Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

After nearly four months of vacation, in order to fit into the captain schedule of the Prinsendam, I am back on board.

I spent a week on the Prinsendam near the end of March to get the feeling for maneuvering the ship. It is a company policy, when an officer moves to a new class of ship, or gets promoted, or both, that there is an overlap period. During that period the officer can acclimatize to the new situation and does not have to find his or her way around while having to do the new job at the same time. While for a captain the difference between handling a ship of the S and R class is minimal, there is a significant difference between the Prinsendam and the other ships of the company. With the Prinsendam we are going back to the era when the ships did not have all the gadgets and the maneuvering power of what is commonplace today. And that is something to get used to again. The Prinsendam is much closer in maneuvering characteristics to the old Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam than it is to the S or R class.

Therefore I spent one week on board with Captain Halle Gundersen to get the feeling back “for the old days”. Captain Halle has been with the Prinsendam (ex-Royal Viking sun, ex-Seabourn Sun) since 1986, so who better to be with for an issue such as this.

Normally as a captain you always pray for nice quiet weather for the guests but when you have to see how the ship reacts then the worst weather is the best. Luckily in the last week of March we had different weather each day and in each port. The sun shone in Barcelona, it blew in Monte Carlo, it rained and blew in Marseilles, it rained and blew in Livorno and it was nice again in Civitavecchia, Naples and Piraeus. So I saw all the options that were there for the ship to be in. The Prinsendam is a very good sea ship, she is just like a more mature lady; she likes to dance but slowly and that I can deal with that.

The Prinsendam finished a Grand Voyage today that took her all the way into the Black Sea and thus it was a very busy turn over in Fort Lauderdale. A large crew change, lots of stores, bunkering fuel and 1000 and one other small things to be dealt with. Small things that are normally done during shorter cruises, at the end of each cruise, but when cruises are 50 days or longer, many things accumulate until the end of that longer cruise. Thus a hectic day. However as we were not scheduled to sail until 9 pm., there was ample time to get it all done.

A handover between two captains who have been around for a while normally does not have take longer then 3 to 4 hours. End of term reports are discussed, outstanding issues from the previous cruise, urgent issues for the coming cruise and for the Prinsendam, where no cruise is the same as the other, also issues that might arise far in the future. By noon time it was all out of the way and my colleague was on his way to the airport for a well deserved vacation. He will be back on Aug 23rd. to relieve me.

Sail away was a very pleasant affair; with a gentle breeze blowing and Fort Lauderdale lit up against the skyline. We were docked in the port of Port Everglades but as it is surrounded by Fort Lauderdale, most people only talk about Fort Lauderdale. By 21.30 the pilot was off the ship and I lined the ship up in the NE direction of North West Providence channel in order to get to the North Atlantic. We are on our way to the Azores and the weather forecast looks very good. I hope to be able to sail Great Circle courses while on the Atlantic, to save time and fuel, but more about that tomorrow.