- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Panama Canal (page 1 of 3)

24 March – 10 April 2020; Panama to Fort Lauderdale.

So I am back on the blog. A blog which I had to stop as things were getting too confused and fast moving for me to relate correctly and with sufficient authority. If you look at the last blogs, I had mentioned already a few times that the company was moving faster than I could record it. Then throw the world stage, with all its politics into the mix, and I did not know any more if I was coming or going. So we stopped.

On 09 April the last guests left the ship, and then ship went into warm lay-up. Healthy guests but a few guests remained on board who could not leave as they could not get home for all the reasons that went with the current situation. Things on board are now returning to a sort of normal, albeit a new normal.

This blog is a compilation of the past period as seen through the eyes of yours truly and as I am not involved in politics (*) there is no opinion about why something happened, just what happened and how the ships made it work.

(*) Maybe Captains should all run for office, each in their respective country, I am absolutely convinced the world would have less issues. Continue reading

14 March 2020; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

We live in a dynamic world and the moment we think all is going (relatively) well, the next thing happens. Last night I had barely posted my daily blog and the message from Stein Kruse came in that the whole fleet was going into a voluntarily lockdown for 30 days at the end of the current cruise. That means that our Noordam and Veendam are already out of service and that other ships are following step by step, when their cruise comes to an end. We, the ms Rotterdam are the exception, for the length of time we will still sail, due to the fact that we are making a Panama Canal cruise and we have to get to the other side. So the plan at the moment is to continue the cruise as scheduled and take it day by day, to see what the Virus is doing, to see what the Medical Profession is advising and to see how the politicians are reacting to it. Luckily the ms Rotterdam is safe and healthy and that is the most important thing. Our crew is sanitizing so much that “the paint is coming off the walls” and nobody has any symptoms or feels ill. Continue reading

13 March 2020, At Sea Day 2.

With a continuation of calm weather we sail down the Mexican Coast for our second day. Tonight we go “around the corner” at Cabo San Lucas and then by 06.00 hrs. we will be at the pilot station. We are still healthy and safe although we have all stepped our procedures to stay so. For the guests on board, especially for those with a long time cruise experience, the visible measures taken look very much as the way we deal with periods when the Noro Virus is prevalent. Although the viruses are not the same, the way they are transmitted are identical and thus we have imposed similar protocols.  How things will progress is any bodies guess but we are still sailing and that is for us the main thing.  As is known, the Westerdam has cancelled the remainder of her Far East season, as a precaution, and is now on the way back to America. Other companies have laid up some or all of their ships, so we can be very grateful that we are still able to offer the cruise that the guests have looking forward to. For those who still work and only have limited time it is very good thing that we can still sail. Continue reading

12 March 2020; At Sea, First day.

Because we are doing basically the same cruise back to Fort Lauderdale we also have two sea days after leaving San Diego in the same way as before when arriving. For our cruise see chartlet below. How this cruise and future cruises will develop is everybody’s guess. It all depends on what happens with the Corona Virus and what wise men & women will decide about what is best. No doubt everybody is following the news hour by hour as things keep changing all the time. Carnival Corporation is constantly reviewing the situation and we get updated all the time. Processes are refined by the day, depending on what the Experts learn or what the political situation requires. Yours truly has now also been affected by the situation as well, in So far that I cannot travel around the fleet for the time being. Continue reading

02 March 2020; North Pacific Ocean.

While exiting the Canal we came as close to the equator as we will get on this cruise but still over 400 Miles North of it. From now on we only be going north until we come to San Diego, the end of this cruise. And we will do that just by following the coast. The Pacific Coast of Middle America and Mexico is fairly straight and by that I mean we do not have to sail around large areas of land that are protruding. The only part that sticks out a little bit is The Californian Peninsula but even that we can do on a straight line. Continue reading

01 March 2020; Panama Canal.

We have a schedule, it starts off with the best intentions and then something un-expected happens.  We did arrive at 05.00 and in the end we approached the First locks, the Gatun locks at 07.00 hrs. but by the time we came out, there was a challenge in the works. Ahead of us was the Wind Star from Wind Star cruises which once in the past belonged to Holland America, until it was decided that sailing motor yachts for an incentive market were not really compatible with cruise ships in the premium markets and thus the company was sold off to an equity fund. (Or some similar sort of investor). But sailing ships have very high masts. And she only fits under the Bridge of the America’s at low tide. (That bridge is at the Pacific side and the Pan American Highway passes over it) Once the convoy starts going, then it cannot stop anymore and for some reason there was no option to put the Wind Star alongside somewhere until the tide was right. So we had to wait from some 30+ minutes. Apart from her, there was one other cruise ship in today, the Seven Seas Splendor, which was “one behind” meaning there was another ship in between, in this case a Car Carrier, or “Auto Boot” in the Dutch Language. Continue reading

29 Feb. 2020; At Sea, Approaching the Panama Canal.

The swell is not as bad as I am normally used to over here. It seems that in the last few days the strength and the angle of the wind has been slightly different than what is normal here, and as a result the swell is lower than normal and thus the ship is not rolling as much as it can do here. That different weather can happen here if there is a cold front going over Florida which did occur on February 27. Then if the tail comes low enough, the prevailing winds change and that results in less swell or a swell from another direction. It does not always happen as it depends on how the tail of such a cold front is moving over Mexico and how far south it extends. This cold front was not very nice for Florida but it works out in our favor here in the South West Caribbean as we do not have a wobbly ship.

Continue reading

28 Feb. 2020; Oranjestad, Aruba.

Aruba is a place which make captains always think about it for a second time. And that is due to the wind. The Trade Winds which blow over the whole of the Caribbean gather more and more momentum while getting further to the west and if they are already strong to start with, they are blowing a gale by the time they reach the Dutch A, B, C islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). The problem with Aruba is, that it is flat, really flat, although it has one mountain called the Hooiberg (Hay stack) but that one is too far away from the port to provide any shelter from the wind. In Willemstad, Curacao, it is not so big a problem as the docks are more in line with the Trade Winds, so the wind does not make the ship drift or (for the docks inside the port) there is some shelter from the surrounding land. Continue reading

27 Feb. 2020; Willemstad, Curacao.

And thus I arrived on board the good ship Rotterdam (VI) in Willemstad, Curacao. Since 1997 when she was new, she carries the designation of the flag ship of the company although in 2000 it was decided that she would share that title with the ms Amsterdam. The flagship always used to be the newest (and biggest) ship of the company, where the Commodore would sail on and as he flew his own flag, it was called the flagship. Those days are long gone, the Rotterdam is by far not the largest ship anymore and now we have times where one of the more junior captains sail on the biggest and newest ship. But I still like to use the title as it gives a bit of a historical credential to the whole happening. Continue reading

24 March 2019; Panama Canal.

Good news all around, the weather gurus were off their track today and they only got it right as far as the outside temperatures was concerned. No rain and hardly any wind.  The wind I could not predict as I did not look at the 500 MB charts lately, which show (under the influence of the Jet stream) how the larger weather patterns move.  But I had it in my mind that there would be no rain. Panama is going through a severe dry spell at the moment and thus there is not enough moisture building up in the air to create rain clouds that will reach sufficient density to become over saturated and start releasing rain. We had a few overcast spells today with dark clouds building up but they were not dense /dark enough and the cloud bands not compact enough.  Good for our guests, dry and partly overcast which reduces the chance of sun burn. Continue reading

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