- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: ms Oosterdam (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

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

08 July 2018; Kerkira, Corfu, Greece.

After a very windy departure the ship sailed north along the coast of the Peloponnesus towards the next island in the Ionian Sea, Kerkira. An island that is separated from the big island by a strait which is called the Steno Kerkiras. Kerkira lies on the east side of the island in the sort of curved bay. Thus a sheltered port except when the Etesian winds blow. Today they arrived late and they were not that strong at least when compared with yesterday. The port has a U shaped pier setup with the Left leg and the top part of the U being used by ferries and the outer leg by cruise ships. The docks were constructed sometime in the past and now most docks are either too short or “just fit” for the average size cruise ships of today. We were in port together with the Costa NeoReviera which was originally owned by the now defunct cruise company Festival Cruises.

The approach from the south. Corfu is also North to south located so the predominant wind blows straight down the Steno Kerkiras. the island acts as a funnel and things can become quite unhappy then. Today it was not too bad.

Because the U of the port is quite large there was a shuttle bus running from the port gate to both ships as we were docked all the way at the end of the U. although there is an airport, which sees over 2 ml. guests a year, mainly package holiday tourists, a large number of locals and visitors use the local ferry system to get to the other side or to the other islands. Hence the plethora of ferries, large and small, in the port. Transport with these ferries is fairly cheap and once you have figured out the Greek system of announcing/posting the various routes, and where on the dock the ferry is parked (which sometimes involves quite a lot of asking) you can travel all over Greece with their ferry system, including the islands far off the beaten track.

The ferry part of Kerkira. The 2nd boat on the right is one of the “fast cigars” or hydrofoils. This is a quiet moment as some ferries had already left for their day crossing to somewhere else.

Of all that floats as a ferry, what stands out most among them are the Russian Hydrofoils or “fast cigars” as I heard somebody calling them. For a while they were made in large numbers in Russia and were exported to countries close to the USSR. The Greeks seemed to have liked them a lot for the pure pedestrian traffic as there is no space for anything on board but hand bags and suitcases. They never came much further west than Greece but since some time we have had a few in the Netherlands where they run a Water Taxi system to Rotterdam Central for commuters. They are/were quite popular by those using them but not so much by those around as the wake produced would make the boats and yachts laid up along the route wobble considerably. The plan was to replace them with “less wobbly” options so they might be gone again. But there in Greece they are still everywhere to be seen.

300 days at sea. Not bad for a dog. Many a regular cruiser does not get that high in the HAL Mariner Society.

For those who cruise, know that every ship has a “Wall of Fame” where First Port Call plaques are put on display. Some are a bit naff but some are almost pieces or art and very nice to look at. The Oosterdam has a very usual one; one to commemorate a blind dog who in 2017 reached  300 days with Holland America. And counting as I recently met dog Joska (and the owners attached to it) on the ms Rotterdam in April 2018. Guide and Service Dogs are held in high esteem by us and most Captains recognize them with also issuing a medal for the dog.

The good old days. Captain Leo van Lanschot Hubrecht, Hotel Manager J.J Scheringa, dog and owner, elevated to Grand Mariner. This was before we went to medals with 100, 300, 500 and 700 days.

My records show that (most likely) the first medal/certificate issued to a blind dog was in 1992 on board the ss Rotterdam by Captain Leo van Lanschot Hubrecht. I have kept that tradition going on my ships and as most current captains have sailed with me one time or the other in the past before they became captain, they are now also continuing that tradition. But it is the first time that a HAL ship was offered a Plate to commemorate this event.

We sail from here to Kotor in Montenegro and that brings us back to the Central European Time Zone and thus tonight we go one hour back. Good planning as the sailing into Kotor is very scenic with a very narrow passage before entering a fjord or lake and then nearing the old town of Kotor which lies at the end, partly on the flat, partly against the hill. So guests can have a good nights rest and be up and about early to see the scenery.

Weather for tomorrow: 27oC / 81oF mostly overcast with a chance of showers.

15 Dec. 2016; At Sea on the way to Tampa.

Well, somebody in Seattle office must be reading my blog as suddenly Bing Crosby’s White Christmas was heard in the ship, but only in the Atrium. Some of my dear blog readers currently on board had made a “sound inspection” of all the public areas where there is Christmas music and since 2 days Bing is there. Our music does not come from CD’s but is digitally transmitted to the ship so a new file must have arrived. Now we just have to wait for the snow to fall on the ship and then we are not dreaming anymore.

