- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Europe (page 1 of 3)

04 November 2019: At Sea.

By 3 am the ship started to move and a bit more than expected. Apart from the rim of the weather system having dipped down further, earlier than expected, the regular ocean swell was also bit higher and short than expected. Still the ship did not move as much as it could have been and we were skirting the rim of the wave area running ahead of the weather front destined for the Bay of Biscay. While the wind died down this morning the swell remained, although slightly less than during the night and thus we have our first real sea day of the crossing. Wave and swell combined is just reaching the 4 meters or 12+ feet and that is just above the height that makes a quiet ship but also under height that makes a very lively ship.  After Madeira, about 12 hrs. after departure it should really calm down for the remainder of the crossing. The Captain is thinking about taking the Rhumb Line route instead of the Great Circle to stay as far to the south as possible. More about that in the coming days. Continue reading

03 November 2019; Malaga, Spain

It is only an odd 90 miles from Cartagena to Malaga and we followed the Spanish coast line travelling westbound while doing so. Hugging the

Traffic flows in the Wed Med. Although this area has its own name and is called the Alboran Sea.

coast does not really work here as the Spanish have created a Vessel Traffic Separation Scheme more than 12 miles out of the coast at Cape or Cabo de Gata. Here the shipping route make a 45o turn and in the past ships cut the corner as much as they could with the danger of collisions, followed by groundings or oil spills or both. So all shipping that is not approaching a port nearby, has to sail out into deep water and follow the Traffic Scheme. And has to report in to Gaita traffic to advise what they are doing and why. It saves accidents, it saves pollution and thus I am all for it. As a result ships are following established routes that keep them away from the main land.   And then by 0600 this morning, the Koningsdam made a 90o turn to the North and sailed into Malaga. The port is a sort of inner bay, most of it man made and of a North – South aspect. Hence the 90o turn. Continue reading

02 November 2019; Cartagena, Spain.

02 November 2019; Cartagena, Spain.

Holland America used to come here in the 60’s and 70’s and then it suddenly stopped. With the fleet going down to four ships in the 1980’s focus was on the short cruises around North America and we abandoned Europe for a while. Even with the yearly world cruise of the ss Rotterdam, Cartagena was not in much of a focus while there is a lot of things to do in this area. The first call again was in 2001 with the Noordam (III) with yours truly at the helm and then HAL re-established Cartagena as a regular port of call. By now we had 8 ships more and thus Europe cruises were possible due to the extra capacity. And since then we have been calling here on a regular basis. It is a very popular port for the captains as well as the port is sheltered from every side except the port entrance but the docking basin is fully protected by a breakwater and thus an excellent port for a safe docking and also messing around with lifeboats. 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

30 June 2019; At Sea, Final Prinsendam Cruise day.

Today we are sailing in the North Sea and are on our way home to Amsterdam. This is our final port of destination and the end of the final cruise of the ms Prinsendam. Voyage 307 will come to an end and with it 17 years of cruising under the Holland America Line banner.  All guests and 270+ of the crew will disembark but a small skeleton crew will sail her to Hamburg. There she will be handed over in Dry dock after the new owner has checked if all the propellers are still there. The last of the crew will then leave on the 7th. of July.  The ship will receive an extensive refit and come back into service in August. Not too much will change. The Casino will go out and be replaced by 10 new Guest Cabins and the Explorers Lounge will receive a new bar area. Continue reading

28 June 2019: Flam, Norway.

Yesterday we sailed from Geiranger around 16.00 hrs. and made a 360o swing stop at the Seven Sisters waterfall on the way out. As part of the goodbye celebrations for the ship, the company had arranged for a deck party with complimentary drinks. So the deck area around the Lido Pool was packed with guests enjoying snacks such as Dutch Bitterballen and Indonesian Sate and free drinks.

