- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Trans-Atlantic (page 1 of 3)

2021 Feb. 17; Waiting for Better Times.

Dear Readers,

Here a little update from my side.  I have not posted since July 20 last year as the worldwide situation was so fluid that any update from my side would be old news, before it was uploaded.

I hope that everybody is doing well and adhering to the precautions needed for succeeding in defeating the Covid-19 virus. Here in England vaccination is well on its way and it is now becoming apparent that the continuous spread of the virus is mainly due to not keeping a social distance, wearing a mask and washing your hands.   Not much different as what we were used to in the past when there was a norovirus challenge on the ships. The Covid-19 virus is of course much more aggressive and deadly but the principles of combating it are not much different. Remember when you were on the ships; Sing happy birthday twice when washing your hands with water and soap. If we not all do our little thing, then we will never get the cruise ships going again. Continue reading

10 November 2019; At Sea (Day 5)

The weather system with its wave front came our way and since lunch time today the ships moving a little bit more than before. But the forecast indicates that the wave field will veer away to the North East and thus by tomorrow morning, the little wobbles that we feel now, will be completely gone. See the wave chart below. This means that day 11 and 12 should be nice and quiet and tomorrow we can then see what the Weather in Florida will be. Normally a three day weather forecast is very reliable, unless there are hurricanes around but for Florida I prefer not to do any predictions until I am down to two days. The influence of the Gulf Stream is a major factor in the local weather and 72 hours is then a long period. 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

04 November 2019: At Sea.

By 3 am the ship started to move and a bit more than expected. Apart from the rim of the weather system having dipped down further, earlier than expected, the regular ocean swell was also bit higher and short than expected. Still the ship did not move as much as it could have been and we were skirting the rim of the wave area running ahead of the weather front destined for the Bay of Biscay. While the wind died down this morning the swell remained, although slightly less than during the night and thus we have our first real sea day of the crossing. Wave and swell combined is just reaching the 4 meters or 12+ feet and that is just above the height that makes a quiet ship but also under height that makes a very lively ship.  After Madeira, about 12 hrs. after departure it should really calm down for the remainder of the crossing. The Captain is thinking about taking the Rhumb Line route instead of the Great Circle to stay as far to the south as possible. More about that in the coming days. 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

01 November 2019: At Sea.

To get to our first port of call on the straightest route possible we have two obstacles in the way, called the islands of Corsica (Corse) and Sardinia. But as they are islands there is water in between and that water is wide enough to sail through. It is called Boniface Strait or the Strait of Bonifacio. The old romans called it Fretum Gallicum and this translates in something like the Wild Waters of the Gaul’s. In the word Fretum we can recognize our English word of fretting or worrying about something. And that is a good word for this area as it can be a very nasty place. Strait Bonifacio which connects the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Western Mediterranean Sea can throw anything at a sailor that he/she does not like. It can blow a (local) gale here, it is full of shallows and nasty rocks, the currents are un-predictable and there is an almost 90o turn to make when going through the Strait. Therefore there is a pilot service available for those ships who do not have the most sophisticated navigation equipment on board and for oil tankers it is compulsory to take a pilot.   Continue reading

31 Oct. 2019; Civitavecchia, Rome, Italy.

Although the Europe season is drawing to an end, that is the high season, as some cruise ships will cruise the Mediterranean all year around, it was still busy in port today. Azamara Journey, Nautica, Brilliance of the Seas and us made sure that all the cruise docks were full. Only the “over spill” dock, the container terminal on the other side of the port was not used and thus a container ship was alongside. We were the only ship who had a change over today and thus we were parked at the big cruise terminal. This one has two jet walks as at the airport so guests can go ashore without being touched by the elements. Those elements were quite benign today and the chance of showers forecasted did not materialize. At least not over the port. If there are more cruise ships in port with a change over, then the port authority uses the pecking order system and the largest ship gets the best terminal. There are two more terminals, which are much smaller and are basically semi-permanent marquis structures. For the container terminal which has nothing, they bring in a large marquis which can accommodate 500 to 600 people. Nowadays a necessity as all those boarding people have to shuffle through security screening and that is not very nice if it rains. And coming off the ships, the suitcases should preferably stay dry as well. Continue reading

30 October 2019; Naples, Italy.

Last night we sailed by the volcano Stromboli which was as expected – sort of active- and with that cryptic description I mean it was spewing hot lava at an almost constant pace but in small spurts so there was no big drama and or explosions. Still very nice to look at, as it was very well visible in the dark night. Stromboli has been constantly active for a large number of years but since the 1950’s it has not had a major eruption or explosion. The cone is also not in the center but located on the north east side and that makes it possible that there are approx. 300 people living on the south & west slope of the volcano.