The good ship ms Oosterdam is sailing today between Costa Maya and Tampa and that means that last night we sailed through the Yucatan Channel, this morning we crossed the Straits of Florida and now we are in the Gulf of Mexico heading on a East North Easterly course to the Tampa sea-buoy were we will arrive in the early morning for the 4 hour transit to the dock. The weather has been great today with the sun shining and no wind until we came north of the Florida Keys. No we have a force 4 blowing and that is normal for the time of the year.

The Oosterdam received during her last dry dock also the upgrade of interactive TV and now you can follow the whole route nicely on the screen with constantly updated navigational and weather info. While I am writing this I see on the screen that our course is 023o and our speed 15 knots. We have a humidity of 76% with a temperature of 80oF / 27oC. And the weather prediction for Tampa is partly cloudy and a very warm day again, basically the same as today.

This is going to be interesting for me as I will be leaving the ship tomorrow. This time it was nearly six weeks onboard while I normally stay for three weeks. But my school class fell through and as there was sufficient work to-do here, it became nearly six weeks and they have gone very fast. Today is my last day and all my work is done apart from sending of my final bye – bye email and packing my suitcase. Then I have the peculiar flight of going from Tampa to Toronto and from there to Amsterdam and then doubling back to England. So I am going from 80oF / 27oC in Tampa to 23oF / -5oC in Toronto to 46oF / 08oC in Amsterdam.  My hometown is located straight across from Holland so there the temperature is the same. It seems that everybody is trying to fly early for the holidays and therefore it is difficult to get more straight flights. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for fast immigration in Toronto and no weather delays so I can make my connecting flight.

Then vacation starts with being at home for the Holidays. This summer I mentioned that my focus was then on scaffolding with outside/roof maintenance of the building in which our apartment is located. The last installment of that roof maintenance will commence in May but for my winter leave the focus is on the upgrading of the 5 lifts in the building which are now 20 years old. That is going to be quite costly so I will be busy with trying to get the best value for money. Luckily the ships electricians have told me a few things to look at and to take into consideration so I am well prepared.

I am not dreaming of a white christmas but of setting it all up. Decorating trees and setting the table is my job as part of the Christmas celebrations.

I am not dreaming of a White Christmas but of setting it all up. Decorating trees and setting the table is my job as part of the Christmas celebrations.

That brings me to ending my last blog of this period. I have uploaded my tentative schedule for next year but there might be some changes even before I end my vacation. I hope to continue uploading historical material as I try to add a few things every time I am at home.

I would like to say thank you to all my readers who are (still) willing to keep up with my daily ramblings and observations. I like writing the blog and I hope you like reading it.

Happy Holidays to all on behalf of myself and my wife Lesley who always keeps a close eye on what I do and how I do it.

14 Dec. 2016; Costa Maya, Mexico.

We had a good day to day in Costa Maya, a day we shared with another 6000 guests coming from the Norwegian Jade and the Rhapsody of the Seas. All the 3 berths were full and we were once again on berth 3 which gives the shortest distance from gangway to the resort itself. On arrival there was little wind and that gave a head start as during the day the normal trade wind picked up under the influence of the sun. This wind builds up waves and those waves make the ship rock alongside the dock and if the ships movement becomes too much the ropes start breaking.  If you arrive with very little wind, then the buildup of waves has to start from scratch and by the time you leave (for us at 15.00 hrs.) the waves are not that high yet and thus the ships are not moving so much yet. During our last call, there was a weather front coming through and the last 4 hours of our call the captain had to put the thrusters and Azipods on to glue the Oosterdam alongside and reduce the strain on the ropes. Today it was a lot better. Also the Oosterdam was half hidden behind the other two ships and that helped as well.

View from the shore side of Coata Maya Pier. the ms Oosterdam was docked where the ships with the stern towards us.

View from the shore side of Costa Maya Pier. The ms Oosterdam was docked where the ship is with the stern towards us. (Photo Courtesy, Costa Maya Tours)

I am always greatly concerned about breaking ropes, especially at the bow as they run under various angles to the bollards ashore. If they snap, they can whip over the dock. Hence the bow area is roped off and local security is very good in stopping guests, who cannot resist the urge to take a bow shot, from scooting under the ropes of the no-go area.   For the aft ropes there is less of an issue as they are all under 90 angles. When those break, they break on the edge of the chock where they go inboard and then the the breaking force settles on the piece which is inboard and the outboard part falls in the water. Hence we can let guests walk on the pier along the ship to the resort.

