- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Staff & Crew (page 1 of 7)

06 December 2019; At Sea.

We are sailing back the same way as we went to the East Caribbean, outside the Bahamas, in the North Atlantic Ocean and right inside the Bermuda Triangle. The sea is a bit choppy as Cape Hatteras has yet turned out another 3 day cycle special and this one did not go directly to the North East but more straight across and thus a bit more swell is reaching our area than was the case when we were going southbound.  We do not notice it very much but if you pay attention to the movement of the ship it rides as if it is going over a lot of very small bumps. No rolling, no pitching, just little bumps. Courtesy of this wave pattern mixing up with remnants of older wave patterns. Overcast skies and rain showers made for a day that was not “very exciting” outside. But the good news is that, tomorrow is going to be a sunny day again and today was the day to explore the ship as it is the last sea day of this cruise. Continue reading

05 December 2019: Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

The weather did what it was supposed to do, follow the Trade Wind rule and have the wind blow from the East. Thus the dark clouds that gathered during the night time (see my Caribbean cloud story from a few blogs ago) dissipated with the sun warming up the atmosphere and we had a glorious Caribbean day. Quite warm but the Trade Wind did blow through the port and that made it bearable. We were in port together with the Norwegian Bliss (4990 guests) and both ships docked at Havensight: that is the downtown cruise ship dock. Otherwise known as the pier of the West Indian Dock Company.  So together with our 2500+ guests there were about 7500 guests ashore which is nothing compared to what St. Thomas can handle. Put a few RCI mega liners in and you go well over the 10000 for a regular day. So it was a nice and quiet day for St. Thomas. And no traffic jam to and from downtown around the bay 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

30 November 2019: Key West, Florida, USA.

Promptly on time the Nieuw Statendam arrived at the Key West Pilot station at 06.30 in the morning. We had an hour back last night, and by 06.30 when the Lido opened, the place as already heaving. So there was great interest in, first in the food and then the sailing in. Quite a few people had forgot to set their clocks back; with one lady complaining why we had to go to “funny time” and then back again to normal time. Well if Caribbean Time is “funny” time then I wonder what she would make of West European time, which is 4 hrs. more “funnier” than Caribbean time, plus that we do not do am. & pm. But run the 24 hrs. Clock. Which the States calls Navy Time. But at least it meant that everybody was up and about for CBP immigration inspection which everybody had to see, including my good self as I am that most complicated of person who is a crew member but travels on a “Guest” visa. So I had to show my face to the CBP officer, to make sure that my face belonged to a passport and that the passport belonged to me.  Once that was done all was well in the world. 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

20 November 2019; Basseterre, St Christopher (St. Kitts)

The sail by past the Pitons took place under very dark and threatening skies which at that moment was maybe not so good for the guest experience but promised hope for St. Kitts. Because what rains early cannot fall later. And that worked out, sunny skies all day in Basseterre. The Trade Winds are suppressed at the moment by a high pressure system in the West Caribbean and thus there was only a gentle breeze blowing. We were in with the Carnival Fascination and with two high ships on opposite sides of the pier the result was that the pier was in the shade all day long. A welcome respite from the heat on the island when walking back onto the pier.  The Fascination is a 70,000 ton ship so a bit smaller than the Koningsdam but when full it can carry the same number of guests as we normally do. But then she sails for another market segment and another price point. Still I liked the water slide near the stern which was retrofitted sometime in the past and a few of the children on board were really disappointed in HAL. But according to the parents we are better with the ice cream. Continue reading

12 November 2019; At Sea (day 7)

Today is our last and final day at sea. Yesterday afternoon and evening the ship found the occasional bump in the road when a complicated wave hit the hull. These waves/swell were mainly caused by the confused wave pattern which was the result of the influence of the “Cape Hatteras wave field” and what had been there before and what was caused by the wind shifting 180o during the day. But for the rest a nice steady ship and all was well in the world. And with those seas around us we are now approaching South East Providence channel, where we will be in the lee of the Bahama Islands by about 1800 hrs. Then early tomorrow morning we will enter the Straits of Florida and aim for a 04.00 Pilot station time. And that means to be docked 45 minutes later.  Very early in the morning but the captain wants to be early to have as much time as possible to prepare for what is going to be a very crazy day. Continue reading

08 November 2019; At Sea (day 3)

Another nice day at sea with plenty of sunshine but still very breezy although with following winds. But there is no strength in the waves, and as was also the case yesterday, the ship is nice and steady. We are still nicely on our Rhumb Line to Fort Lauderdale, or better said to South East Providence channel in the Bahamas, as there we will change course to sail around the Bahama Bank and into the Straits of Florida. As you can see below, something is happening, something that I was already afraid about, Cape Hatteras is cooking up a new storm. It does that about every three days in the winter time and now we have to see where this storm is going. If it veers directly to the NNE in the Atlantic Ocean then even the swell might not reach us. But if it goes a little more NE or ENE then the swell might reach us. We have to keep an eye on that one for our last sea day before we get in the shelter of the various Bahamian Islands, its sandbanks and its cays. Continue reading

07 November 2019; At Sea (Day 2)

We are experiencing now nice autumn North Atlantic weather with sunshine and clouds and a considerable breeze outside. But for the wind we have glass wind breakers all over the ship and thus nobody is affected by it. As can be seen from the wave & swell map, the ocean is blue and that means the ocean is flat. Or better said as flat as can be, because the North Atlantic swell is always there, as swell is defined by waves caused by something that has already passed by. The wind that is blowing will make some waves but nothing that really affects the ship. Occasionally we feel a little jitter when a waves comes by that is too fast for the ships stabilizers to catch. Stabilizers can dampen out about 90% of the motion otherwise felt, so sometimes we notice the 10% that does not get caught. Continue reading

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