- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: News (page 1 of 2)

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

21 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 7) … Day 6 without guests.

Another day with good weather and alongside in Puerto Vallarta. We are congratulating ourselves for the fact that we could go ashore for the last seven days, while our sister ships were at anchorage or are still trying to land their guests. Our Amsterdam, which aborted her world cruise is currently landing our guests in Fremantle. Although Australia is also in lockdown the local government has decided that as the ship does not have any Covid-19 cases on board, there was no problem to bus everybody directly to the airport and back home. Our Maasdam and Zaandam are still looking for a port and might, I say might, have to come to the States before that is possible. That gives the challenges with provisioning and the Zaandam went to anchor at Valparaiso and although also Chile and Peru are in lockdown, it was allowed to use a (small) shore boat to get 9 containers with fresh produce and other essentials to the ship. So the Captain had 150 crew working in relay from the tender platforms to carry everything by hand out of the boats and then at once to the cold and freezer rooms to ensure that it did not spoil. With the current situation at hand everybody has to be creative and make things work. Luckily ships crews are great in improvising and have faced bigger operational challenges in port and thus always works out one way or the other. Continue reading

20 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta Mexico (Day 6) … Day 5 without guests.

This morning we returned to Puerto Vallarta after the Chief Engineer did all the things he had to do during the night and we were docked again by 09.00 hrs. We will now stay alongside until “further notice” as they call it. The Europa arrived this morning and the Norwegian Joy is still on the schedule for sometime late this afternoon.. We are now also expecting the Eurodam and the Westerdam but when is not certain yet as the Eurodam is approaching at slow speed, I think they are travelling on one pod and the Westerdam is still far away. The Oosterdam is still at anchor at Cabo San Lucas. (Have a look at this website, https://www.cruisemapper.com/, it gives the locations of all the cruise ships. Our thoughts are at the moment with the Maasdam and the Zaandam as they have challenges with landing their guests as most countries are now in lock down and are only letting their own citizens back in. And thus the office is now hard at work to find for these ships a port where the guests can still reach an airport for their final repatriation.   Continue reading

22 June 2019: Norwegian Sea.

Today is our sea day to get to the North Cape and Honnigsvag. The weather followed the weather forecast and it was nice, quiet and dry for most of the day. In the afternoon we got a bit of motion of the ocean courtesy to a weather front behind us which is creating some waves but the Prinsendam is a good surfer and thus the dis-comfort is very minimal. We are on average sailing a distance 12 miles from the shore. Partly because the dotted line between the pilot station of Trondheim and where we go around the corner of the North Cape makes it so, but also partly to stay out of coastal waters.  There is the 3 mile zone (full territorial waters) and we try to stay out to avoid the local rules; and there is the , 12 mile zone, where we stay out of if possible as here the international regulations might vary from country to country. The latter can be quite complicated and brings headaches to every captain. IMO (International Maritime Organization) sets the standards that are approved by every member. But the regulations are allowed to be “amended by the local administration”. So a measure of a Liter of paint in Europe might be a Gallon of paint in North America, and a Jin in China. To avoid going mad and/ or making mistakes we try to plan our courses outside the 12 NM. Continue reading

Captain Albert: 10 June 2009, Cadiz, Spain

Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

While Northern Europe had strong winds with tornado watches and torrential rains with flood alerts, we had “to cope” with flat calm sea’s and sunny skies. So with that happy thought on our mind we approached the pilot station early in the morning as we had to be docked by 7 am. From the pilot to the dock normally takes about 35 minutes but docking took longer this time as we had been assigned another berth. Behind us was the Adventure of the Seas who with 340 meters of length was given our normal dock as it was much longer.

We had to dock at the cross dock, which is about 250 meters long. The Prinsendam being 204 meters means that I have plenty of space; it just takes some time to “angle” the ship in towards this cross dock. Thus we were at the pilot station earlier than otherwise would have been the case. As I had been up from 1 am until 3 am for passing through the Straits of Gibraltar, I had had a short night but a beautiful arrival into Cadiz made up for it. Cadiz is facing to the East at the end of a curved estuary and when the sun rises, the reddish/golden glow tends to paint the white buildings of the city in a sort of soft pink. Very pretty, when you happen to be awake to see it. The port was virtually empty apart from a ferry boat running on the Cadiz to Tenerife service. This ferry boat had been bumped from the cross berth to make space for us, in the same way as we had been bumped by the Adventure of the Seas.

