- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Page 9 of 216

28 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 2 days to go.

Today we had a sunny day but there was a bit of wind and that turned it into a “crisp” day. But good for the work that still needs to be done. The yard is very busy with removing the last containers full with carton and other packing materials from the ship and cleaning up the dock side in general as tomorrow there will be the handover of the ship. And it would be quite handy if everybody could walk to the tent on the dock without having to stumble over all sorts of equipment.

After the party last night and a later start this morning because of it (Breakfast available at 08.00 instead of 06.30) the full focus is now going to sailing out and getting into the regular cruise routine. So today we had our first Navigation Briefing where the Sr. Navigation Officer took the whole navigation team, augmented with the Chief Engineer, The Environmental Officer and the Security Officer, through the route we will follow. And that from dock to dock with everything in between. The Chief Engineer is there for propulsion and fuel issues, The environmental officer for verifying that the ship complies with every rule while going from a to b, and the Security Officer as he is in charge of the gangways and needs to know what will be available and how to set up his security systems.

The Bridge Team with all the officers present. The Captain is the 2nd. from left, Chief engineer is sitting next to the (bald) Environmental Officer and the Staff Captain is in the red chair. The meeting is about to begin.

The plan is (subject to change) to sail from the yard on 30 November at 11.00 hrs. and then go with a slow speed through the narrow channel which leads from the Yard to the Open Sea. We will have two pilots and several tugboats. The latter as a safeguard as we will be maneuvering with the ship; for the first time since the sea trials in August. Once outside we sail to the Venice entrance where we hope to be around 14.45. This time depends a little bit on PR photos of the ship. But the plan is to be docked around 1700 hrs. and then we will have an overnight in Venice.

Slowly but steadily more and more Higher Management is arriving. We now have on board Mr. Mickey Arison (and it does not go any higher), Mr. Stein Kruse who is in charge of the HAL Group within Carnival (Holland America, Seabourn and P&O Australia), Mr. Orlando Ashford President of Holland America Line and Admiral Keith Taylor who is the Exe. VP of Marine Services for the HAL Group. His function might need a small explanation as he is not always in the spotlight. When Mr. Stein Kruse created the HAL Group back in 2013, there were two main branches created as well; The Brands (the individual companies as the Guest’s see them) and Marine Services which is the branch which supports the Brands. Keith Taylor retired as an admiral from the USCG, hence his title. I am a bit old fashioned so I believe that titles once given stay with you as an indication of your achievements.

With everything close to ready, the artists are moving in and we see rehearsals going on. This is Billboard on Board with the dueling pianos. There is a training coach with them to ensure that Billy Joel is going right and not wrong until the routine settles in,

Under the Exe VP, there is a Vice President for the Holland America side of Marine Operations (read the nautical side) his name is Eric Chamberlain and he is an ex USCG Captain. Then we have a Sr. Director called Capt. Rik Krombeen (his bio is on the blog site as he came from within) and then we are far enough down the totem pole to come to the Captains, which includes me.

That is only the nautical side as we also have the technical side and the Hotel side. The latter is by far the largest as the Hotel department on board is the largest of course and thus is there also a large support staff shore side. Starting with a Sr. Vice President called Michael Smith and then going all the way down to various support staff.

The one person who is still missing from this list is Mr. Arnold Donald who is in charge of Carnival Corporation which controls all the Brands under the Carnival umbrella. He is expected tomorrow.

Two carpenters from the yard busy with the finishing touches of the last major piece of art that was still missing.

Today the last pieces of art went up. This one is standing in the lobby of Deck 3 just outside the Main Stage. The design corresponds with the Light Fixtures in the lower and top entrance to the Main Stage. It is similar to the one on the Koningsdam and there I was told that by using the same light construction in and outside the Main Stage it would provide a flowing link between the Main Stage and the rest of the ship.

The Beatles, also known as the Fab. four. Looking at the hair style, this photo must have been taken in the early years.

A much simpler piece of art hanging in the staircase is a picture of the Fab Four, showing off their chewing gum skills.

Weather for tomorrow, another sunny day with little wind but the temperature is going down to 8oC or 46oF. It is time to leave.

27 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 3 days to go.

A look over the Seaview Deck. I think the yard cannot wait to get us out of here as all that blue steel are the first pieces of a puzzle to construct a Costa Ship.

We woke up to a nice and dry day and later on the sun came out and it was very pleasant outside. The Norwegians would have called it a warm day; the Italians were all bundled up as to them it was still a cold day. For me as a Dutchman, I could walk outside in just a shirt if I was on the sunny side. So very pleasant. For everybody the regular work continued with finishing up, cleaning and installing equipment and materials so the ship can run as expected.