The cruise terminal is fr far out from the main land and a shuttle service is in place over this long bridge to an artificial island with the cruise terminal.

Progresso. The cruise terminal is far out from the main land and a shuttle service is in place over this long bridge to an artificial island with the cruise terminal.

Although Costa Maya is an artificial port, conceived and built purely for cruise ship tourism, its location makes sense from a strategic point of view. There is nothing else in the area. The next three cruise ship ports, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Progresso are more than a 100 miles to the north. Cozumel is often full, Progresso has a long channel in and a very long pier to walk over as the area is shallow. Playa Del Carmen suffers from wind and current. It is not really Playa del Carmen itself but Calica a few miles to the south. Calica means gravel pit and that is what it is, a bulk carrier port for exporting gravel. Long ago they built a small cruise terminal and cruise ship dock there but it really only works for small cruise ships with a lot of maneuvering power.  When you go in you have the Gulf Stream full on the beam and thus it can be difficult to steer exactly right into the entrance. The current is strong, the entrance is small and the shallows are nearby.  Then the moment you are inside you have to make a 90o turn to starboard to the dock and the moment you do that, you get the Trade Wind full on the beam, which sets you towards the dock.  The smaller the ship, the more room you have. Carnival tried it for a while and had planned to improve the place but at the moment there is no large cruise ship scheduled there at least until 2018.

Playa Del Carmen itself has a small pier for ferries and Holland America used to stop here in the 1990’s. We then landed our tour people with a local ferry as a quick way for the tours to go Chichen Itza as from there it is about an hour with the bus inland. This local ferry then also brought them back in the evening while the ship was docked in Cozumel. Keeping the ship in position off Playa while the local ferry lay alongside was not easy due to the current and the return trip with this ferry could be really fun and games. If the wind was from the north and thus blowing against the Gulf Stream, then the whole sea surface changed into a sort of washing machine and the returning guests would have to endure a 45 minute real roller coaster ride……… with the expected results…………  Thus we gave up on that and as we hardly go to Cozumel anymore other Maya destinations such as Tikal have been introduced.

We sailed at 15.00 hrs. and around 8 pm. tonight we will pass the island of Cozumel on our portside. Normally we can just see the lights at the horizon. Tomorrow is our last sea day while the ship heads for its final port on the cruise, our home port of Tampa. Weather looks quite good, there is a frontal system moving over Cuba, but I think we will be far to the north before it reaches the Yucatan Channel.

It looks like clear skies all the way to Florida.

It looks like clear skies all the way to Florida.

13 Dec. 2016; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala.

Santo Tomas is one of those places were a canal would make the distance a lot shorter even if the distance between Roatan and Santo Tomas is only 142 miles. This is basically caused by the fact that the town is located inside a deep bay. The land is curved around it and protects the whole area from being exposed to the open Caribbean. So while we sail almost straight west from Roatan, most of that straight sailing is above land to reach the bay. Then the ship has to curve back until finally it can go south towards the dock. Just before you enter the bay the curve of protecting land is not very wide and thus a little cut –through would be possible. But looking at it economically the total traffic of ships which call at Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomas is probably not sufficient to even contemplate it.

A little cut at La....

A little cut at La Graciosa and you could quickly slip in and out of the bay.

As mentioned in my blog of the previous call, the guests here either go on tour or just wander into the terminal or visit the local town. For the latter there is a shuttle trolley service which leaves from the gangway. From the crew only those who have never been here before might go to the local town but all others who have bought the T shirt already normally stay on board. Unless shorex can organize a shuttle boat/ferry to the Amatique beach resort which is sometimes possible if the guests have not bought up all the tickets. But it is six hour happening and apart from concessions and entertainment not many crew have time to do it.

Tank entry by the rescue team taking a plank-type stretcher with them for the extraction.

Tank entry by the rescue team taking a plank-type stretcher with them for the extraction.

Certainly not when I am around and I have dreamt up yet another major training. This time on request of the engine department. Enclosed Space Rescues. The engine department often has to inspect, clean or repair tanks and these are not known to be easily accessible or easy to work in. Thus if an accident would occur it is also very hard to get the casualty out. To do an efficient tank extraction you have to train as it is a lot more difficult than it seems. Training in a real tank itself is not so easy as one has to be opened up and also nobody can see what is going on and learn from it as there is most of the time no room to stand around. To alleviate the problem of the very few being able to see something, it is better if we build a sort of mock up in an open space.

