As the crew has to be on board early to ensure a smooth handover with the crew who are going on vacation, it means getting up early. Too early to take an early morning –same day- flight into Rotterdam. Although I am not relieving anybody I go with the flow so I flew last night into Schiphol Amsterdam and spent the night in an airport hotel. We left that hotel this morning at 07.00 with a coach full of crew for the one hour drive to Rotterdam. Although things are cramped with the street lay-out (that has always been so since 1901) everything is very well organized and without much delay we could get to the ship. As my school class is arriving tomorrow I had the day to go around to talk to everybody and figure out in general what the best approach is for this training period. To give the students the best of everything hinges on finding synergies between the training schedule of the ship and what I can do, and what I am allowed to do, in the various ports.
In the meantime the ship was in change over mode and it was one of the less easy Rotterdam port days as there were two cruise ships in at the same time. At the main dock of the passenger terminal was the Norwegian Star which meant that the Rotterdam was at the dock further in. Nothing wrong with this dock but it makes it a bit more complicated with the gangway situation. This meant some ingenuity had to be brought forth. Ship and port operations together had to come up with something that would work safely throughout the day. An alternative set up was put in place and thus the passenger disembark and embark could take place without a glitch. Supplies and stores could go on; parts for repair and recyclables could go ashore. Then there is always the larger number of visitors on board, not only from family, but also school visits as Holland America is continuously promoting careers at sea, for engine, deck and hotel. If babies could read, then we would hand out free cots with the HAL logo on the baby pillows to get them focused as early as possible on a seafaring career.
By 4 pm. we left as the captain wants to be as early as possible in Southampton as the ship has to go through immigration there. The United Kingdom is not included in the Schengen protocol so they carry out a regular and full arrival and passport control policy. The ms Rotterdam is this cruise under the command of Captain Hans Mateboer who is the most senior HAL Captain. I have know him since 1983 so it was good to see him again.
Sailing from the passenger terminal in Rotterdam is something quite special. First of all it has all the historic ties. Holland America has been docking here permanently since 1901 (Before that time the company used various locations around this area) and here at the Wilhelminakade was also our head office located until 1973. Then there was the move to the USA and only Human Resources (to deal with the Dutch crew) remained behind. That office then left Rotterdam but came back a number of years ago and has now a location in a sky scraper behind the old Head Office which is now a Hotel. With the company now also marketing in Europe, there is quite a large sales group in this office now as well.
2ndly there is the old ss Rotterdam docked just around the corner. Once clear from the terminal she comes majestically into sight. Although now a museum, hotel and entertainment centre, she is still a ship and thus the ss Rotterdam V could exchange whistle salutes with the ms Rotterdam VI. From then on it is almost 2 hours before the ship is completely in open sea and during that time the whistle will have sounded a few times more to greet local people gathering at various hot spots along the route.
The Rotterdam is making a 14 day cruise to Barcelona. This 14 day cruise can also be seen as a segment and then the total cruise time can go up to 88 days if you connect the various cruises/segments. We have approx. 40 people on board who are going for that full length.
I am now getting myself ready for the school class, officially called the Nautical Excellence Class. We held the first one on this ship in December 2014 and as a larger number of the crew was there then and is here now again, it will make things go very smooth. Tomorrow we will collect 400 British who will join the ship and then we head south towards the Mediterranean. The Gulf of Biscay is very quiet at the moment so we should have a smooth ride.