Last night we had the black out and in a period of 2 hrs. the Chief Engineer and his team shadowed the yard while they went through all the tests. On the bridge the same was happening. At 19.35 they stopped the main engine and then all the lights went out. The emergency generator came on and the tests started. One of the important tests is to see if all elevators come down to deck 3 (lifeboat deck) and remain there with the doors open. If not all elevators can be used, the Chief Engineer will assign one in each Staircase and these lifts will be manned by the Emergency Elevator Operator team, who will be riding the elevators from deck to deck so every deck receives equal service. Also Watertight Doors and Fire screen doors were tested, as they have to work without any power available. For that they have compressed oil pressure or compressed air pressure in bottles.

Now there is the option that the Emergency Generator will fail. If that happens we have a battery backup. Enough power to keep emergency lighting and other important equipment going for about 30 minutes over the whole ship. That 30 minutes links into the requirement that we have to be able to lower all the lifeboats and life rafts in 30 minutes. Which means we will have light for the whole period that the embarkation goes on and the lowering away.

By 21.30 hrs. everything was finished and all the crew, who had gone to the movie ashore, could walk back on board. A lot of crew had gone into Venice (the local bus stops outside the door) and they came back at their own convenience.

The Crows nest is receiving its furniture and the styles reflect the multi purpose room it is to be.

As we are nearing the end of our stay here, the immigration officials required a full face to face check of all crew on board. In a similar way as the CPB in the States does every 90 day with a Full Crew Inspection. That took quite a bit of time as every crew member was checked against the European Database to see if all passports were in order. But now we can sail.

Tonight we have the crew party ashore. It is a way for the company to say Thank you for  all the hard work done by the Officers and Crew. Some of the Officers such as the Staff Captain, Chief Engineer, Hotel Director and quite a few deck officers and engineers have been here from nearly the beginning and they have done a lot of work to help getting the ship to where it is now. We did the same for the Koningsdam and everybody is going to the same place again where the “Heineken Experience” will provide a party. I went last time and it was not good for my ears so this time I will stay on board and make sure the ship does not sail away without us.

That sailing away is getting easier as today the Yard removed all the Storm Lashings. All the heavy wires and hawsers, which kept the ship in position, regardless of the weather. Now we are moored with just our own mooring ropes as we normally do in every port. The weather is forecast to remain nice for the remainder of the week, so we do not foresee any issues.

This is hanging in the forward Pax. staircase. To stay with the ships musical theme. J.S Bach could have looked at it but also the Beach Boys as it links both eras.

Another piece of art today. At first glance it looks like a painting that would be more at home on the ceiling of a 17th. Palace than on a HAL ship. But if you look closer you see that it is painted on a surfboard……………….. The people who have selected all these paintings and other artwork, ArtLink, are also the ones who have taken over the Art Concession on board.

The Art Gallery on Deck 3.

Their Gallery is located on deck 3 forwarded of the upper level Queens Lounge, and their art is going to be considerably different than what was offered by Park West the previous concession. Today they were hanging the first pieces on the walls and what I saw did appeal to my personal taste. Luckily I will not be tempted to buy anything as my apartment has mainly sloping walls and what is straight is already full.

Weather: The same as today, dry and most likely no clouds. Good for all the work going on.

26 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 4 Days to go.

The ship is nearly finished and at the moment we have more Fire and Security Patrol people on board than workers. Yesterday there was even more security when we had all the local guests on board. The last group of them left last evening and hopefully they have been suitably impressed with what Holland America ordered and what their family members constructed.

Overview of the completed Lido Pool Area.

So we are back to ourselves and with ourselves we mean 1032 crew, which include a few people like me, who live with 2 feet on board but who are not part of the regular crew list. Then I estimate that there are about another 200 specialists and support groups on board who have to install, or finish a very specialized item and these people come and go depending on the project. Our piano tuner (he was here again today and has now progressed to Billboard on Board) is one of such specialists.

The Queens Lounge also completed. This is a mock up of how the stage will look like with the Lincoln Arts Center classical music on stage, before it becomes the BB King Jazz Club. The A/V guys threw some fancy lighting in as well.

I had a question in the comments of who the Cruise Director for the maiden voyage is and I only met him yesterday. Although already longer on board, he spends his drill time on the bridge assisting the Captain. With all these drills going on, everybody runs around making it happen and my position is then running around the ship as well, to ensure that everybody is running the right way. thus I did not see him until very recently. But his name is Ross McTaggart and he has been around a long time working for the company, holding various functions in the Cruise Staff Department. And now as the first C.D of the Nieuw Statendam.  The Cruise Director’s function is to be the front of the house person and in that way he/she is present where ever something is going on. Then there is the back of the house person by means of an Entertainment Coordinator. This person schedules all the activities and entertainment that is going on in the ship. And with all these happenings on the Music Walk that is not an easy job. Moreover as there are entertainers involved and that gives High Drama even at the best of times. Then there is an Assistant Cruise Director, five youth staff to man club HAL, a Digital Work Shop Host (the person for the computer lessons), 17 crew for back stage and audio /visual activities and the Cook for America’s Test Kitchen. Although the official title is Host, not Cook. This person falls under Entertainment and not under the Kitchen staff as it is a front of the house = guest focused activity. I assume what the Chief Cook does with his team is more stomach focused…………..