A medical equipment on standby and the medical officers giving instruction to the stretcher bearers.

A medical equipment on standby and the medical officers giving instruction to the stretcher bearers.

And thus with the aid of the five cadets on board I designed and constructed a complete tank in the Marshalling area; the open space in the ship where we normally handle the luggage and the provisions that come on board. With carton boxes, canvas, the luggage bins and some wood it was good enough for a good drill. The engineers sharpened their skills again and medical could now observe from close by what a ships tank looked like and how difficult it is to get a casualty out as the inside of a tank is normally web constructed which is needed for the strength of the ship.

Moving the Casualty from the back of the tank.

Moving the Casualty from the back of the tank.

We have of course equipment on board to help with this but you have to exercise this to ensure that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together if something would happen. Enclosed space incidents are still very common in the industry and not only at sea. Workers who do not realize that in a tank there might lack of oxygen or all sorts of gasses and the work surface is seldom ideal. Thus the regulations before we can enter a tank are very strict to ensure that those who go in also come out again. A lot of extra casualties are caused because workers see a collapsed colleague inside and run in to help. Which only results in yet another casualty. Hence nobody goes into a tank for rescue and extraction without wearing breathing apparatus. The bottle on your back is very cumbersome when getting in and out but it is a life saver. We also have oxygen masks connected with a long hose to a bottle which can then remain outside but then you still need somebody else to watch over that hose so it does not get stuck behind something.

The casualty coming out. the opening is the average man hole size of a real tank. (some are a lot smaller)

The casualty coming out. The opening is the average man hole size of a real tank. (some are a lot smaller)

Tomorrow we are in Costa Maya which lies 180 miles to the North from Santo Tomas and which will be our final call for this cruise. It should be a full house tomorrow with all the three berths occupied; the ms Oosterdam, the Rhapsody of the Seas and the Norwegian Jade. Weather: partly cloudy skies, 80oF / 26oC and a gentle breeze. So it will be a warm day there.

12 Dec. 2016; Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras.

We were the only ship docking at the Mahogany Bay Pier today, courtesy of the fact that this dock was constructed by Carnival Corporation. Therefore our poor competitors, in this case RCI, had to do with docking at Coxen Hole a little bit more to the west. There is another cruise terminal but with some fewer facilities on the dock for guests who do not want to go too far. And a lot of guests had one look at the weather: dark clouds gathering overhead causing the occasional downpour and decided to stay on board or were back quite quickly. Main reason was they had already been here before, so why get wet during a repeat visit? We have a larger number of guests on board who are just taking a “quick Holland America cruise” in between. They are here for the ship and the service and could “not care less about the coconuts” as one guest expressed his reason to stay on board.

Hence the High Tea was having a full house and all the bridge tables were occupied as well. Always nice to see the public rooms being in use at other times than just when there is entertainment or happy hour.

Apart from all the activities on board, Holland America has also made it a standard of its product of giving the guests something to look at. All the ships have a lot of antiques on board which can bring many hours of happy hunting and observing if you are so inclined to do so. With the Koningsdam what is on display is more contemporary but that is not bad for a change either.

So as part of my hobby (and hopefully for posterity as well) I photograph & document the complete interiors of all the ships; as one day also the Oosterdam will also be gone. Not all the art is on display where all the guests can get at it, some is hidden in the private offices on board. So today a few pieces of art to look at, which are hidden on deck 1 in the Hotel Offices. Senior hotel staff offices are gathered near the Atrium where we have on the portside the Security Officers Office, IT office, the Front Office (with inside the Pursers office) and the Cruise Directors office.

Dutch Harbour by Heinrich Hermanns

Boats in a Harbour by Heinrich Hermanns

From all those offices the Cruise Director has the nicest piece of art hanging on the wall. Made by a German painter Heinrich Hermanns who lived from 1862 to 1942 and the painting is called Boats in a Harbour.  Normally I am very critical of paintings with ships but this is a nice atmospheric piece. Sailors always look at shippy paintings with the eye……………… is it correct. And you can only let that go if there are no real details on it. One of the painters who is always very in depth and scrutinized by us, is the maritime painter Captain Stephen Card as we have his paintings hanging on each of our ships, mostly in the forward staircase. Luckily he is a sailor himself who carefully documents first what he is going to paint because if he gets it wrong, the old Holland America line employees are very vocal.