Party on deck with all the flags out, drinks, bitterballen and above it all the Seven Sisters Waterfall

With the ships officers and (guest) entertainers circulating among the guests a good time was had by all while watching the impressive scenery. It was a bit strange for me as I was always on the bridge when we were here but now being a guest entertainer for this cruise, my place was in the bar. I did not need much time to adapt myself fully to the new circumstances…………………. Continue reading

27 June 2019; Geiranger, Geiranger Fjord Norway.

By 07.00 hrs. the ms Prinsendam was at anchor and commenced tender operations. Geiranger does not have docks, except for the small local ferries which maintain a regular ferry service inside the fjord. You can drive all around the fjord, sometimes along the fjord, sometimes high up over the mountains but it takes a lot longer than rolling your car on the ferry. I do not know if it is cheaper to do so but it certainly is quicker as long as the ferry timings connect with your personal schedule I suppose.  There are several anchorages available and today all but one were occupied. There is also one mooring location on the buoys very close to town and that is normally reserved for ships willing to pay and use the Sea Walk. This is a floating bridge system (The Sea-Walk) which abolishes the need of running tenders. It is a beautiful solution for the very large ships but there is a price to pay. Today the MSC Poesia was on these buoys and she was also the largest ship in the port with an on board capacity of 2550 lower beds or a maximum of 3013 when all beds are full.   Continue reading

26 June 2019; At Sea.

Today we are sailing Southbound in the Norwegian Sea. And the weather is not too good but also not too bad. With not too good I mean that for the time of the year it could be full summer in this area with sunny skies and warmer temperatures and that is not the case but it is also not too bad as we do not have storm and a bouncing ship. We have some (cold) wind and some waves but apart from a gentle movement at times the ms Prinsendam is as steady as a rock. And thus we have nothing to complain about.

Geiranger Fjord. We will follow the dotted line all the way to the end. Geiranger pilot station both serves Alesund and the rest of the fjord.

Due to angle of the coast, the Prinsendam stays far offshore and will eventually come closer to the coast again when getting near Geiranger Fjord pilot station. That will be 2 am in the morning and then it is another 60 NM. to the end of the fjord. As we cannot race with 20 knots full sea speed through the fjord it will take much more than two hours to get to the end and thus we expect to be at the anchorage position around 07.00 hrs. Continue reading

22 June 2019: Norwegian Sea.

Today is our sea day to get to the North Cape and Honnigsvag. The weather followed the weather forecast and it was nice, quiet and dry for most of the day. In the afternoon we got a bit of motion of the ocean courtesy to a weather front behind us which is creating some waves but the Prinsendam is a good surfer and thus the dis-comfort is very minimal. We are on average sailing a distance 12 miles from the shore. Partly because the dotted line between the pilot station of Trondheim and where we go around the corner of the North Cape makes it so, but also partly to stay out of coastal waters.  There is the 3 mile zone (full territorial waters) and we try to stay out to avoid the local rules; and there is the , 12 mile zone, where we stay out of if possible as here the international regulations might vary from country to country. The latter can be quite complicated and brings headaches to every captain. IMO (International Maritime Organization) sets the standards that are approved by every member. But the regulations are allowed to be “amended by the local administration”. So a measure of a Liter of paint in Europe might be a Gallon of paint in North America, and a Jin in China. To avoid going mad and/ or making mistakes we try to plan our courses outside the 12 NM. Continue reading

20 June 2019: Alesund, Norway.

Alesund is one of the better ports in Norway at least from a Navigators perspective. It is sheltered from most winds, it has nice docks, we dock with the gangway in downtown and downtown is worthwhile to visit. Most of it is constructed in German Jungendstil style or related to it after a big fire they had here a long time ago.  There are some other good ports as far as shelter or docks or downtown distance is concerned but there are not that many Norwegian ports that have it all together. You might think about Oslo but this port is located at the end of Oslo fjord which is so wide that the wind can still blow the ship all over the place or keep it pinned to the dock. So Alesund is very highly rated on the list of ports that come closest to a Cruise Captains dream of having the best of all. And I fully agree as it even has a Big Red Bus for hop on hop off and for an initial exploration of a city it is one of the best ways to go. Holland America also recognizes that and nowadays you can buy the tickets on board. Continue reading

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