- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

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26 November 2019; At Sea.

The only way to get to Grand Turk (and arrive on time) is to sail above the Bahama Bank and then downwards. You can go the other way as well, staying in the shelter of the reefs, banks and Cays against the North Atlantic swell, but it is quite a few hours more steaming. But the weather is beautiful today, the sun is shining with a gentle breeze and there is only a very low swelling running from the North East. All under 8 feet and thus the Nieuw Statendam is ploughing through the ocean as steady as a rock. We are looking at a regular and nice 7 day Caribbean vacation cruise. Continue reading

25 Nov. 2019; Fort Lauderdale / Half Moon Cay, North America.

And thus I transferred from the KODM to the NSDM to use company speak. (All our ships have an abbreviation to which all our company communication is identified by)  And I did this in the simplest way possible, I pulled my suitcases across the street. Exiting from the KODM via guest exit as for CBP I am a Visa – person when entering the country and entering via the crew access of the NSDM because when boarding a new ship I am a crewmember. Luckily I only had to cross one street as with all those big ships in, it was controlled mayhem everywhere. I am amazed every time how well things run and how well the Broward Sheriff’s department has things under control. As not every law abiding citizen is a law abiding citizen if there is no police around. Certainly not when having to wait at a street crossing. Plus the companies are adding so many more features and support options to the cruise that you stumble over suitcases, tour group leaders and other entities attached to post cruise activities that we never had before. So while they built the terminals as best as they could, leave it to the cruise ship companies to ensure that the “ample space” in the mind of the designer is quickly turned into “you cannot stand here, the place is full”.  And then an agitated clipboard holder is pushed further down the street.

The good ship Nieuw Statendam is identical to the Koningsdam except for the art inside the ship. That makes it easy to find your way around as soon as you are used to the Pinnacle Class. This class is considerably different in setup and lay out than the S-class, R-class, Vista and Signature Class which are all a logical evolution of the class that was constructed before. In the operational side (read below decks) the layup is quite similar to the Signature class  but the guest areas are completely different, even if the Lido is in the same location. (Deck 9 around the funnel) So this time I did not need my day of re-adjustment and getting used to the fact that peoples offices were somewhere completely different than on the ship that I visited before. The only thing that is different, and therefore there was no blog yesterday, is that each ship has its own internet system with firewall and access codes, so before I am re-connected to the outside world again I have to go the I.T officer and who then makes sure that my laptop can talk to the main frame again.

Captain Sybe de Boer. First Master of the ms Nieuw Statendam

The Nieuw Statendam is making 7 day cruises which vary a little bit each cruise. This cruise we do Ft. Lauderdale – Half Moon Cay – Grand Turk – Amber Cove – Key West – Fort Lauderdale. Then next cruise it will be Grand Turk – San Juan, Charlotte Amalie – Half Moon Cay – Ft Lauderdale. Then the 3rd cruise (which is the last cruise that I am on board) goes to: Half Moon Cay – Falmouth – Georgetown Grand Cayman – Cozumel and back to Ft. Lauderdale.

The Master of the vessel is Captain Sybe de Boer who also was the captain who brought the ship into service in December last year. The ship is now on cruise 44 and has been running full all the time with very good ratings and so he is a happy Captain. He will remain with the ship until 8 December and will then go on leave.

Fort Lauderdale was a bit of a miserable day as a weather front come over during the day with rain at times. But that also kept the temperatures down during change over day and that is not a bad thing. Today in Half Moon Cay the weather was perfect. Well almost perfect as we could not anchor but had to drift. With the Koningsdam two days ago we had a gentle breeze from the North East, blowing the ship away from the island and the captain could drop the hook and the ship was safely behind anchor all day.

The ship arrives, the Half Moon Cay fleet comes racing out to take 2600 exited beach guests to the island. From left to right: Half Moon Clipper for picking up today’s supplies for the stay and then the guest tenders Henry Hudson and Anne Bonny

But due to the weather front passing through, the wind had turned to the South West, blowing the ship towards the island, and thus the ship stayed “on the engines”. If you anchor with a South Westerly wind, however gentle that wind might be, the ship will wing around it and eventually land on the beach to become a hotel. More or less permanently. That is not the function of a cruise ship and thus the ship stayed on the engines and maintained position by hooking the propulsion system up to the GPS and the computer ensured that the ship stayed where it was told to stay. The navigator then just monitors the situation to see if the computer does a good job. That is quite a boring thing to do so on occasion the navigators will switch to manual and operate thrusters and Azipods by hand to achieve the same thing.  Guests do not notice that, they only see the ship sitting in the same position all day, with occasionally ripples in the water when Azipods and bow thrusters give the ship a nudge in the right direction so it stays where it is supposed to stay.

Now we will sail north of the Bahama bank toward the Grand Turk and Caicos Islands where we will be the day after tomorrow. The weather forecast looks very good. Only gentle clouds in the sky and for the rest sunshine. Cape Hatteras has decided to send the next storm directly to the North East so the connected wave field will not bother us. Good start of the cruise.

