- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Destinations (page 1 of 4)

30 November 2019: Key West, Florida, USA.

Promptly on time the Nieuw Statendam arrived at the Key West Pilot station at 06.30 in the morning. We had an hour back last night, and by 06.30 when the Lido opened, the place as already heaving. So there was great interest in, first in the food and then the sailing in. Quite a few people had forgot to set their clocks back; with one lady complaining why we had to go to “funny time” and then back again to normal time. Well if Caribbean Time is “funny” time then I wonder what she would make of West European time, which is 4 hrs. more “funnier” than Caribbean time, plus that we do not do am. & pm. But run the 24 hrs. Clock. Which the States calls Navy Time. But at least it meant that everybody was up and about for CBP immigration inspection which everybody had to see, including my good self as I am that most complicated of person who is a crew member but travels on a “Guest” visa. So I had to show my face to the CBP officer, to make sure that my face belonged to a passport and that the passport belonged to me.  Once that was done all was well in the world. Continue reading

29 November 2019; At Sea.

Thus we sailed to day through “Cruise ship alley” or the Old Bahama channel. The water way above Cuba which is taken by the cruise ships from Miami if they go to the East Caribbean.  It is nice and sheltered, being protected by Cuba to the south and the Bahama Banks to the North. Those Bahama banks we did not see today, the reefs, cays and sandbanks are too low to poke above the horizon. We did see Cuba though as it has a high mountain range and we had with sunrise the sun shining straight on it. That works extremely well when we are going the way we are going today. Sailing North West and thus having Sun, Wind and Sea going with us while doing so. The ship was doing about 19 knots on the engine and 20 knots over the ground, courtesy of a 1 knot current behind us. A following current that will become part of the Gulf Stream once the water reaches the Straits of Florida. Continue reading

28 November 2019; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.

Amber Cove has slightly different weather than ports which are at the west side (lee side) of an island and of the Trade Winds.  Amber Cove is located at the North side of the Dominican Republic and is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides. This means that rain showers which develop overnight in this area and then pull away in the morning due to warming up do not do that here. A rain cloud is just a bit of vapor which expands and contracts. When it expands (surrounding temperature goes up), it can take in more fluid or moisture, when it contracts (surrounding temperature goes down) then it becomes over saturated and will release water until everything is back in balance. So during the night clouds can gather and densify as the vapor gets more concentrated and thus we can often see bands of rains clouds when the sun rises. Later in the day they are then completely gone because the air is warming up and the vapor can spread out. Continue reading

27 November 2019: Grand Turk Island, Turks & Caicos Islands.

Last week I had to moan and groan about the weather guru’s in the area of St. Thomas who did not have a clue what they were doing but in this area the forecast was spot on. The sun quickly burned all the early morning clouds away and it was a warm and sunny day. Both: Very Warm and Very Sunny. We were the only ship in port today as the dock can take two cruise ships. Even if two mega liners are in and offload 4000 guests each then the resort can take it quite well although it is full then. Today with only 2500 from our Nieuw Statendam there was oodles of space everywhere and even the shuttle bus system to Cock burn town could cope with the traffic.  Cockburn town is about 1.5 miles away and although you can easily walk it, it is not a pleasant walk in the burning sun. I wished all the sun worshipers the very best but I stayed happily inside in the A.C. Most guests only went for a few hours, either in the morning or in the afternoon and long flows of family’s (in various states of “happiness”) came back between 1300 and 1400 hrs. It is going to be mayhem later on at the Dive-Inn, New York Pizza and the Ice cream stand. Continue reading

26 November 2019; At Sea.

The only way to get to Grand Turk (and arrive on time) is to sail above the Bahama Bank and then downwards. You can go the other way as well, staying in the shelter of the reefs, banks and Cays against the North Atlantic swell, but it is quite a few hours more steaming. But the weather is beautiful today, the sun is shining with a gentle breeze and there is only a very low swelling running from the North East. All under 8 feet and thus the Nieuw Statendam is ploughing through the ocean as steady as a rock. We are looking at a regular and nice 7 day Caribbean vacation cruise. Continue reading

25 Nov. 2019; Fort Lauderdale / Half Moon Cay, North America.

And thus I transferred from the KODM to the NSDM to use company speak. (All our ships have an abbreviation to which all our company communication is identified by)  And I did this in the simplest way possible, I pulled my suitcases across the street. Exiting from the KODM via guest exit as for CBP I am a Visa – person when entering the country and entering via the crew access of the NSDM because when boarding a new ship I am a crewmember. Luckily I only had to cross one street as with all those big ships in, it was controlled mayhem everywhere. I am amazed every time how well things run and how well the Broward Sheriff’s department has things under control. As not every law abiding citizen is a law abiding citizen if there is no police around. Certainly not when having to wait at a street crossing. Plus the companies are adding so many more features and support options to the cruise that you stumble over suitcases, tour group leaders and other entities attached to post cruise activities that we never had before. So while they built the terminals as best as they could, leave it to the cruise ship companies to ensure that the “ample space” in the mind of the designer is quickly turned into “you cannot stand here, the place is full”.  And then an agitated clipboard holder is pushed further down the street.

The good ship Nieuw Statendam is identical to the Koningsdam except for the art inside the ship. That makes it easy to find your way around as soon as you are used to the Pinnacle Class. This class is considerably different in setup and lay out than the S-class, R-class, Vista and Signature Class which are all a logical evolution of the class that was constructed before. In the operational side (read below decks) the layup is quite similar to the Signature class  but the guest areas are completely different, even if the Lido is in the same location. (Deck 9 around the funnel) So this time I did not need my day of re-adjustment and getting used to the fact that peoples offices were somewhere completely different than on the ship that I visited before. The only thing that is different, and therefore there was no blog yesterday, is that each ship has its own internet system with firewall and access codes, so before I am re-connected to the outside world again I have to go the I.T officer and who then makes sure that my laptop can talk to the main frame again.

