We had a very strong Gulf Stream during the night and by the time we passed Miami we were doing about 22 knots, e.g. four knots of current with us. Ahead of us was the Island Princess with a pilot time of 05.45, the Maasdam with a pilot time of 06.00 and the Statendam with a pilot time of 06.15. These times being chosen as it worked the best for a smooth sail in for everybody. The IP had to go to berth 4 which is a tight fit, so she was given the first slot, the Maasdam had to swing around and go stern in to berth 26, so she was given the 2nd slot and as we had a straight sail in, starboard alongside pier 25, we were scheduled as number 3. All worked out as we liked it and by 07.15 all the ships were safely docked and ready for operations. The centre of the port was taken up by 5 warships as part of Fleet week. A Helicopter assault vessel of which I could not see the name; a submarine and another warship hidden by the terminal building and in front, the US Jacinto and the USS De Wert. On the Assault vessel they had built up a complete Marine Corps display with Humvee’s, helicopters, anti aircraft guns, jeeps and troop carriers and by 0900 the public was streaming all over the ships. For us it was the other way around, all the guests were streaming off the ship after a cruise with very good weather all the way.
Thus the ship is now gearing up for a longer Transcanal that will end in Vancouver. We will have three more ports on this cruise than normal and the Port of San Diego is both a port of call as well as a disembarkation and embarkation port for those who join us for the 4 days up to Vancouver and beyond. After Vancouver we do a mini cruise to Victoria and Astoria and then the summer cycle will start with our Alaska cruises from Vancouver to Seward and back. Then by early October we will be back for another Trans Canal season with two 28 day South Pacific cruises thrown in.
A change over day is already enough “controlled chaos” for the ship alone and today we had a few more items added to it. We bunkered some more fuel, to be able to get all the way to Vancouver if necessary, we had divers under water for hull cleaning and we had the yearly USCG inspection. All items that need the full attention of everybody and that means that you have to allot your manpower very carefully to get it all done. And then we are not even talking about the 35 to 40 service engineers that come on board for repairs and regular (contractual) maintenance. Contractual maintenance means that we have expert labor coming on board to service the coffee machines, the juice machines, vacuum cleaners, wheelchairs the bulk cleaning product dispensers in use by housekeeping. Etc etc. and …………do not forget ………..the piano tuner………….essential for each cruise ship.
The main challenge is to have the fire and lifeboat drills, done for the USCG, in such a way that it creates the least disturbance for the rest of the ships operation. The Coastguard Inspectors always cooperate fully with that so we can do the drills as soon as all the guests are off and before the new guests are boarding. That makes the cleaning of the guests cabins a bit of a tight affair but that is then solved by pulling out the officers stewards from their sections and having them help the regular cabin stewards. As those stewards are training anyway to become cabin stewards it is a nice exercise for them at the same time. And I can live with not having my bed made in the morning but only in the afternoon. I can even make my own bed but Amir, my captains steward, gets very upset then.
The biggest hurdle that there is, is the gaps that fall in the required safety functions. There is the moment that the old crew is going off and the new crew comes on board but is not allowed to work yet. They first have to go through initial shipboard training. We fill the gaps up with other crew, everybody is trained, so it all works but that crew is then pulled away from their regular jobs for a prolonged time. Still it has to be done and it always works. So it was this time. The whole scenario ran perfectly, the USCG only had compliments and left the ship very happy after having observed our passenger lifeboat drill as well. (Which meant the guests behaved as well……) I got the certificates I needed and the good ship Statendam can sail again for another year with the full approval of the USCG. Next inspection will be Canadian Port State on arrival Vancouver.
I sailed slightly late, to give the divers’ time to finish scrubbing the hull. With all the growth gone, there is a reduction in friction and that saves fuel. Tomorrow we will be going against the trade wind and thus it should be a windy day but I am hoping for a bit of sun.