The Lido deck aft outside. Or officially called the Sea View Deck. Not really the place to be at the moment too cold and too chilly but it is ready for business.

We now have USCG on board who are involved in pre departure checks before the ship sails. The USCG is a Port State Inspection as most countries have. When we are in an American port they come on board to conduct a CVE or a Control Verification Examination. There is one a year where they do an in-depth inspection and there is the 2nd one, when they just do spot checks, a walk through of the ship and the emergency drills. There are a number of checks that you really cannot do during an inspection in a turn over port and for that reason we invite the Coast Guard to come to the new build.

Tonight we will conduct a full blackout and then we see what still works, and what has to work is indeed still working. Black outs on cruise ships do not happen very often but sometimes, if for one reason or the other, there is a power surge and a second engine does not come on line automatically, the engine load goes too high and the engine shuts itself down, and then the lights go out. Not dangerous but very inconvenient. However during a real emergency, let’s say with an engine room on fire, some power is still needed to keep the ship safe. Nowadays most of the larger ships have two engine rooms, separated by a fire proof bulkhead so the chance is very, very small but the regulations are still there. The most important item to test tonight is to see if the Emergency Generator (see one of my recent blogs) starts up automatically within 10 seconds and if it then powers a whole list of machinery which is important during an emergency situation. As an example the Elevators; required is one elevator in each staircase but Holland America has them all on emergency power. No lights in the cabins but there will be limited lighting in the hallways and the public areas. Also we have nowadays (not legally required) some spare power for keeping some AC, Cooking and the Toilet Systems going.

The theme of the Sea view Deck is The Sea and surfing so there is “Surf Board ” art around and today they were adding some wall pictures also with Sea and Surf.

For this black-out happening all crew will have to leave the ship for 2 hours and the Yard is going to show a movie in the cafeteria next to the ship.

I expect we all have to march through the rain again, as although it was dry part of the day, we are expecting more rain again tonight. But that should be the last rain for a while. During the night it should all move away and the long term weather forecast gives 7 days of dry weather in a row.

25 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 5 Days to go.

Today while it was a rainy day, it was also visiting day for the Yard. It seems to be a sort of tradition for when the shipyard is delivering a ship that the families of the yard workers receive an invitation to come and see what has been constructed. Starting from late morning until late afternoon large numbers of families came on board in groups, could walk around and were then surprised with a light and dance show in the World Stage. A “spectacolo” it was called by an Italian Lady who was making announcements to get all the visitors to the Main Stage and later off the ship again. I had a quick look inside and it was indeed a spectacle with a dance group who danced in the dark and then the light effects made them visible. With our 270o LED screens all around the audience is was quite impressive and also quite loud. The speaker system worked very well.

The “Spectacolo” in the Main Stage. Very difficult to take a picture of with a simple camera. But I caught the 270 degree wrap around screen to a certain extent.

For that reason the Lido Restaurant was closed today for the officers and staff as the yard has requested food (read pasty) outlets and the ship happily helped out. Instead the Dining room was open all day for us giving the stewards at the same time to chance to polish their skills a little bit more.  As is the same for the guests, the dining room is wonderful but it is not good for the waist line. Hence my personal preference where I can keep the number of calories a little bit better under control.

With no Lido available I went to the Dining room for lunch. After having lived for 26 years in England, I can even appreciate the local cuisine once in a while. This is the Holland America way of presenting Fish and Chips. (With vinegar on the side for the purists)

Our Holland America Line Crew was in full swing with cleaning the ship from top to bottom and more and more inventory arrived in the cabins. Today my cabin received a laundry bag, glasses and blankets for the balcony chairs. As far as I can see the only thing my cabin is still missing is a trashcan and a fruit bowl. So we are getting there. Every day more boxes are popping up with goodies to supply.  And for the rest, cleaning, cleaning and cleaning. Today was the day of the Vacuum Cleaner. Henry’s everywhere.

Because the yard people were not working we had a quiet day with the P.A system, apart from the occasional announcements by the Italian Lady about the “spectacolo”. For the last 10 days we all have been exposed either to either loud music or to constant announcements with “test, test, P.A test” or “test, test Muting Test”. All in various versions of Italian and English. Apart for Guest announcements the P.A system is also important for the safety of the ship. And as such an emergency P.A system is required under the SOLAS regulations.  We also have two systems, one for the whole ship and a 2nd one for the lifeboat and life raft stations only. So outside on Deck 3 there are two speaker systems, just in case the regular / normal system would fail. However that is easily tested as there are not that many speakers and it is all outside., nobody notices it very much.

