- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

30 December 2008, At Sea.

Wonderful weather, the way it is supposed to be. Easterly winds about 15 knots and a low swell running, powered by the trade winds. It’s a long time since I have seen that while sailing through the Yucatan channel. Thus we all enjoyed a grand day at sea. The ship is of course buzzing with the preparations for New Years Eve. This year it is a celebration that has to be wriggled into our normal cruise operation. On New Years Eve we are in Belize and on New Years day we are in Costa Maya. On longer cruises these days are normally spent at sea but with a seven day cruise that is a little bit difficult. Also our very young clientele does prefer to frolic on the beach on New Years day than to sit down for a long cookies and cream morning.

So we plan everything in; in our regular schedule that is already quite hectic to start with. One of the major items of coordination is the balloon drop at midnight. The Bo ‘sun rigs up a net that can split into two parts so that at the appropriate moment the balloons come down into the audience. In years gone by this simple concept has been fraught with issues. Such as, the cruise staff pulling the wrong way on the release cord, thus nothing came down as the net only got pulled tighter. A guest pulling the cord and pre releasing the balloons. Balloons filled with Helium so they did not drop but remained stuck to the ceiling. The net self releasing half way through the second show. The balloons released too late as the girl in charge decided to go to the toilet just before midnight. The balloons (which are stuffed in the net normally sometime during the day) flying out of the door as they were kept behind the stage and somebody opened the door to the outside deck. It all happened, so I have everybody rehearse. The Bo ‘sun rigs the net and then instructs the mere mortals of the entertainment department in how to release an advanced sailors knot. We train in the count down and the appropriate sign, so that the person in charge of the pull also does pull. Positive reports came back from the trial, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

The 2nd thing is the bell. I have the ships bell, normally on the bow of the ship, brought on the stage so that we can really ring in the New Year. How we do that depends on the inspiration of the Cruise Director. Sometimes he uses it for the count down, sometimes as a prop with the Old Year and the New Year standing beside it. The guests love it for a photo Op after midnight. On the Veendam I have a beautiful stand of teakwood from which the bell hangs. On the old Noordam I had the bell fastened on a luggage trolley, which made it easy to roll onto the stage. However at the crucial moment, the ships navigator decided to change course, made the ship list a little bit and the Hotel Manager rolled with bell and trolley off the stage. All the guests thought it was hilarious, except the HM. Therefore each ship that I have sailed on has a nice stand, either there already, or one has to be made.

The Culinary Operations Manager has her own worries as she is in charge of supplies. Silly hats and noise makers. Through the years the correct ordering of this stuff has been tuned down to a fine art. With 1400 guests on board, you do not need 1400 hats. About 400 are more than sufficient, as a lot of guests do not want one. Same for the noise makers. However you need to keep a small supply for secondary issue later in the evening, to resupply those who wore out their first noise maker already or (kids) who lost or damaged the first one.

The last part of the proceedings concerns me and that is the Black and White officer’s ball. Every time I have a larger number of officers and attachments who have not partaken in a ball before and need to be explained how it works and what it is. With New Years Eve, there is the additional challenge of singing Old Lang Syne. That seems to be a dying ritual and most of the officers who are under 30 have not heard of this Irish tradition. (When I say to them Irish tradition………..they do believe that……what is the world coming to) So this evening my B&W email went out with an invite to attend, a run down of the routine and the words of Auld Lang Syne. (Words written by Robert Burns that famous poet from Ire……….Scotland)

Tonight is an hour back and I will be in bed extra early for a very early arrival in Belize. Due to the large groups of families on board, the tours for the beaches are heavily booked and the Shorex Manager needs to get them off the ship as soon as possible. So I brought the arrival forward to avoid her from getting into a logistical muddle with the shore tenders. If the weather forecast is right, it is going to be a beautiful day.


  1. Happy New Year to you and yours, Captain. I think that, much like a wedding, what people talk about after and for years would be the thing(s) that went wrong. when everything goes perfectly, well, what is unusual about that aboard your ship? All these various mistakes made the occasion more memorable. After all, you are not telling us of all the times things went right? So, mistake-free, or not, I am certain you all throw one heck of a party.

  2. Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar/Happy New Year Captain! Just wondering if the Chefs made any ‘oliebollen’ last night? Thanks a lot for doing this daily blog and keeping us all informed about what goes on behind the scenes on a dam cruise ship. Enjoy your upcoming vacation! One last question if you have a chance on the way back to Tampa: Is there a lot of chatter on the radio between your Bridge crew (Officer of the Deck, for intance) and other ships you might pass on the open seas (or even in port)? I’m probably talking more about cruise ships like when the Legend passes the Veendam or in the case of other HAL ships passing each other? I’m thinking there’s a Marine channel (ship-to-ship) set aside for that on the radio?

  3. Captain, best wishes for your upcoming leave. Your account of the various New Year’s eve mishaps made me smile. I hope to be able to someday sail over the holidays too. A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you!

  4. Missed Career at Sea

    January 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    ‘These are the last [few] days’ that I can get my comments in before you disappear out of cyberspace again. Your experiences as a ‘Gezagvoerder’ do not simply make me smile – I keel over off my chair reading about all this hilarity on board any kind of dam ship. Your crew is also learning that their Master is testing them out if they are ‘awake’ at all times, or if their legs are being pulled again, eh?

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