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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Today we were asked to be 15 minutes later at the pilot station, to get into the convoy, and we were still early out of the locks. And that is good for everybody. The transit through the Gatun Locks is taking place just after sunrise and then the outside sun and temperature are still reasonable and we are able to anchor earlier in Gatun Lake to get the overland tour off. And that has the advantage that we can go back through the locks earlier and dock in Colon nice and early. The one thing we do not like is to arrive late at Colon and then to find the overland tour (900+ guests) all impatiently waiting. I would park myself in one of the bars and watch the world go by but most of the 900+ see it differently and are not happy campers if they have to wait. We say sorry of course but there is nothing we can do about it. Maybe we should start a moan & groan telephone line to the Lock master of the Gatun Locks as he/she regulates when we are going through. Continue reading
As described yesterday, we applied the “blow away maneuver” and the wind did not disappoint us. Within no time we were far enough away from the dock to swing around and to head to the North West. Our route in this situation is a bit peculiar as we go from Aruba to the East, to visit Curacao and then from Curacao to the West, passing by Aruba again. It would make more sense to call at Curacao first and then sail to Aruba, as from Aruba we go further west to Panama. It would save about 200 miles in fuel. Or about 70 fuel tons * $ 420 = $ 29,400 which none of us likes to spend. Continue reading
After a very windy arrival yesterday we docked at Oranjestad Aruba. It was so windy that the captain had to abort the first approach as the wind was gusting up too much. So the ship made a full circle and lined up again. Then the wind dropped suddenly, giving the Zuiderdam the chance to sail in through the narrow western entrance and dock at the C terminal, which is the closest one to the Town. Aruba is always a windy affair as the island is tilted along the Venezuelan coast under a slight North West angle. This means that the Easterly Trade winds do not blow in line with the docks on the island. Wind under a large angle will push the ship towards the reef. A reef we really like as it creates a natural breakwater for the port and keeps the swell away. Continue reading