- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

29 September 2011; San Diego, California.

 And so after 5 months of vacation, I rejoined the wonderful world of Holland America. The company had been so good to give me a split flight from England via Amsterdam and thus I could visit my 96 old mother. She is still doing very well but as I am the only child, she has the problem that when I disappear for three months, there is no family visiting. So I managed to get a stopover in before I had to face reality again. I was not the only one descending upon San Diego to join a ship. Today there were 3 cruise ships in port altogether. The Statendam, Westerdam and the Sapphire Princess which was for the port of San Diego not a bad way to kick off the cruise season. All three ships were there for their first call of the season and all three were coming down from Alaska. The last two weeks of the Alaska season had been a bit windy; the Statendam observed on one occasion wind speeds of up to 80 knots and 45 feet high waves, making all crews quite happy when the ships were leaving the Great Land behind. A lot of them were even more happy as the call at San Diego meant that a large number of them could go for a well earned vacation.

 I joined the Statendam with 48 others . I believe the Westerdam had a similar number and it makes sense to assume that the Sapphire Princess had even more as she is a much bigger ship. That shows an aspect of the company’s that the guests do not often see.  The crew transport and flights are often organized in a similar way as for the guests who have booked everything through HAL, including transfers. For that purpose we have a number of Ladies in the Air/Sea department who each look after two or three ships for all the crew travel needs. It must be a job that is enjoyable to do as some of them have been with the company for many years. My current travel Lady, Lucy, has been around since the mid 80’s.

Flights to and from the ships can be complicated as crew live in the most weird and wonderful places all around the globe but the biggest challenge is normally the last part, getting from the hotel to the ship. Here there are often challenges to overcome, varying from not getting the crew out of bed on time or even finding them in the right hotel. Sometimes the transport person did not get out of bed on time and if that happens then we have a real issue. The problem is most of the time that we all have to get onboard before guest disembarkation starts as the Custom and Border Patrol does not allow a counter flow coming into the ship when they are processing the outgoing guests. The disembarking crew always leave after the last guest is off the ship and during that window the crew does their hand over to the boarding colleagues. In each port there are different transport arrangements but in most ports it is done by an independent sub contractor. In Fort Lauderdale a large bus pops up, so it looks like we are all going on a school outing but here in San Diego we use the Super shuttle company. By 07.00 we saw 8 blue vans standing in front of the hotel to collect us all and bring us to the ship. It took a bit of captain’s influence to get all the crew in the right vans, as the drivers did not know one DAM from the other, but by 07.30 a whole convoy worked its way down Mission Valley and towards the port. By 0800 we were all on the ship and ready to absorb all the things that come along with having a job onboard. By 11 am the disembarking crew left. For those who need more hand over time such as Senior Staff, the CBP is always willing to make adjustments and thus my colleague, Capt. Frans Consen, could stay until 2 pm. Although transfer of command always takes place at noon time if it is a regular port call.

The remainder of the day ran very smoothly and I think that the port was quite pleased with getting the three ships out as scheduled, as a first call of the season is always a challenge because you have to get the whole machinery going again. We are now on the way for our 14 day Panama Trans Canal cruise which will eventually end on 14 October in Fort Lauderdale. For the time being the weather looks good. There is a post tropical storm called Hillary off the coast of Mexico but she is moving very quickly into the Pacific and diminishing fast in intensity so we should have a few good days to start with. 

Ocean Liner Row San Diego 29 sept. 2011

(Photo courtesy: Port of San Diego)

San diego web 

11 Comments

  1. Welcome Back! We look forward to your daily posts once again. Glad to hear you enjoyed your time off and got to see your Mother “on the way to work”.

    Karen

  2. Dear Captain,
    My wife and I will be joining you on the Statendam for the 11 November Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego cruise. We first sailed with Holland America in 1964 on the Westerdam (I) and Maasdam (IV). We still have a number of items collected from that time such as Transatlantic Sailing & Rate brochures, ship accommodation plans, ship advertising pamphlets, passenger lists, various official postcards, and dining room menus. If you as a Holland America Line historian are interested in any or all of these items we will bring them along and would be happy to donate them to you.
    John & Pat Rustenburg

  3. Missed Career at Sea

    September 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    It’s very good to see you on the screen again, Captain. Welcome back! Your colleagues on the Alaska runs did a very good job filling in as teachers and commentators in your absence this year 🙂
    Your return is a happy occasion, as another Captain’s departure is a very sad occasion for me. The last of the “anchors” will have departed from our fair city.
    Weatherwise, my sail under the command of the latter Captain must have been one of the few runs with ‘good’ weather in the Great Land. Friends on the last trip of the Zuiderdam saw passengers/guests frolicking in the swooshing waters coming over the sides of the indoor pool dodging chairs being pulled hither and thither (only slightly exaggerated & pools got drained, of course).
    On the farewell day I discovered another musical Captain o/b Westerdam. He and Capt Frans Consen must have had the same music teacher?
    An amazing Mom you have!

  4. Welcome back! I do enjoy reading your daily blogs.
    I traveled on the Statendam for the first time a few weeks ago and met Captain Frans Consen. We had smooth seas, good glacier viewing and rain in Ketchikan.

  5. I am so excited to have you return to the seas, I love reading your Blog. Have really missed it, welcome back Captain Albert………..

  6. Welcome back Capt. Hope you have smooth seas on your upcoming trips. Last Aug, my wife & I were on the Dawn Princess from Port Everglade to Los Angeles, via the canal. At times the open decks were closed due to lightning. Would like to know what happens if lightning hits a cruise ship and have you ever seen St. Elmo’s fire? Looking forward to reading your daily blogs.
    Thank you,
    Gary & Lynn B

  7. Welcome back aboard Captain. I am looking forward to another cruise season with your daily observations. Smooth sailings.

    Ruud Hartog, Tierra Verde, Florida

  8. Captain,

    Nice that you are sailing again, I am looking forward to a new series of storys. Though your mother has only you who cares for her, I am sure she is in good hands.

    Ruud

  9. Welcome back, Captain Albert. All the best to your remarkable Mom. I looked after my Mom until she was 99 years and 3 weeks old, when quietly and peacefully left us.

    Your blog is a pleasant beginning for each day.

  10. Firstly, Just let me say how much I enjoy your insight into the technical and other operational aspects of the cruise ship business.

    Secondly, your mention of Capt. Frans Consen reminded me of one of those small incidents that has made me, far more often than not, chose Holland America. It was 2005 on a Sea of Cortez/Mex Riv cruise from/to San Diego where the highlight for many was the Copper Canyon Rail Trip. It was a VERY long day, up well before sunrise and back around midnight, exhausted to say the least. And who should be among those meeting us at the gangway with lemonade and hot towels but Capt. Consen. One of those things that makes a very positive statement about an individual and a company.

  11. Glad you are back! Although I’m not the most experienced traveler/cruiser, I do enjoy reading about all the great places you and your ships visit! I actually look forward to your blogs as it helps me to remain patient while awaiting my next cruise. Now that you are blogging again, It will be nice to turn off all of the ‘court’ trials on TV and read about something truly innocent and interesting! Welcome Back and Thank you for what you do 🙂

    Jacquleyn

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