The regular speaker system is much more complicated as it has to work everywhere and it has selector switches for certain areas. Holland America normally does not make announcements in the cabins and that means already one option to filter out. In that way we have about 10 different areas which can all by combined or separated. Then the Main Stage is a separate challenge. It is not a nice situation if an entertainer is in the middle of his/her act and suddenly the bridge comes blasting through with an announcement about “Whales on the port side”. From experience I can tell you, the whales will win. Thus the show lounge can be muted. But the system must have the capability to override this muting function in case of a real emergency…………. when we press the ALL CALL.  To figure that one out, and to see if all speakers are following suit, the whole ship has been exposed all week, to Test, Test, Muting Test.

The Statue outside the Green House Spa on Deck 9. Please scroll down to the end of the blog to see what he is holding in his hand.

Some days ago I posted a statue standing outside the Green House Spa, still wrapped up in plastic and waiting for an unveiling. Well the plastic has come off and the statue is a see through version of a very famous Statue. I will leave to the cultural experts among my readers to figure out who made the original and what it is called. But as art on the Nieuw Statendam falls under the headings of Music, Whimsical or both, this belongs to the “whimsical” department. Just look what is in the left hand ……….. and this is real.

Tomorrow the yard will start buzzing again and the weather will remain un-stable. Not much wind so it will not be too cold but with a chance of showers in the afternoon. It might help the deck department with cleaning the outside decks a little bit.

This is Culture with a twist. Hopefully it will make the Guests smile.

24 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 6 Days to go.

Today was not a good day for the shipyard as it rained considerably. Everything gets wet and also the work slows down as all the yard workers are walking around with an umbrella in their hands and with one hand it is hard to carry something, so you need two people for the same box that goes on board. Plus there is a bigger chance of getting dirt in the ship while we are just trying too hard to get the ship clean. The yard workers are ordered to put slip-ons over their shoes once they are inside but such solutions never work a 100%.

This is what normally the guests would do, going from their muster location to the lifeboat. Now we use the crew to exercise the crocodile line.

But work goes on and also for the crew side of things. Today we had our full safety drill for the Lloyds Surveyors so they could issue their necessary certificates. And everything went very well, as a matter of fact extremely well. I am not writing this because of the blog but because it was really the case. With these drills I walk around as the ears and the eyes of the Captain on the Bridge as he cannot leave the bridge and I ask my nasty questions to all the crew I come across to see if they are proficient. And I was a very happy camper. Everybody had studied hard and could recite the right answers and were even capable in coming up with solutions that were not in the study material but which you can sort of expostulate if you really understand it all.

All sb. side boats going into the water. We lower in alternating sequence so the boats can sail away unhindered. So 1,5,9,13 etc. and when they are clear and out of the way, 3,7,11 go down and can sail away. Then all lifeboats will sail in a circle until recalled. The Tender/lifeboat (2 engines) sits in the middle to ensure nobody goes the wrong way.

So we did the fire drill, followed by the muster drill of assembling everybody and then we lowered the boats into the water. As mentioned before, our full routine normally takes 45 minutes but in this case it was 90 minutes as the Surveyors took their time to look everywhere and grill here and there a few crew members about their knowledge. So with this out of the way, we can safely sail on our first cruises.

The process of testing all the eating outlets continues as well. And the pattern is quite simple, open up for a few people and then put the pressure on by increasing the numbers. Yesterday we had the Lido open for lunch for all the crew, and as they nearly all come in at the same time, it was a very good test to see if they system is capable of handling it all.  Today the Lido was closed as the yard were carrying out remedial work on what we found not working properly and thus the pressure shifted to the Dining room. And so it will continue until the Hotel Director and his team are  happy that we can provide the service the guests are expecting. One of those services is Room Service and tonight is the first night that the system will be tested. I am not somebody who enjoys room service very much but no doubt there will be a large number of people, currently parked in staterooms, who will go for it.

The Atrium Light show in full swing, It runs through a range of colors varying from white green, reddish to dark blue. With the new Deck 1 center square sculpture rising up from below.

Today they finished the Atrium completely and they had the light show going. For those of you who sailed on the Koningsdam, you will have noticed that it is not always on. That is unfortunately not possible as it would drive the guests and staff at the EXC tour office on Deck one and the Front Desk on Deck 3 absolutely nuts. The Atrium has also a different sculpture on Deck 1. While the Koningsdam has something that looks like a jet turbine from above, here we have stainless flames (?), or leaves (?) or shards (?) going up with lit up rims. Together with the light show around the higher up deck edges and the ceiling it gives a very nice effect.

Deck 2 which has the music walk is now completed. All the protective papers/ cartons and plastic have been removed and all the lounges now look the way they are supposed to look. We are still waiting for the furniture for the Ocean Bar sitting area but that will be moved in soon as the area is ready as it was until now in use as the headquarters for the Bar Lounge and Deck and their provisioning activities for all the mini bars in the cabins.

