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Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

Category: Staff & Crew (page 4 of 9)

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

06 November 2019; At Sea (Day 1)

I always love it when the weather follows the weather forecast as we then do not look so stupid if things do not happen the way we announced it. But it took about an hour to sail clear of Madeira as it is quite a big and long island and then indeed the ship started to move again as predicted. Also as predicted during the course of this morning the seas abated, the wind changed direction and the movement of the ship got less pronounced. By lunch time there was only an occasional twist to remind us that we are still at sea. And even that got less in the course of the afternoon. Now we are looking forward to a number of nice and quiet sea days and our only concern is that in two or three days Cape Hatteras will churn out a new depression and if that happens and it goes a bit to the south then our last day we might see some choppy seas again. On the other hand, most of that day we will be in the lee of the Bahamian Islands so we should be all right. Continue reading

05 November 2019: Funchal, Madeira.

And we wobbled happily during the night towards Funchal where we arrived almost on time but as we were last in the pecking order for docking we had to slow down and let the AidaStella and Mariella Explorer 2 go first. They had been exposed to the same weather and must have wobbled more than we did as they were still in the docking process during our official arrival time. As a matter of fact the Koningsdam was already going stern in while the Mariella Explorer 2 was still doing the same thing behind us. It all cost us an hour but, this is the luck of so much time on an ocean crossing, the captain decided to stay an hour longer so the port time remained the same. The weather for the crossing is expected to be good after tomorrow and thus it will be easy enough to make up 1 hour over a period of 6 days and nights. Continue reading

03 November 2019; Malaga, Spain

It is only an odd 90 miles from Cartagena to Malaga and we followed the Spanish coast line travelling westbound while doing so. Hugging the

Traffic flows in the Wed Med. Although this area has its own name and is called the Alboran Sea.

coast does not really work here as the Spanish have created a Vessel Traffic Separation Scheme more than 12 miles out of the coast at Cape or Cabo de Gata. Here the shipping route make a 45o turn and in the past ships cut the corner as much as they could with the danger of collisions, followed by groundings or oil spills or both. So all shipping that is not approaching a port nearby, has to sail out into deep water and follow the Traffic Scheme. And has to report in to Gaita traffic to advise what they are doing and why. It saves accidents, it saves pollution and thus I am all for it. As a result ships are following established routes that keep them away from the main land.   And then by 0600 this morning, the Koningsdam made a 90o turn to the North and sailed into Malaga. The port is a sort of inner bay, most of it man made and of a North – South aspect. Hence the 90o turn. Continue reading

02 November 2019; Cartagena, Spain.

02 November 2019; Cartagena, Spain.

Holland America used to come here in the 60’s and 70’s and then it suddenly stopped. With the fleet going down to four ships in the 1980’s focus was on the short cruises around North America and we abandoned Europe for a while. Even with the yearly world cruise of the ss Rotterdam, Cartagena was not in much of a focus while there is a lot of things to do in this area. The first call again was in 2001 with the Noordam (III) with yours truly at the helm and then HAL re-established Cartagena as a regular port of call. By now we had 8 ships more and thus Europe cruises were possible due to the extra capacity. And since then we have been calling here on a regular basis. It is a very popular port for the captains as well as the port is sheltered from every side except the port entrance but the docking basin is fully protected by a breakwater and thus an excellent port for a safe docking and also messing around with lifeboats. Continue reading

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