- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

27 April 2015; Santorini, Greece.

The weather forecast was right and it was a wonderful morning to arrive and to sail into the Volcano. Yesterday it was windy and tomorrow it will be windy again but today it was wind still.  Which helped the ships operation immensely as the only anchor spot in the area was allocated to another ship. This cruise ship the Celestial Crystal calls here much more regularly than we ever will and thus gets the better spot. But no wind means, no drifting and indeed the Prinsendam could float serenely in front of the main town.

Holland Glory, bright new and clean hoisted from the stern at 08.00 hrs, as per protocol

Holland Glory, a bright new and clean flag hoisted from the stern at 08.00 hrs, as per protocol.

Today was also the Kings Birthday in the Netherlands. It used to be April 30 when we had Queen Beatrix, who kept the National Holiday on her mother’s birthday (Queen Juliana) but when King Willem Alexander ascended to the throne he moved it to his own, 3 days earlier.

On the ships we have the tradition of Dressing Overall (or: Van Top Vlaggen in Dutch) This means more Dutch flags on display and the regular dressing flags out, which we normally only use during Embarkation day. So being the Teacher that I am, I went around with the sailor to ensure that protocol was followed.

The main fuss is always to ensure that we do not put a larger Nation flag up, than the flag of the country (Greece) which we are visiting bigger. That would not be polite and respectful. When not docked we normally do not fly a flag from the stern but today was a National Holiday and thus we got a new flag out of the locker.

Before we could go to Thira we first had to stop at 0’Athinai to send away the overland tour.   We have a tour going from here which will travel by coach over the part of the island to the east which you cannot see from the ship as it on the East slope of the Volcano rim. The tour then rejoins the ship at the main stop of the Santorini call which is a town called Thira (or Fira).

The Crystal on the only anchorage, a small under water bump rising up from a 1000 ft. In the foreground the shore tenders of Santorini.

The Crystal on the only anchorage, a small under water bump rising up from a 1000 ft. In the foreground the shore tenders of Santorini.

Thus we entered from the West as O’Athinai is located on the southern side of the Island. Apart from having only one anchorage, there are no docks and thus we also drifted here. When we cannot dock we run a tender service with our own tenders. But here in Santorini it is compulsory to use shore tenders. There is an organization called The Boatman Union of Santorini and they take care of all the shuttle traffic in Santorini between the cruise ships and the shore side. None of us really minds that, as it saves the ship a lot of hassle, and if there are more ships in we do not have to fight over the tender docks. Now it is in the hands of one organization and they have to provide everybody with the same service as that is what they get paid for.

To the left the Cable Car system and to the right the zig-zagging stairs to the top.

To the left the Cable Car system and to the right the zig-zagging stairs to the top.

In O’Athinai there is a zig-zag road going up the mountain from the little ferry port. This is not the case at Fira. There is a pier, called the Skala pier, and from there are stairs to the top. You either walk or you can sit on a horse and be carried up and down. Not a very satisfactory state of affairs but help came in 1979 when the Nomikos foundation paid for the construction of the cable car system. (Or funicular to use a very English word) Nomikos was one of the Greek shipping owners who made his fortune in the interland island ferry service which saw a great expansion right after the war. For many years he bought ferry boats which were too old for use in northern Europe and used them for their inter island service. It was not until fairly recently that the Greeks started to use purpose built ships for their services.

So now instead of climbing a lot of stairs, the Austrian built Cable Cars zips you up the mountain in 3 minutes. When there are a lot of cruise ships in, especially big ones, it can be a real Zoo at the cable station with long waiting times but today with only two small cruise ships in us and the Crystal, it was a pleasant affair.

SAntorini is a Volcano with a crater cone in the middle. And the ship = the red route can completely sail around it in very deep water.

Santorini is a Volcano with a crater cone in the middle. And the ship = the red route, you can completely sail around it in very deep water.

So today was a great experience, sailing in and while sailing out with the sun shining brightly on the white houses at various locations on the Volcano rim.  For me it was a nice last day on the Prinsendam. My 23 days of training, instructing, facilitating and supporting have come to an end and I will now have a vacation until the end of May. Then it will be back to the ships but it is too early to say to which ones.

So for a while my blog will be intermittent but I once again hope to start adding more material to the historical side of the blog.  While at home I will be busy. My apartment building is having roof maintenance done and I as I am on the Board of Directors, my responsibility is the maintenance and thus I will be climbing scaffolding and scrutinizing roof gutters.

To all my readers thank you for reading my blog and if all goes well, I will be back by the end of May with daily postings.


  1. Henny Woldhuis.

    April 27, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Dank voor dagelijkse “Blogs”. Veel “plezier on the roof”.
    Kijk uit naar het volgende verslag.

  2. Raphael & Ferissa

    April 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you very much Captain for your wonderful blog, We had a great time following your blog…Many thanks!
    We love sailing with HAL , hope to see you on a “Dam” ship in the future , we wish you a Happy King’s Holiday, looking forward to your blog in the near future.

  3. Enjoy your vacation and watch out on that scaffolding. We will be here awaiting your return.

  4. nice to hear – so back to ship as training captain or captain – i was unsure

  5. Thank you so much for writing your blog. I have really been enjoying reading it!

  6. What?? On vacation again ?? Leaving us because you need to scrutinize your apartment building’s roof gutters ??

    It must be nice to be a senior HAL Captain

    Can’t wait till you get back Capt Albert……….Ruud

  7. Capital cruiser

    April 27, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Thank you so much, Captain Albert, for your always informative and entertaining blogs. I am sure the Prinsendam crew benefitted enormously from your training. Your eagle eye will no doubt be very useful as the roof repairs unfold on your apartment building. Looking forward to your return to sea!

  8. Missed Career at Sea

    April 27, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    May the Company protocol be followed on every ship of HAL also in your absence, Captain … That the size of the flag flying off a visiting ship matters I heard from another Dutchman even on shore.
    The main HAL blog, of course, covered the “King’s Day” as well. There it was; under “Fun Facts” – Dutch people are the tallest in the world (average 6′ for men, 5’7″ for women).
    I didn’t know Rotterdam got beaten out of first place as largest port in the world! (Which port is then the first one in the world, Captain?)
    Somehow it struck me as terribly funny when I read that “The Dutch have been making cheese since 400 A.D.”
    Last but not least; have a safe trip home, Captain. Enjoy your ‘rest’ at home climbing scaffolding (I even did that at 3 building projects …) Why sit idle if you can be busy, no?
    Thank you for your most interesting blog entries during the 23 days on board 3 ships.
    Tot schrijfs!

  9. I expect you to follow all the safety rules you teach on ship, as you scramble about the roof during repairs!! I will miss my daily reading/ learning , and am looking forward to your next writings when you return!
    Happy vacation!
    Almuth Ewing

  10. Thanks for taking the time to do your blog. We love reading it. Being land locked, it helps keep us in touch with the sea.

  11. Robina Herrington

    May 5, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I must have missed this Blog, I certainly have missed the Blogs , they complete my days, so thank you very much, they are always packed with interesting reading, I love my ‘Arm Chair’
    cruising. thank you again and enjoy your Vacation, best wishes from Robina

  12. Vern in Seattle

    June 8, 2015 at 2:36 am

    O captain, O captain…where art thou?

  13. Op dit moment krijg ik geen verslagen meer te lezen.
    Klopt dit.

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