Three lady portraits on a staircase landing.

If you look closely it is all made up from black and white feathers.









Another piece of art to savor. This is a composition of three collages in the staircase. It looks like photos, but it is all made from feathers and you can only see it from very nearby. Very Very clever.

Weather for tomorrow; 40% chance of rain with the sun peeking through later. The yard should be quiet as it is Sunday but ship’s side things will continue to roll on to get closer and closer to a perfect operation.

23 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 7 days to go.

We have seven days to go so next Friday we will leave the yard and go around the outlying marshes to Venice. There is a small channel that runs from Marghera /Mestre to Venice but it is much too small for a large cruise ship. When in are in Mestre you can take a Vaporetto (water taxi) to Venice and back and then you get of course the Scenic tour when sailing into Venice but for the rest these channels are mainly used for barges to transport cargo.  So we have a 2 hrs. sail (slow speed) from the Shipyard to dock to open sea and back in again to the Cruise Terminal.

This morning the yard was testing the bottle throwing device. I assume for the dedication in February as they won’t have much time left to fine tune as the angle must be exactly right otherwise the bottle will not break and that would bring bad luck.

This morning we had a full drill again, as we are getting ready for the official drill tomorrow morning, which will be viewed by Lloyd’s Register Inspectors to see if we are proficient in everything so they can give the ship her passport. This passport is a certificate called the PSSC or Passenger Ship Safety Certificate. This is the main piece of paper that gives the right to sail. If that one has been issued then all the other certificates fall into place. Next important one is our Bare Boat charter certificate, which is issued by the Flag State and it is basically saying who the owner is and that the captain is allowed to play with the ship. It is called a charter as an operating company charters it from the owning company. This is nowadays the standard way the ships business is organized. In a sort of similar way as shore side when you lease a car. You get the whole car and you can do with it what you want but you do not own it directly.

The art in the corridors is very similar to the Koningsdam. Enlarged photos of Musical instruments such as microphones, tape decks, amplifiers etc.

Having a “Bare Boat” means that the company which charters it can put their own crew on board. So the owner of the ship (which in this case we are ourselves but legally under another company name) does officially not provide the crew. For larger companies that is the normal way of doing as it stays in house but there are two entities involved. But you find in the cruise industry, mainly in the 3 star segments, other charter options. Whereby a shore side travel agency charters a ship from totally different entity and then put the guests on it who have booked through that agency. A good example is Cruise and Maritime Voyages which mainly operates in the United Kingdom. The owner provides the ship and quite often also the Deck and Engine crew and then the Hotel department is another entity which is hired to make the cruise ship crew complete. Then the Travel Agency designs the cruises, sells them and puts the clients on board. This can work very well but it can also have its challenges as all these different groups have their own focus points and their own bottom line to look at. So all the big companies who operate in the four, five and six star segment have everything in house.

The Piano Tuner happily tinkling away while around him the yard is finishing up and also touching up.

We can really see that we are now getting to the last finishing touches. The shops staff are stocking their the Shops located around the upper level of the Queens Lounge, housekeeping is fitting out the Suites (the coffee machines went in today), the yard is bringing in more and more chairs into the lounges and the piano tuner arrived. Now this is a typical Cruise Ship Life thing and a service you will not find on any other sort of ship. So the Steinway was placed on the stage and the piano tuner was tinkling away. It will take him quite some time to get it right as the piano has been in a big crate for a while and it has traveled from the factory to the ship through all sorts of weather and temperature conditions. One Board the temperature does not fluctuate that much and then the weekly visit take a lot less time. In mean time the yard kept doing “yard things” around him.

We have quite a few Diorama boxes hanging in the ship. Full of whimsical things of which we do not really know what it is or is supposed to be.

But that does not mean that it is not very nice.










With all the protective paper, bubble wrap and carton coming down, more and more artwork is revealed so another sample of what the guests can see when they walk around. Suspense is building though as there are still a few pedestals empty.

Weather for tomorrow, it is getting warmer again with some showers during the night time and dry weather in the afternoon.

What it is I do not know but it is quite nice.

22 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 8 Days to go.

Another gloomy, cold and watery day. Luckily everything that is coming on board is in boxes or protected in another way, otherwise we would have a lot of wet stores and supplies in the ship. Our crew count now stands 1010 and the Human Resources Manager is expecting 9 more. No doubt he will find some more to expect tomorrow as they keep coming. And those 1010 do not include the supplemental staff and thus I gather we have well over 1200 people on board who report to Holland America and not to the shipyard.

Now all the protective covering is gone you can see the Casino Staircase, going down to the Music Walk, in its full glory. Here there are falling leaves. Branches of gold colored leaves above the staircase and the carpet pattern has woven gold leaves/spots in it.

