- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

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04 June 2019; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

We did not see any whales yesterday afternoon or in the evening, nor did we have to slow down on Coast Guard request. All was well in the world. It was even better than well, at least for the guests, as during the day the sun came through and this also promised a sunny day for Charlottetown. Which we had. It was less well for the navigators as sunshine in this area results nearly always in fog banks forming and this indeed happened in the late afternoon and early evening. But it is still early in the season so the banks are not that dense yet. But the moment the sun gains more strength it will be a daily occurrence. The ports will be clear and beautiful but outside where the warm air meets the cooler water, a white wall will greet the ship on each departure.  That is the toll that captains and navigators pay so that the guests can have a sunny cruise in the Canadian Maritimes. But for now the balance is still ok, between good visibility and rain, and the amount of sunshine and VERY low clouds. Continue reading

03 June 2019; Sailing down the St. Lawrence River.

During the night we were literally flushed out of the St. Lawrence River. When the river level is normal, e.g. all the spring water has drained away, the current going up river is about the same as the current going down river. And then we do not gain much as things balance out. But with so much water coming down the St. Lawrence, the flood tide has a real struggle to assert itself and the current up river, against us, is then not so strong. But when the tide then turns to ebbing, all the water that was sort of halted by the flood current comes down again as an avalanche. So for most of the night we had 5 or 6 knots of current with us. And that was a nice bonus but also a necessary bonus as navigating the river costs more time than in the past. Continue reading

02 June 2019; Quebec, Canada.

It is not summer yet. Today it rained and it was windy and chilly. The locals call this weather Mavember. It should be May and spring like but the weather is providing a November day. And it is un-predictable. The ms Zaandam came down the river as scheduled and went under the bridge at 04.00 hrs. to ensure that the gap between radar mast and bridge was enough so there would be no “boiiing” when passing. And once past, the wind picked up from 15 knots to almost 30 and then with the current flowing strongly as well, docking becomes a complicated procedure. That wind was not expected as the weather was supposed to be stable all morning. For the afternoon, we had three weather forecasts with different opinions about the direction of the wind and the amount of rain. They did agree on the temperature. Continue reading

01 June 2019 Montreal, Canada

And so I joined today the good ship Zaandam in Montreal today. The Zaandam is one of the four R class ships, made up of the Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Volendam and Zaandam. Although one class, the Rotterdam and Amsterdam are real sisters and so are the Volendam and the Zaandam. Main difference is that the RTDM and the AMDM have different funnels and different propulsion and those two can sail a bit faster. This was done as they were in the beginning earmarked to do the long cruises, e.g. longer than three weeks and with ocean crossings. With the increase in fuel price in the mid 2000’s that idea wķent out of the window and all the HAL ships now sail at the most economical speeds possible. So the Zaandam is nearly identical to the Volendam which I reported about before I went on leave in May. For the guest, the difference between those ships is merely the décor and art inside the ship. The rest is behind the scenes where localized “creativity” by the ships complement and/or different dry dock refits resulted in some minor operational differences. Continue reading

26 April 2019; Santorini, Greece.

With sunrise at 06.00 and a hazy sky we serenely sailed over a flat calm Mediterranean and then into Santorini. The hazy sky was courtesy of the lack of wind today but it all cleared up by 09.00 hrs. when the sun burned it off. The high pressure system over the Balkans which causes the winds in the Aegean Sea is not yet permanently in place (they also have cloudy days on the Pusta’s) and thus it was wind still, yesterday and today. The captain had opted to come in via the South West entrance and then sail north to our “floating area”. The Celestyal Spirit was already at anchor on the hump as she is larger than the Ovation in guest capacity and makes more calls but still small enough to leave plenty of space to come close to the town.  Sailing into Santorini is always interesting as parts of the outer Crater wall loom overhead and the black core creates a sort of round-a-bout where the ships have to sail around to get wherever they want to go. Continue reading

