- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

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07 March 2019: At Sea.

Today is the first day of two days at sea, as we sail along the Mexican coast. Mexico is a much larger country than a lot of people realize. From San Diego / Ensenada to Puerto Chiapas takes the Volendam 3 days at full speed (21 knots). We are stopping at Puerto Chiapas but that is right on the border with Guatemala so we are keeping the pedal to the metal to maintain the schedule. Which is a challenge as we have the ocean current against us all the way to the Panama Canal. Continue reading

06 March 2019; Cabo San Lucas, Baja California.

I have been coming to Cabo San Lucas since 1982 (First time was with the old Statendam IV) so I have seen it being transformed from a sleepy fishing village to a mega resort. From the occasional cruise ship calling to the row of ships now in port every day. And I have seen it in all the weather variations; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly days.  When I came to the bridge this morning it was overcast and the sea was a flat as a mirror, although it was a wavy mirror as there is always some swell running, but no wind at all. And that is a good start for Cabo San Lucas. As it means that during the day the sun will burn some of the clouds away but some will be left; and there will be some wind later in the day, caused by the warming up of the Mexican mainland, but it has to start from wind force zero and thus the wind will not get to a big momentum. Continue reading

05 March 2019; At Sea.

This cruise is not that spectacular from an itinerary point of view but it is a popular one and we are sailing with a full ship. The cruise gives some ports on the West Mexican coasts which not everybody has seen yet. It gives the Panama Canal which never fails to be interesting. (And I can vouch for that one as I am way over the 100 transits and I still see new things every time). And on the east side the cruise ends with a visit to Half Moon Cay and what better highlight than this to have as a final port of call.

But we are only just starting out with our first day at sea. And although San Diego is right on top of the border with Mexico, we are not experiencing “Mexican” temperatures yet. For Mexican standards it is quite chilly. 16oC / 61oF. and it will remain that way until we are past Cabo San Lucas. Not that we mind because we prefer CSL to be a little bit on the cool side. Cabo is located in a curve behind a protective mountain range which shields the town from the ocean winds. So it can get very warm there. But tomorrow supposed to be just pleasant. Continue reading

04 March 2019: San Diego, California.

And thus I said goodbye to the good ship ms Zuiderdam and flew from Aruba to Atlanta to San Diego. Aruba was an interesting experience as it is one of the Countries where you go through US immigration before you reach USA territory. So in Atlanta I landed in the Domestic part of the terminal. CBP has been working on these arrangements for some years now, based on the success with doing it in Canadian airports.  I assume to reduce the pressure on the USA airports with all these holiday flights coming in.  But it gave the peculiar sensation of going twice through security. Continue reading

01 March 2019; At Sea.

It is always nice if the weather does what the weather forecast says it should do. But it did. It followed exactly the picture of the weather chart I showed yesterday. Hardly any wind at all while between the islands and then slowly starting to breeze up once we cleared Hispaniola. Now the wind has reached full trade wind force as we are nearing the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Then tomorrow when we come close to Aruba the wind should abate again somewhat but we will have to see if it will really happen.  In the meantime the guests could enjoy a very nice day at sea and the captain was getting them in the mood already for Aruba as it will be Carnival Day there.

Continue reading

28 Feb. 2019. Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

We had a nice and sunny day today but a windy day. There was a lot of wind pushing its way north from the south in the aftermath of the rain (frontal system) band crossing over Florida Straits just when we were leaving yesterday. Luckily we were the only ship in and thus we had the shore tenders available. If we had had to use our own tenders it would have been a real challenge to have the guests step on the tenders safely. The shore tenders are a lot bigger, take close to 300 people, and lay steadier alongside the ship. Still the captain had to use a lot of thruster power to provide a good lee for the tenders to come alongside. But it was safe and it worked. The voyage from the ship to the shore and back was a little bit rocky and that’s what the guests have to pay for when going to a Fancy Fair, they now got it for free. But it was safe as long as everybody followed the orders of the crew on board the Zuiderdam and from the crew on board the tenders.  And the beach was as wonderful as always. Continue reading

27 Feb. 2019: Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Being on a cruise ship has some advantages that guests do not always realize. One of them is having preference of arrival in Port Everglades. Today was a busy day for the port with container ships going in and going out. They have to be scheduled for non-cruise ship days, which are normally the weekends, as the cruise ships also dock at the container friendly docks.  But these ships have to wait when a cruise ship is arriving. So the captain of a cruise ship sends his ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) to the port agent and the harbor master and if the timing is not too outrageous, then he gets it. If a poor cargo ship captain wants the same time, then he will have to wait or come earlier. Continue reading

26 Feb. 2019; At Sea.

The wind fell away during the night and then the seas quickly abated and thus today we had a normal sea day. That made for a busy day in the shops as quite a few of our guests had to catch up on souvenirs and logo wear for at home. In the Canal the shops had a stand on the Lido deck with Panama Canal logo wear and trinkets and some of it was also on display in the shops today. Looking at the activity today, ……………..it was good to have a backup day………………….. The 900 people of the Canal tour had to catch up sometime.

I am currently involved in a whole series of refresher courses for the crew. They get training and refresher courses from their Team Leaders but a new face (or in my case a very old face) in front of the group helps to re-focus. Plus if there is anything going on that the crew is worried about, or finds that it needs attention then I normally get to hear about it during these trainings as they all know that I have direct lines going everywhere.  The Zuiderdam is a happy crew, and so is the crew on the other HAL ships. And the company works hard to keep it like that. Plus the door of the Captain and the ships staff is always open. But ships crews are sailors. And sailors gossip, moan and groan and complain. And moan and groan they do. And they like to moan and groan to me, as I stand with one foot in the ship and with one foot in corporate. Continue reading

25 Feb. 2019; At Sea.

We had good hope that the swell would have started to die down but it was in vain as the wind decided to breeze up. We are already on the windiest side of the Caribbean Sea as the wind has miles and miles of sea to increase strength, but then with a frontal system in the area, it can breeze up even more. And it sure did. By mid-morning we had a force 6 to 7 blowing (A seven is near gale force) and that whipped up the sea and the seas whipped up the ship and thus the ships movement continued. It is not just regular rolling (the stabilizers are dealing with that) and not regular pitching as the waves are not directly on the bow or stern but this is a jerky movement. Ship is still and then it goes for a jolt. It does a light pitch (a sort of small up and down) and then another jolt.  It does not really make you sea-sick, although the ship was quiet today, but it makes you sort of tired after a few hours. The constant focus of keeping yourself upright and on a straight path takes its toll. And thus napping was this afternoon a very favorite past time. Continue reading

24 Feb. 2019; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Every time we approach Puerto Limon, there is certain amount of tension on the bridge. What is the angle of the swell into the port? We know how high the waves are as the surf forecasts are quite reliable. But what rolls into port is another question. Today the forecast was 2.8 meters or almost 9 feet and that is way too much to have to go safely alongside with. It would mean that the gangway would also go up and down by that much. But the docks are protected by a stone breakwater and thus it all depends on what the angle is. Will the breakwater block everything, will some of the swell curve around it, or is the angle just plain wrong and the docks are getting the whole 9 feet.  And if so, that would mean we are out, and we would have to disappoint 900+ guests who all want to go on the Eco-tours. Continue reading

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