Apart from the safety training, the ships entertainers have arrived and the World Stage is now every evening in use for rehearsals and sound checks. As the equipment is still being fine-tuned, I hear on occasion somebody going through the sound barrier, although not intended. The dual pianos in the Bill Board on Board are already in place and I expect that it won’t be long before the music equipment will appear in the Rock Lounge and the BB King Jazz Club. As far as I understand, all the groups who will occupy these venues have been rehearsing before they came to the ship so the only thing they need is to have things setup and to be ready to go.

More whimsical art. The Fab four popping chewing gum in the staircase.

Housekeeping is also progressing and we are coming closer and closer to the “Perfect Cabin Set-Up”. This is the Holland America Line standard of how every cabin should look like and be maintained. And it should never vary unless they run out of supplies. So we are inching closer and today I had turn down service for the first time, including an animal on the bed, which looked like a Dover Sole. The Housekeeping Crew is still in coveralls but tomorrow we are all moving to regular uniforms as the ship is now clean enough to do so.  I am now also the proud owner of two Beach Towels which are of course extremely useful for the current Venetian weather. What is still missing is a paper trash basket and as I am working in the cabin in between drills, it is something I really miss. But there is one in the bathroom and no doubt the Perfect Cabin Set-Up” will be achieved way before we sail from the yard.

This is a very interesting one. It is a translucent painting on glass which gives a backlit effect. so when you move towards it its perspective changes. Very Clever.

The yard is clearing away at full speed, deck and bulkhead coverings, railing and stair protectors and once gone they are followed by a team of HAL crew cleaning things up so we go from “dust free delivery” to Holland America “Spotlessly clean”. The latter will take some time to achieve. My cabin steward is waging a battle against iron fillings in the carpet. With all the fussing over my balcony window and earlier adjustments during the initial installation, aluminum fillings have been walked into the carpet and every time the carpet is vacuumed more comes out. It will take at least another few days before he has it all out.

While the finish touches are going on at full speed, the planning for the ship is already way past delivery date. The routes from Marghera to Venice and from Venice to Civitavecchia have been programmed into the Radars and all the Port Authorities have received the necessary paperwork so that they can issue the appropriate permits to allow the ship to sail into port.

Question of the day: Who is this famous early 19th century General and what does he have to do with the Music theme of the ship.

And a colleague, but definitely not in the same army.














This is not as easy as it used to be. For those who follow the cruise news, there are quite a few ports that are trying to reduce the number and size of cruise ships coming in Venice. Dubrovnik and Barcelona have been added lately on the European side and there have also been some rumblings in the Caribbean. We are going to visit Venice and there the sizes of the vessels are a concern because they have to sail through Venice itself to get to the cruise terminal. There is talk of widening a channel on the west side but this has not happened yet. So the Harbor Master of Venice needs to know exactly the dimensions of each cruise ship; A. To determine the volume of the ship and to see if it is allowed in and B. How many tugboats will be required to protect Venice if something would go wrong.  B.Is not so difficult to figure out but …….. A is, as there are quite a few ways to calculate the volume of a ship. Although Cruise ships are coming closer and closer to being boxes they still have angles and the decks are recessed and that can make it a bit complicated. But we have all the permits and in 8 days, we will sail into Venice.

Weather for tomorrow, overcast, chilly with a chance of showers in the afternoon.

21 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam, Building 9 days to go.

Another day in the shipyard and one that was not windy but still chilly even with the sun coming through. The finishing-off of all the areas continues and we are talking now about the finishing touches. Signs are appearing, the shop crew is starting to install their merchandise in the shops and everybody is running around with checklists to see what is still missing or what still needs attention. You cannot make a turn around the corner without you are run over by yet another trolley stacked with goodies, all bound now for a final destination. There is really the feeling in the air that the ship is progressing according plan and that things are looking well.

And there it is…………………….. official. Our new venue The Rolling Stone Rock Room.

In the meantime the drills continue as the 1000 crew we have on board now all have to learn to march to the same tune. In the same way as a brass band. Everybody can play an instrument but with no drilling and rehearsing they will not play in tune. And so it is with us as well. Every crew member is individually trained and certified but now they have put in practice what they know in a structured system and as a team……………. A rather big team.

The full dining room team ready and waiting for the invasion.

Who are also rehearsing are the restaurants and to the delight of all the crew, everybody was invited to dine in the dining room last night. And that is for a regular crew member a very big thing. Special food and on top of that ……………being served. A 1000 do not fit at the same time so it had to be staggered but at 1700 hrs. last night when the doors opened there were already a lot of very eager campers waiting outside. Scheduled and not scheduled. And a very good time was had by all. It is I suppose a very good way to test the flow from dining room to galley for pick up and a quick return with hot food. You can train the whole flow several times but you can only see if it works well when running under pressure.

