- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: ms Amsterdam

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

24 March – 10 April 2020; Panama to Fort Lauderdale.

So I am back on the blog. A blog which I had to stop as things were getting too confused and fast moving for me to relate correctly and with sufficient authority. If you look at the last blogs, I had mentioned already a few times that the company was moving faster than I could record it. Then throw the world stage, with all its politics into the mix, and I did not know any more if I was coming or going. So we stopped.

On 09 April the last guests left the ship, and then ship went into warm lay-up. Healthy guests but a few guests remained on board who could not leave as they could not get home for all the reasons that went with the current situation. Things on board are now returning to a sort of normal, albeit a new normal.

This blog is a compilation of the past period as seen through the eyes of yours truly and as I am not involved in politics (*) there is no opinion about why something happened, just what happened and how the ships made it work.

(*) Maybe Captains should all run for office, each in their respective country, I am absolutely convinced the world would have less issues. Continue reading

20 September 2017, Kodiak Alaska.

It was a dark and chilly arrival this morning when the ms Amsterdam slipped into her berth at Kodiak. We docked right behind a Matson Container ship and that solved the question of where all those Matson containers were coming from, the company has a regular service to some of the Alaskan ports.  It is not meant in a negative way but you can smell Kodiak when you come closer. Right behind the dock which is used for the cruise ships is a Fish Collecting warehouse and the smell of fresh fish was all over the place. I did not sniff any fried or cooked fish, so either there was no fish processing plant or they were not in action during the period we were alongside. Hurrah for that as the smell of cooked and fried fish is very hard to get out of a ship; as the smell tends to cling to anything that is part of the A.C system.

We did not need much A.C today, at least not the cold version, some warm air was much appreciated as it was quite chilly again but we had sunshine and we had a very nice sunrise in bright red behind the ship. I am quite used to beautiful sun rises and sunsets but this was a real good one. My camera did not do justice to it.

It does not look much on camera but it was quite spectacular.

Kodiak is located on Kodiak Island just south of the Kenai Peninsula and just east of that stretch of land which ends up in all those islands called the Aleutians. What is there to do on the island? Plenty of things. A lot centers on wildlife of which there is a plenty, lots of bears, and there are tours by Plane, helicopter or by coach.  There is quite a bit of history from the Russian days including two Museums which are housed in Old Russian buildings. There is even a Maritime Museum which is focused on documenting the history of the fishing industry here.  And last but not least the island has its own Fort; Fort Abercrombie which is located in the local State National Park. It is now in ruins and was constructed in the 2nd world war to stop the Japanese from visiting. There is another Fort of the same name but that one is located in North Dakota as google just advised me. The fort is located in the State National Park and that is the main reason for its significance nowadays.

Kodiak Island located at the most western side of the Gulf of Alaska. Further south it is called the Pacific Ocean again.

I did not see any of this as I was at work deep in the bowels of the ship. The challenge today was to figure out how the builders in Italy had managed to muddle up either the drawing or the way they had built protection around a space in the ship. I blogged about this before during my last contract; but as a recapitulation, when a cruise ship is built, its interior receives special protection, fire insulation around a space depending for what the space is being used. Solas (Safety of Lives at Sea) Legislation recognizes 14 different Categories and each has its own special requirements. If you want to store paint it has to be a category 14, if you want to store just paper then a category 7 is enough. Hallways and staircases which can act as funnels during a fire are a category 2 or 3 and an electric locker with fuse boxes is a category 10. As cruise ships are forever upgraded, these areas are sometimes rebuilt and the right category needs to be adhered to. That normally works out but sometimes the border is a bit blurred. And when not, the crew can also be quite creative in putting things in lockers where it really does not belong.

So Holland America has a program during which the staff Captain or his designee will visit all the spaces on board to see if it is still in compliance. I was today trying to figure out what should be on the checklist so that this inspection can be carried out correctly. The drawing did not help so an extensive inspection was carried out. Turned out that when the space was upgraded a few years ago not all the information had come over and the new drawing did not reflect that.  So all was well in the world and the drawing will be corrected in due course.