This afternoon satellite infra red picture. Only rain in the center of the Caribbean Sea. (Courtesy to Weather Underground)

 

23 November 2019: Half Moon Cay, Little San Salvador Island, Bahamas.

With very nice weather we arrived at 0800 at the anchorage and because the weather was so nice, with a steady light breeze expected from the South East all day, the ship dropped anchor instead of staying on the engines. As soon as we were there, the whole cycle started again (see previous blog with the Zuiderdam) where the first shore tender collected about 60 crew  who race ashore as  sort of preparation force to get everything ready for the guests. The locals who come from Eleuthera Island next door operate all the ventures except the Bars and Cooking facilities. While the first tender is on the way, the ship is being cleared by the local authorities and for that purpose a Customs Officer comes on board. Then the Half Moon Clipper is loaded up with everything that is needed for the Bars and the open air restaurant. This customs officer also came over with the Half Moon Clipper from Eleuthera. Holland America might have 1000 year lease on the island and sole operating rights, but it is still part of the Bahamas so the Bahamian custom rules are in force. Continue reading

22 November 2019; At Sea.

While going south in the beginning of this cruise we had the option to go above the Bahama Bank or to go under it, staying North of Cuba.  Now there is no option, we have to go into the open North Atlantic Ocean and sail north of the Bahamas as Half Moon Cay/ Little San Salvador Island is one of the islands at the Northern edge of the Bahama Bank.  If it would be very bad weather on the North Atlantic, the captain would go south, and then we would have to miss Half Moon Cay as the schedule would be too tight. But with bad weather on the North Atlantic you would have to cancel HMC anyway as it is very exposed to that Atlantic weather. Although the ship is a bit lively today due to a wave pattern left behind by another Cape Hatteras special from a few days ago, combined with a strong breeze blowing, we are still very lucky as by the end of next weekend the weather gurus are predicting a lot of turmoil on the middle Atlantic and those wave patterns will make any boat rock that would be outside the Bahamas. Continue reading

21 November 2019: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.

For a moment I thought St. Thomas had the same meteorologist as St. Maarten as it seemed that the 11 percent of rain planned for the early afternoon was already there on arrival. Luckily it cleared up and it did not become a miserable shopping day. That is the main reason for having Charlotte Amalie in the schedule; beach tours and shopping. And for that we were at the right pier as Havensight has the most shops. When the ships are sent to the other dock at Crown Bay, shopping is less extensive and guests feel the need to go to down town. When at Havensight that urge is normally less. Continue reading

20 November 2019; Basseterre, St Christopher (St. Kitts)

The sail by past the Pitons took place under very dark and threatening skies which at that moment was maybe not so good for the guest experience but promised hope for St. Kitts. Because what rains early cannot fall later. And that worked out, sunny skies all day in Basseterre. The Trade Winds are suppressed at the moment by a high pressure system in the West Caribbean and thus there was only a gentle breeze blowing. We were in with the Carnival Fascination and with two high ships on opposite sides of the pier the result was that the pier was in the shade all day long. A welcome respite from the heat on the island when walking back onto the pier.  The Fascination is a 70,000 ton ship so a bit smaller than the Koningsdam but when full it can carry the same number of guests as we normally do. But then she sails for another market segment and another price point. Still I liked the water slide near the stern which was retrofitted sometime in the past and a few of the children on board were really disappointed in HAL. But according to the parents we are better with the ice cream. Continue reading

19 November 2019; Castries, St. Lucia.

We were told that we were the only ship in Castries but it turned out that there was a second one, a small one, the Hamburg. This is an expedition ship sailing for the German Market. Although everybody can book on it, but it is sort of important that you speak German. With 15,000 tons and 420 guests she started out life as the Columbus C for the German company Hapag-Lloyd in the 5 and 6 star segment. Now she is owned by an investment company and chartered by a company called Plantours. Because of her small size she can get to a lot of places other ships cannot including sailing via the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes and the Corinth Canal.  The pilot parked her downtown thus leaving space for a cargo ship to come in as well. (And to please the shop keepers at the cruise terminals of course) Continue reading

18 November 2019; Bridgetown Barbados

It is a slow run from Martinique as it is a mere distance of 120 NM. To be covered in 12 hrs. So 10 miles an hour. Good for the fuel and good for the way the ship rides the waves. Tonight we will have an even shorter distance to cover as it is 110 nautical miles from Barbados to Castries 97 NM.  as the crow flies but we have to sail around the South point and up the coast as Castries is on the west side of the island. Again a good speed, as with 10 knots the stabilizers are still effective and the ship can gently ride the North Atlantic swell that is running here. Normally to keep that 10 knots we make a wide loop once inside the Caribbean Sea again and then approach Castries from the West. Continue reading

17 November 2019; Fort de France, Martinique.

I do not know who currently makes the Google weather forecasts for this area but it looks like that they take guidance from the cruise brochures – where the sun always shines – and they are not doing it from the weather observations. As mentioned yesterday we were promised a rain free day, and it might have been rain free somewhere, but not in Martinique. Rain cloud after rain cloud kept rolling in. Luckily no torrential rains but enough of a drizzle and you still get wet. Positive thing here is, the rain is not cold and once the rain shower is gone, things dry up quite quickly. And later in the day it remained mostly dry, although dark clouds kept threatening. Continue reading

16 November 2019: Philipsburg St. Maarten.

The weather did not exactly follow what was promised as it rained considerably on arrival. A large band of rain clouds lay over the island and although the dry spells increased considerably it kept raining off and on for most of the day. I had been advised that we would be the only ship in port and also that turned out to be a schedule that was not followed. Instead of being by ourselves we had the ms Volendam in (which came early so she picked the best spot), the Seabourn Odyssey and the Adventure of the Seas. Not as busy as it can be in Philipsburg but still a nice and busy day with roughly 9000 guests in port and roughly 3000+ crew as well.  A good day for the shops and they do need the money. Continue reading

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