Transatlantic Cruise: Those Sensational Sea Days

Our 21 day cruise started with six straight sea days. Actually it was eight out of the first nine days on board the Nieuw Statendam.  That allows for a lot of sea day activities and for sea day routines to develop.

We each spent a lot of time sitting on our balcony looking out at the sea. Sometimes we’d see other cruise ships on our same general transatlantic route or a cargo ship. Usually it was just wide open sea.

Each day with decent weather we would walk round and round the promenade deck enjoying our podcasts or audiobooks while looking out to see what we could see. This is a photo through one of the deck openings although there was lots of open viewing. One day we saw whales on the port side! Other people reported seeing dolphins but we never did.

One day we walked On Deck for a Cause with about thirty other passengers as a fund raiser for Ukrainian Refugees.

We got into the flow of going to whatever educational, interest, or entertainment activities were available on the ship each day.

This is a picture of lecturer Andy. We both went to his first lecture involving science, space, physics and DNA. That was the last lecture I attended because those topics just aren’t my thing, however, Randy was hooked. Andy lectured almost every day and then had question and answer sessions each afternoon. It was rare for Randy to miss a session.

I attended lots of other presentations including cooking demonstrations, an executive talk about Marconi’s development of the long distance telegraph, Pirates, Dressing Italian, and information about future ports.

Some of the presentations were of interest to us both. One was about women on the Nieuw Statendam. Five departments on the ship are led by women including Finance, Entertainment, Housekeeping, Shore Excursions and Cruise Director. The above photo shows Shore Excursions Director Diamente, and Executive Housekeeper Sonia being interviewed by Cruise Director Stephanie.

Diamante, Shore Excursion Manager, leads a team of five.  She is responsible for the operation of shore excursions for each port including ticketing, coordinating transportation, food availability, and arrangements.   She researches and gives port presentations to passengers.

Sonia reported that she has 152 positions under her management including tailors, laundry staff (for 24 hours per day operations), cabin stewards, and ship-wide cleaners. Contracts in housekeeping are eight to nine months in length. Sonia started her career at another cruise ship company and held all housekeeping positions at one time or another.

Two crew members on Sonia’s staff were Risman and Fatkhu – our awesome cabin stewards.

When asked if she, as a woman, had any problems leading the housekeeping group, Sonia said the mostly Asian men on her staff initially had difficulty reporting to a woman as that is not part of their culture. Sonia, a Latina, said “For a woman, nothing is impossible.” That remained true when she and twelve of her crew were tasked with maintaining the interior of the ship during the 18 month pandemic pause.

Stephanie reported that industry-wide, most cruise directors are young, white and male.  She made the point that she is none of those.  Stephanie came to the cruise industry just a few years ago after a career in the entertainment industry.  She coordinated her team, did multiple ship announcements daily, held informational discussions on sea days and introduced entertainment.  (Two thirds of the way through our cruise, another female cruise director came on without passengers being told Stephanie was going off contract.  That seemed strange but the new cruise director, Betty Ann, was great.)

In another presentation we learned about the history of the Holland America Line.  We learned how the line reinvented itself time and time again in response to world events. 

One in ten immigrants came to America on a Holland Ship.  Unlike other lines, they offered immigrants temporary housing in Rotterdam while awaiting passage and three meals a day while on the ship.

During war time, Holland ships were used as troop transports and hospitals. That kind of use continued recently when the Volendam, which had been in dry-dock, was used to house Ukrainian refugees. The fleet has only recently returned to full use.

Holland was the cruise line that developed the Alaskan cruise and the infrastructure supporting it. That new focus saved the company at a time when its survival was in question.

A presentation we went to twice was the Captain’s Question and Answer session. Captain Noel O’Driscoll was the best. He had a great sense of humor and we enjoyed the noon updates everyday in his Irish lilt. He felt very approachable when we saw him around the ship. Captain O’Driscoll joined Holland America Line in 1999 and became captain in 2013.

The Nieuw Statendam went under contract in Italy in 2015. The keel was laid in March of 2017 and it was delivered to Holland America Line in November of 2018. The ship weighs 99,902 tons although the captain likes to round up to 100,000 tons. The anchor weighs 26,000 pounds and has 1000 feet of chain.

One of the Captain’s Q & A presentations included his Chief of Engineering. The Chief Engineer leads a team of 72 people responsible for maintenance and propulsion.

Ship stabilizers reduce roll by 81 percent and three engines pull the ship along, not push it. There are actually four engines, each the size of a bus, with each engine capable of 18,800 horse power. Only three are ever in use at the same time. A rotation keeps all engines active and in good repair. The ship’s maximum speed is 22 knots but we usually saw 16-19 knots.

The engine room is manned 24 hours a day and has stations for propulsion and hotel services. Hotel services include electricity, water, steam heat and environmental. Air is filtered and UV treated as it goes in and out of each cabin through the AC system. Two water makers produce 2500 tons of water daily. Waste water is treated on the ship and is clean enough to be drinking water before it is dispersed.

The ship is able to connect to shore power to reduce emissions – a procedure the Nieuw Statendam has only been able to do once. That was in Norway but more opportunities are coming with improvement in port infrastructure.

Also coming soon on the Holland America Line – a female captain! Although not on this ship, there are two Staff Captains (second in command) within the company.

Our transatlantic cruise (the first fourteen days) was at 60 percent passenger capacity, and cost $1.1 million in fuel.  

There are 44 different countries represented on the crew.  Holland tries hard to take care of its crew offering Indonesian, Philipino and Western foods.  Recycling efforts support the Team Member Recreation fund.  

The crew usually numbers just over 1000 to care for the ship and 2600 passengers.  During the pandemic a crew of 99 stayed aboard – including the twelve I wrote about earlier. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, Holland America spent a month getting every single passenger home and an additional three months getting every crew member home. Many cruise ships hung out in Manila Bay for 18 months waiting for a resumption of travel. That also kept them close to much of their crew. Most Holland America crew members returned when operations resumed. The process of gathering crew, mostly previously employees, took three months.

This really isn’t meant to be a Holland America commercial but everything we learned and experienced during our 21 day cruise made us happy enough that HAL has become our cruise line of choice.

Next time:  The entertainment on Nieuw Statendam during our cruise and… COVID arrives.

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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4 Responses to Transatlantic Cruise: Those Sensational Sea Days

  1. Teri McClelland says:

    You know a lot about that ship!
    It certainly sounds like a great way to spend your days while out to sea.

  2. Mark McClelland says:

    What an interesting post! I can’t imagine the complexity of a ship that size, or the logistics of keeping everyone fed, hydrated, comfortable, and entertained. Also interesting to learn how the cruise line staffed the ship during the COVID downtime.

  3. Jacque Laats says:

    Such great lectures and activities. It’s good to hear that HAL is trying to it’s best for our environment. Looking forward to your next blog.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful – and informative – trip!

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