- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: HAL History (page 2 of 3)

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

25 July 2019: Juneau, Alaska.

Another day, another port and today that port was Juneau Alaska. Capital of the Alaskan State and also the shopping capital for the cruise ships. Although Skagway is trying very hard to beat them, they still do not succeed as Juneau has more/bigger ships in port and for a longer time. Although that was not the case today. The Franklin dock was vacant in the morning but was filled in the early afternoon by the Carnival Legend but then the Norwegian Jewel who was there in the morning left as soon as the Legend had lined up at her berth. As both ships are about the same size, the amount of shoppers in town remained about the same. Behind us was the Celebrity Eclipse and that made the Westerdam the smallest cruise ship in the port. The sort of thing that can you give you an inferiority complex but then we were the only “blue boat” in port and thus the whole world could see that we were different. Continue reading

22 March 2019: At Sea, 2nd day.

With the sedate speed of 15 knots are we sailing through the Caribbean Sea. The weather is following the weather forecast and that is appreciated by everybody. We expect that the Trade Wind will start to re-establish itself this evening and through out the night and with it the swell. But by tomorrow morning 05.30 we will be slipping inside the entrance of Boca Chica, the large inland water area where at the far North East the port of Cartagena is located. As explained in previous blogs, it takes about 90 minutes from pilot to gangway out and thus the captain is aiming to have the pilot on board at 05.30 hrs.  The ships average speed has been set up for this as arriving earlier has not much use. If we put the pedal to the metal we could be there my midnight but what then. Continue reading

16 March 2019: At Sea.

Well, the weather system moved towards us quite rapidly and created a bumpy ride during the night. It also brought enough wind on the starboard side of the ship (As with Trade winds strong or weak it all comes from the East and we are going north) that he captain gave the orders to close off the outside decks on the starboard side. The reason that we are doing this is not so much that guests cannot walk or stand against the wind but because of the angles of the wind. You have to push hard to get the wooden doors to the open decks open against the wind. Not all guests are good at that. But then you have to step through and that is when a lot of guests run into problems. While stepping through the door normally moves a little bit and then it gets the full blow of the wind with a varying angle. And that full blow is then of a different force (due to the angle of the door) than when you started pushing the door open. Guests often do not realize that and with a bit of bad luck the door slams shut again. With or without a part of a guest in between……………………. Continue reading

13 March 2019: At Sea.

It is about 500 miles from Punta Arenas to the Panama Canal and that is too much to do during one night. So we have a relaxing day at sea with nice weather and a little bit of following wind which blows along the ship towards the bow. It gives the positive effect (at least for the Bo ‘sun) that the birds cannot land on the forward light mast as the flow is wrong. They keep trying it but time and time again they have to abort as they cannot take in their wings while landing. If they do that, then the lift they normally still have, when going against the wind, is gone at once as it does not push against the feathers but just glances over it and under it. For the bridge team it brings a bit of diversion as the acrobatics are sometimes quite comical. What does amaze us all is that the birds do not seem to remember what happened to them 30 seconds ago. They take off after an aborted landing, swerve out to open sea, and about 30 seconds there comes the new attempt. Which is then aborted again as the wind had not changed. And so it went on and on all day. Continue reading

2019 March 08; At Sea.

We are now halfway and have just passed Acapulco. Then this evening we will pass Huatalco followed by the crossing of the Golfo de Tehuantepec. Then by tomorrow morning we will be in Puerto Chiapas. With a wonderful day at sea, low swell, following wind and lots of sunshine, pace on board slowed down considerably and guests were charging their batteries for the two coming ports of Puerto Chiapas in Mexico and Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. Both ports in the itinerary because of the tours to Maya Ruins, Tropical Forests and old towns. Continue reading

27 Feb. 2019: Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Being on a cruise ship has some advantages that guests do not always realize. One of them is having preference of arrival in Port Everglades. Today was a busy day for the port with container ships going in and going out. They have to be scheduled for non-cruise ship days, which are normally the weekends, as the cruise ships also dock at the container friendly docks.  But these ships have to wait when a cruise ship is arriving. So the captain of a cruise ship sends his ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) to the port agent and the harbor master and if the timing is not too outrageous, then he gets it. If a poor cargo ship captain wants the same time, then he will have to wait or come earlier. Continue reading

19 Feb. 2019: At Sea

Yesterday I ended my blog with the remark that this cruise was not POSH. That does not just apply to this cruise, but basically to all cruises, unless you are on a world cruise which only travels one way.  POSH comes from the old days of the British Empire, when company’s such as P & O Lines maintained regular liner services to the colonies in the Far East. P & O still exists as  P & O Cruises but the British Empire is long gone.  In the heydays of this travel between the colonies there was no air conditioning on board and even worse, many of the ships had a black hull. Continue reading

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