- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 9)

03 March 2020; Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.

Today we are in a hot and sweltering Costa Rica, mainly because there is hardly any wind, or clouds. As mentioned yesterday, this stop is mainly to offer the guests Eco Tours; same as we have other ports for history (Puerto Quetzal) and other ports again for beach and shopping.  When going here, we have the option to dock at Punta Arenas or at Puerto Caldera. The latter one is officially the cargo port. In the old days it was the only port, but then they built a new pier which leads straight into the town of Punta Arenas. The challenge with the new pier is, it is very exposed to current, wind and swell. So to get the ship alongside you have to arrive at slack tide (change from ebbing to flooding or vice versa) and when the swell is running, then the ship bounces up and down the pier all day, which is not so great for our guests. Continue reading

19 Feb. 2020; Fort Lauderdale.

It is always nice to be in Fort Lauderdale as the only ship in port. It somehow harks back to the days when one ship in port was standard and everything revolved around it. Now we have some sort of shock when we want out if we are the only ones and have to adjust to the luxury. And not only us, a lot of people in the port as well. I heard this morning from our shore side people that there was even a lack of taxi’s in the beginning as a lot of cabbie’s had taken the day off or had focused on something else, “because there was only one small ship in port”. That of course corrected itself but it shows what I mean.  But for the rest it has a lot of advantages. There is no traffic jam at the entry security point of the port and even the bunkering of fuel goes faster as there is a higher pressure in the shore piping system as only one ship is taking fuel. Continue reading

07 June 2019: Bar Harbor, Maine, USA.

The weather forecast promised a glorious day and the weather guru’s had it right this time, it was glorious. By 06.00 hrs. the sun was shining and there was hardly any wind. A perfect day for tender service, if you have to do a tender service. And we have to as Bar Harbor has only a teeny – weenie dock where only the small coastal cruise ships can dock. So we dropped anchor in Frenchman’s bay by 07.00 hrs. and we were ready to go. But nobody could go as all the guests had to go through Custom and Border Protection clearance first, before they were allowed ashore. Luckily the CBP Officers here are very much willing to help with making the process as smooth as possible. And that meant that once you had seen a CBP officer you received proof that you had been and then you could go ashore if you wanted to. This is not always the case; there are ports where all the guests have to wait until everybody has been inspected. Nothing we can do about it as this decision depends on the local CBP supervisor and we on the ships do not know why it is different sometimes.  But here it works and so the guests that wanted to go ashore early had the option. Continue reading

21 Apr. 2019: Suez Canal, Egypt.

We arrived last night at 22.00 hrs. at the anchorage of Suez to make sure that we would be ready for the convoy once it started to line up. That “lining up” can be time consuming with the planned time not always happening. But the SCA (Suez Canal Authority) likes to have its chickens lined up well ahead of time so when the convoy can sail there is no delay. Hence we made sure that we were early, and made sure that we had paid our Suez Canal fee. Otherwise no transit.  The transit fee is calculated via a standard tariff scale which you can find on the internet. You take the Suez Canal Tonnage of the Seabourn Ovation of 44000 as the guideline. I came to a rough price of $ 176,000 as I did not calculate behind the comma so it might have been at little bit more. Suez goes by volume only, Panama has a surcharge for guests on board maybe because so many more cruise ships transit the Panama Canal.  The plan was this morning to raise the anchor at 04.00 hrs. and then to be in the canal by 06.00 hrs. Continue reading

12 April 2019; At Sea, sailing along the Coast of Oman.

We are following the recommended deep sea route so we are quite far from the shore. This makes sense anyway as it keeps us clear all sorts of Sunday sailors and fishing boats who are normally hovering on the edge of the shallow and deep water line as that is where the fish tends to come up from the deep. We are in deep water, very deep water. In relative distance the depth of the sea increases quite rapidly from being shallow and below us we have about 4000 feet of water and that is not even the deepest part.

