Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

While Northern Europe had strong winds with tornado watches and torrential rains with flood alerts, we had “to cope” with flat calm sea’s and sunny skies. So with that happy thought on our mind we approached the pilot station early in the morning as we had to be docked by 7 am. From the pilot to the dock normally takes about 35 minutes but docking took longer this time as we had been assigned another berth. Behind us was the Adventure of the Seas who with 340 meters of length was given our normal dock as it was much longer.

We had to dock at the cross dock, which is about 250 meters long. The Prinsendam being 204 meters means that I have plenty of space; it just takes some time to “angle” the ship in towards this cross dock. Thus we were at the pilot station earlier than otherwise would have been the case. As I had been up from 1 am until 3 am for passing through the Straits of Gibraltar, I had had a short night but a beautiful arrival into Cadiz made up for it. Cadiz is facing to the East at the end of a curved estuary and when the sun rises, the reddish/golden glow tends to paint the white buildings of the city in a sort of soft pink. Very pretty, when you happen to be awake to see it. The port was virtually empty apart from a ferry boat running on the Cadiz to Tenerife service. This ferry boat had been bumped from the cross berth to make space for us, in the same way as we had been bumped by the Adventure of the Seas.

Due to the estuary entrance to the port, the North Atlantic Ocean tide is pushing itself deeper and deeper into the harbour, and where the estuary gets more and more narrow, the water being pushed in has only one place to go and that is up. Thus there is a tide difference of about 8 to 10 feet in the port. That can make it very un-pleasant for the gangway situation. The way the Prinsendam has been built means that if the quay sides are high (Which they have to be if there is a big tidal difference) then we have to use a step gangway to get the guests on an off. Another sort of gangway does not work due to the way the break doors are leading into the ships atrium. That can give challenges with the wheel chairs onboard which then need four or five crew to help them being pushed or carried down the gangway.

Today we were in luck as far as the tide was concerned. It was high tide on arrival, so we could open a lower break door in the hull, which has a flat gangway and get the majority of our guests off via this flat gangway, before the falling tide made the ship sink below quay level. By 3 pm. the ship had risen enough on the tide to have this break door appear above the quay level again so that the majority of the guests, including the tours, could re board via this easy gangway. In ports where we are not so lucky with the timing or where the docks are different in set, up such as Lisbon and Bordeaux, I try to organize a shore gangway.

The guests had an un-eventful sunny day in town but the crew did have an eventful morning as we had a combined fire and abandon ship drill. We started with a simulated fire, which went out of hand and eventually necessitated that all of us had to leave the ship. The whole exercise lasted for about 45 minutes and we do these drill as much as possible in port, when the majority of the guests are ashore. The ones still onboard find it most of the time an interesting diversion and follow the announcements and proceedings with great interest. My part in the drill is playing the nasty inspector who questions the crew about their knowledge of the various safety procedures. The results are sometimes quite funny. A standard question is always: what is the emergency telephone number for the bridge in case you have to report something unusual. All crew can answer that one of the top of their head. The first number and the back up number. However this time when I asked what is the first emergency number that you think of: A person from the entertainment department gave, without hesitation, the number for room service. Hamburgers must have been very much on her mind. It then took her about 30 seconds to realize that she had said something strange, before the right answers came out. (On the other hand if you do phone room service with a calamity, they will call the bridge, without delay, so the number would have resulted in something positive in the end)

Departure was a nice but slow affair as the docked Adventure of the Seas was now reducing my swinging space by another 35 meters. Thus the swing of 90o from the cross berth until being lined up to sail out of the harbor took a little while, as I had to keep the ship at a standstill while pivoting around.

Tomorrow we are in Lisbon and again it is supposed to be sunny with no wind.

To access Captain Albert’s historical writings on Holland America Line as well as photos and additional information about Prinsendam and his sailing schedule, click here.