Nicholas Berthon. Dutch Harbour.

Nicholas Berthon. Dutch Harbour.

On starboard side we have the Controller’s office, shore excursion, Beverage department, Culinary Department, Hotel Directors Office and the Executive Housekeepers office.  The 2nd painting of my liking is hanging in the Executive Housekeepers office. Again a painting with a ship on it, this time by Nicholas Berthon 1839 – 1888 and called Dutch Harbor. Looking at the name it sounds like he is a French painter and this is the first time I see this name coming up in connection to something with boats.  Knowing how my company sources Art and also how much budget there is, plus the need to keep the art from “walking away” the price for these sorts of paintings lays normally in the area of 800 to 1500 dollars. Good enough quality to have on board for guests to enjoy, not expensive enough for somebody to be tempted to embrace it as a permanent souvenir.

Not a painting but also art. A Christmas Village by the Oosterdam Culinary Department.

Not a painting but also art. A Christmas Village by the Oosterdam Culinary Department.

What I have forgotten to mention is that Christmas has fully arrived on the Oosterdam. During last cruise the decorations started to come out and by now everything is in place. Including the Christmas village in the Atrium. We have now Christmas Music played through the ship and to my utter amazement I have not heard White Christmas from Bing Crosby yet. All the other songs have all come by already including the missing two-front-teeth.

Tomorrow we are in Santo Tomas de Castilla in Guatemala which lays 142 miles to the west from here. And that means I am not going to predict the weather, as it might be the same as today; but it might just change as well, depending what pressure system wins the battle. The one to the south, the one to the north, or the one to the East.

11 Dec. 2016; At Sea.

We had a glorious day at sea and the guests could sit outside to their hearts content and bake in the sun if they wanted to do so. Those who did move outside helped to ease the traffic inside a little bit as this cruise we are sailing with a full house. Although the Oosterdam has a space ratio of 44.2 which is one of the highest for the larger ships, it can still be busy. We have this cruise a real full house with every cabin occupied. Part of all these happy people on board is a large group called First Nation who have turned this into a sort of sub charter although the other guests do not notice very much of it, apart from seeing the bright blue T shirts which are being worn.  They have gatherings in the show lounge but as they show lounge is mostly empty during the day, outside the lecture hours and the rehearsals of the Cast, it works out very well for everybody.

Holland America Line has incentive groups on a regular basis, sometimes a small group, sometimes a large group which books in at 1st or 2nd sitting and sometimes there are charters which take over the whole ship. The amazing thing is, these charters vary enormously in background and focus and it indicates to me that people from all walks of life feel at home on Holland America. We have Church groups, Retails groups (selling products over the phone or franchises) Gay groups, Music groups, Nudist groups, Doctors, even once the FBI. The latter was very interesting as I did not know that the FBI also had undercover agents who did not look like anything like the image the FBI tries to project to the outside world.

Music charters are quite common and are good for the ship as well; as those guests tend to enjoy listening to music with a glass of something or the other in their hands. One such group is the Delbert McClinton charter, a gentleman who is very famous in America in the blue grass scene. They charter the whole ship and for 7 days the place is really heaving. I had them for the first time on my Veendam in 2006 or something and that was so successful that they have chartered a HAL ship every year since. It was interesting to be part of it as I had never seen a jam session with six Hammond Electronic Organs.   They have their next charter here on the Oosterdam on Jan. 06, 2017 and there is a whole array of musicians and bands coming with him. Basically continuous music for 24 hours a day. I do not know what the public is now but back in 2006 they struck me as people who had woken up in 1968 and had decided to stay there. I could not agree more with them as some people had a real good time in those days so then why not continue them?

It might not look that impressive but there is 3 to 4 bar pressure on the water.

It might not look that impressive but there is 3 to 4 bar pressure on the water.

Today, I threw one of my specials again a practical Damage Control Drill for the engineers. I offer this every time I am on board a ship as a practical drill for this is hard to achieve. You cannot just poke a hole in the ship and then start practicing. Thus the trainings and drills that are being done on board are often just a simulation of the real thing.I can afford to spend a few hours rigging up something more realistic and thus the Chief Engineer went or it. With the aid of the Bo ‘sun and his sailors we built a wooden wall against a scaffolding on the forward deck, rigged up four fire hoses, and presto you have a hull with ingress of water.

