Saturday, 28 January 2012

Sapphire Princess Refit on Now

Sapphire Princess atrium before the refit
'Sapphire Princess' is in dry dock at the moment in Victoria, British Columbia. The work is scheduled for the refit from January 9th to February 4th, 2012.
  This photo is of the three storey atrium as it was when we were on the ship in 2008. It was a beautiful space with sweeping staircases, elevators behind elaborate cut-out brass screens, and comfortable chairs where you could sit and listen to musicians playing. It was also a great place for party nights and the famous 'champagne waterfall'!
   Now the atrium is being transformed into a Piazza with an International CafĂ©, Vines Wine Bar and Alfredo's Pizzeria. I'll be very interested to see the end result.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Holland America Line's Commitment to Safety at Sea

Holland America Line logo
I am copying here part of a message I received today from Stein Kruse, President and CEO of Holland America Line. He reiterates the company's strong commitment to safety. I thought it worth putting on my blog.
I am joined by a solid team of professionals who understand the critical importance of safety, many of whom have long careers at sea, whether on cruise ships, commercial ships or serving in the Coast Guard, Navy or other professional maritime organizations. Among them is Captain Cees Deelstra, our Vice President, Nautical Operations, who started his forty-year career with Holland America Line as a cadet, ultimately attaining his own command as a master before accepting a position shoreside to oversee the safe operations of our fleet. Similarly, Captain William Morani, our Vice President, Safety, Environment and Health, served for twenty-five years in the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Program before joining Holland America Line. All of our captains have spent decades at sea and all have a solid record of safely sailing passenger vessels. Most have spent their career with Holland America Line.
All shipboard personnel undergo comprehensive regular safety training. This includes live onboard training, computer based courses and state of the art simulator training. We hold regular shoreside conferences for senior officers to discuss safety and other critical issues, the last as recent as October 2011. All crew participate in regular drills to ensure they know what their role is in the event of an emergency. We also drill our shoreside response team so that we are always prepared, including a simulated mass rescue exercise with the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska.
You also need not rely solely on my word for all of this. Like every passenger vessel, each ship in our fleet undergoes mandatory inspections by Lloyds, our classification society, as well as by the Netherlands (our flag state), by the U.S. Coast Guard, and by other regulatory authorities based in the countries we visit.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Sail Away with Pacific Pearl

Pacific Pearl leaving Auckland
Five minutes ago I had this close-up view of 'Pacific Pearl' as she cruised out of Auckland. I'm staying at Devonport this week and from my vantage point on the waterfront I could even hear her band playing at the sail away party.There will be 1850 excited passengers on board, starting their partying for an eight night cruise to some Pacific Islands.
 'Pacific Pearl' was built in 1987. She was refurbished and brought down to New Zealand by P&O as the newest addition to their fleet in December 2010. In the year and a bit since then she has cruised the South Pacific.
  Today's cruise is called the Petit Escape. Its itinerary takes it around New Caledonia with days in port at  Noumea, Lifou and the Isle of Pines. (I have written about each of those places on this blog if you'd like to do a search for them.)
  'Pacific Pearl' is popular with families and groups of friends as a high percentage of the cabins are quad share. If you are an older couple looking for a quiet time aboard this is probably not the ship for you. But if you are with your family or friends, wanting lots of entertainment and parties, with days ashore to swim and snorkel, then a reasonably priced cruise to the islands on 'Pacific Pearl' could be fun.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Cruise Ship Disaster

My sympathy and thoughts are with the passengers and crew who were on the 'Costa Concordia' when it went aground on Friday night. What a terrifying situation to be in!
   It's a wake-up call to all of us to pay close attention to the safety briefings before we sail.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Crossing the Equator Ceremony in the 19th Century

'Sliming' poor polliwogs when crossing the equator
163 years ago, almost to the day, Edouard Manet was a 16-year-old French naval recruit on a voyage to Rio de Janiero. He wrote long letters home to his parents and in one of them, described the ceremony that occurred when his sailing ship crossed the equator.
   These days, the new crew called 'pollywogs' are slimed with coloured gloop by staff dressed as doctors and nurses. In Manet's day, they were covered in pitch which was, I imagine, smellier and much harder to get off!
   Here's an account of crossing the equator in 1849: 
   '... at last the procession appears... a priest, a choirboy; Father Line and his wife, all got up, you can't imagine how; the god Neptune, a barber, two policemen and finally the devil and his son. The procession climbed up to the poop deck; Father Line paid his respects to the captain and the first baptism got underway... this is what they do to baptise you: first you're taken to an altar for confession; the priest makes you take all sorts of vows followed by communion; then you're put into the hands of the barber who applies paint all over your face and neck, then scrapes your skin as hard as he can with a wooden razor 2 feet long ... one of the men asks you to wash in a big basin of water .. he grabbed me by the legs and threw me into a nosedive I'm not likely to forget. Then you fall into the arms of the devil ... who daubs you from top to bottom with his tail soaked in pitch.
   I think these days the crossing the equator ceremony is a lot less dangerous to your health!
  Quotation taken from 'Manet by Himself', edited by J.Wilson-Bareau, Time Warner Books, 2004.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Counting Down the Days Till the Next Cruise

Cruise documents
The excitement is starting to build! Today we received our cruise documents in the mail -that makes it all seem real. After the rush of Christmas and New Year I can now concentrate on planning what clothes to take, what sights we'd like to see in the different ports, have a close look at some of the shore tours information and think about what we will do immediately before and after the cruise.
   This next voyage will begin and end in Sydney. I've got our flights to Australia booked and a hotel room reserved, near the dock, for the night before the cruise leaves. We'll have 14 days sailing around some South Pacific Islands, with Princess cruises. Bliss!
   It will be my husband's birthday while we are on the ship. I've noted that in the cruise personaliser information section. I wonder what surprises will eventuate!