Captain Sybe de Boer. First Master of the ms Nieuw Statendam

The Nieuw Statendam is making 7 day cruises which vary a little bit each cruise. This cruise we do Ft. Lauderdale – Half Moon Cay – Grand Turk – Amber Cove – Key West – Fort Lauderdale. Then next cruise it will be Grand Turk – San Juan, Charlotte Amalie – Half Moon Cay – Ft Lauderdale. Then the 3rd cruise (which is the last cruise that I am on board) goes to: Half Moon Cay – Falmouth – Georgetown Grand Cayman – Cozumel and back to Ft. Lauderdale.

The Master of the vessel is Captain Sybe de Boer who also was the captain who brought the ship into service in December last year. The ship is now on cruise 44 and has been running full all the time with very good ratings and so he is a happy Captain. He will remain with the ship until 8 December and will then go on leave.

Fort Lauderdale was a bit of a miserable day as a weather front come over during the day with rain at times. But that also kept the temperatures down during change over day and that is not a bad thing. Today in Half Moon Cay the weather was perfect. Well almost perfect as we could not anchor but had to drift. With the Koningsdam two days ago we had a gentle breeze from the North East, blowing the ship away from the island and the captain could drop the hook and the ship was safely behind anchor all day.

The ship arrives, the Half Moon Cay fleet comes racing out to take 2600 exited beach guests to the island. From left to right: Half Moon Clipper for picking up today’s supplies for the stay and then the guest tenders Henry Hudson and Anne Bonny

But due to the weather front passing through, the wind had turned to the South West, blowing the ship towards the island, and thus the ship stayed “on the engines”. If you anchor with a South Westerly wind, however gentle that wind might be, the ship will wing around it and eventually land on the beach to become a hotel. More or less permanently. That is not the function of a cruise ship and thus the ship stayed on the engines and maintained position by hooking the propulsion system up to the GPS and the computer ensured that the ship stayed where it was told to stay. The navigator then just monitors the situation to see if the computer does a good job. That is quite a boring thing to do so on occasion the navigators will switch to manual and operate thrusters and Azipods by hand to achieve the same thing.  Guests do not notice that, they only see the ship sitting in the same position all day, with occasionally ripples in the water when Azipods and bow thrusters give the ship a nudge in the right direction so it stays where it is supposed to stay.

Now we will sail north of the Bahama bank toward the Grand Turk and Caicos Islands where we will be the day after tomorrow. The weather forecast looks very good. Only gentle clouds in the sky and for the rest sunshine. Cape Hatteras has decided to send the next storm directly to the North East so the connected wave field will not bother us. Good start of the cruise.

This afternoon satellite infra red picture. Only rain in the center of the Caribbean Sea. (Courtesy to Weather Underground)


19 November 2019; Castries, St. Lucia.

We were told that we were the only ship in Castries but it turned out that there was a second one, a small one, the Hamburg. This is an expedition ship sailing for the German Market. Although everybody can book on it, but it is sort of important that you speak German. With 15,000 tons and 420 guests she started out life as the Columbus C for the German company Hapag-Lloyd in the 5 and 6 star segment. Now she is owned by an investment company and chartered by a company called Plantours. Because of her small size she can get to a lot of places other ships cannot including sailing via the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes and the Corinth Canal.  The pilot parked her downtown thus leaving space for a cargo ship to come in as well. (And to please the shop keepers at the cruise terminals of course) Continue reading

18 November 2019; Bridgetown Barbados

It is a slow run from Martinique as it is a mere distance of 120 NM. To be covered in 12 hrs. So 10 miles an hour. Good for the fuel and good for the way the ship rides the waves. Tonight we will have an even shorter distance to cover as it is 110 nautical miles from Barbados to Castries 97 NM.  as the crow flies but we have to sail around the South point and up the coast as Castries is on the west side of the island. Again a good speed, as with 10 knots the stabilizers are still effective and the ship can gently ride the North Atlantic swell that is running here. Normally to keep that 10 knots we make a wide loop once inside the Caribbean Sea again and then approach Castries from the West. Continue reading

26,27,28 October 2019; Valletta, Malta.

To my utter amazement all went well with the flights and even my luggage arrived which was no mean feat as, although there was code sharing, it involved three airlines and a change over time of only one hour in Madrid. But by 4 pm. I was happily ensconced in my boutique hotel La Falconeria or the Falcons Cage after having been picked up by our agent in Malta. That was about the only part of my travel that I did not worry about as the Malta agent, together with the one in Copenhagen, have the highest ratings among the captains in the fleet. But the layover of 2 days gave ample opportunity to get over my jet lag, clear up all my administrative paperwork, and even see some of the sights as well. A number of years ago my wife and I spent a week in Malta so I rode all the bus routes of the island while she got pampered with all sorts of Spa activities which I did not even try to comprehend. So Malta is not unknown to me but I had still two things on my bucket list. Continue reading

17 October 2019; New York, USA.

We had a bit of a bumpy night and a slightly moving ship. What “slightly” was depended on the view of the guests as some spoke of a heavy storm and some dismissed it as an occasional “bump”. I have been assigned a cabin above the Azipods this time and the only thing I had to do was to move the coat hangers in the closet as they rattled on occasion. That is not a regular ships noise and thus it will wake me up. We did have quite a bit of wind during the night with gusts to over 60 knots but as we were heading into the first arrival of the storm, the storm had not been able to generate very high waves and thus the ship did not provide the roller coaster ride, something some guests had been afraid of. Continue reading

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