About the Author
Quote from the company bio:
Capt. Albert J. Schoonderbeek BSc, MNI, was born in the eastern part of the Netherlands in a town called Ede. In 1976 he entered the oldest Maritime Academy in the world, “De Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart,” in Amsterdam and did his seagoing apprenticeship in 1979. Upon graduation he found employment with Holland America Line, the only Dutch company that operated cruise ships. He joined the old ss Statendam in 1981 and has never looked back.
Apart from being employed onboard cruise ships, cruise ships are also the Captain’s hobby. The result of this “hobby” was that he co-authored the official company history, published to mark 125 years of Holland America Line in 1998. In 2002 followed the publication of a limited edition of the Memoirs of Capt. C Haagmans, who sailed for 54 years, of which 44 were with Holland America Line, in a career that spanned two world wars and the heyday of North Atlantic Travel. The next publication was 145 years of Holland America Line which book came out in July 2019 and is still in print. Some more exciting publications are in the pipe line and will hopefully see daylight in the near future.
When time allows he writes articles for cruise magazines and gives lectures about Holland America Line history. A recent highlight was given two lectures on the maiden voyage of the ms Nieuw Statendam where the cruise director had 8 sea days to fill. Approx. 850 guests attended the lectures (while the World Stage capacity is 800) which indicates that Ocean travel and Holland America Line history is close to the heart of our guests.
During the Grand World Voyage of 1987, on the old ss Rotterdam V, he met his bride to be, Lesley. They were married in 1991 and currently live in England. As both are devoted cruise fans, they like to take “busmans holidays” on cruise ships of other companies as it is always interesting to see what the grass looks like on the other side of the fence.”. Although he might have a biased view, he is still convinced after several cruises with “the others” that Holland America is the best there is.
And that is the way it remained until 2014. Then the opportunity arose to be appointed to, and to create, a completely new function within Holland America but also in the cruise industry. The function of Travelling Master.
Holland America had been looking for awhile for a captain who knew the company inside out, who could teach and was senior enough to deal with the management of each ship in a positive way, and who would be able to create a program which would support the Deck Teams on board the ships. From my side I saw it and an opportunity to start handing over the experience I had gained with the HAL since 1981.
Thus the OBTSO (On board Team Support Officer) Program was born. It provided training for captains, staff captains and deck officers. It has an induction program for new navigators (Nautical Excellence Program), it organizes large emergency drills on board, to further hone the skills of all the crew . It provides catch up training for any group on board in relation to safety and it provides the option for pre audits to help to prepare the ship for any audit that might come its way. And……………….. whatever else the Master of the Vessel deems useful for his ship.
As a result I hopped from ship to ship on a three week rotation and see the whole fleet in the course of two years. It was really great fun to do and who would not enjoy the idea that while you serve the company you love , you are handing over your knowledge and expertise to the future generations at the same time? And I even got paid for it…………..
Then the Deputy Director of HR in Rotterdam came up with the idea of the “Nautical Excellence Classes”. The idea being to sent groups of 6 newly hired deck officers to a ship for a 14 day period to acclamatise before starting work. A very good idea as with so many regulations under which the cruise ships operate, it is quite daunting when you join a ship for the first time. Especially if you have never seen a cruise ship and you also have find your place mong 600 to a 1000 crewmembers for 50+ nationalities.
In 2018 the function of Travelling Master was renamed in Fleet Master. Then also the intention arose that the program would be extended to Seabourn Cruise Lines which is a subsidiary of Holland America Line as far as Marine Operations is concerned. That all lasted until Covid hit in April 2020. (see the daily blog for those dates)
I went home and I stayed home until t he company could phase me in again. Then the need came to pay off of the Covid Debt that was resting on all the cruise ships, due to the expense of keeping the ship in running order while not generating revenue. Thus in early 2023 it was decided to stop the OBTSO program for at least 3 years and that would bring it past my official retirement date in 2025. Hence an agreement was made for “early retirement” with me leaving the company after almost 42 years of service. And a total of 44 years at sea as I started my cadet ship in 1979 of what was then the old cargo ship of the company.
Life goes on, and now the company history takes up lot of hobby-time. I has been diving into company history since I was about 11 years old and has never stopped. That has resulted in a few books being published.
1998: 125 Years of Holland America Line (co author with Mr. Guus Dalkmann HAL Historian)
2002: The biography of Captain Haagmans who sailed for 50 years.
2018 :145 Years of Holland America Line (still in print)
2020: Holland America Line (Infozine by Ships Monthly )(Still in print)
2023 January – December: 150 years Holland America Line.
Jan 20: Part I A Chronicle of 150 Years.
April 18: Part II Particular Topics of Holland America Line History
TBA: Part III Picture History of Holland America Line 1873 – 1923
TBA Part III Picture History of Holland America Line 1923 – 1973
TBA: Part III Picture History of Holland America Line 1973 – 2023
And thus we continue.