As mentioned yesterday, departure time was 14.00 hrs. and the weather decided to follow the forecast today. We are sailing over a very smooth Gulf of Alaska at the moment and it is supposed to stay that way. Winds will increase a little bit to 20 knots but will be blowing with us and will bring some rain. But no bumps are expected in the road thus far. Tomorrow afternoon we will be visiting Hubbard Glacier and we are keeping our fingers crossed for not too much ice so we can get close to the Glacier.

11 September 2017; Seattle USA.

Today real life came back with a vengeance as I joined the good ship ms Amsterdam in Seattle. It was for a change it was not raining in Seattle, a very nice Indian summer day, and even the taxi drivers were in a good mood. I will be on this ship for the next three weeks and after that is still a bit of a question mark as there is a school class in the planning and then I have to go to whichever ship has cabin space. The ms Amsterdam today started her last Alaska cruise of the season going up to Anchorage and coming down again on a 14 day round trip. Then we go into a wet dock for a few days before the ship starts the autumn South Pacific Cruise.  I will be staying on during this wet dock as it gives me the chance to get a lot of required training out of the way with the new crew joining and before the long Pacific cruise starts.  Normally I do not get much of a chance to share what is going on in a wet dock (which is a dry dock without going out of the water) but there is always a lot of interesting things going on and now I can.

The ms Amsterdam is making a 14 day cruise from Seattle up to Alaska. The schedule calls for visiting: Ketchikan followed by scenic cruising Tracy Arm (ice depending), Juneau, Icy Point (just outside Glacier Bay), Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Victoria and then back to Seattle.  As you can see there is no Glacier Bay on this cruise but we go to Hubbard Glacier on the way back.  I am still debating with myself what the better call is, and we will see what that is when we get there.

In command of the ship is Captain Jonathan Mercer who transferred to the ms Amsterdam a number of years ago and is since the Captain who makes the annual world cruise. Which means that with the three on/ three off schedules, it means a number of a number of Alaska cruises as well. His alternating colleague is Captain Fred Everson who will join during the wet dock period and will stay on until the World cruise.

For me this is a scheduled visit to the ship on my regular schedule of what is called the OBTSO. On-board Team Support Officer Visit. If you have read my exploits in the past you will have noticed that it is never the same and this time I will work around the needs of the ship to prepare for wet dock and more importantly to get the ship ready after wet dock. I always compare a wet or dry dock with heart surgery. It is needed, the benefits are great but it takes two months after the surgery to get back to normal again. With a ship we do not have that luxury; we have to perform 110% again the day the wet dock ends and the guests step on board again. So planning and execution is of the utmost importance, taking into consideration that Murphy is a “valued” employee of any dry/wet dock sequence.

Holland America operates three ships from Seattle, The Eurodam on Saturday, the Oosterdam on Sunday and the Amsterdam on Monday departures. Eurodam and Oosterdam are on the 7 day round trip and the Amsterdam does a 14 day round trip. Making it up to Anchorage is hard to do on a 7 day schedule, you need at least 10 days for it, and if doing so you might as well make it 14 days and throw in a few more unusual ports such as Homer and Kodiak. Those ports are totally different again as the ports in S.E Alaska and a large number of guests on board choose this cruise after they have done the 7 day run, either from Seattle or from Vancouver.


So by 16.00 hrs. we sailed away from Smith Cove under sunny skies with temperatures just low enough to not create any bad visibility. The run through Pudget Sound and then to open sea via Strait Juan de Fuca is quite scenic and we might as well enjoy the beauty of it. Tomorrow we will be in the open ocean going around Vancouver Island and the weather looks good. A bit windy and there will be some motion of the North Pacific Ocean but then it is almost the end of the summer season here.