- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

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04 December 2019; San Juan, Puerto Rico.

San Juan is one of the more exciting ports for the guests to sail into as you sail past the old town with Morro Castle right on top of the entrance. It is also exciting for the captain as it can be a very difficult port to sail into if there is a strong wind blowing. A strong wind can push up a strong current as well and suddenly your ship is not going where you want it to go, if you are not paying close attention. That situation gives rise to discussions among the captains about do we pick up the pilot outside or inside?  If you pick up the pilot outside, then you get extra experience on board and extra local knowledge and that is good. But the San Juan pilot station is right in the final approach to the entrance and thus you have to abort your approach, make a lee, pick up the pilot, speed up again and try to find back your balance on wind and current and that is not good. Continue reading

03 Dec. 2019: Grand Turk Island, Turks and Caicos Islands.

Under a beautiful sunny sky we arrived at the dock in Grand Turk as part of a mighty convoy of three ships filled with eager beach go-ers. Apart from us there was the Carnival Elation and the Crystal Symphony.  There is only one dock for two ships and apart from the fact that the larger ships normally have docking preference, own ships go first as well, and thus the Symphony had to go to anchor. As mentioned before, anchoring at Grand Turk is a mixed blessing as the area is so exposed to the wind. Exposed to any wind direction so you have to have a lucky day. The Symphony was lucky today and although there was a bit of wind, wind force 2 breezing up to 4 during the day, the ship could maintain a good lee and thus they could be part of the invasion of Grand Turk. Continue reading

02 Dec. 2019: North Atlantic Ocean

As explained last cruise, getting to Grand Turk on time means that we have to go north of the Bahama bank or otherwise arrive about 2 hrs. late. In case of bad weather that might be the only choice but if it would be such bad weather that we had to do that, then that weather would also laying over The Grand Turk and Caicos Islands and then we might as well not bother at all. In that case we would continue to San Juan and we would be able to offer a full day and evening there, instead of an Afternoon arrival as we have on the schedule now. But the weather is really nice, if a bit windy and we are happily on our way. Continue reading

01 December 2019: Fort Lauderdale, USA.

During the night the Nieuw Statendam was pushed up the coast with a nice – Gulf Stream- in the back  and that brought her on time to Port Everglades pilot station where the ship had to be slotted in with the rest of the cruise ships. The season is now well under way and all the Ft. Lauderdale ships have returned from wherever they spent the summer. With 8 cruise ships all wanting to be in at the same time, it is not possible that the captain just picks his most favorable arrival time. It is now simply dictated by the Harbor Master. And he/she is not looking at which company the ship belongs to, it is just a matter of making the puzzle fit. Some ships will be blocking each other once they are docked and then there are the demands of which way a ship needs to dock for operational reasons. If it is the “wrong way” around, hence swinging on arrival, then the time between ships coming in has to be more than 15 minutes because the center harbor / turning basin is blocked for a longer period. Continue reading

30 November 2019: Key West, Florida, USA.

Promptly on time the Nieuw Statendam arrived at the Key West Pilot station at 06.30 in the morning. We had an hour back last night, and by 06.30 when the Lido opened, the place as already heaving. So there was great interest in, first in the food and then the sailing in. Quite a few people had forgot to set their clocks back; with one lady complaining why we had to go to “funny time” and then back again to normal time. Well if Caribbean Time is “funny” time then I wonder what she would make of West European time, which is 4 hrs. more “funnier” than Caribbean time, plus that we do not do am. & pm. But run the 24 hrs. Clock. Which the States calls Navy Time. But at least it meant that everybody was up and about for CBP immigration inspection which everybody had to see, including my good self as I am that most complicated of person who is a crew member but travels on a “Guest” visa. So I had to show my face to the CBP officer, to make sure that my face belonged to a passport and that the passport belonged to me.  Once that was done all was well in the world. Continue reading

29 November 2019; At Sea.

Thus we sailed to day through “Cruise ship alley” or the Old Bahama channel. The water way above Cuba which is taken by the cruise ships from Miami if they go to the East Caribbean.  It is nice and sheltered, being protected by Cuba to the south and the Bahama Banks to the North. Those Bahama banks we did not see today, the reefs, cays and sandbanks are too low to poke above the horizon. We did see Cuba though as it has a high mountain range and we had with sunrise the sun shining straight on it. That works extremely well when we are going the way we are going today. Sailing North West and thus having Sun, Wind and Sea going with us while doing so. The ship was doing about 19 knots on the engine and 20 knots over the ground, courtesy of a 1 knot current behind us. A following current that will become part of the Gulf Stream once the water reaches the Straits of Florida. Continue reading

28 November 2019; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.

Amber Cove has slightly different weather than ports which are at the west side (lee side) of an island and of the Trade Winds.  Amber Cove is located at the North side of the Dominican Republic and is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides. This means that rain showers which develop overnight in this area and then pull away in the morning due to warming up do not do that here. A rain cloud is just a bit of vapor which expands and contracts. When it expands (surrounding temperature goes up), it can take in more fluid or moisture, when it contracts (surrounding temperature goes down) then it becomes over saturated and will release water until everything is back in balance. So during the night clouds can gather and densify as the vapor gets more concentrated and thus we can often see bands of rains clouds when the sun rises. Later in the day they are then completely gone because the air is warming up and the vapor can spread out. Continue reading

27 November 2019: Grand Turk Island, Turks & Caicos Islands.

Last week I had to moan and groan about the weather guru’s in the area of St. Thomas who did not have a clue what they were doing but in this area the forecast was spot on. The sun quickly burned all the early morning clouds away and it was a warm and sunny day. Both: Very Warm and Very Sunny. We were the only ship in port today as the dock can take two cruise ships. Even if two mega liners are in and offload 4000 guests each then the resort can take it quite well although it is full then. Today with only 2500 from our Nieuw Statendam there was oodles of space everywhere and even the shuttle bus system to Cock burn town could cope with the traffic.  Cockburn town is about 1.5 miles away and although you can easily walk it, it is not a pleasant walk in the burning sun. I wished all the sun worshipers the very best but I stayed happily inside in the A.C. Most guests only went for a few hours, either in the morning or in the afternoon and long flows of family’s (in various states of “happiness”) came back between 1300 and 1400 hrs. It is going to be mayhem later on at the Dive-Inn, New York Pizza and the Ice cream stand. Continue reading

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)


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