The tectonic plate movement in the area (Thank you wikipedia)

The cause is another continental divide. We are here at the eastern rim of the Arabian Tectonic Plate which is crushed against Europe by the African Plate. I have blogged about this before, explaining the Wegener theory (not a theory since a long time anymore) that the continents are a sort of parts of a large dinner plate (broken in to the continent pieces a long time ago) that mainly drift westwards but not always. Far down at the sea bottom the two plates meet and slowly but steadily the Somalian Plate pushes the African Plate to the North East. So the distance from South America is getting larger by a few centimeters every year. The Arabian plate has nowhere to go but follow and here the mountains are getting higher. (Wait a million years and you can see the difference) This is caused by the west moving Somalian plate which is pushing under the African plate and that gives these very deep canyons under water.  And we are sailing right over the top at the moment. Continue reading

10 April 2019; At Sea.

Today we have a sea day and the ship is on its way from Doha to Muscat. This means we are sailing out of the Persian Gulf into the Strait of Hormuz and then further south. Thus we go North East  until we reach the coast of the United Emirates again where we started our cruise and then this afternoon we bend around the top of the area, called Al Khasal also written as Khasab, in the early afternoon and now we are in Gulf of Oman.  This is one of the areas where there is a lot of political noise about. On occasion Iran threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz and then the other parties threaten something in return; and vice versa. Continue reading

09 April 2019; Doha, Qatar.

The whole coast in this area is very shallow and thus there are dredged channels and long meandering buoy routes to get you to the ports. Most of them are oil ports but then there is an occasional city as well. Qatar is no different; a very long approach through buoyed channels (with hopefully most of the time with the buoys in the right location) and then coming to a port that is under construction and a VERY LONG way from the new city. Easily visible on the horizon as one spiky mountain of glass and concrete but a long distance from where we are docked. There is not even a cruise terminal yet, just a large Marque  but it is all part of a great plan. In 2022 the world championships Football (soccer for the Americans) will be played here and the plan is to build a complete Olympic center with a cruise terminal. Whether they plan to use the cruise terminal for chartered cruise ships for extra Hotel accommodation, or just for cruise calls, is something I do not know. Just that they have to get a move on, if they want to be finished on time. At the moment, and it is maybe a small detail, there is not a football stadium in sight yet. Continue reading

07 April; Dubai, Seabourn Ovation.

There was a reason for me having been vague a week ago about my next ship, as the Seabourn Ships are hard to visit. First of all they are often off the beaten track and their embarkation ports often require Visas, either as guest or as crew, or for both. Applying for a Visa takes more than a few days and that brings a un-necessary complication to my activities so I try to avoid it. Secondly Seabourn is very successful and thus the ships are always sold out and often it needs a last minute cancellation to get a function like mine on board. As the ships are smaller, the chance of an empty cabin goes down, and there is also not the option to have a few “extra” cabins on board as there is simply no space.  So I assume that my cabin availability is the result of a last minute cancellation although I hope that the underlying reason is not one of great tragedy or illness. But whatever happened it got me on board the ms Seabourn Ovation where I stepped this morning in Dubai. As with all developing cities in the Arabic peninsula, Dubai consists of a gaggle of skyscrapers sitting in a desert of yellow sand. At least that is what you see from the ship.  I am not into sand, as I prefer the sea or woodlands so it does not mean much to me but if you are into modern architecture then it is THE place to be. Continue reading

19 March 2019; Fort Lauderdale.

And a miserable day it was. It rained all day and it just looked like England. At least the English people perceived it to be. With one difference the rain was not very cold but still wet. We are having a frontal system coming over with rain and wind in the  morning, then rain only, and then rain and wind in the late afternoon. But better today than tomorrow. Today the guests are traveling homewards or coming to the ship and that is a lost day anyway. And what comes over now is what we will not see in Half Moon Cay as that is the direction where all the wet stuff was coming from. Continue reading

24 November 2018; Nieuw Statendam Building, 6 Days to go.

Today was not a good day for the shipyard as it rained considerably. Everything gets wet and also the work slows down as all the yard workers are walking around with an umbrella in their hands and with one hand it is hard to carry something, so you need two people for the same box that goes on board. Plus there is a bigger chance of getting dirt in the ship while we are just trying too hard to get the ship clean. The yard workers are ordered to put slip-ons over their shoes once they are inside but such solutions never work a 100%.

