- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: HAL History (page 1 of 3)

2021 Feb. 17; Waiting for Better Times.

Dear Readers,

Here a little update from my side.  I have not posted since July 20 last year as the worldwide situation was so fluid that any update from my side would be old news, before it was uploaded.

I hope that everybody is doing well and adhering to the precautions needed for succeeding in defeating the Covid-19 virus. Here in England vaccination is well on its way and it is now becoming apparent that the continuous spread of the virus is mainly due to not keeping a social distance, wearing a mask and washing your hands.   Not much different as what we were used to in the past when there was a norovirus challenge on the ships. The Covid-19 virus is of course much more aggressive and deadly but the principles of combating it are not much different. Remember when you were on the ships; Sing happy birthday twice when washing your hands with water and soap. If we not all do our little thing, then we will never get the cruise ships going again. Continue reading

19 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 6) … Day 4 without guests.

Another dry and sunny day in Puerto Vallarta and we are still happy alongside the dock. Looking ashore it does not look that the town is overly concerned about what is going on in the rest of the world as there are no cases here, nor any in the direct area. There is some reduction in traffic which has mostly to do I think with the slowdown in Holiday Makers in the area. With the USA in lockdown, people on vacation go home but no new people are coming out. But life goes on while we all keep adapting to the changing circumstances. Change will continue as everybody is in the process of fine tuning with what they can do. It is a bit as if we re-inventing the wheel. Once the realization is there that there is a wheel, then the first version is square, then it becomes round, then somebody puts hard rubber around it, then the air tire comes along and slowly buts steadily the perfect wheel emerges and is put in use. To stay with this metaphor I think we are just in the phase from the square wheel to the round wheel. Continue reading

14 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

We live in a dynamic world and the moment we think all is going (relatively) well, the next thing happens. Last night I had barely posted my daily blog and the message from Stein Kruse came in that the whole fleet was going into a voluntarily lockdown for 30 days at the end of the current cruise. That means that our Noordam and Veendam are already out of service and that other ships are following step by step, when their cruise comes to an end. We, the ms Rotterdam are the exception, for the length of time we will still sail, due to the fact that we are making a Panama Canal cruise and we have to get to the other side. So the plan at the moment is to continue the cruise as scheduled and take it day by day, to see what the Virus is doing, to see what the Medical Profession is advising and to see how the politicians are reacting to it. Luckily the ms Rotterdam is safe and healthy and that is the most important thing. Our crew is sanitizing so much that “the paint is coming off the walls” and nobody has any symptoms or feels ill. Continue reading

25 Feb. 2020; At Sea, Day 2.

Today is our second day at sea and we are now firmly embedded in the Old Bahama Channel between Cuba to the south and the Bahama Bank to the north; and that stopped any swell out there. As a result the ship is now as steady as a rock and we are having a wonderful day at sea. We have a following wind, so there is only a gentle breeze on the deck as the ship is almost traveling at the same speed / velocity that the wind is blowing.  Going this way, we have the current with us, as this is the current that will eventually join the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida. It is given us a push of about 0.7 knots per hour and that translates roughly in an average of a 0.5 knots all the way from St. Thomas to Ft. Lauderdale. Yesterday when we were in the open there was a lot less water current and early tomorrow morning when entering the Gulf Stream there will be a lot more. But a following current saves speed and thus fuel, so our Chief Engineer is a happy camper. Continue reading

23 February 2020; Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas.

St Thomas considers itself the cruise capital of the world, due to the number of cruise ships calling here. But today there was little of that noticeable as we were the only ship in Havensight. For the shop keepers disappointing as the area is geared up to handling 10 000+ guests a day and then only having 1200 is not very exciting. On the other hand you can give some of your shop staff a day off before they roll in again in their thousands.  But at least for us an empty pier worked very well, gangway right across the main gate into town, what else you ask for. Continue reading

14 November 2019; At Sea (day 1)

It took most of the night to get out of the frontal system but by this morning we had a blue sky and a sunny sky. Sun taking over from the miserable grey day on departure.  And a very breezy departure it was as the middle of the frontal system was just laying over Port Everglades when it was time for the cruise ships to sail.  The Veendam used two tugboats as the wind went well over the 26 knots that she can handle on the thrusters but also because she was docked nose in and thus had to swing around in the basin and that would have made it all very marginal. The Koningsdam has much more power and she did not have to turn. Only had to make a 90o turn to starboard. Plus she had the advantage that if the wind would get too strong then it would always be possible to make a soft landing against pier 24/23. So we sailed without tugboats and even with the wind breezing up to 35 knots on occasion the captain could easily hold the ship in the middle of the fairway. Continue reading

06 November 2019; At Sea (Day 1)

I always love it when the weather follows the weather forecast as we then do not look so stupid if things do not happen the way we announced it. But it took about an hour to sail clear of Madeira as it is quite a big and long island and then indeed the ship started to move again as predicted. Also as predicted during the course of this morning the seas abated, the wind changed direction and the movement of the ship got less pronounced. By lunch time there was only an occasional twist to remind us that we are still at sea. And even that got less in the course of the afternoon. Now we are looking forward to a number of nice and quiet sea days and our only concern is that in two or three days Cape Hatteras will churn out a new depression and if that happens and it goes a bit to the south then our last day we might see some choppy seas again. On the other hand, most of that day we will be in the lee of the Bahamian Islands so we should be all right. 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

01 November 2019: At Sea.

To get to our first port of call on the straightest route possible we have two obstacles in the way, called the islands of Corsica (Corse) and Sardinia. But as they are islands there is water in between and that water is wide enough to sail through. It is called Boniface Strait or the Strait of Bonifacio. The old romans called it Fretum Gallicum and this translates in something like the Wild Waters of the Gaul’s. In the word Fretum we can recognize our English word of fretting or worrying about something. And that is a good word for this area as it can be a very nasty place. Strait Bonifacio which connects the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Western Mediterranean Sea can throw anything at a sailor that he/she does not like. It can blow a (local) gale here, it is full of shallows and nasty rocks, the currents are un-predictable and there is an almost 90o turn to make when going through the Strait. Therefore there is a pilot service available for those ships who do not have the most sophisticated navigation equipment on board and for oil tankers it is compulsory to take a pilot.   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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