- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Shipboard Info (page 1 of 6)

7 Feb. 2020; Grand Turk Island.

If there is a sustained wind, then eventually the waves will pick up, and during the night we felt the occasional bump in the road. But as the Captain had kept up the speed during the day when the seas were still smooth, by the time the “potholes” in the sea started to arrive, the Veendam had slowed enough to still provide a gentle ride. Although the weather forecast had promised a windy day, it was a lot windier than forecast. The sort of winds that gives captains grey hair, or as in my case, make them go bald. Continue reading

13 December 2019; Cozumel Mexico.

Cozumel is a favourite port for the 7 day Mass market ships and thus we had The Carnival Glory, The Liberty of the Seas and the Anthem of the Seas in port today. (I think this is at the moment the largest cruise ship in the world) This as the port fits right in the triangle, Miami, Grand Cayman and Labadee /Haiti (for RCI). We call here as it gives another port when we alternate our cruises. But it is hard to get here for an early morning arrival and hence we docked at 11 am. Ships that go the other way, normally spend a day at sea while sailing towards  Grand Cayman or  have a late morning arrival there in the same way as in Cozumel.  Most ships stay in Cozumel until 23.00 hrs.  Holland America tries as a standard to have one evening call in port during a cruise but that does not always work out, if there is nothing to do in the port after 18.00 hrs. Cozumel is blessed with an exciting night life as long as you think in the terms of Carlos & Charlie’s, Senor Frogs and you want to brush up on your Conga Line Dancing. Which is normally not a problem after consuming a bucket of beer, or one of their special Margaritas Continue reading

11 December 2019; Falmouth Jamaica.

And thus we docked at Falmouth Jamaica. Mickey Mouse was sitting next to us, by means of the Disney Fantasy and we had the other dock. Normally all ships dock here nose out, to have the pointy bit towards the open waters as that is normally the best escape possible. But that logic does not always work for an Azipod ship which has much more power in the stern then in the bow. Based on the weather forecast the captain opted for nose in. In case the wind went beyond what the Weather Forecast predicted then we could still  leave as the strong Azipods would hold up in the wind and then use the bow thrusters for steering. This would make it possible to leave while the Disney Fantasy would have to stay in port. Unless that ship can make speed very quickly so she would not be affected by the drift of the wind. But that is something I do not know as I have never sailed on her. Continue reading

10 December 2019: At sea.

Today we are sailing at a leisurely pace from Half Moon Cay to Falmouth Jamaica. That is a pace of 14 knots. This is one of those distances which you cannot make in one night because if you would go full speed you would arrive around midnight and Falmouth is not known for its thriving night life so we adjust our speed and have a nice day at sea. Because that is part of the package anyway, a cruise is not just about the ports, but also about the ship. Although those who are new to cruising tend to select a cruise with as many port days as possible. Continue reading

08 December 2019: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

The end of an old cruise; the beginning of a new cruise. This is cruise 045 of the Nieuw Statendam since she left Civitavecchia on 05 December 2018. So the ship is now just over a year old.  Voyage numbers meant something in the past when most passenger ships would make journeys of roughly the same length. Those days are long gone and now a ship predominantly assigned to short cruises will clock up a much higher voyage total than ships assigned to long voyages. Thus could it be that the Veendam had cruise 996 last week and the Amsterdam was at cruise 474. Courtesy of a World Cruise every year. We are not making a world cruise this week but a seven day to the Caribbean. A different cruise than last week and so we have over 200 CVG guests on board who were on their 2nd cruise, or even more cruises in a row. Continue reading

07 December 2019; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

The weather forecast that promised us nice weather yesterday, is what we got today, and thus it was a good day. We were the only ship in and thus it was an even better day. There was just a gentle breeze blowing as we are sandwiched again in between various weather systems laying off the East and West Caribbean systems that will not bother us but helped with keeping the Trade Winds down to something very nice and gentle. 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

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

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)

 

22 November 2019; At Sea.

While going south in the beginning of this cruise we had the option to go above the Bahama Bank or to go under it, staying North of Cuba.  Now there is no option, we have to go into the open North Atlantic Ocean and sail north of the Bahamas as Half Moon Cay/ Little San Salvador Island is one of the islands at the Northern edge of the Bahama Bank.  If it would be very bad weather on the North Atlantic, the captain would go south, and then we would have to miss Half Moon Cay as the schedule would be too tight. But with bad weather on the North Atlantic you would have to cancel HMC anyway as it is very exposed to that Atlantic weather. Although the ship is a bit lively today due to a wave pattern left behind by another Cape Hatteras special from a few days ago, combined with a strong breeze blowing, we are still very lucky as by the end of next weekend the weather gurus are predicting a lot of turmoil on the middle Atlantic and those wave patterns will make any boat rock that would be outside the Bahamas. Continue reading

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