- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

29 November 2012; Honolulu 2nd day.

After a windless night we started our 2nd day in Honolulu. During sunrise we were greeted by a brown band lying over the city against the hills.  Smog in Honolulu, unexpected; it really does not go together with an image of pineapples and hula hula girls. But there was no wind during the night and thus it happened. During the morning a slight breeze picked up and the brown layer dissipated. I had a funny experience the night before, as I had gone ashore for a few hours to dinner in a restaurant right outside the dock. Friends were drinking wine but I told the waiter that I was staying on water as I was driving. When the bill was being settled, he asked for my parking ticket so he could validate it for me. When I said that my ticket would be a “little bit” too big for him, the answer was, no problem, we deal with large cars & limousines as well.  When I then pointed to 800 feet of “car” parked behind me, realization set in that my ticket might be a bit much too handle for the restaurant. It was funny to see the expression on the waiters face as he had never come across that one before. Neither had I never been given the opportunity to validate the parking fee for my ship.



Coming back I had to admire the murals in the passenger terminal. They showed scenes from the heyday of Hawaii travel, when the only way to get to and from the island was with the white liners. Matsonia, Lurline,  Malolo, Montery, Mariposa. The arrival of the airplane killed this service off eventually and the Matson Company now only operates cargo ships. Still the terminal is still there and now has these murals depicting the good old days.  

The ship settled down for a quiet day of routine work until I threw a spanner in the wheel. Once a month we have to hold an un-expected and un-scheduled fire drill/exercise to test the alertness of the crew. My challenge is always is to keep it un-expected. The ship’s crew is a closely knit community where everybody knows everything about anything and every little deviation from the normal routine is noticed. Plus the crew expects an un-expected drill when the time is due.

This time I managed to get the un-expected bit in. I had discussed the occurrence about 5 days ago and as then nothing happened in the next 4 days, it had drifted to the back of everybody’s mind. Then when suddenly multiple smoke detector alarms went off in a public room, nobody could be certain whether it was for real or for exercise.  The response was as trained and multiple teams descended on the fire location. For the guests it was noticeable this time, as we closed all the fire screen doors on all decks in guest areas for two complete ships sections. This is standard procedure as it locks the fire in so it cannot spread. For the guests it is a strange experience as suddenly that long corridor has a closed door in the middle and the atrium is surrounded by a wall of steel where normally a large open space is located.

As the simulated fire was located in the Wajang Theatre, the guests still on board could see the whole operation in full swing, as the area near the atrium was changed into the situation centre. From here the “attack on the fire” was taking place.  4 fire fighting teams, medical rescue team, evacuation team, stretcher team, passenger assist team, extra hose handlers, and back up personnel. Within 10 minutes about a 100 crew were on the scene and involved in one way or the other.  When all was over I apologized to all the guests for the inconvenience caused, but the feedback was only positive.  I think a few crew were not that happy, as after a night on the town, they had expected a lay-in in the morning and now that darn captain decided to get them out of bed at the ungodly hour of 09.30.


The Arizona Memorial as seen from the battleship Missouri. (All photos by roving reporter Lesley)

Most guests were ashore, including my lord and master Lesley who went visiting the Battleship Missouri and the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. It was a perfect day for all ashore, the temperature had still not returned to Honolulu standards and as it was a bit overcast, making it a perfect day ashore. We stayed until 23.00 in the evening and the Hotel department changed the Lido pool area into a great Hawaiian Cook out. Followed later by song, dance and games with the Event staff.

Sail away was a short but scenic affair, with nearly wind still conditions and a smooth glassy sea. Tonight we sail around the Island of Molokai and will then arrive at 06.30 at the anchorage in Lahaina. Perfect weather has been predicted, partly cloudy and no wind but there is always swell.  A long ocean swell that runs into the port, thus it might be a day with challenges.


  1. It sounds like you guys are having a wonderful time. I really wish I was a passenger on this cruise… Soooo jealous! I can’t wait for my turn…and if the HAL marketing dept. keeps sending me these nice letters and brochures, I just may take the bait! Wishing you more calm seas and lots more fun…Also, are there any pics from the Black/Silver Ball…would love to see the ‘glam’ .


  2. Kim Micahel Rolls

    December 1, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Hi Captain,
    Absolutlely love the parking validation story – would have loved to see the expression his face.
    I grew up in San Francisco, and sail away day was a big thing back then. Our family would go down to the embarcadero to participate in the sail away with the streamers and confetti – a really big deal for us kids. (My uncle Garland Rotch was a big wig with Dollar Steamship so we had an in if you will.) – former Captain. So we would watch as the Lurline and Matsonia, Mariposa, Monterey and the APL liners as well leave. As I got older I would watch the channel outside the Golden Gate as the view from our house overlooked it. Watch as those magnificant ships sailed under the gate and could only dream of the far away places they were headed. After 50 years of dreaming, I finally got to go under the gate myself on a shakedown cruise to Mexico after a competitor’s ship finished drydock a week early and offered a last minute deal. A lot of emotion as that dream was fulfilled. Your blog has been very helpful in understanding what goes into giving your guests a fantastic vacation – thank you for all you and your HAL crews do to make memorable moments aboard. We enjoyed our southbound Alaska run on Veendam a couple of years ago and look forward to going again.
    Would like to see the Jones Act go away so that coastal cruises out of San Francisco would be offered more often than the spring and fall Alaska repositioning. Oh well that’s politics. Thanks again.

  3. Captain, thank you for this great diary. My father and his friend are sailing with you for the 28 day leg out of San Diego and this is an excellent way to “keep track of them”. We have sailed HAL ourselves and feel like we are coming along with you thanks to your great descriptions. I am a civilian employee of our local fire department so i commend you for the extensive drills you conduct on board and your staff on their excellent response and training. Safe travels and smooth sailing, Susan in Arizona.

  4. patricia sassenberg

    December 1, 2012 at 2:17 am

    That’s not smog in hawaii they call it vog, it’s from the big island when the lava come’s down, it make’s a brown haze on the other islands. My daughter live’s in honolulu and she talk’s about it all the time.

  5. Yes, the lava does cause alot of the vog problem but most of it is coming from the current lava pool at the Halemaʻumaʻu crater area.
    The following address shows many great views of the lava and it’s effects.

  6. I enjoyed your story about having the Statendam validated by the waiter. Good stuff.

  7. Very funny story! 🙂

  8. Missed Career at Sea

    December 4, 2012 at 12:15 am

    The validation of the Statendam’s parking ticket reminds me of another opportunity for you to become a “surprise experience” for some, on the job, serious professionals! (For those that don’t remember, it’s the Captain’s 25Nov11 blog entry.)
    It concerned the Captain lining up with the crew for the 90day cycle, I95 shore pass revalidation, and having to answer the question, “What do you do on the ship?”. When the Captain asnwered with “I’m the Captain”, the CBP Officer’s next question reflects either disbelief or disrespect. “So then you must be quite important”…. The Captain saved the situation by answering “depends where I am”………
    When sitting on the beach a tourist cannot see the brown band that might be hanging over the islands. This is the vog I have turned allergic to. Captain, is it not a pretty sight from the ship when you either approach an island or lay for anchor?

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