Captain Albert Schoonderbeek
Roatan is an island off the Honduran coast and Honduras is neighboring Guatemala, so the trip from Santo Tomas to Roatan was a short one. By 06.30 am I was laying off the pilot station with the ship, only to be advised by the ships agents that there was still unrest on the island. Yesterday there had been protest gatherings and road blocks been setup on the island by the local population. There was an argument between them and a utility company over the fees. Meetings had been taken place during the day and evening and we had high hopes that come the morning, all would have been resolved.
This was not the case. I discussed the issue with the agent and decided to wait until 0800, to see if we could get a better picture of what was going on, on the island. By 8 am. the agent advised that the police were clearing the road blocks but that there were still many unhappy protesters around and that there would be the chance of new protests. The authorities strongly recommended that the Veendam would not call at Roatan today, as they could not guarantee the safety and security of our guests. That left me no other option than to cancel the call. I know that I would have 1200+ unhappy guests on board but it is beyond the question to let guests go ashore and then to find them embroiled in a local dispute. It is not my job to provide CNN headline news with fresh material. It is my duty as a captain to ensure the safety and security of my guests at all times, whether on the ship or ashore, as long as the latter is within my capabilities.
Thus I spun the ship away from the pilot boarding area, where we had been floating for the past 1.5 hours and went on our way. As I now had a lot of time on my hands, I decided to go sightseeing. Making a bad thing less bad; which cruise guest will ever get the chance to do a circumnavigation of Roatan Island, unless they have their own private yacht? A bit of a unique experience. Later in the day it transpired that the local utility company had been privatized and had raised the prices 3 to 4 times and that got the Roatanians up in arms.
Roatan is a long and fairly narrow island. It is the top of a under water mountain range and the shore rises steeply out of deep water. One mile from the coast it is over 1500 feet deep, half a mile from the coast and the ship can run aground. Thus the Veendam leisurely sailed around the island until 14.30 in the afternoon at an average distance of about 1.5 miles; giving the guests a good look at the various little fishing villages, secluded villa’s and resorts.
Then we continued at a slow speed heading to the North West to Costa Maya, where I will arrive at the scheduled time of 8 am tomorrow. Due to the fact that Roatan is located fairly off the beaten track, there is no other port that I could have quickly sailed to, to give the guests an alternative to enjoy, provided there would have been a berth. With cruising so popular, the docks in the various ports have to be booked months, sometimes years in advance and that makes deviating not an easy solution.
In the mean time I was keeping a close eye on our Tropical depression number 17, which in the course of the night got upgraded to Tropical storm Paloma. It is expected that the system will intensify even more and might reach hurricane status. However the estimated track is still veering away from where we want to go, so things are looking good.