Starting the work in full gear. But quickly the coats came off as it was too warm. Helmets stayed on to protect the eyes from sold water.

Starting the work in full gear trying to install Domes over the holes in the hull. But quickly the coats came off as it was too warm. Helmets stayed on to protect the eyes against salt water.

We have a lot of material on board to help stopping, plugging or reducing the ingress of water but there is no strict science of how to deal with it as every situation is different and every hole in the ship will be different as well.  Thus the Leader of the attack team (officially Damage Control Team) has to think outside the box on how to use whatever he/she has available or can get from somewhere in the ship. Damage Control falls under the focus of the engineering teams as it is dealing with steel, broken pipes and electricity. However this morning the deckies wanted to have a go as well, get soaking wet and spending a good 90 minutes in the sunshine to do a bit of training to plug holes and to find out how it feels to have to work against 200 tons of water per hour ingressing into the ship.

Why do humans lie so much to mess around with water? These are all grown-ups, married with wife and children, but they went for it.

Why do humans like it so much to mess around with water? These are all grown-up men, married with wives and children but they went for it.

Tomorrow we are in Mahogany Bay, Roatan for a full day at the local resort. According to the cruise schedule we are the only one in port but you never know for sure as it is always possible for another ship to be deviated because of whatever reasons. We will be at 07.00 at the pilot station and should be docked 45 minutes later. Expected weather: wind, sun, clouds and rain; all expected in one day. Still it will be warm: 80oF / 27oC and a 75% chance of showers.

10 Dec. 2016; Key West, Florida, USA.

Today we had a bit of luck and we were a bit unlucky. We had luck with the weather. This morning while at sea, it was gloomy, windy and rainy. Not exactly the weather that you want when going on a cruise and when going to Key West. But the closer we came to the pilot station the more it improved. The frontal system which caused the cold weather yesterday in Tampa just moved on along in time and the sunshine followed nicely. So by the time we docked the sun was shining and it kept doing so for the remainder of the day. By lunch time we were dealing with a balmy 76oF or 24oC and hardly any wind.

Our unlucky part was that we had to dock at the Navy dock although there were no other cruise ships in port. Both Mallory dock and B pier were empty. And that had to do with this sunset business here in Key West. Docking at Mallory and B pier is allowed as long as you do not block the sunset. If you do you need a permit and you only get so many a year and only if the Navy pier is already occupied. We already have been blocking the sunset at B pier for two calls and then the natives get restless. Last cruise the Eurodam was at the Navy dock and thus we lucked in. This time we are alone and thus the captain had to follow the rules and dock at the Navy Pier.

This is the outer mole and also the route the shuttle train has to take to get to the gate.

This is the outer mole and also the route the shuttle train has to take to get to the gate.

This makes it a little bit more complicated for the guests. What we call the Navy pier is really a complete little port which was once in daily use by the Navy. The United States Coast Guard still has a presence here and they have an old Coast Guard Cutter laid up in the inner basin. We docked at the outer mole which protects the inner basin from the swell of the open sea. To get out of the dock area you have to go all the way around the basin. That is quite a walk, even more if you attempt to do this by Rollator.

Shuttle buses, shuttle trains and trolleys; whatever was needed was at the gangway today.

Shuttle buses, shuttle trains and trolleys; whatever was needed was at the gangway today.

To solve this issue they run little sightseeing trains between the ship and the dock entrance around the basin. Then from the dock entrance it is about 10 minutes to be completely back in the center of the town. Not such a bad walk as you pass quite a few mansions from the 1920’s and related structures. All standing along a road you might not have ventured on if you had been at the other dock. Did the captain have any other options? Not really. Our sailing time is 18.00 with all on board at 17.30 hrs. Sunset is at 17.39 hrs. This meant that the ship would have had to leave at 17.00 hrs. at the latest to ensure that with swinging around, it would have been out of the line of sight by the sunset. That would have meant an all on board time of 16.30 hrs. Given the fact that during the last 2 calls we did not sail on time due to (very happy) stragglers returning late we might not have been clear before the magic moment of sunset. So we would have had to set our departure time even earlier or have left with –straggling -guests still standing on the dock side.

