- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: HAL History (page 2 of 4)

08 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

By 06.30 we entered the Bahia de Banderas at which inner end Puerto Vallarta is located. Being located at the end of the bay is really very nice, as the town thus misses the brunt of the storms that come by during the hurricane season. Only, on the rare occasion that a hurricane turns into the bay, is there a real problem but that is seldom.  In the good old days Puerto Vallarta was a sleepy fishing village frequented by celebrities and made famous by some movies. It is understandable that famous people liked this place as it is not as hot, hot in as further south and if you still find it too hot, you drive up the mountain and it is nice and cool. 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

22 February 2020; San Juan, Puerto Rico.

San Juan is blessed with one of the best and largest natural harbors in the Caribbean. Hence the very apt name, Puerto Rico = Rich port. The Spanish were quite quick to realize its potential and built very quickly a large fortress – Morro Castle- at the entrance to the port / bay to keep the enemy out. They did something similar at Cartagena, a port with again a narrow entrance (Boca Chica) and a very large bay and sheltered harbor behind it.  So this morning when we sailed into San Juan we did so while sliding past the guns of the castle looming high above us. Guns so close that it would have been impossible to miss us if they would have gone off. The fortress proved so strong that neither the Dutch, nor the French, nor the British could get at it. Continue reading

20 Feb. 2020; At Sea.

Regular Caribbean Sea weather to day. Although we are in the North Atlantic Ocean, this area is fully under the influence of the Trade Winds, which also dictate the weather in the Caribbean Sea, so there is really no difference. They decided to name the Caribbean Sea, the Caribbean Sea because it is enclosed all the way around with Caribbean islands. Starting with Trinidad and going up all the way to the Western Tip of Cuba. I just wonder how history would have treated the area if Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Cuba would have been missing and there would have been a completely open area all the way up to Freeport? Would it have been the Greater Bahamian Sea or the Gulf of Jamaica? Who knows, the naming of locations do not always make sense. Columbus discovered the America’s but we have called the America’s after Amerigo Vespucci who came sometime later. (Although while Columbus thought he was also in India, Amerigo was the first who proved that North and South America where not part of Asia) Continue reading

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

Older posts Newer posts