Friday, 27 April 2012

Navigation at Sea

On a Princess Cruise
When on a Princess cruise recently I went to a lecture about navigation at sea. Taken by the First Officer, it was an interesting look at what goes on on the bridge. He explained to us about the different navigational aids that are used, the regulations governing cruise ships and the procedures that are followed to safely navigate the ocean waves and get in and out ports.
   There are at least four officers on the bridge at all times. As well as using sophisticated electronic equipment, there are two helmsmen, stationed one on each side of the bridge, constantly taking visual bearings using binoculars. 
   The officers work on a rotation of four hours on, eight hours off, every day during their two or three month contracts. Then they go home for two or three months for a break before returning to sea.
   The ship's watches are of four hours duration, starting at midnight. Often the busiest time is the 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. shift, the time a cruise ship usually comes into dock at a port of call.
   Usually a ship's arrival and departure from a port is taken by a local pilot although the captain is still officially in command. There are only two places in the whole world where captains completely hand over command of the ships to local pilots - the Panama and Kiel Canals.
  I like going to lectures on a cruise, finding out about what goes on behind the scenes while we passengers are lolling about in deck chairs!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What to Expect on an Antarctic Cruise

Spectacular views of wildlife on an Antarctic cruise
Theo continues his report about their cruise to Antarctica on Hapag Lloyd's cruise ship 'Bremen'.
"Any cruise will be unpredictable in terms of ports of call in the Antarctica peninsula area, but if you accept that that is part of the allure then fine. The seas can be rough and it's pretty cold.
  "Calls in South Georgia and on the Peninsula are by using zodiacs and wading ashore. A maximum of 50 to 100 people are allowed to land at any one time. Three calls were offered in one day on South Georgia but one or two is more typical.
  "There is not a lot more to do than walk around the beaches and observe the wildlife (spectacular) at most places. Port Stanley is a town, Gritviken and Deception Island had their whaling heritage, and we visited research bases at Orcades (South Orkneys) and Port Lockroy.
Exploring by zodiac in Antarctica
  "There are hot water springs in Deception Island where the ship penetrates a spectacular sea-filled volcanic crater so a pit for bathing was dug.
  "I defy anyone not to be impressed by the spectacular ice and snow scenery of the Lemaire Channel or the exhileration of using zodiacs (inflatable boats) to get you close to the ice in Paradise Bay.
  "It is, however, a long haul to get there. If you do take a trip to the Antarctic then make sure that the ship lands. Do really check what clothing is provided – we were lent boots and anoraks for the trip."
  Many thanks, Theo, for the great photos and information about cruising in the Southern Ocean to Antarctica. You've given us an excellent overview of what to expect on an Antarctic cruise.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Cruise to Antarctica

The ship 'Bremen' in Antarctica
Ever wanted to cruise the Southern Ocean to see the wonders of Antarctica? In January this year, Theo and Linda Steel did just that. They went on a cruise to Antarctica from Ushaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world.
  Here is what Theo has to tell us about the ship and their itinerary:
 Hapag Lloyd run what are primarily expedition ships with small ship conditions on board. We travelled on 'Bremen' which does both warm and polar cruising – taking in the Amazon on occasion as well as trips to both Arctic and Antarctica where it uses its strengthened hull. It has cruised the North West passage from Alaska round to Greenland as well as the ice trajectory from S. America to New Zealand.
  There are about 80 double cabins on board for customers; they are spacious and to a high standard with good food to match. There is a pianist and a ship’s choir on board, a small pool and a sauna.
  The predominant clientele is German speaking but 30% on our bilingual cruise were British/Dutch/French.
  We had a 20 day cruise with 6 sea days and 15 calls in the Falklands, South Georgia, South Orkneys and on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. 
  If you like strolling cities then it is not the cruise for you – the largest place we visited was Port Stanley (pop 2000) on the Falklands, although we had a day in Ushuaia in Argentina which was more interesting than I expected and is located in fabulous scenery.
  If on the other hand you like wild scenery, seabirds, whales, seals and penguins then it is for you. You can also get up close to the conditions endured by some of the heroic explorers, and see a part of the world that has not sustained human settlement other than for research or, briefly, for whaling.
  Many thanks, Theo. More about this Antarctic cruise from Theo in my next post.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

About Sea Princess

Sea Princess anchored off Dravuni Island, Fiji
I enjoyed cruising on the 'Sea Princess'. It has an elegant 4-storey atrium, the scene of the Captain's cocktail party and end-of-cruise celebrations, the champagne waterfall and the renewal of vows service.
   My other favourite part of the ship was the Horizon Court Buffet restaurant. This was on Deck 14, at the front of the ship. It was always bright and light because of the curving windows on three sides. Of course, the food had something to do with its attraction too!
   The circular area in the centre was often the scene for special foodie events such as the Chocolate Extravaganza and the Japanese themed lunch.
   Captain Mario Ciruzzi took us 4132 nautical miles on this South Pacific Islands cruise. 'Sea Princess' is registered in Bermuda and went into service in 1998. Its sister ships are 'Dawn Princess' and 'Sun Princess'. It carries 2,270 passengers and 854 crew.
   Some of the crew were new to cruising, and had been on board only 2 weeks. Others were new to the ship but had been working on other Princess ships before. Our stateroom steward loved life at sea and was on his 12th contract!