes a bit longer as in principle we also simulate that the elevators do not work. Although in a real emergency we normally have at least 4 in working order as those 4 receive their power from the Emergency Generator.  This counting and coordinating of missing people on board is done by Muster Control. This is a group under the leadership of the Hotel Director who coordinates the whole process and ensures we get 100% of everybody at the Muster station.

As we are an operational cruise ship not all crew participates as the Lido still has to open for lunch on time, the bridge and engine room still have to be manned and also security cannot leave the gangway. But we try to use skeleton crews there and have at least 90% of the crew partake in the drill. Then this 10% crew will attend the next drill.

In the end all who were involved were accounted for except one. The only one who was missing was ….me. I was sitting in the front office observing the accounting process and thus I never made it to my muster station. But I was reported so I would have been found.

We left Crown Bay nicely on time and tomorrow we will be at sea, heading North West towards Half Moon Cay. This is a tight stretch in our schedule so the ship is going full out. We have wind and current with us and that means we should easily make it on time.


  1. Hope you have some time to enjoy an American Thanksgiving tomorrow.
    Hope you didn’t get into trouble with Capt. Van Eerten (I believe he is still the Captain aboard) by missing the muster drill. We have heard him raise his commanding voice at a passenger muster drill, and would not want to be on the receiving end of his wrath.
    We will be aboard one week from Saturday and on the same deck as you. But we promise not to ring your doorbell – tho we will send you a note about our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet.
    We also have a copy of “125 Years of Holland America Line.”Its my book to read for the cruise, and we hope to have the author autograph it for us…. if we are lucky enough to meet him.
    Fair winds and following seas,
    Susan & Bennett Gottlieb

    • Thank you for reading my blog.

      No I did not get in trouble, first of all he is running behind me in seniority and 2ndly my “fact finding” mission was for him the only way to find out what is going in the ship as the captain is stuck on the bridge during emergencies.

      I do my best to be at the meet and greet

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  2. My wife Susan Arnold Gottlieb is addicted to reading your blog and she shares it with me. I truly enjoy your writing, as it makes me feel like I am part of the crew and back aboard ship. I served in The United States Navy from 1966-1970. From 1966-1967 I served on The USS Diamond Head (AE-19) which was an ammunition supply ship that served off the Coast of Vietnam and have experienced firsthand “Major Chipping Projects.”
    I look forward with great anticipation to meeting you at our meet and greet. Thank you in advance for you you’re writing.
    Bennett Gottlieb.

    • Thank you for reading my blog.

      I am glad you & your wife enjoy my little ramblings, as I often wonder if my sometimes trivial adventures are of interest to the reader.

      For your meet & greet I will do my best to be there.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  3. Missed Career at Sea

    November 26, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    To my surprise you mentioned that only 18 sailors are reporting to the Staff Captain? What would be the total number of sailors on board, Captain?
    I presume this is the same bridge team I saw on 27 September leaving my fair city for the last time in the year 2015. From the promenade I saw the lighter and comical side of Captain Rens van Eerten and his Second in Command. Well, if only the passengers wouldn’t try to outdo the announcements at the muster drill, there wouldn’t be a reason for the Captain to raise his voice for “silence on deck” …

    • There are only 18 crew with the name of sailors. there are also lifesaving attendants, fire safety attendants. QuarterMasters and others.
      But we have 18 sailors for deck maintenance.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  4. Missed Career at Sea

    November 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you, Captain. I learned something new again …

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