- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: HAL History (page 2 of 4)

5 Feb. 2020; Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

And thus after 2 months of leave I joined the ms Veendam in Fort Lauderdale. The night before I stayed in the Hilton Marina which has the advantage that when you wake up in the morning you can see all the ships in the port. And that has the advantage that you can see if your ship is in, and if not you can have a lay in; in the hope that she will show up later in the morning. But she was there, together with the Eurodam, the Oosterdam and a Princess ship so today the whole port was occupied by ships of the “HAL Group” (which is a sub group of the Carnival Corporation and consists out of Holland America, Princess and Seabourn).  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

09 October 2019: Quebec, Canada.

And thus real life started again as I boarded the good ship Zuiderdam yesterday in Quebec. The Zuiderdam is too tall to go under the bridge just north of Quebec and thus cannot make it to Montreal and hence stays 2 days in Quebec. Earlier this year I was on the Zaandam and that ship does fit under but only with normal water levels. At Quebec the St. Lawrence River is still tidal and with high water spring and/or heavy rain fall or melting snow upstream, the water table can also be too high for the R class or even the S class. The Zaandam also had to do a turn over at Quebec in the beginning of this season before the river level dropped sufficiently and the ship could make it to Montreal. For the Zuiderdam there is no option at all and thus the ship stays in Quebec. Not that many people will be complaining as Quebec is one of our highest guest-rated ports. Thus I could board yesterday in Quebec and today the ship was still there as today is turn over day and the ship starts a new voyage. Voyage 693 to be exact. 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

16 July 2019, Ketchikan, Alaska.

Today we are in Ketchikan and this is the Ketchikan I recognize. Drizzle, Rain and Swirling Clouds around the mountains high above the town.  The Westerdam arrived early as we had to drop off a container, and instead of going alongside the berth and getting a flatbed truck onto the dock with a big crane, the ship sailed to the Ketchikan Shipyard and went briefly alongside the fitting out pier and the shipyard crane hoisted the container ashore. And then the captain just sailed the ship astern (backwards) to our regular dock. By 05.30 we were all fast and all the hard workers went back to bed. Sailing a mile or so from the ship yard to the dock with wind and current can be a challenge but Azi-pods ships have so much power that it is not really a challenge. Azi-pod ships are often better in sailing astern than in sailing forward as pulling the ship is often easier than pushing it. Continue reading

15 July 2019:  Inside Passage British Columbia, Canada.

When we left last night we were in quite a hurry as the tide window started around 22.30 hrs. From Lions Gate Bridge to Discovery Pass is 90 Nautical Miles and when passing the bridge at 17.00 hrs. to getting there then gives 5.5 hrs.  90 miles at 20 knots. Is 4.5 hrs. at full speed but the last part, when sailing into Discovery Pass leading up to Seymour Narrows, the speed has to come down to 16 knots and then 10 knots due to traffic and no wake sailing close to the coast. That costs another 30 minutes and you suddenly are looking at less than an hour for any un-expected happenings. And you have to prepare for that as there is a lot of barge traffic in the area and as it is high summer, fishermen both professional and amateurs. Thus while in the open waters of Georgia Strait the Captain let the Westerdam come up to sea speed to build up a little plus and so to ensure that we would be on time. Continue reading

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