25 April 2019; At Sea.

Today we have a sea day as we are on our way to Santorini. The distance is 550 miles and that we cannot cover in one night so we are having a relaxing day at sea. And this time I can say this as the daily program does not feature any wild activities. One can be mentally and physically exercised if one wishes so but it is all spaced out and doable. The earliest activity was a remembrance service of ANZAC day this morning at sunrise and although the ship is small there was a good number of veterans on board to attend. As the crowd on board is very international it was amazing to see that the attendee’s also represented the whole scala of “Allied Forces” who were active in the wars and not just the Australians and New Zealanders for whom this remembrance days is specially meant. It was a real “Brother and Sister in Arms” gathering at sunrise. While this morning was the remembrance part this afternoon the ship will organize a get together for some reminiscing with a good glass of wine in hand. Continue reading

24 April 2019: Haifa, Israel, 2nd day.

Although the ship was in port overnight and the gangway wide open for the whole period, most guests came back on board for a good night’s sleep and then got up again very early for the next set of shore excursions. The Colonnade Restaurant (Comparable to HAL Ships Lido for breakfast and lunch operation although they offer A La Carte as well’) opens at 06.30 on port days but it looked as if they had torn the doors down as half the Restaurant was already full when I arrived at 06.31 hrs. Last night it was very quiet in the ship and I felt really important as I had the whole Club Lounge to myself including the Band. Some guests joined later but when I left the crowdedness of the lounge reduced again by 20%. Still a few people were on board during the day as not everybody participated in tours on both days. For just going ashore, without a cultural goal, Haifa is not as spectacular as due to the curved nature of the port, it lacks a concentrated down town area. So it is not as ideal for a concentrated shopping stroll as might be the case in other ports. Continue reading

23 April 2019; Haifa, Israel, Day 1.

After a slow sail from Ashdod to Haifa we arrived at the pilot station at 06.30 and sailed in shortly afterwards. Haifa is located against a curved mountain ridge which tapers off towards the sea. The top of the ridge is called Mount Carmel. The mountain is well known from biblical days as the location where the Prophet Elijah challenged the local competition to settle the problem of who was the true God.

The port of Haifa as seen from the pilot station. Haifa is mostly located against the Northerly ridge of Mount Carmel.

Continue reading

22 April 2019; Ashdod, Israel.

Together with the Seven Seas Navigator we sailed along the coast towards Ashdod with the idea to arrive early as the clearance operations take time here. However the Navigator had to wait and we had to stay behind her and then she got clearance first. So the plan of sending the guests ashore, bright and early, did not exactly work out. We were still docked ahead of time but then we had to wait for the authorities to walk from one ship to the other, and once done they could finally start comparing all our faces with all our passports. (Everybody had to go through, Guests and Crew) Once that was accomplished you received a stamped landing card for going ashore.

Extra, Extra Security at the gangway. This to complement our own scanning equipment inside.

When going off there was a mobile scanning post set up at the gangway and everybody was subject to a scan and a handbag inspection before they could board the coaches for their tours. Luckily we are staying until 23.00 hrs. tonight so the late departure will not result in a reduction of the tour time. As can be expected security is very tight here in the various ports and both cruise ships are surrounded by a row of containers with only a small entrance / exit for the coaches and the shuttlebuses. Continue reading

21 Apr. 2019: Suez Canal, Egypt.

We arrived last night at 22.00 hrs. at the anchorage of Suez to make sure that we would be ready for the convoy once it started to line up. That “lining up” can be time consuming with the planned time not always happening. But the SCA (Suez Canal Authority) likes to have its chickens lined up well ahead of time so when the convoy can sail there is no delay. Hence we made sure that we were early, and made sure that we had paid our Suez Canal fee. Otherwise no transit.  The transit fee is calculated via a standard tariff scale which you can find on the internet. You take the Suez Canal Tonnage of the Seabourn Ovation of 44000 as the guideline. I came to a rough price of $ 176,000 as I did not calculate behind the comma so it might have been at little bit more. Suez goes by volume only, Panama has a surcharge for guests on board maybe because so many more cruise ships transit the Panama Canal.  The plan was this morning to raise the anchor at 04.00 hrs. and then to be in the canal by 06.00 hrs. Continue reading

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