I do not carry a turbo camera with 40 mega pixel etc. So this was the best I could do. But the oh’s and the ah’s from the balconies did indicate that is was appreciated by the guests and the view a lot better than my little camera can picture.

They had a major eruption in 1953 and then about 1700 inhabitants left but nowadays the island is slowly being repopulated. In the summer time it has a lot of tourists who come for a visit as it is quite safe to climb the volcano as long as you know where to go. I was wondering why cruise ships do not stop off here, but due to the exposed landing site for the tenders it would be nearly impossible to plan it into a cruise schedule as 9 out of 10 times the swell might be too high to bring boats alongside. So the tourists come with a ferry boat and that is much easier as those sailings are simply weather dependent anyway.

The passenger terminal as seen from the bridge. Opened in 1935 and  since then very little has changed (For more details: https://thebeautyoftransport.com/2018/01/10/neapolitan-delight-naples-marine-terminal/)

This morning by 06.30 we were safely parked at the west side of the Cruise Terminal of Naples which is really the Passenger Liner Terminal from the old days. (The main difference is that the old waiting rooms have been converted into shops and some conference and/or exhibition areas) The building is a left over from the Mussolini period. He might have done a lot of bad things but he did restructure the Italian transport systems. The trains ran on time from that moment on (and they still do to a large extent) and all the squabbling ocean liner companies were brought together into the Italia Line, or when staying out of it, aligned in such a way that there was a good structure to the whole sea going transport system. It also resulted in the only time that that an Italian company won the Blue Riband for the fastest Trans-Atlantic crossing to New York. As the terminal was built in the heyday of Italian nationalism (called Fascism here) the terminal is a concrete nihilistic structure with a little bit of Art Deco elements in it but with rampant horses on the sea side face of the building to give it a macho touch. It has been adapted with fly overs and walk ways in the later years to make it easier for the cruise ships to get their gangways out on an even level.

The San Guisto. Docked in style Mediterranee.  The bow is kept in place by the anchor and the stern ramps provides access.

Docked right below the rampant horses was an Italian amphibious transport dock ship of the Italian Navy called the St.Guisto (pennant number L9894). Dock ship means that it has ramps and a dry marina in the stern so it can have on board a number of landing and patrol craft. The sort of thing that you need if you start an invasion somewhere. It has always puzzled me that a war ship would carry the name of a saint, as saints are supposed “saintly” and not involved in warfare. But it is all traditional and the St.Guisto name is not used for the first time in the Italian navy but goes long ways back.  

While looking at the Marella Explorer 2, I saw this pink/purple cow on the top deck. I have no idea what it was doing there but…………. the Koningsdam can do better. See below.

We were not the only cruise ship in port as next to us was the Marella Explorer II, which had sailed from Malta as well, as it was leaving dry dock the day the Koningsdam left. So they were in port today to start there cruises again after having had their refit. Marella is a sub company of TUI which is a (German) sub company of RCI. Tui in this way operates modern ships by means of the “Mein Schiff” series and then an older ships operation which is called Marella. Marella also employ our old Noordam (III) and Westerdam (II). If I was to explain how this whole operation works with all these sub companies then I could fill about 5 blogs but that information is readily available on Wikipedia.

Because we have a bunny. This statue is located on Deck 14 where the Cabanas are located and forms the focus point of the whole area.

The weather forecast for today, as on arrival, was a chance of showers although it never materialized. But as a result we could not see  Vesuvius from the ship as its cone was covered in clouds. Maybe not a bad thing because if it would explode, then there would be instant rain available to douse the flames again. The nice result was however that a large number of guests took their cabin umbrella with them and orange was seen all over the port. The other ships still have blue umbrellas but with the arrival of the Pinnacle Class the umbrellas changed to orange, as now everything that is part of the in-house-design has a touch of orange to it. Starting with the uniforms and ending with the shoe laces of my safety shoes. (orange/black braid)

My day was spent on trainings. These are regular trainings that are normally conducted by the 2nd officer training on board but I have started to realize that in some instances it helps that the crew gets a little push from somebody with authority to realize that they are really are allowed what they are trained for. Especially if it is something that is outside their comfort zone of their job level. It is a big step for a new assistant cook, fresh out of the Philippines, to push the big red button which shuts down the whole galley ventilation, but if it has to be done, it has to be done. And in this way I can provide the backup which can let them say: I did it for safety and Captain Albert told me I could do so.

Tomorrow we are in Civvitavecchia, the gateway to Rome; and for a lot of guests the gateway to the airport of Leonardo da Vinci in Fiumicino/Rome as tomorrow is change over day. Then tomorrow afternoon we start our Trans-Atlantic cruise which will take us to Fort Lauderdale where we are scheduled to arrive on November 13th.

Weather for tomorrow: Overcast with an increasing chance of rain after 10 am.  21oC / 71oF.



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