The dining room stewards ready to escort all the crew to the appointed tables. But that did not work, everybody made a bee line for the large tables as this experience was to be shared with as many friends as possible.

With the introduction of the new ship, the company has also taken the chance to renew the menus and the Tamarind, our Far Eastern Fusion restaurant, has some exciting items on the menu. Also they are testing the systems. Last night yours truly acted as a willing tester with about 30 others and then night after night that number will slowly increase until a full rotation is achieved.

A menu is nice but quite a few groups were deeply considering to order the whole menu. Please note the glasses and the plates also a new design.

With all the cabins delivered, the Beverage Department has started with filling the mini bars in the ship. On the smaller ships not every cabin has a fridge/mini bar but here we have and thus every cabin has to get the standard supply of Sodas, Water and Alcohol. The alcohol / beer and mini bottles will come later as Italian Customs is quite hot on this and thus we received a little note. Not to touch anything as customs will verify. Alcohol is not allowed in the shipyard and everybody wants to avoid the situation of suddenly having a lot of very happy Yard workers in the ship. Plus our alcohol is duty free and that is another thing that a dedicated Customs Officer does not like.

The end of the music walk along the Club Orange. Once the protective plastic is gone it is complete and a nice place to see the world go by.

Apart from the mini bar, my the soap dispensers in the shower have now been filled up, I am the proud owner of a Holland America shower cap, which I really need with my hairdo and my balcony furniture has been enriched with a small round table. But still more to come. Today no development in regards to my balcony window so either they are thinking or the opposing parties have come to an agreement.

This is also art. A skillfully made up dish in the Tamarind. This is called Pan Nang and is a chicken curry dish but then curry done the Malay way. Served with sticky rice and a very good Jasmin tea.

More art is being installed, in the corridors and in the staircases but I am still waiting for the final last big pieces in the public rooms and lobby’s. This should happen in the next few days but as everybody is now walking around with furniture it is indeed wise to wait. All the furniture in the Grand Dutch Café has arrived. The easy chairs in the Music Walk outside the Club Orange are in position and the smaller chairs for the crows nest. With nine days to go, things are looking good.

Tomorrow should a similar day as today, chilly, with some sunshine, but most of all dry.


20 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 10 days to go.

During the night we had a cold front coming over with a shower and this morning we woke up to a real late autumn day. Overcast, gloomy and windy. But we have only 10 days to go so we will survive. Then the ship will move from the yard to the Venice cruise terminal and the next day our first cruise will start. Everybody is really looking forward to it. As with every (dry) dock, the crew likes it for a few days but then all the little chores are done and they want to go back to their real jobs: giving the guests a wonderful cruise. Although we are up to full crew complement already, still more crew members are arriving to help out with the initial startup and all the extra activities that this will bring. The total now stands at 973 crew + guest entertainers + not counted Hal-subcontractors and we are still expecting 30 more crew. So we will go well over the 1000 today if they are show up.

The Rolling Stones Rock room. It does not look different from the Koningsdam except that the Bar (not visible) has been remodeled.

More and more areas are being delivered and today there was no more work done on Deck 2 with on the portside Billboard on Board and on the starboard side the Rock Room. And so it goes for most of the ship. The Crows nest is completed apart from the installing of all the interactive TV’s and then all the furniture can be brought in. The crew is really roaring to go but can only take over an area when it is completely finished. Thus a lot of time is spent on cleaning, meetings, trainings, and standing in line. The latter when things have to be issued or keys are needed.

Waiting for keys. Because security is a top priority, this is a bit of a tedious affair as each card is printed in the presence of the owner so the owner knows there is only one and the Security Officer is certain the key went directly to the correct person.

It is not short of amazing what a cruise ship carries on board while cruising and what is needed to comply with the Rules and Regulations. As one small item, today the sailors were busy with loading life jackets in the tenders. Although I call them sailors as they belong to the deck department, their official title is Life Saving Attendants. These are sailors who are specialized in maintaining all the life boat equipment. A never ending job as all this equipment is constantly exposed to the salt from the sea. If it is up to them the ship would have a downpour each morning around sunrise to keep all the salt off. So they did not mind the rain from this very early morning at all. The other job they have is helping out with the rigging of the gangways and the tender platforms. So one of these guys is always the first person ashore in whatever port we visit.

The L.S.A’s  busy with loading life jackets. There are 6 life jackets in a box and thus the box is not heavy to pull up. It just takes a lot of boxes for each tender.

Life jackets are required in the tenders for the tender part of the boat. First and foremost tenders are lifeboats and can carry 150 guests. If used as such. The guests will have their own life jackets but when in use as a tender of course not. Because Tenders are lifeboats it is not easy to sink them, even when filled with water but still, we need life jackets as people can fall over board or might have to wade through deep water back to the shore if a tender would go aground. Our tender capacity is 150 when in use as a lifeboat and 120 when in use as a Tender. The latter number is smaller as guests will carry bags and shopping with them so we need a bit more space. When we conduct regular tender service we never go over the 100. But 120 is on the certificate and thus we need 120 adult life jackets on board. The law also prescribes that another 10% of children’s life jackets shall be on board and thus each tender (and we have 6 of them) received 130 life jackets.