Arriving earlier is also not an option as the time schedule between Tampa and Key West is really tight and we cannot leave any earlier from Tampa as guests are boarding late and we are loading supplies etc. Doing the cruise the other way around (Key West as a last port of call) is not an option either, as we would then have full United Stated Customs and Border Protection which would reduce our time in port as well. The ship would have to be cleared first with everybody presenting themselves to the Inspecting Officers. So the Navy Pier was the only option and thus we docked there and can now stay until our official departure time. If we make that time remains to be seen as it can be expected to have “happy stragglers” again.

This cruise we do the West Carib loop again. Approx. 330 guests are doing a back to back and will thus have done both loops by December 16.

This cruise we do the West Carib loop again. Approx. 330 guests are doing a back to back and will thus have done both loops by December 16.

Yesterday we also had a change of Command. Captain Robert Jan Kan went on leave and will return 3 months from now. (See the Captains schedules on under Current Captains. You can also find his biography there) the alternating captain for this ship is Captain Michiel Willems who will now be on board for the next three months. Under his command the good ship Oosterdam will leave Key West this evening and then sail into the Caribbean Sea heading for Mahogany Bay in Honduras. We are expecting a sunny day tomorrow but after that it is a bit uncertain again.

09 Dec. 2016; Tampa, Florida, USA.

After our heatwave call of 14 days ago it was a bit of a shock this morning to stick your nose outside. On arrival the temperature barely touched the 50oF or 11oC. which is not weather our guests expect at the end of their cruise. Tampa can be very cold at times if there is a northerly prairie wind blowing and I remember from the mists of time that we came in with the old Nieuw Amsterdam once when it was freezing. Not much but enough for the longshoremen to have 2nd thoughts about work and for the oranges harvest to be touch and go.

My day was only partly filled with work as I had to move cabin and visit my friends of the CPB again to help them achieve the zero count. This time the routine was re-established by marching all 330+ in transit guests & me off together, quickly inspected by the Officers and then being marched back on board again. Very smooth and very fast.

For my accommodation on board, I am a sort of nomad. The company ensures that there is a place for me but what that is varies from cruise to cruise. I can always stay in an empty officer cabin but the policy is to organize a guest cabin so the officer’s cabins remain available in case an officer is scheduled to be on board as an extra. And thus I have the interesting experience of moving through every permutation of cabins which the ships can offer.

So most home ports I have to change cabins as a cabin which is empty one week will be occupied the other week. Also there is the phenomenon of guests buying an upgrade or having to change cabins if they are doing a back to back course. They change and I change with them. Since coming on board the ms Oosterdam I have been on Deck 4 all the way forward, then I was bumped up to deck 8 with a balcony and today I descended again from those lofty heights to an inside cabin on deck 1.  I do not mind inside cabins as all the company’s staff cabins ( ie Captain, Staff Captain, Chief Engineer and Hotel Director) have inside bedrooms (except the Prinsendam, but she is special) and that is want you want if you sleep unusual hours. I have the bridge to look out of a window.

But what impressed me is the size of the inside cabins on the Vista here on Main deck.  They are very nice and very spacious even if I do not need all that space. My focus of each cabin is always is the desk big enough to handle my two computers? I carry a small one for presentations and a bigger one issued by the company. The latter one is heavy enough to survive a bomb explosion and thus excellent for all the travelling when I hop from ship to ship. And I always hope for a desk which can take both.

The Oosterdam has just been through a refit where they adapted some of the public rooms to make space for Billboard on Board (the dueling pianos) and the Lincoln Art Centre (Classical music) and also changed televisions and put more plugs in above the desk. When I now make my next Holland America Cruise with my wife I do not have the battle of laptop versus hair dryer .  Also added were USB points to charge phones and cameras.  The Oosterdam now has the interactive TV system with approx… 200 movies on demand (free of charge) same as on the Koningsdam which was I think the first ship where it was implemented.

We see a lot of amenities coming over, which were introduced on the Koningsdam first. Interactive TV, new cabin directories (in beautiful Dutch –Orange) new breakfast menus, and hot on its heels a roll out of new dining room menu’s as well. The favorites are still there but the presentation of the choices has been greatly upgraded.  And very important the new Gallery Bar (in the location of the old night club) has four draft beers on tap, including Newcastle Ale and that makes a lot of guests happy who have an interest in craft and other beers which are not the run of the mill lagers which you can get everywhere.

Tonight we have our rush – run for Key West again. The Oosterdam left on time from her Tampa berth and, pending no unforeseen circumstances, we should be on time in Key West as well. The Weather for Key West looks a bit unsettled so we will find out what we get, when we get there.

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