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Captain Albert: 09 June 2009, At Sea

Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

As expected it was a beautiful day at sea while we sailed around the south side of Spain from Barcelona to Cadiz. This stretch of water is called the Alboran Sea after a small island that is located slap bang in the middle of it. As soon as we were out of Barcelona we “moved with the flow”; all the traffic going in the direction of Gibraltar is basically on the same track line and creates a sort of highway at sea. In the same way as you have a motorway on land, with the difference that there is no restriction in leaving, crossing or sitting still on a sea highway. Traffic going to the harbors in the Northern part of Spain, the Southern part of France and the Northern part of Italy are in the other lane a bit more to the south. On the radar you see 20 to 30 ships nicely separated by an invisible line going one way or the other.

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Captain Albert: 08 June 2009, Barcelona, Spain

Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

In the past we had to travel through a bridge to get to our dock at the World Trade Centre. I assume because everybody got fed up with having to wait for this bridge being open all the time, they decided to give the older port area its own entrance. When the new port area was under developed it did not matter that much as hardly anybody had to go over the bridge but when the cruises ships started to dock there, the waiting times became very inconvenient. Now the ferries and the smaller cruise ships, plus the fishery traffic and the traffic for the dry docks have their own entrance, relieving the pressure on the bridge considerably.

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Captain Albert: 07 June 2009, Marseilles, France

Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

The weather turned out to be beautiful indeed and that made approaching Marseilles very pleasant. The wind had died off completely and the sun was shining straight over the hills making the area look very “Mediterranean”. It was an active port day as far as traffic was concerned with the Prinsendam leading the parade. We were followed by the Coral (Lois Cruise Lines) The Costa Pacifica (Costa Cruises) and the Bleu de France (latest off-shoot of Carnival to get it into the French market). For the rest there was a whole line of ferries coming in as well about an hour later.

The entrance to the new port of Marseilles is at angle of about 90o with the approach course and only 100 meters wide. Thus there is about 110 feet clearance on either side when the Prinsendam enters in the middle. With nice weather not much of a problem but when the wind blows on right angles over the entrance, it is a tight hole to get through with a drifting ship. On our approach we were listening with amazement to the Coral who was about 10 miles behind us and was giving a pilot time of 5 minutes before us. Somehow the mathematics were not correct here, because there was no way that the ship could over take us with only 20 minutes to go. So it did not happen at all but the pilot going to the Coral had difficulty boarding as the Coral was still going much too fast when she was almost at the pilot station. So while the Coral pilot tried to sort that out we proceeded into the port with our own pilot and a nice and sedate speed.

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Captain Albert: 06 June 2009, La Spezia, Italy

Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

I had really hoped that for this port it would be a wind still day as anchoring in La Spezia with wind would have been an unpleasant challenge. Well it was. La Spezia is a big cargo and navy port. There is no real cruise terminal or a half decent cargo dock available that could be used to dock a cruise ship. Thus the authorities have decided that cruise ships should anchor and tender directly to the boulevard of La Spezia. Not a bad idea in principle. Instead of needing a shuttle or paying for a taxi, the ships tender deposits all the sightseers directly in the nicest location. For that reason an anchorage is allocated that is nearest to the tender float and out of the way of other traffic. That works fine as long as there is no wind in the port.

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Captain Albert: 05 June 2009, Civitavecchia, Italy

Captain Albert SchoonderbeekCaptain Albert Schoonderbeek

The pilots had a major shuffle with getting all the ships lined up properly. I had already seen yesterday that it was going to be a busy day, so I had brought my ETA (estimated Time of Arrival) forward to ensure that I would not be delayed because of others. The only uncertainty now were the ferries who have their own schedule and just come in when ever they arrive at the port entrance. By setting the pilot time for 05.30 I was at least ahead of all the other cruise ships except the Celebrity Solstice. That ship had come in at 3 am in the morning and in order to make that time it had to race from Naples to Civitavecchia going full out. Especially as she had left an hour after us from Naples. However for that ship it is a necessity to arrive very early. With 2850 guests onboard, it takes a while to off load the luggage. If each guest has at least 2 pieces of luggage then it means that over 5700 pieces have to be off loaded. We can do about 800 pieces in 2 hours and if they do double with two shore gangs then it still takes 3.5 hours for them to be finished on time before disembarkation starts.

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