The distribution of art also slowly continues but we still have a few pedestals empty in the main staircases where there is still too much traffic going on. They have now started hanging art in the various guest corridors as most cabins have been delivered and also the small repairs have been completed. Not everything is completed; as the story with my window still continues. This morning it was inspected by a team that said YES, followed by very painful looking gentleman on the balcony who clearly said NO. If this continues like this, it could be turned into a Soap Opera called “Finestra, Finestra”.

Tomorrow the clouds are expected to disappear and the wind to abate. The sun will lift the average temperature by a few degrees but it is still not flip-flop weather.

This installation is quite intriguing. In front of this display case is a vertical plank with a hole. If you look through the hole or stick the camera through it you get this view. A very famous inhabitant of Brussels showing his disdain for a  gentleman with a bowler hat.


However when you look at the side it looks more like a fruit plate.

19 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 11 days to go.

Another dry and sunny day but it is getting chillier and chillier as the temperature keeps dropping. Even in the sun it was not that great if you were standing still. The crew who ventured out last night to Venice and Mestre were not happy campers as most of them were not dressed for the weather. Quite a few still have a hard time to get their head around the fact that Venice is not in the tropics. At least not in the late autumn and winter.

With a happy Sunday behind them, the yard people re-appeared on the ship again and with them the loud conversations and the shouting in the corridors. Their numbers continue to dwindle as more work is finished. Still some minor challenges remain. A few days ago I received a new balcony window, this morning there was a technician scratching at the seals on the outside and later in the morning a whole committee inspected the window and declared it not good enough. They obviously did not like his scratching. So now we wait for the next development.

First photo of our Lido open for business. With no guests around yet, it was almost one on one service so I felt quite privileged.

But those are minor things and part of delivering a large and complicated ship. Today the Lido opened for the first time for lunch and officers and staff were there to test and see if they could collect food faster than the Lido Galley could replenish. Then tomorrow the dining room will be open for breakfast and dinner to get the routine going there as well. With the shakedown cruise there will be a larger number of Guests on board and thus the working pressure on all the venues can be increased step by step until we get the paying guests who can then expect the regular Holland America level of service.

Deliveries to all venues in the ship continue as more and more space is handed over by the shipyard to the ship. Today the storing of the Bo ‘sun store went full pelt and the same was going on downstairs in the vast storage spaces of the Engine Room. My cabin was adorned with fancy pillows (those big ones more for show than use) and the bathroom received its soap dispensers in the shower. Nothing in it yet, it goes step by step. Also the lifejackets arrived and a new remote control. The original one was removed (the one with all the buttons) and replaced by the simple hotel version which you can also operate without first having to obtain a degree in TV-onics.

The complete group of the MAT present. As you can see there are quite a few but then the Nieuw Statendam is a big ship.

For the ship in general, the main focus of today was the full drill in the afternoon. We had one two days ago, yesterday was a partial drill and today we did the whole sequence again, fire, assembly, and lowering away. The Nieuw Statendam is an indoor mustering ship and thus we have a lot of teams dedicated to get the guests to where they have to go. One of the teams that is not so well known is the MAT team, or the Mobility Assist Team. Guests only see them when they come to the gangway or the tender platform. They are the crew who wear the blue vests with a wheel chair on the back. In a real emergency it can be expected that we have a number of guests on board who cannot run the marathon anymore and will thus request help. When a cruise starts we already collect information about all the guests who have a physical or mental challenge and might need support in an emergency. The MAT will then be ready to support where needed. This group assembles in the Orange Room and will be dispatched when needed to the right location. With the aid of the list, they will know the challenge and can dispatch the right number of supporting crew.

Lining up for the Crocodile line, going to the lifeboats. For those who can not walk the stairs, there are exists on ground level in the World Stage, Emergency Elevators and the MAT to help.

The other thing is, when you are at your muster location, you have to get from there to your lifeboat. To ensure that is happening in an orderly way, we use the “crocodile lineup” also known as a “Conga line”. However before you are ready to teach and help the guests to do this, you have to know yourself what it is as not every crewmember knows what a crocodile line is. Thus we also practice that. We will continue to exercise all the evolutions in the drill sequence until everybody can dream his or her duty and can react in a flash.

For the weather it will remain cold, windy but dry.

The daily piece of art. The wall covering in the Sel de Mer has appeared. On the Koningsdam it is a Parisian scene by Lautrec and I assume this is also by an impressionist but I do not know his name.

The wall decoration in the Sel de Mer has appeared. As the art on the ship does not come with name tags, I have no idea who the painter might be.

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