This is what normally the guests would do, going from their muster location to the lifeboat. Now we use the crew to exercise the crocodile line.

But work goes on and also for the crew side of things. Today we had our full safety drill for the Lloyds Surveyors so they could issue their necessary certificates. And everything went very well, as a matter of fact extremely well. I am not writing this because of the blog but because it was really the case. With these drills I walk around as the ears and the eyes of the Captain on the Bridge as he cannot leave the bridge and I ask my nasty questions to all the crew I come across to see if they are proficient. And I was a very happy camper. Everybody had studied hard and could recite the right answers and were even capable in coming up with solutions that were not in the study material but which you can sort of expostulate if you really understand it all.

All sb. side boats going into the water. We lower in alternating sequence so the boats can sail away unhindered. So 1,5,9,13 etc. and when they are clear and out of the way, 3,7,11 go down and can sail away. Then all lifeboats will sail in a circle until recalled. The Tender/lifeboat (2 engines) sits in the middle to ensure nobody goes the wrong way.

So we did the fire drill, followed by the muster drill of assembling everybody and then we lowered the boats into the water. As mentioned before, our full routine normally takes 45 minutes but in this case it was 90 minutes as the Surveyors took their time to look everywhere and grill here and there a few crew members about their knowledge. So with this out of the way, we can safely sail on our first cruises.

The process of testing all the eating outlets continues as well. And the pattern is quite simple, open up for a few people and then put the pressure on by increasing the numbers. Yesterday we had the Lido open for lunch for all the crew, and as they nearly all come in at the same time, it was a very good test to see if they system is capable of handling it all.  Today the Lido was closed as the yard were carrying out remedial work on what we found not working properly and thus the pressure shifted to the Dining room. And so it will continue until the Hotel Director and his team are  happy that we can provide the service the guests are expecting. One of those services is Room Service and tonight is the first night that the system will be tested. I am not somebody who enjoys room service very much but no doubt there will be a large number of people, currently parked in staterooms, who will go for it.

The Atrium Light show in full swing, It runs through a range of colors varying from white green, reddish to dark blue. With the new Deck 1 center square sculpture rising up from below.

Today they finished the Atrium completely and they had the light show going. For those of you who sailed on the Koningsdam, you will have noticed that it is not always on. That is unfortunately not possible as it would drive the guests and staff at the EXC tour office on Deck one and the Front Desk on Deck 3 absolutely nuts. The Atrium has also a different sculpture on Deck 1. While the Koningsdam has something that looks like a jet turbine from above, here we have stainless flames (?), or leaves (?) or shards (?) going up with lit up rims. Together with the light show around the higher up deck edges and the ceiling it gives a very nice effect.

Deck 2 which has the music walk is now completed. All the protective papers/ cartons and plastic have been removed and all the lounges now look the way they are supposed to look. We are still waiting for the furniture for the Ocean Bar sitting area but that will be moved in soon as the area is ready as it was until now in use as the headquarters for the Bar Lounge and Deck and their provisioning activities for all the mini bars in the cabins.

Three lady portraits on a staircase landing.

If you look closely it is all made up from black and white feathers.









Another piece of art to savor. This is a composition of three collages in the staircase. It looks like photos, but it is all made from feathers and you can only see it from very nearby. Very Very clever.

Weather for tomorrow; 40% chance of rain with the sun peeking through later. The yard should be quiet as it is Sunday but ship’s side things will continue to roll on to get closer and closer to a perfect operation.

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